The blue-and-white Southern Cross flags which flutter throughout Ballarat symbolise the strong association of the city with the Eureka Rebellion - an event with great resonance in Australian history - and thus with its goldmining past.
Ballarat is a very major provincial centre located 110 km west of Melbourne via the Western Freeway and 441 metres above sea-level. The current population is 83 000, making it Victoria's largest inland city. Tourism, retail, manufacturing and community services are now the city's major industries.
Visually, Ballarat creates an impression of stateliness and grandeur by virtue of its magnificent wide thoroughfare, the Victorian and Edwardian architecture, tree-lined avenues, parks, gardens and statuary, and its substantial educational institutions.
The town's name derives from the indigenous occupants of the area (said to be the Wathawurung) who called it 'Balla-arat' which is said to mean 'a good resting place'. This is thought to be a reference to the fact that they formed a camp here by Lake Wendouree (then a swamp).
In the severe drought of 1837 a group of Scottish squatters left the Geelong area and headed north in search of superior sheep and cattle pastures. They became the first white men to see the land on which the town would emerge. One of the party, William Cross Yuille, camped adjacent Black Swamp (now Lake Wendouree) and established the 'Ballaarat' station in March 1838 around present day Ballarat and Sebastopol.
A settlement developed at Buninyong and it was there, on August 8, 1851, that blacksmith Thomas Hiscock, found the first gold of the Ballarat goldfields. The small rush that followed brought John Dunlop and James Regan who started prospecting on the Ballarat Station. On 21 August they struck gold at the location which became known as Poverty Point in the White Horse Range and, by mid-October, there were over 2000 diggers combing the area. On August 25, the diggers heard that the government was to impose a 30-shilling monthly licence fee and they organised a meeting to oppose the tax. On September 21 the licence impost led to a confrontation, thereby looking forward to the events of the Eureka Stockade in 1854.
Despite the shift of the goldfields administration from Buninyong to Ballarat on November 7, the Poverty Point site was soon worked out and the area was virtually deserted by the end of the year for the Mt Alexander diggings. Nonetheless, in December, Ballarat was surveyed and a plan drawn up for the establishment of a town. Another rush occurred there the following year and experienced and skilled British miners arrived, sinking shafts into the flats at the foot of the hills. Numerous gold-rich quartz reefs, such as the Eureka, Gravel Pits and Canadian leads, were located.
By 1853 there were some 20 000 prospectors working the field. In that year alone 9926 kg of gold were shipped out on the police-protected gold escort to Melbourne with another 77 700 kg transported from 1854 to 1857. The first gold battery in Australia was established at Ballarat in 1854.
The major single find of these years was the Welcome Nugget which, at almost 69 kg (99% of it pure gold), was the second-largest solid gold nugget to be found in the world. A cairn, on the corner of Mair and Humffray Streets, marks the spot of the find.
In the meantime the settlement of Ballarat (originally spelled 'Ballaarat') had begun to emerge as a service centre to the diggings. Ballarat West was proclaimed a township in 1852 and the first town land sale occurred that year. Initially a 5-km stretch of canvas tents, it began to develop more substantial buildings with the addition of a proper hotel in 1853, an official post office building in 1854, the commencement of work on Christ Church Anglican Cathedral that same year, the erection of two churches in 1855, and a gaol and hospital in 1856.
Ballarat became a municipality in 1855. At that time, between one-sixth and one-quarter of the population was Chinese although they were forced into six separate protectorates or villages from 1855. Ballarat East became a municipality in 1857 and both were declared boroughs in 1863. The area prospered due to the demand for goods, services, administration and mining machinery. The arrival of the railway from Geelong (Australia's first country railway) in 1862 further enhanced marketing, commercial and social possibilities.
Meanwhile, back on the goldfield, the alluvial material was soon exhausted and small-scale shaft mining was gradually replaced by more ambitious deep-lead mining enterprises, particularly under the Sebastopol Plateau to the west which, between the late 1850s and 1875 (when the mines there started to close), produced far more gold than the Ballarat East fields.
However, there were major obstacles such as floods, huge inflows of sand and four layers of basalt. This type of mining necessitated capital investment and large companies emerged, establishing famous mines such as the Township Group and the Band of Hope Mine. Just one shaft of the latter yielded 9700 kg of gold and, in 1868, the population of the Ballarat goldfield peaked at around 64 000. 1870 saw the formation of the Sebastapol Miners' Union which was the first in the state. That same year there were said to be 477 hotels, 56 churches and 3 town halls. Ballarat West was declared a city in 1870 and Ballarat East followed suit in 1872 (they were merged in 1921).
