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, 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.

  • 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.

    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. 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. 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 striking conservatory.

    Stop in for a tasting at Kilderkin Distillery – makers of Larrikin Gin, and indie beer producers Dollar Bill Brewing (cellar door opens late 2020).

    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.