Ballarat is a city about 110 km (68 mi) north-west of Melbourne in the Goldfields region of Victoria. Ballarat is most noted as a former goldmining town with excellent examples of Australian colonial architecture, and as the site of the famous miners' revolt at the Eureka Stockade in 1854.
With a population of approximately 105,000 (2018), Ballarat is the third largest city in Victoria. Drive time from Melbourne is about 80–90 minutes.
Ballarat was named by Scottish squatter Archibald Yuille who established the first settlement—his sheep run called Ballaarat—in 1837, with the name derived from local Wathaurong Aboriginal words for the area, balla arat, thought to mean "resting place". The present spelling was officially adopted by the City of Ballarat in 1996.
It is one of the most significant Victorian-era boomtowns in Australia. Just months after Victoria was granted separation from New South Wales, the Victorian gold rush transformed Ballarat from a small sheep station to a major settlement. Gold was discovered at Poverty Point on 18 August 1851 and news quickly spread of rich alluvial fields where gold could easily be extracted. Within months, approximately 20,000 migrants had rushed the district. Several Australian mining innovations were made at the Ballarat diggings including the first use of a Chilean mill in 1851 and the first use of a mine cage in 1861. Unlike many other gold rush boom towns, the Ballarat fields experienced sustained high gold yields for decades.
The Eureka Rebellion began in Ballarat, and the only armed rebellion in Australian history, the Battle of Eureka Stockade, took place on 3 December 1854. In response to the event the first male suffrage in Australia was instituted and as such Eureka is interpreted by some as the origin of democracy in Australia. The gold rush and boom gave birth in many other significant cultural legacies. The rebellion's symbol, the Eureka Flag has become a national symbol and is held at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in Ballarat. Other nationally significant heritage structures include the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, established 1857, the best example of a regional botanic gardens in Australia with the greatest concentration of public statuary including the official Prime Ministers Avenue; the longest running lyric theatre building, Her Majesty's, established 1875; the first municipal observatory, established 1886; and the earliest and longest memorial avenue, the Avenue of Honour, established between 1917 and 1919.
Proclaimed a city in 1871, its prosperity continued until late in the 19th century, after which its importance relative to both Melbourne and Geelong rapidly faded with the slowing of gold extraction. It has endured as a major regional centre hosting the rowing and kayaking events from the 1956 Summer Olympics. It is the commercial capital of the Central Highlands and the largest city in the Goldfields region of Victoria—a significant tourist destination. Ballarat is known for its history, culture and its well preserved Victorian era heritage.
- 1 Ballarat Information Centre, 43 Lydiard St N (opposite Ballarat Art Gallery), toll-free: 1800 44 66 33. 9AM-5PM, open daily except Christmas Day. Free.
Ballarat is an easy 90-minute drive from Melbourne on the Western Freeway (M8). Alternatively, from Geelong take the southern section of the A300; from Bendigo and Castlemaine take the northern section of the same highway.
The train station is in Lydiard Street in the centre of the city. Take a look around as Lydiard Street has one of the best examples of Victorian-era streetscapes in Australia.
- 1 Ballarat train station, Lydiard Street, North Ballarat Central. There are frequent V/Line trains that run from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne. The trip takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes with a usual frequency of one every forty minutes off-peak in each direction. More frequent services run during weekday peak times, but they can be crowded occasionally.
Ballarat is not served directly by commercial passenger flights. You therefore need to fly to Melbourne. There is an Airport Shuttle Bus between Ballarat and Melbourne's main domestic and international airport, Melbourne airport (MEL IATA), also known as Tullamarine on some booking sites. The shuttle bus costs $30 for adults, $76 for families, $16 for children 3 to 16, and children under 3 are free. For more information on Tullamarine see Melbourne airport.
There is no direct connection between Melbourne's secondary Avalon airport (AVV IATA) and Ballarat, and the options are to either hire a car, or get the coach into Melbourne's Southern Cross train station and then the train to Ballarat, which is a considerable detour.
Information on shuttle bus, taxi pickups and airport transfer fares to and from Melbourne Airport and surrounds.
Most visitors will rent a car from Melbourne to travel in and around Ballarat. Car rental is also available in Ballarat through Budget & Thrifty.
By public transport
- CDC Victoria, 804 Norman St, ☏ , email@example.com. CDC runs the local bus network. All parts of Ballarat are served by the network with most buses stopping at the Ballarat Train Station in Lydiard Street. The standard frequency on almost all routes is one bus every half hour. A couple of routes have only one every hour. In the evenings and on Sundays services on most routes are infrequent, while less important routes have no services. As with public transport in Melbourne, passengers will need a Myki card to use the buses in Ballarat.
You can get around Ballarat by bicycle. There are two options for bicycle hire.
- Bicycle Centre Ballarat, 24 Armstrong Street Nth, ☏ , fax: .