In the late 1860s some 300 mining companies were working the fields and the Ballarat Stock Exchange was set up to facilitate the marketing of shares in mining ventures. Subterranean operations also required heavy machinery and infrastructure, thereby fostering the development of local foundries such as Cowley's Eureka Iron Works and the Phoenix. The latter, established in 1855, supplied batteries, engines, boilers and mining equipment throughout Australia and New Zealand. Other forms of industry appeared, including woollen mills (1872), flour mills, tanneries, boot-making enterprises, meat-preservation works and breweries such as the Ballarat Brewing Company which made the famous 'Ballarat Bertie' brew (the company was taken over by Carlton & United Breweries in 1959). Mixed farming also began to emerge to the west with the Land Act of 1861 which enabled selectors to obtain small allotments.
When a recession hit the mining industry in 1870 the population dropped quite dramatically but the manufactories, together with the nascent agricultural sector, provided an economic base which ensured the town's survival beyond the fortunes of the goldfields. The Phoenix foundry, for example, found a new lease of life when it won the contract to manufacture locomotives for the state government, producing 350 steam engines before it closed in 1906. Another local enterprise to emerge was Eleanor Lucas's lingerie factory which started as a cottage industry in 1888 (this factory was eventually taken over by Courtaulds in 1969). Moreover, the town became a significant rail centre with the lines to Maryborough and Ararat opening in 1875.
The last gold mine closed down at Ballarat in 1918 although some tailings dumps were retreated in the desperate years of the Great Depression. In all, the local fields yielded some 230 million pounds worth of gold which, between 1851 and 1960, amounted to 27% of the state's total production.
Throughout the twentieth century Ballarat has prospered as a major administrative, manufacturing and commercial service centre.
The Eureka Rebellion
Wherever a goldrush occurred in Victoria, a gold commissioner was appointed to the area to provide law and order but also to collect, from the miners, a monthly licence fee. Contention over this fee was but one of several grievances felt by miners throughout the goldfields. However, at Ballarat, these resentments became highly focused when they were entangled with a series of local incidents which culminated in the Eureka Rebellion: one of the most famous events in the history of colonial Australia.
The licensing system was introduced in 1851 and it entailed a payment of one and a half pounds a month (reduced, in December 1853, to one pound a month or two pounds for three months) for the right to dig for gold, whether precious metal was found or not. A perception of unfairness was compounded by the fact that the gold at Ballarat was increasingly to be found in subterranean lodes which it could take months of work to reach, if at all.
Failure to pay for a licence entailed a five-pound fine for a first offence and up to six months in gaol for a second. Universal resentment was intensified by the means of enforcement. Police raids were conducted and anyone without a licence on their person was liable to arrest and fines. Moreover, many of the police were ex-convicts from Tasmania who received half of each fine.
When Sir Charles Hotham became lieutenant governor of Victoria in June 1854 he noted that only 70% of the fees were being collected and ordered strict enforcement. In September 1854 he stepped up inspections from a monthly to a twice-weekly basis. The perception of injustice was exacerbated by the absence of voting rights, of political representation in the legislative assembly, and of land for settlement.
It was against this background that the Scobie incident occurred. On 6 October, 1854, a digger named James Scobie was kicked to death shortly after entering the Eureka Hotel. The owner of the hotel (James Bentley) and three other men, were charged with the murder. The case was heard by the stipendiary magistrate, the goldfields commissioner (Robert Rede) and the assistant commissioner. The evidence was strong and the public expected a guilty verdict but the four men were honourably discharged, despite the dissent of the assistant commissioner.
Consequently, a public meeting was called and, on October 17, several thousand miners gathered, denounced the finding and initiated a fund to provide reward money for further evidence. Afterwards, the men began to gather about the Eureka Hotel. The police were in attendance but hostility welled up and boiled over, culminating in the burning down of the hotel and Bentley's escape on horseback. Relations with the authorities were further damaged when three miners were given short prison sentences for their part in the riot (there seems to be some suggestion that they were innocent men, being randomly chosen to set an example).
Another major meeting was held on 11 November, at Bakery Hill and there the Ballarat Reform League was established. Inspired by Chartist aims, the miners sought universal suffrage, voting by ballot, annual parliaments, the payment of political representatives, the abolition of the licensing system, revision of laws relating to crown land and changes to the administration of the goldfields.
On 27 November a miners' deputation to Lieutenant-Governor Hotham requested the release of the three imprisoned miners. He declined but supported their desire for enfranchisement, reminded them that constitutional moves were afoot to achieve this outcome, said he would appoint their chosen representative to the legislative assembly and told them they could voice their grievances about the licensing system at a proposed commission of inquiry into the matter.
Another mass meeting was planned for the 29th so that the delegation could report back to the miners. Hotham was told by Commissioner Rede that he expected trouble and troops were dispatched to the area. Ominously, there was a skirmish as they entered Ballaarat on the evening of the 28th.
The delegation reported favourably about their meeting with Hotham but the miners decided to burn their licences at a public bonfire on Bakery Hill and to protect anyone facing arrest for being without one. That day the diggers, probably for the first time, sported their now famous blue flag adorned with the stars of the Southern Cross.
