"Ballarat in the Central Victorian goldfields" Top 5 Page for this destination Ballarat by Kate-Me
Ballarat Travel Guide: 207 reviews and 492 photos
Ballarat (population 87,000) is located 110 kms north west of Melbourne, 1 1/2 hours from Melbourne by car, and when the fast train service is complete in 2006, only 1 hour by train (instead of the current 1 h 30 mins)
**See also my "Lake Wendouree" pages for much more on Ballarat (which wouldn't fit in these pages, though the lake is now completely dry for the first time in 100 years)
Ballarat was the site of the richest alluvial gold mine in the world and founded on that basis in around 1851, as many towns in the region.
Many Victorian towns exploded into life due to the gold rush and afterwards faded away to become quite small again, however Ballarat remained strong and became a city.
It has managed to preserve much of its early grand Victorian architecture and charm and is said by experts to be one of the best (if not THE best) remaining examples of the period in Australia today.
Ballarat is also undoubtedly one of the best tourist spots in the state, namely for the presence of Australia's award winning No 1 Man-Made tourist attraction, the recreated 1850's living, breathing Museum gold town of Sovereign Hill and its attached Gold Museum.
Here is a map of Ballarat and the surrounding region.
The Sovereign Hill township is built on 60 acres (25 hectares) of original gold mining land and is a faithful recreation of the 1850's-60's time period. There are over 60 buildings throughout the township, including Blacksmith, Milliners, Confectionery store, Victoria Theatre, Hope Bakery, United States Hotel (saloon), Potters, Furniture Makers, a Wheelwright, Tinsmith in the main street, with cottages, a church, gold diggings, mining tents and more to see in the side streets.
One of the special highlights for me is the recent Red Hill mine show, with amazing sound and light holographic visuals. Commentary comes from a virtual 'miner' standing right in front of you in the mine.
All shopkeepers and roving performers/actors in the township are dressed in traditional 1850's costume. There is not a modern trapping in sight. Characterisation and role playing are maintained to the extent that even colonial accents, manners and customs are often reproduced to add to the authenticity.
Special activities take place in the streets each day, (eg. musket firing demonstrations and colonial musical entertainment by township performers). with even more varied and numerous creative activities during school holidays.
Uniformed troopers 'patrol' the gravel streets, you can pan for gold in the creek, watch tradesmen working at 1850's trades and so much more.
Ballarat is renowned for its many parks, gardens, and statues (many to be found along the long central median strip of Sturt Street, and also in the Botanical Gardens). Other outdoor works of art can be found in Camp Street and by the Civic Hall in Armstrong Street North
Lake Wendouree (with its 6 km circumference) is a popular family recreational spot, and also very popular with walkers, joggers and cyclists. It did have one of the finest rowing courses in Australia (but during the current drought, as of December 2006, the lake has now been all but completely dry for almost 2 months, and most of the aquatic bird life has moved away, especially our well known black swans)
Lake Wendouree was the site for the rowing and canoeing events of the Olympic Games in 1956.
Each March, the famous Begonia Festival (which first began in 1953) runs for 5 days and is held in the beautiful adjacent Botanical Gardens. Ballarat is world famous for its Begonia flowers.
See my "Must See's" list for more Ballarat attractions. There's just so much extra to see here apart from Sovereign Hill, which people can tend to miss, as they run out of time. Hopefully with forward knowledge, they can spare the extra time needed to have an even better and varied experience in this great city I'm proud to call mine.
- Pros:Sovereign Hill: Number 1 attraction for visitors, but so much more to see as well
- Cons:Our weather in winter tends to suffer from an image problem -but it's not that cold!
- In a nutshell:A great place to visit and good lifestyle to live
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