- Welcome Nugget – Bicycles for Hire, 128 Lydiard Street Nth, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 1 Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard Street North, ☏ , fax: . 10AM-5PM. The gallery has a large collection of both old and modern works. It also holds the iconic Eureka Flag, flown by the miners at the Eureka Stockade in 1854. Free.
- Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial. Cnr Wendouree Parade and Carlton Street, south end of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. The 170-metre-long granite wall has the names of more than 36,000 prisoners-of-war carved into it.
- 2 Ballarat Botanical Gardens, ☏ .
- 3 Ballarat Tramway Museum. Western shore of Lake Wendouree. The museum operates a fleet of historic trams along 1.3 km of original track through the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. The museum is open Saturdays, Sundays, public and school holidays from 12:30 till 5PM. A 20 minute ride costs $4 adults, $2 for children. There is also a free display of stationary trams and memorabilia at the depot. An 1887 horse tram operates several times per year. Trams are also available for hire.
- 4 Ballarat Wildlife Park, Corner York and Fussell Streets, Ballarat East, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. 9AM-5:30PM. Closed Christmas Day. Has a large display of Australian animals, birds and reptiles. Adults $25, Children $15.
- 5 Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (M.A.D.E), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 10AM-5PM daily. Cnr Eureka St and Rodier St, East Ballarat. The 1854 Eureka miners' rebellion against license fees took place here. The new museum opened in May 2013, and focuses on the Eureka miners' rebellion and the changes it caused in Australian democracy. It also provides information on democracy world wide. The exhibits are interactive, and follow you through the history of the rebellion, and its outcome. They have the original Eureka stockade flag preserved and on exhibit. Adults $12, concession $8, family $35.
- 6 Kryal Castle, 121 Forbes Road, Leigh Creek. 10AM- 4PM weekends and school holidays. A replica medieval castle situated just eight kilometres out of Ballarat on the Western Freeway. The attraction reopened in 2013 after multi-million dollar renovations. Adults $35, children $22, family $99.
- 7 Lake Wendouree, ☏ . A large 238-hectare lake in the centre of town. Has rowing, yacht, kayak and fishing clubs.
- 8 Sovereign Hill, Magpie St, ☏ . Every day except Christmas Day 10AM-5PM, till 5:50PM during daylight saving. The "Disneyland" of Victoria, it is a recreation of Ballarat during the 1850s gold rushes. Staff wear period costumes and visitors can try their hand at panning for gold. $41 adult, $18:70 child.
- Blood on the Southern Cross. M-Sa evenings and some Sundays. Times vary. An 80-minute sound and light show depicting the Eureka Uprising. $35 adult, $19 child.
- Gold Museum. Every day except Christmas Day 9:30AM–5:20PM. Sovereign Hill ticket gives entry to the museum as well.
- 1 Begonia Festival, Lake Wendouree & Sturt St. 10AM-5PM. The Begonia Festival, held over the Labor Day long weekend in March, is worth attending, with activities such as a street parade held in Sturt St and horticultural displays in and around the botanical gardens of Lake Wendouree. Free.
- 2 Ballarat Heritage Weekend. Annual event over a weekend in May. Locations throughout Ballarat. Events and attractions include guided tours of the city centre, and also specific historic buildings and homes, art and fashion displays, vintage car displays, market stalls featuring rare LPs and books, trades displays, theatrical performances, themed dances, and rides on the original Ballarat trams.
- Ballarat Antique Fair, Ballarat Exhibition Centre, 501 Dowling St., Wendouree. Annual fair every March Labour Day weekend. Australia's longest running, and largest antiques and collectibles fair. The 2016 Fair, in its 46th year, will be held on Saturday 12th, Sunday 13th and Monday 14th March, 2016.
- 3 Eureka Stadium (Mars Stadium), 725 Creswick Rd, Wendouree. Ballarat's local 5000-seat stadium; it's one of the prime venues in regional Victoria for AFL, cricket, rugby, and soccer. Though its capacity is only a little more than 5,000, it's expected to go through a massive upgrade in order to have a capacity of 20,000 for the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
Ballarat has several markets held throughout the week which offer great shopping for antiques, bric-à-brac and various local products such as plants and confectionery.
- Ballarat Bridge Mall Farmers Market, ☏ , email@example.com. 9AM-1PM. Bridge Mall, Ballarat. Held 1st Saturday of each month, free admission.
- Ballarat Lakeside Farmers Market, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Wendouree Parade, opposite the Botanical Gardens. Held 2nd and last Staurdays every month, 9AM-1PM. Free admission.
- Ballarat Sunday Market, ☏ . Ballarat Showgrounds, cnr Howitt Street and Creswick Road, Wendouree. Run by the Rotary Club of Ballarat South. Every Sunday from 8AM-1PM, entry is by gold coin donation.
- Bridge Mall. About 120 shops, cafés and restaurants in and around a former through street now closed to traffic. Free parking. Includes Big W, Coles and Woolworths. Top end of Bridge Street has several restaurants.
- Central Square Shopping Centre, Armstrong St. Sth. Three-storey shopping centre with Myer, Target and several cafés/eateries.