On the 30th Rede ordered a licence check. The police were rebuffed with stones and shots were fired. Rede called on the military and arrests were made. The miners elected Peter Lalor, a prominent figure of the Reform League, as their commander-in-chief. About 500 men took an oath to 'fight to defend our rights and liberties' and set about erecting a stockade on the Eureka claim.
At any rate, Commissioner Rede and the infantry captain garnered information about the defences, including the fact that the numbers had dwindled to 150 untrained men as some had left and many were out scouting for food and ammunition. The size of the encampment suggests that the diggers felt no urgency to remain vigilant and in constant attendance, indicating that they did not expect to be attacked.
In the early hours of 3 December, 152 infantry, 30 cavalry men and their officers, and 100 police approached the stockade by a surreptitious route. They charged the camp, where many still slept, and overcame resistance within about 15 minutes. It seems clear the troops employed excessive force and gratuitous violence, needlessly destroying property and tents. This may be to do with the fact that six of their number were killed. Peter Lalor claimed 22 miners died and another 12 later recovered from substantial wounds. 120 prisoners were taken, although some of the leaders escaped, including Lalor who went into hiding until a general amnesty was declared (he later became a Victorian MP). Most were released but 13 were accused of high treason. Of these 12 would later be acquitted and proceedings were dropped against the 13th. The editor of the Ballarat Times received a six-month prison sentence for three counts of seditious libel.
Lieutenant-Governor Hotham appointed the promised commission of inquiry into the gold fields on 7 December. In March 1855 it recommended the abolition of the licensing fee and the establishment of a Miner's Right document which cost one pound per annum and which gave prospectors the title deed to their claim. It also advocated the opening of crown land to small landowners and an export duty on gold. All recommendations were eventually adopted and the upshot was the greater democratisation of the polity.
19th-century poet and politician Adam Lindsay Gordon moved to Ballarat with his family in October 1867. A keen horseman, he operated a livery stable behind Craig's Hotel. However, his stay was a most unhappy one. The stables burned down, he was injured when he fell from his horse and his 11-month-old daughter died. He left town in October 1868 and committed suicide in 1870.
Distinguished public figures who started their lives at Ballarat were Prime Minister of Australia James Scullin, Premier of Victoria Sir Henry Bolte, distinguished long-distance runner Steve Moneghetti and one of Victoria's first female poets, 'Jennings Carmichael'.
Poet Bernard O'Dowd, who grew up in Ballarat, was publishing his material in the Ballarat Evening Post by the time he was 16. He taught at St Alipius' School but was replaced owing to his growing religious skepticism.
Ballarat was also the setting for Australia Felix (1917) - the first volume of Henry Handel Richardson's famous literary trilogy: The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney. Henry Lawson, 'Rolf Boldrewood', Norman Lindsay and Peter Carey have also used the city as a setting or subject in their literary works and Eugene von Guerard (1811-1901) took to painting the early goldfields and landscapes. American writer Mark Twain visited Ballarat in the 1890s and gave lectures in the Mechanics Institute in Sturt Street. He too used the city as a setting in his works, while future US president, Herbert Hoover, made an unsuccessful search for gold to the north of Ballarat in 1905.
A man with a less salubrious reputation who also had associations with the city and district was bushranger Captain Moonlite (Andrew Scott). Born in Ireland, Scott arrived in Sydney in 1867, claiming a colourful past with Garibaldi's red shirts in Italy, in New Zealand's Maori Wars and in the Union Army during the USA's Civil War. Well educated and the son of an Anglican clergyman, he befriended famous churchman John Dunmore Lang and, in 1868 or 1869, was appointed as a lay preacher at Egerton, a goldmining settlement 30 km east of Ballarat (near Gordon).
On 8 May 1869 Ludwig Brunn, the local agent for the London Chartered Bank, was bailed up by a masked man with a pistol at the banking chamber in the main street. Brunn immediately deduced, from the voice, that it was Preacher Scott. After 697 pounds in bank notes and a cake of gold worth 500 pounds were taken, Brunn was forced to write a note which stated he had done his best to defend the bank's property and was forced at gunpoint to comply. The letter was signed by the thief under the nom de plume 'Captain Moonlite'.
The next day the police informed Scott he was accused by Brunn. Scott suggested the signature resembled that of James Simpson, the superintendent of Scott's Sunday School, at whose house Brunn was boarding. Brunn and Simpson were subsequently charged with the theft although the case against them later collapsed.
Scott went to Sydney where he lived prodigally and presented himself as a squatter. He was arrested for fraud and forgery while setting sail for Fiji in a private yacht and, despite a brilliant self-defence in court, was sentenced to 18 months. Upon his release he was arrested and extradited to Ballarat as new evidence had arisen over the Egerton robbery (the sale of the cake of gold was traced back to him). His arrival at Ballarat caused considerable excitement and crowds turned up at the railway station for a glimpse. However, Scott soon escaped from the newly-built gaol.
