Though Wikipedia will tell you that Ballarat is arguably the most significant gold rush era Victorian boomtown in Australia, most 15–35 year olds will tell you that Ballarat is home to the most significant raspberry drops in the modern era. But, as it turns out, Ballarat is much more than just a fruit-flavoured hard candy oasis. It’s slowly becoming a smaller version of our very own Melbourne, but with cheaper parking and shorter wait times for lunch.
So, here are a dozen reasons you need Ballarat in and around your life that have nothing to do with Sovereign Hill-related confectionary.
#1. Chow Down On Burgers & Craft Beers At Athletic Club Brewery
Athletic Club Brewery is a family-owned and run ode to craft beer, good food and immaculate aesthetics. Although at its core, it’s just a damn good brewery. Having only opened its doors in November 2016, Athletic Club Brewery may be the new kid on the block, but they’re winning over cool kids left, right and centre with crisp home brews, juicy burgers and a powerful indoor heating system.
#2. Sit Back With S’mores & Open Fires At Hop Temple
The days of chilled frosé and rooftop bars are over; the time for deep-set couches, maple syrup-topped waffle chicken burgers and open fires is now. Hop Temple is Ballarat’s resident watering hole for all cocktail-sippers, shape-cutters and musical bingo-lovers alike. Tucked down an umbrella-framed laneway, Hop Temple has an enormous dining/dancing/drinking space, sprawling bar and dribble-worthy food menu, this is the winter bar you didn’t know you needed in your life.
#3. Peruse Portraits At The Art Gallery Of Ballarat
Not only does the Art Gallery of Ballarat house one of the biggest and best permanent art collections in the country, it also plays host to world-renowned temporary exhibitions (all of which are better than a scroll through Instagram on International Dog Day). The world’s leading photographers and photomedia artists will descend upon the gallery for the Ballarat International Foto Biennale on August 19, headlined by world-class photographic genius—David LaChapelle—whose work will be exclusively based at the gallery itself. The Romancing The Skull exhibition will then line the walls of the gallery (and select sections of the floor) from October 13, exploring society's fascination with the human skull in both art and culture.
#4. Bundle Bouquets At Stems Flower Market
Stems Flower Market is everything you want in a florist—affordable, open 7-days, staffed by dedicated professionals and full to the brim with gorgeous natives (among other floral varieties). Give them an occasion and they’ll build a bouquet for it—birthday, anniversary, graduation, Tuesday—you name it, they’ll do it. Or, if you’re already late for lunch with Mum, you can just choose from one of their numerous, and stunning, pre-made arrangements.
#5. Taste Traditional Tapas At Meigas
Meigas sirve buenas tapas tradicionales españolas sangrientas! Pop that bad boy into Google translate and it’ll tell you all you need to know. However, allow us to elaborate. Spanish restaurant, Meigas, is the master of traditional tapas, so much so that their tables are always either full or reserved, even at 6pm on a Thursday night, and this absolutely has something to do with their garlic prawns and patatas bravas.
#6. Lounge In Luxury At Lascelles
Ballarat may only be a short ninety-minute drive from our sweet ol’ city of Melbourne but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend the night, especially if there’s an extremely affordable Victorian terrace apartment with a freestanding bathtub. Lascelles is a two-storey historic building featuring a pair of contemporary styled two-bedroom apartments. Each features Masterchef-level kitchens, exquisite bathrooms and extraordinary heating systems to counteract Ballarat’s frosty winters. They’re a brilliant excuse to spend a weekend in the ‘Rat.
#7. Beat Brunch Queues At Yellow Espresso
Yellow Espresso is Ballarat’s little slice of Melbourne. From acai bowls to vegan matcha pancakes, this café and its pastel colour scheme are dishing up Sunday brunch classics at a fraction of the cost (and a slice of the wait). Not only have they adopted Melbourne’s matcha latte craze, but they also use one of our city’s favourite roasts—Axil Coffee. Because you can take the cafe out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the cafe (you know what we mean).
#8. Admire Art At The Post Office Gallery
If quaint galleries with modest and innovative collections are more your style, then The Post Office Gallery is the hand-knitted floral cardigan you need. Featuring rotating exhibitions from FedUni’s students and staff, as well as local and emerging Australian artists, the gallery is an ever-changing portal of contemporary Australian art. A unique learning opportunity for both the well-versed art fanatic and an appreciator in training. Upcoming exhibitions to put in your diary this winter are Annette Chappell: Indewelling and Deanne Gilson: Between The Object And The Gaze.
#9. Find Your Scent At Sweet Fern
If you're someone who likes treating themself to lavish perfumes, you need to make a trip to luxurious body, bath and home fragrance boutique, Sweet Fern. Sweet Fern is the scented oasis that’ll have people believing your natural scent is several hundred crushed rose petals in no time at all. With a niche range of specialty perfumes, sourced from the most luxurious ingredients, as well as a substantial collection of Aesop products (YAAASS), this is one stop you won’t want to miss on your Ballarat getaway.
#10. Order Truffled Mushrooms At The Unicorn Cafe
Leading the fierce up-and-coming cafe culture in Ballarat is crowd-favourite eatery, The Unicorn Cafe. Established six years ago, this breakfast institution serves up classic dishes like truffled mushrooms with house polenta, melted cheddar and garlic and sage crumb, topped with rocket and house salsa verde. Melbourne's latest coffee craze—the turmeric latte— has also made an appearance on the menu as well as a range of fresh juices and craft beers to keep any potential calorie deficit in check.
#11. Taste Gin & Beers At Red Duck Brewery & Kilderkin Distillery
And on the eighth day, God created a brewery and a distillery ON THE SAME SITE so that man would forever live in eternal euphoria. And also so that they could enjoy tastings of both Red Duck craft beer and Kilderkin Gin in the same cellar door, open six days a week. It should also be noted that there are six varieties of beer, three varieties of gin and a whiskey in the works, and it would be rude not to taste them all. Trust us, you’ll want to.
#12. Walk It All Off At Lake Wendouree
For 150 years this beautiful mass of water has been the scenic backdrop for countless social and outdoor pursuits. With a circumference of six kilometres, Lake Wendouree is basically Ballarat’s equivalent of The Tan, just with more Kathmandu polar fleeces and significantly less custom-designed poodle cross-breeds. Not only is the lake fringed with spectacular botanical gardens and top-of-the-line playgrounds, but it’s also home to one of the most scenic suburban walking tracks in Victoria, which you can also tackle at a jog, or even on the seat of a bike.
And if you’re looking for the perfect excuse to spend a weekend in Ballarat, then look no further than the entire month of July, when the city will be hosting the annual Ballarat Winter Festival. It all kicks off with the Potato Festival on Saturday July 1, and if that doesn’t scream dream weekend away, we don’t know what does. Maybe an entire festival for beer? That’ll be there too.
Visit Victoria are giving you the chance to win an incredible weekend away for you and friend to Ballarat. Valued at up to $1000, this prize includes:
- Two nights’ accommodation at Lascelles (1 & 2 September)
- Two tickets to the Foto Biennale (Sat 2 September)
- Dinner for two at Meigas
- Brunch for two at Yellow Espresso
To go in to the draw, simply enter your details below.
Editor's note: This article is sponsored by Visit Victoria. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make The Urban List possible. For more information on our editorial policy, please click here.
Image credit: Michelle Jarni for The Urban List