- Stockland Wendouree, Gillies St., Wendouree. About 90 shops, all under cover, with plenty of free parking. Includes Coles, Woolworths and Kmart.
- Ballarat Curry House, 113 Bridge Mall, ☏ . Traditional Indian.
- The Bean Barn, 217 Sturt St, ☏ . A small cosy coffee shop which sells many types of beans as well as making arguably the best espresso in Ballarat.
- Crazy Asian, 107 Bridge Mall. Good value Chinese, Indian and Thai.
- Da Vinci's, 29 Sturt St. Italian, with gelato bar at the front.
- Dino's on Sturt, 212 Sturt St. Italian cuisine.
- L'espresso, 417 Sturt St, ☏ . Formally a music store, this place serves some of the best coffee in town, along with quality Italian-based fare that is interesting and reasonably priced. Choose a CD from the wall to listen to, and try the housemade icecream.
- Eureka Bistro, 316 Sturt St. Italian institution.
- Europa, 411 Sturt St, ☏ . A great surprisingly mid-priced cafe, with a wide range of meals, from the tastes of Italy to Asia, also good for dropping in for a coffee or wine & watch the Ballarat foot traffic of Sturt St.
- The Forge Pizzeria, 14 Armstrong St Nth. Creative toppings and dessert pizza, served in an industrial-chic space with exposed-brick walls.
- Golden Crown Restaurant, 101-105 Main Rd, ☏ . Chinese cuisine.
- Jacksons & Co, 201 Mair St. Corner of Lydiard St. Nth. Renovated to restore the Victorian-style façade.
- Jasmine Thai Restaurant, 213 Sturt St, ☏ .
- The Main Bar, 28 Main Rd. Café and grocery.
- Mr. Rice, 214 Sturt St. Chinese, Thai, Malaysian. Great value with daily lunch deals. Eat in or take away. Very popular.
- Oscars, Doveton St (opposite target, in the CBD), ☏ . Oscar's Hotel & Café Bar is a unique art deco, boutique hotel in the heart of Ballarat's CBD. Now privately owned and operated, Oscar's used to be the Criterion Hotel, a popular venue in the gold rush days.
- The Pancake Kitchen, 2 Grenville St. Sth. The original Pancake Kitchen. All Pancake Parlours are franchises of this; original and the best.
- The Provincial, 121 Lydiard St. Nth. It has been renovated to its former glory.
- Thai Fusion, 106 Sturt St.
- Tokyo Grill House, 109 Bridge Mall, ☏ . Always gets great reviews!
- The Unicorn, 131 Sturt St.
- Zaragosa, 102 Sturt St. Spanish and Mexican. Very popular.
- Coliseum Walk, off Bridge Mall. Ballarat Mocha Shop, Hudsons Coffee Shop and Cafe Meigas (Spanish).
There are numerous pubs and nightclubs in Ballarat including:
- The Bended Elbow. This venue has several dance floors, an eating area as well as downstairs stage and nightclub.
- The Karova Lounge (cnr Field and Camp Streets), ☏ . 9PM till late. The best place for live music in Ballarat, with many popular Melbourne bands making the trip to perform there. Cover charge can vary depending on the band.
- George Hotel, 27 Lydiard St. Nth. Popular; with front bar, dance club in the rear, and a gaming room.
- Freight bar & restaurant, Corner Mair and Peel Streets.
- The Provincial, 121 Lydiard St. Nth. It has been renovated to its former glory. Directly opposite train station in an Edwardian icon.
- The Bluestone, 101/103 Mair St.
There are many options for all budgets throughout Ballarat. Book ahead especially when there is a major event planned.
- Oscars Hotel, Doveton St. Sth (opposite target, in the cbd), ☏ . Renovated hotel built in gold rush days, with 13 modern rooms, restaurant, bar and courtyard.
- George Hotel, 27 Lydiard St. Nth. Bunkroom $30, singles from $50 (tariffs include light breakfast). Nightclub may cause noise in the rooms till 4AM F-Sa nights.
- Craig's Royal Hotel, 10 Lydiard St. Sth. A Ballarat icon.
- Heritage on Lydiard, Lydiard St. Nth. 4-star hotel in historic bank building in Lydiard Street, in the heart of one of the grandest Victorian streetscapes in Australia.
- Comfort Inn City Views, 101 Curtis St. 4-star hotel. Central location with ample off-street parking.
- Mid City Motel, 19 Doveton St. Nth, ☏ . Centrally located, with off-street parking.
- 1 Mercure Ballarat, 613 Main Rd, Golden Point VIC 3350, ☏ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. On garden grounds with a lake is 4-star accommodation a short 10 minute walk to Sovereign Hill. $110-180.
|Routes through Ballarat|
|Wendouree ←||W E||→ Ballan → Melbourne|
|Ararat ← Beaufort ←||W E||→ Ballan → Melbourne|
|Maryborough ←||W E||→ Ballan → Melbourne|