Ballarat has long been defined as the city at the heart of Australia's goldfields. With its golden story a compelling drawcard, the city has become a beguiling mix of history and heritage, contemporary arts and diverse food and wine. It's a city that bursts with wonder and charm, in everything from the perpetually photogenic historic streetscapes to the manicured gardens and wild bushland, the welcoming cafes to the major gold-themed attractions.
Whether you're after a family getaway or a romantic rendezvous, a three-day Ballarat break will intrigue and enthral.
Rise and shine and get your day buzzing with a bumper breakfast and premium coffee at one of Ballarat's prized cafes. Webster's Market and Cafe or The Local are reliable recommendations. Hit up Little Bird for a vintage diner experience, savour the fine dining style of Eclectic Tastes Cafe & Pantry, or take up a table at Yellow Espresso and knock back one of their excellent coffees.
Wander along to the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Australia's oldest regional art gallery. Stop the clock and take time to admire the permanent collection of historic fine art as well as the indigenous and contemporary art. When your eyes start to wobble, seek sustenance from the adjoining Kittelty's cafe and its hearty, locally made fare. To complete the artistic immersion, head over to The Lost Ones Gallery and discover some contemporary art within the nineteenth-century Masonic lodge.
Top off your day with a night on the town. Hit up the iconic Her Majesty's Theatre for a theatrical experience with a difference. Alternatively, visit renowned live music venue Karova Lounge to catch the country's biggest music acts or some of Ballarat's most talented musicians.
Dedicate your day to all things gold. Head directly to the award-winning Sovereign Hill. The much-loved outdoor museum offers a detailed glimpse into nineteenth century life. Try your luck panning for gold, stroll down the faithfully recreated Main Street, take a tour of the underground mines and catch a live performance. Make sure you indulge in a bag of iconic raspberry drops from the ye olde sweet shop. You'll find plenty of lunch options at Sovereign Hill, but it's hard to go past the delectable pastries from the New York Bakery. To complete the picture of the importance of gold to Ballarat and Victoria, head next door to the Gold Museum where you'll be further immersed in the golden history that defines the city.
Settle in at one of the city's fine restaurants or romantic wine bars. You're spoiled for choice, with a selection including The Forge and Catfish Thai. Cosy up by the fire at Mitchell Harris Wines and order a gourmet dinner accompanied by a glass of red. For something a bit more casual head to Ballarat's newest beer hall Hop Temple and tuck into some warming ales and hearty eats.
Pack a picnic and find the perfect spot around the serene Lake Wendouree to relax and watch the world – and the graceful resident swans – go by. To complete the ultimate historic Ballarat experience you can even take a ride on a historic tram from the Ballarat Tramway Museum. Explore the adjacent Ballarat Botanical Gardens and meander through the seasonal floral displays in the striking conservatory.
If you're up for the drive, head out to the Pyrenees Wine Region to discover the wineries making the most of the diverse local microclimates. Admire the rolling hills and vineyards before you settle on a cellar door or restaurant to taste the finest produce straight from the paddocks, patches and vines.