Sovereign Hill and the Gold Museum
Sovereign Hill is really the ‘must-see’ attraction in Ballarat region. The historical park is a recreated goldfields township on a site which forms part of the richest alluvial goldfields the world has ever seen. The park consists of over 60 buildings to explore, many of which are working shops and workshops selling products of the time. All the staff are dressed in period costume and portray some of the behaviours and prejudices of the 1850s (so watch out for the policeman if you are a woman wearing pants)!
You can easily spend a the better part of a day experiencing all Sovereign Hill has to offer. Our personal favourites include:
- Panning for gold in the creek (ask a costumed guide for a lesson on panning).
- The self-guided underground tour of the Red Hill Mine.
- The not-to-be-missed spectacular gold pour where $50,000 worth of gold is poured into an ingot.
- Brown brothers lolly shop and lolly making demonstration (try the raspberry drops, horses heads or humbugs).
- For a quick lunch we suggest you try something from the Hope Bakery. The recipes used at the bakery were sourced from Julie’s Uncle!
- Take a Cobb and Co coach ride around the town.
- And keep an eye out for the regular outdoor theatre performances in Main St.
Finally, try and save some time and energy for the Gold Museum across the road from Sovereign Hill. Entry to the museum is included in the price of your ticket and the museum tells the story of gold and Ballarat. If you go on a Sunday afternoon look out for Doug – he volunteers there as a guide most weekends. His free 15 min tours start at 4:30pm (or by prior arrangement with Doug!).
Sovereign Hill – 10am to 5pm every day except Christmas Day. Daylight saving, open until 5:30pm.
Gold Museum – 9:30am to 5:30pm.
If you are in town, take a walk or a drive down Lydiard St. This street is one of the finest examples of a Victorian streetscape found anywhere in Australia. Some building of note include the Mining Exchange (12 Lydiard St), the George hotel (27 Lydiard St), the Old Colonist building (22 Lydiard St), the Art Gallery (40 Lydiard St) and south of Sturt St (the main street in Ballarat) there is Craig’s Royal Hotel and the Her Majesty’s Theatre. (Lydiard St can be seen in the Australian film ‘Ned Kelly’ staring Heath Ledger.)
Lake Wendouree and Botanical Gardens
No trip to Ballarat would be complete without a visit to ‘the lake’. The 6 km walk around the lake takes just over an hour to complete and passes the lovely botanical gardens. The gardens host a variety of attractions including a fine collection of marble statues, a spectacular modern conservatory, the fernery with waterlily pond with goldfish and the Prime Ministers Avenue which is a collection of bronze heads of the Australian Prime Ministers.
Across the road from the gardens there is a large children’s adventure playground. There are also two nice cafes for a coffee break along the way – the Lake Pavilion and the Boatshed Restaurant.
Ballarat Fine Art Gallery
40 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat (03) 5320 5858
Located in the heart of the town, the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. This recently refurbished gallery has an extensive collection of Australian art including works by Eugene Von Guerard, McCubbins, Tom Roberts and the original Eureka flag. In fact, the wealth generated by the gold-rush provided Ballarat with the most extensive collection of Heidelberg paintings outside of the National Gallery of Victoria. The cafe’ connected to the gallery in the old police station is excellent. A perfect choice to escape the weather!
Ballarat Wildlife Park
Cnr. Fussell and York St Ballarat (just a few minutes from Sovereign Hill) (03) 5333 5933
A quality wildlife park where you can see koalas, wombats, crocodiles, Tasmanian devils, goannas, giant tortoises, wedge-tailed eagles, venomous and non venomous snakes, wallabies, free-range kangaroos, emus. A guaranteed hit with the kids!
Ballarat Bird World
408 Eddy Avenue, Mt Helen (03) 53 413 843 (turn off 7 km past Sovereign Hill)
An amazing collection of parrots and birds set in a beautiful bushland setting that has taken over 17 years to develop. Over half a kilometre of raised platform walkway gives you the birds eye view.
The historic township of Buninyong is located at the foot of Mt Buninyong and was one of the first inland towns to be established in Victoria. The Learmonth brothers settled there in 1838 but it wasn’t until the discovery of gold in 1851 that the town really started to develop.
To get a feeling for the town embark on the historical walk which takes you past the Buninyong botanical gardens and the ‘Gong’ reservoir and public reserve. A pamphlet on this walk is available from Doug and Julie.
A drive up to the top of Mt Buninyong will result in some beautiful views of the surrounding area. A koala population lives on the mountain see how many you can spot!
Buninyong also has a some nice cafes, a great little second-hand bookshop, a bakery and a lovely restaurant (Jacks) that are all well worth a visit.
Enfield State Park
On the Ballarat-Colac Road – approx 15 mins from The Miners Church
From bush hut chimneys and deep mine shafts to old tree stumps and new growth, Enfield State Park is home to a large number of plant and animal species as well as many gold mining relics from last century. Wildflowers abound in spring and there are many walking tracks to experience the scents and sights of nature’s display.
Things to see in the wider Victorian region
- Daylesford and Spa Country – An hour from Ballarat
- The Grampians National Park – 2 hrs from Ballarat
- Great Ocean Road – 2 hrs from Ballarat
- Otway Ranges (Don’t miss the skywalk) – 2 hrs from Ballarat