He was recaptured two months later and re-secured at Ballarat Gaol. Although he again defended himself with considerable flair and always proclaimed his innocence, he was found guilty and sentenced by Sir Redmond Barry (who later sentenced Ned Kelly to death) to 10 years in prison. After his early release for good behaviour he gave public lectures on prison reform issues but, as his fortunes declined, he became a bushranger (see entry on Wagga Wagga).
Another goldfields visitor was the famous Lola Montez who danced her 'sensational' Spider Dance at Ballarat in 1855. For this she was denounced by Ballarat newspaper editor Harry Seekamp, prompting her to attack him with a whip.
Things to see
Ballarat is a beautiful and historic city with wide, tree-lined streets that are replete with elegant heritage buildings. Thankfully the Tourist Information Centre have put together a detailed and excellent self-guided Heritage Walk which covers the history of the inner city's streets, buildings and sites. It is not to be missed.
The fine facade of Her Majesty's Theatre (1875), at 17 Lydiard St, now fronts the town's performing arts centre. The theatre was initially known as the Academy of Music to evade the negative moral connotations attached to theatres.
Craig's Hotel, in Lydiard Street South, evolved from Bath's Hotel which was built in 1853 by Thomas Bath who received the first hotel licence of the Victorian diggings. The Members of the Eureka Stockade Royal Commission of Enquiry opened their commission at Bath's Hotel shortly after the Eureka Rebellion.
Walter Craig bought the hotel in 1857. He added the present three-storey Lydiard St brick facade in 1862, the corner tower and three-storey western section in 1890 and the portico in 1891. In 1867 the hotel was made the headquarters of the visiting Duke of Edinburgh. Noted Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon ran Craig's Livery Stables in 1867-68.
In 1865, during the American Civil War, Australia was visited by the Confederate warship, the Shenandoah. A group of officers visited Ballarat on February 10 and a ball was held in Craig's Hotel to celebrate the occasion. American writer Mark Twain also stayed at Craig's Hotel during a visit in the 1890s.
The Eureka Trail
The Eureka Trail was developed in 1996. It is a 3.5-km walk which retraces the route taken by the police and soldiers from the government camp to the Eureka Stockade in 1854. The intention was to take the miners by surprise so they followed an indirect path through gullies, rivers and hills which is now denoted by directional bollards and interpretive signs. It takes in the fine Victorian architecture of Lydiard St (the site of the original government camp), the Eastern Oval, bluestone channels, the banks of the Yarrowee River, the Black Hill Lookout and Reserve and old miners' cottages in Ballarat East and it provides linkages with the Yarrowee River Trail and the Great Dividing Trail. The trail starts at the post office in Lydiard St and concludes at the Eureka Stockade Centre. For further information contact the Information Centre, the Eureka Stockade Centre (03 5333 1854)or ring (03) 5320 5500.
Ballarat Gold Heritage Trail
This trail unites 15 sites of significance relating to the discovery of gold at Ballarat. Interpretive information is provided. See the information centre for details.
Out the front of the centre is the 'Gold Monument' which commemorates the first gold strike in the area on 21 August 1851, at Poverty Point. It notes record yields at local mines and record nuggets. Indeed there is a replica of the Welcome Nugget which, at almost 69 kg (99% of it pure gold), was the second-largest solid gold nugget to be found in the world. The Cornish miners who found it in June 1858 christened it with a bottle of beer, loaded it on a wheelbarrow and took it to the Ballarat Treasury. After it was sold for 10 500 pounds it was put on display with the entrance fee going to charity. From there it journeyed to Melbourne and on to London where crowds paid to see it at the Crystal Palace before it was minted.
The Ballarat Fine Art Gallery
Close by the information centre, at 40 Lydiard St, Ballarat North, is the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery. Established in 1884, it is Australia's largest and oldest purpose-built provincial gallery. The early collection was displayed in rented premises until the foundation stone of the present building was laid to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887.
Today it boasts a major collection covering the history of Australian art, from colonial to contemporary, with a special goldfields collection that includes works by Eugene Von Guerard who painted the local fields in the early 1850s. There are particularly strong collections of material from the Heidelberg School and the Lindsay family.
The Lindsay Gallery features a reconstruction of the sitting room from the Lindsay family home at Creswick, complete with original furnishings and objets d'art gathered when the home was demolished in 1966. There are also paintings, drawings and woodcuts by Norman Lindsay and other members of that talented family, along with the painting 'Ajax and Cassandra' which Norman Lindsay cited as one of the greatest influences on his work. Other artists in the gallery include Tom Roberts, Walter Wither, E. Phillips Fox, William Dobell, James Gleeson, Ian Fairweather, Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale and Fred Williams.
