Ballarat in Central Victoria has a rich history to explore and one of the best preserved Victorian-era cityscapes in Australia.

The city was built on the back of the gold rush of the 1850s and 60s, and today it offers an array of heritage attractions and things to do. And at just an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Melbourne, Ballarat makes the perfect short break destination.

Here are some of the best Ballarat attractions. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.

1. Sovereign Hill 

A visit to fabulous Sovereign Hill is like taking a spin in a real life time machine. You’re instantly transported back to Ballarat’s early days as a goldfields town, complete with shops, industrial buildings and townsfolk in period dress. This living outdoor museum is one of Victoria’s most popular attractions and offers a huge amount to see and do. Take an underground mine tour, pan for gold, and marvel at the glittering display at the Gold Museum. The Sovereign Hill experience continues after dark with Aura – a spectacular evening show that uses projections to chart the history of the region.

Australian winter school holiday escapes
Gold rush history comes alive at Sovereign Hill. Image: Sovereign Hill

2. Eureka Centre

The story of the Eureka Stockade rebellion of 1854 has a cherished place in Australian folklore. The harsh conditions, lawlessness and corruption on the goldfields sparked the only armed civil uprising in Australian history, which was quelled by the authorities in just over 15 minutes. The original Eureka flag is on display at the Eureka Centre, which is situated in the Eureka Stockade Memorial Gardens in Ballarat East.

Best Ballarat attractions
Eureka Centre. Image: Visit Victoria

3. Kryal Castle

The options for a spot of time travel just keep on coming in Ballarat. Immerse yourself in a world of medieval mayhem at Kryal Castle, which is open on weekends. This replica castle is home to all manner of ye olde folk from the Middle Ages. Watch the thrilling jousting show, dress up as the king of the castle for a photo shoot, enjoy a horse and carriage ride, and find your way through the traditional maze.

Best Ballarat attractions
Kryal Castle. Image: Visit Victoria

4. Ballarat Wildlife Park

Ballarat Wildlife Park is located just a stone’s throw from the Eureka Centre, and will delight children of all ages with its assortment of native and exotic animals, including koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, meerkats and more. The park’s Tiger Sanctuary houses two Sumatran tigers and is playing a role in the conservation of this endangered species. There are opportunities for up-close encounters with many of the animals. If you’ve ever wanted to get cosy with a koala or hang out with a giant tortoise, book your encounter at the park’s front entrance.

Best Ballarat attractions
Ballarat Wildlife Park. Image: Visit Victoria

5. Lake Wendouree & Ballarat Tramway Museum

Beautiful Lake Wendouree is located in the heart of Ballarat and offers myriad activities. It’s the ideal spot for a barbecue, picnic or sunny stroll. On the western side of the lake you’ll find the Ballarat Tramway Museum, which houses a fine collection of tramcars and tramway memorabilia. The museum also operates a tourist tram service around the lake precinct on weekends and public holidays. Check their website for details.

Best Ballarat attractions
Ballarat Tramway Museum. Image: Visit Victoria

6. Gold Rush Golf

Whatever the weather decides to do, Gold Rush Golf has you covered – literally. There are indoor and outdoor 18-hole mini-golf courses to enjoy, along with a games room and café.

Need a place to stay?

Quality Inn Heritage on Lydiard offers boutique, heritage-style accommodation in the heart of Ballarat’s city centre. The hotel occupies the former Bank of NSW building (which dates back to 1862) and combines heritage touches with stylish and contemporary finishes.

Quality Inn The George Hotel Ballarat is a fully restored historic gem located in the Lydiard Street North precinct and is within walking distance of Her Majesty’s Theatre, the Art Gallery, cafes, restaurants and city retail outlets. Try traditional pub classics with a contemporary twist at the Heritage Bar and Restaurant.

Comfort Inn and Suites City Views provides modern accommodation in the heart of Ballarat on Bakery Hill. This four-star property is well located to explore everything the city has to offer. Sovereign Hill, the Gold Museum, the Aboriginal Cultural Centre, the Eureka Stockade Centre and Ballarat Visitor Centre, and the Botanical Gardens are all within a five-minute drive of the hotel.

Quality Inn and Suites The Menzies is another modern accommodation option, but with an intriguing link with the past. The hotel is built on the grounds of Public School No. 34, where former twice Prime Minister Robert Menzies was a pupil in the early 1900s. The heritage school building still stands today.

Cover image: Sovereign Hill

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