Weekend getaway: Ballarat

This regional Victorian city is great for both travellers with families and those seeking a cultural retreat

  • Mitch Brook

For the culture vultures

Saturday am: Delve into the history of art. Ballarat Art Gallery, the country’s first regional gallery, has two levels. On the upper level, visitors can tour Australian art since the gallery’s establishment in 1884, while the lower level features more experimental and temporary installations. 

Saturday pm: Taking a walking tour. Ballarat is home to layer upon layer of history. Take a heritage or ghost tour, and your guide will point out sites like the goldfields-era bakery, buried metres below street level; the Miners’ Exchange where gold was bought and sold; and the impressive “Boomtown” architecture. 

Sunday: Take a day to explore local nature. Walk, run or wander the six-kilometre circuit of Lake Wendouree and enjoy the Botanical Gardens, which also hosts Italian marble statues as well as bust sculptures of every Australian Prime Minister (to Gillard). Hire a canoe or paddleboat to get out onto the water (lukeysboathire.webs.com).

For the family getaway

Saturday am: Explore the history of democracy. The Museum of Australian Democracy is an interactive exploration of civil action and rights in Australia, starting with the Eureka Rebellion, Australia’s only armed civil uprising. Digital displays make learning about this pivotal event fun and interesting – also check out the original Eureka flag, made in 1854. 

Saturday pm: Interact with the local species. A healthy collection of Australian native wildlife hops, waddles or climbs around the open-air Ballarat Wildlife Park. Meet Crunch, the five-metre saltwater crocodile, or see rare species like quokkas, Tassie devils and a tree kangaroo. 

Sunday: Take a day to explore the history of the gold rush at Sovereign Hill. Kids can pan for gold (yes, real gold), see boiling gold smelted into an ingot, tour real mines of the period and watch traditional lollies being made – before purchasing (and eating) them. At the same time, they’ll learn about a vital part of Australia’s history.