Since 1895 the gallery has also possessed an original Eureka Flag which flew over the stockade until it was attacked by government forces. The troopers took the flag and damaged it at a celebratory victory party. It remained in the possession of trooper John King until 1895 when his widow donated it to the gallery. Considered the first truly Australian flag, it is still regarded as a potent symbol of democracy and working-class causes today (for example, it could clearly be seen at the 70 000-strong protest against the government's industrial relations legislation held in Melbourne in August 1999).
The gallery also houses fine collections of prints and drawings (including material from Captain Cook's voyage), together with costumes, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, an unusual selection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, oriental rugs, together with some English and European paintings and decorative arts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There is an admission fee which includes a free daily tour at 2 p.m. The Gallery is open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. , tel: (03) 5320 5858.
Sovereign Hill is the town's primary tourist attraction, drawing over 500 000 visitors a year. It is a 35-acre open-air museum established in 1970 near the site of the first gold strike at Ballarat and on the site of the Sovereign Quartz Mining Company which sank a shaft of 216 metres near the summit of this hill.
This non-profit organisation seeks to recreate aspects of Ballarat as it was in the goldmining heyday of the 1850s. Thus each of the 60 buildings is a duplicate of an original structure, as photographed, drawn or painted at the time. 250 actors in authentic costumes populate the historical park on a rostered basis. They engage in activities appropriate to the era, employ 1850s technology and bespeak contemporary social values and attitudes. Even the sounds of Sovereign Hill are what you might have expected to hear at the time - working steam engines, stamper batteries, horses' hooves, passenger coaches etc.
The complex is essentially divided into four parts - the Diggings 1851-1855, the Township 1854-1861, the Chinese Village 1859, and the Sovereign Quartz Mine, covering the period1861 to 1918.
The Red Hill Gully Diggings reflect the earliest days when prospectors arrived from around the world to garner the alluvial gold. You can see the simple dwellings they lived in, the types of goldmining machinery they employed and the gold commissioner's camp. Visitors are encouraged to pan for gold in the creek. Gold can be purchased at the Waterloo Store and the Lemonade Tent sells old-fashioned lemonade on Sundays and on holidays in the summer.
The Township is a recreation of the emerging city indicating the support services that emerged with the influx of people to the goldfields. The shops of Main St sell the types of goods that would have been available in the 1850s - ironware, tin and brassware, saddlery, pottery, woodworks, confectioneries, printed material, draperies and various grocery and toiletry items.
You can take a ride on a coach from 10.30 a.m. daily, watch craftsmen working at traditional pursuits (such as sweet-making, baking, horse-shoeing, pill-rolling, coach-wheel making and wood-turning) with period tools, have your photograph taken in period dress at the Red Hill Photographic Rooms, and visit the stables, newspaper office, apothecaries, a period cottage, a slab hut, the tentmaker, the watch and clockmakers, the timber merchants, bank, gold office, mechanics' institute and free library, foundry, furniture warehouse and fire station. There are also free shows in the theatre on most days.
At this time, between one-sixth and one-quarter of the population was Chinese although they were forced into six separate protectorates or villages from 1855 due to the hostility of the Europeans. Especially appointed government protectors determined that this was the best way to avoid the kind of conflict which generated the Lambing Flat riots (see entry on Young).
As the Chinese were forbidden from camping within 250 metres of a European dwelling the Chinese Village (a recreation of the original Golden Point Village) is at a remove from the main street of the complex. There is a Chinese store, a scribe, a herbalist, miners' tents and a Joss House (temple).
TheSovereign Quartz Mine reflects the period when mining shifted from small-scale alluvial and shaft mining to corporate deep-lead mining aimed at extracting the gold which was buried deep underground in quartz reefs (c.1860-1918). The dominant feature is the enormous poppet head and opposite is a Mine Information Centre which can shed light on the fine collection of working steam-driven machinery such as the stamper battery, the engine house, the winder and the Cornish beam pump. You can also take a tour below ground through a 600-metre shaft. Here you will see displays and dioramas illustrating the chronological development of quartz mining technology and the conditions under which miners worked. When the underground tunnel was being dug the workings of the North Normanby mine were discovered and incorporated into the present mine display. The Secret Chamber offers a multimedia 10-minute special effects presentation to tell the story of the Chinese on Ballarat's goldfields (also available in Mandarin and Cantonese) and, at the Sovereign Quartz Mining Company Gold Smelting Works, visitors can witness molten gold being poured into a bar or ingot.
Another attraction is the automated sound-and-light show called 'Blood on the Southern Cross' which takes place across the whole complex each evening. It recreates the sights and sounds associated with the Eureka Stockade Rebellion, including the burning of the Eureka Hotel. Bookings are essential, tel: (03) 5333 5777.
