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. You've got photogenic streetscapes, manicured gardens and wild bushland, welcoming cafes and major gold-themed attractions.

Whether you're after a family getaway or a romantic rendezvous, a three-day Ballarat break is a guaranteed good time.

  • 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 Yellow Espresso for an excellent morning coffee, or savour the fine dining style of Eclectic Tastes Cafe & Pantry.

    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, refuel with coffee and a gourmet toastie from nearby Fika Coffee Brewers. 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 The Piano Bar or Volta for great live music. Finish the evening with a nightcap at Ballarat's latest moody cocktail bar, Roy Hammond, on Armstrong Street. Their whiskey selection is second to none. 

  • Start your day with a visit to the colourful characters at Ballarat Wildlife Park. Meet friendly free-roaming kangaroos and see koalas, wombats, dingoes, emus, and 'Crunch' the five-metre crocodile.

    Next, head to 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. Looking for more gold? Head to the Gold Museum nextdoor. Alternatively, head into the nearby Pyrenees Ranges and blend your own gin at the iconic Mrs Baker's Still House.

    This evening, settle in at one of the city's fine restaurants or romantic wine bars. Cosy up by the fire at Mitchell Harris Wines for a pre-dinner drink, then head to Lola at The Provincial Hotel, or Underbar for modern fine dining. For something a bit more casual, head to Hop Temple where you can 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 conservatory.

    Stop in for a tasting at Kilderkin Distillery – makers of Larrikin Gin – and indie beer producers Dollar Bill Brewing. They've got a cracking cellar door experience. 

    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. If you're visiting from February to March, you can also head to the Britt family farm in Dunnstown, a 15-minute drive from Ballarat, to pick your own sunflowers and get some gorgeous Instagram shots.