Moderately-priced accommodation is available for those who wish to stay overnight. It is located on the hill overlooking the town in recreations of buildings from the Government Camp (military barracks, courthouse, officers' quarters, superintendent's quarters and The Residence) with tents for the more adventurous.
The complex includes a proper post office, a licensed hotel, a kiosk, a restaurant, a gift shop in the main car park and a bookshop in the entrance building that specialises in Australiana and Victoriana.
There are several places to eat on Main St (the New York and Hope bakeries, the United States Hotel, the Universal Transit Office and the Refreshment Building). There is also a picnic area with barbecue facilities beside the post office dam and you can get a pass-out to visit Sovereign Hill Lookout where there are fine views and more picnic facilities.
Guided tours are available of the Quartz Mine, the Diggings and the Chinese Village, and there are demonstrations of musket firing, sweet-making, horse-shoeing, working horses, gold-mining machinery, pill-rolling, wood-turning, blasting and a pouring of molten gold worth $50 000. Another attraction is the arrival of the 40th Regiment in Main Street.
Aside from the standard daily entry fee you can purchase a Welcome Pass which provides unlimited access over two days to Sovereign Hill, the Gold Museum, the Eureka Stockade Centre and the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery (see separate entries).
Throughout the Victorian school holidays, Sovereign Hill offers free family activities, such as a pantomime at 2 p.m. in the Victoria Theatre. The complex is located in Bradshaw St, just south of the city centre, adjacent Geelong Rd. It is open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5331 1944.
Opposite Sovereign Hill, in Bradshaw St, is the Gold Museum which comprises the Gold Pavilion, The Historical Pavilion and the Buckland Gallery. The Gold Pavilion came about when a local, Paul Simon, sought both to display his personal collection of gold coins (ducats, denarii, doubloons etc), nuggets and alluvial samples (garnered from local creeks) and to set up a display examining the history of gold in relation to Ballarat and human society generally. Another section deals with the presence of the Chinese on the local goldfields and features bronze and porcelain ware, watercolours, jewellery and clothing.
The Historical Pavilion contains changing displays relating to the history of Ballarat from pre-colonial to modern times.
The whole is housed within a modern building with large plate windows which incorporate the surrounding landscape into the display. The museum is open daily from 9.30 a.m. to 5.20 p.m. (hours are extended in school holidays), tel: (03) 5331 1944. If you have purchased a ticket for Sovereign Hill it entitles you to entry into the Gold Museum or, if you do not wish to visit Sovereign Hill, you can pay for access to the Museum alone. The Gold Museum is also included in the Welcome Pass system (see entry to Sovereign Hill). Group tours can be arranged by request.
Eureka Stockade Centre
Slightly further along the road, (at the corner of Eureka St and Stawell St) is the Eureka Stockade Centre - a striking building, set amidst fine lawns and gardens, which features an enormous sail-like Eureka Flag fluttering from a 50-metre mast. It has been erected in the vicinity of the 1854 Eureka Stockade Rebellion and its walk-through galleries use state-of-the-art multimedia technology to illustrate the Eureka story. There is a cafe and gift shop. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. and can be seen with a Welcome Pass (see entry on Sovereign Hill), tel: (03) 5333 1854.
The Ballarat Wildlife and Reptile Park
The Ballarat Wildlife Park is located nearby, at the corner of Fussell and York Sts, in Ballarat East. It occupies 16 acres of peppermint gum woodland and features native animals such as koalas, giant tortoises, over 70 free-range kangaroos, the largest crocodile and alligator collection in southern Australia, wombats, a colony of Tasmanian Devils, goannas, snakes and such native birds as emus and wedge-tailed eagles. There are guided educational tours each day at 11.00 a.m. and koala photo sessions from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. daily. Feedings demonstrations involve crocodiles, wombats and Tasmanian devils. There is a reptile house, a giant open-air aviary and the Australian Nature Education Centre which features an array of small native creatures (bearded dragons, blue-tongued lizards and other reptiles, frogs, spiders and insects such as the giant stick insect). Facilities include picnic-barbecue areas, a kiosk and a souvenir shop. It is open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., tel: (03) 5333 5933.
The Ballarat East Locomotive Depot
Situated at the corner of Humffray St North and Corbett St, this historic railway complex features a bluestone goods shed (1862), 1890s V Class passenger rolling-stock, a restored Phoenix steam locomotive Y 112, and a workshop and maintenance depot. It is not open to the public.
Lake Wendouree and Paddlesteamers
Lake Wendouree covers 238 ha with a foreshore area of 16 ha. It is 6 km in circumference and has a maximum depth of two metres. Located just to the north-west of the city centre it was once a prominent feature of the landscape to the Wathawurung people who, along with large numbers of kangaroo and emus, camped on its foreshores. It was originally known to Europeans as Black Swamp (as it was dark with dense reed growths) then Yuilles Swamp (after William Yuille who took up the first land here in 1838) but was named Wendouree in the first 1851 survey. Legend has it that, when Yuille asked an Aboriginal woman what the swamp was called she replied 'wendaaree' meaning 'go away'.
In 1851 a dam was built across the lake outlet and it was sometimes used as a water supply to the people of Ballarat. Wendouree Parade was first surveyed as a road reserve in 1855 and 13 hotels were soon located thereon. Bluestone quarries, flour mills, a lemonade factory, plant nurseries and four large mining companies were established around the lake. In 1858 an underground pipeline was laid through to the waterworks and carters filled their wagons with lake water then sold it on the goldfields. In subsequent years the prolific reeds were cut back, the lake bed was deepened, and the gums were cut down and replaced by English trees. The first steamboat on the lake (1865) heralded a mania for boating.
Today the lake is framed by mature elms, oaks, pines and willows and encircled by a 6-km bluestone walking and cycling path (locally born long-distance runner Steve Moneghetti holds the record for the fastest lap). It is full of water birds (166 species) and used for aquatic sports such as rowing, canoeing, kayaking, sailboarding and yachting. In fact, in 1956, it was the site of the Olympic rowing, canoeing and kayaking events. It is well-stocked with trout and redfin for the pleasure of anglers but swimming is not recommended.
A wetland walk incorporates interpretive signs outlining the fauna and flora of the lake and foreshore (audio-visual kits of animal and plant life are available from the Ballarat Field Naturalist's Club).
There are electric barbecues, a childrens' playground, the Lake Lodge kiosk and function centre (1890), the Almieda Pavilion (1907 - a former penny arcade), boatsheds, a jetty, rowing, yachting, canoeing and fly-fishing clubs, the Lake View Hotel (1875), a rockery (1904), View Point (constructed in 1881) and toilets.
Ballarat Tramway Museum
Double-decker, horse-drawn trams began carrying visitors to the Botanical Gardens in 1887 and the trams were only replaced by buses in September1971. 15 of the old trams (along with other memorabilia of the era) can be seen at the Tramway Museum which is open weekends, public and school holidays within the Botanic Gardens. A major tourist attraction is the vintage electric tramway which offers rides along a 1.3-km track, on board an 80-year-old tram which winds through the Gardens and around Lake Wendouree on weekends, and public and school holidays from midday to 5.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5334 1580. For more information check out http://www.btm.org.au.
Ballarat Botanical Gardens
On the western side of the lake are the 40-hectare Botanical Gardens. They were created in 1858-59 on what had been the Ballarat police horse paddock. The soil for the gardens was carted from what was then Yuilles Swamp.
The Robert Clarke Conservatory is a state-of-the-art, free-standing, fully-glazed and unconventionally-designed walk-through floral conservatory which, from March of each year, showcases the city's famous tuberous begonia displays. Six different displays are mounted each year with the landscaping completely redesigned for each exhibition. The Robert Clarke Centre also incorporates the Gardens Shop, the Interpretative Gallery, a visitor information service and a function room which is for hire.
Other horticultural features of the garden are a fernery, the water lily pond, a nursery, an azalea garden, a camellia garden, the floral clock (1953), the enormous trees of Sequoiadendron Ave (planted from 1863 to 1874), Horsechestnut Ave, Californian redwoods, the swamp cypresses on either side of the statue pavilion, the turkey oak at the entrance of Prime Ministers Ave, the druid's oak behind Adam Lindsay Gordon Cottage, a rockery, the sensory garden with its huge bluegum, the dahlia garden (in bloom from March to Easter), the weeping elms near the wishing well, the rose garden, autumn's chrysanthemums, winter's cyclamen, spring's schizanthus and spring bulbs, summer's flower displays and two major floral beddings created each year by the planting of over 80 000 seedlings (at their peak from March to October).
Another significant aspect of the Gardens is the statuary. The Prime Ministers Avenue (set within Horsechestnut Ave), for example, features bronze busts of all Australian prime ministers. The Statuary Pavilion contains allegorical figures donated by Thomas Stoddart and J. Russell Thomson who made their fortunes on the local goldfields. Many were collected in Genoa and made of Carrara marble. A highlight is Benzoni's Flight from Pompeii.
Other attractions are the childrens' playgrounds, the Claxton Monument at the fernery, the intricate cast ironwork of the Morey Gates which frame a pair of 19th-century marble lions, and the Craft Cottage.
The latter was in fact the domicile of poet and politician Adam Lindsay Gordon who had a most unhappy stay at Ballarat after his arrival in October 1867. He initially ran a livery stable to the rear of Craig's Hotel and lived in the cottage which stood adjacent. In March 1868 the stables burned down and he was injured in a fall from his horse. The following month his daughter died at age 11 months. In October 1868 he left town, committing suicide in 1870. The cottage was relocated in 1934 and now houses a collection of local crafts. It is open from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. daily from October to April. The rest of the year it open on weekends and public holidays, tel: (03) 5320 5643.
The Gardens are open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Entry is free but, if you wish to visit the Robert Clarke complex there is a $3 charge for adults (accompanying children under 14 are free). Guided tours are available on the second Sunday of the month (at 2.00 p.m.) and Arts in the Park provides free entertainment on Sundays from January to March. For further information ring (03) 5320 7444 or visit the website which is 'Info@begonia.ballarat.net.au'.
Hymettus Cottage Garden
Close by the park is Hymettus - a lovely formal private garden featuring geometric flower arrangements. The house was built in 1900 from monies gained when the owner laid a successful bet on 'Hymettus' in the Caulfield Cup. It is located at 8 Cardigan St which runs off Wendouree Parade and it is open from 10.00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in November, February and March, on all holiday long weekends and at other times by appointment, tel: (03) 5339 4718.
Ballaarat Old Cemetery
Just around the corner (at the intersection of Macarthur St and Creswick Rd) is the Ballaarat Old Cemetery. There are special monuments which denote the resting place of the soldiers and miners who were killed in the Eureka Stockade Rebellion. The Eureka Graves Visitors' Centre features a touch screen computer listing these burials, along with Chinese interments and the names of 120 000 people interred at the crematorium and at both the old and new cemeteries. There is a display explaining the significance of the Eureka graves and two brochures are available: one lists 30 important graves and the other tells the history of the Eureka monuments. They can be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre. The cemetery is open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Entry is free though there is a fee for tours, tel: (03) 5332 1469.
Avenue of Honour and Arch of Victory
Established between 1917 and 1919, the Avenue of Honour is Victoria's oldest and longest known memorial avenue. This 22-km stretch of road was originally lined with 3771 (now reduced to 3332) trees: one for every person that enlisted and fought overseas in World War I, regardless of rank. Adjacent each tree is a bronze plaque bearing one service person's name, together with their unit and tree number. The Avenue extends westwards from the Arch of Victory in the western suburb of Alfredton along the Ballarat-Burrumbeet Rd to Lake Burrumbeet where it changes direction and heads north, crossing the Western Freeway Bypass and continuing along Avenue Road to Weatherboard-Learmonth Road.
The Arch of Victory is a 17-metre high structure, floodlit at night, which straddles Sturt St. It was funded by female employees of Eleanor Lucas's lingerie factory and was opened in 1920 by the Prince of Wales. The associated Temple of Remembrance is situated at the entrance of the Avenue of Honour. It houses a Book of Remembrance which contains the names of every person in whose honour a tree has been planted.
Ballarat Aviation Museum
The museum houses a collection of vintage, military and classic aircraft, along with aviation memorabilia such as radios, uniforms and engines. It is located at the Ballarat Airport which is located just off the Sunraysia Highway at the north-western edge of town and it is open weekends and public holidays from 1.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. or by appointment, tel: (03) 5339 5016.
Kirk and Gong Gong Reservoirs
Five minutes drive from the city centre, along the Daylesford Rd, is the turnoff into the gardens of Kirk Reservoir which blend beautifully with the aquatic elements of the area. They feature over 100 indigenous species, some dating back to 1863. There are picnic and recreational areas with dense areas of fern, stonewalling and interpretive signs.
A feature of the reservoir is the Water Wise Garden which is intended to provide information about effective water usage and planting methods and, to that end, it features a wide variety of commonly found plants in various watering and planting conditions to demonstrate their response to each variation. Guided tours and information days are conducted, tel: (03) 5320 3100.
Across the road is Gong Gong Reservoir Park which features replantings of mostly naturally occurring natives. There are scenic views, picnic facilities, toilets, bushwalking areas and some good fishing (subject to permit).
Kryal Castle is a type of medieval theme park based in a recreated medieval castle (allegedly the third-largest castle in the world) which is located 8 km east of Ballarat on the Western Highway (Forbes Rd) at Warrenheip. It comes complete with moat, drawbridge, portcullis, arena, dungeons, 'graveyard' and keep.
There are medieval re-enactments (e.g., whippings and hangings), which occur four times daily on Sundays, school and public holidays, three times daily on Saturdays and once on weekdays during the school term. The 'Cocktails in the Graveyard' theatre restaurant (based on medieval themes) is held in the Tavern, there are magic shows and medieval displays (armour, weapons, heraldry, trophies, tapestries, taxidermy, the crown jewels, a Magna Carta display), a maze, stationary models, a glassblower, a Trojan horse, 'Royal' accommodation for guests and, for weddings and functions, a 'baronial banquet hall', 'Gothic chapel' and honeymoon suite, tel: (03) 5334 7388.
James Egan's Gallery
James Egan's studio-gallery is located within his cottage residence which is surrounded by numerous pheasants, peacocks, tropical and native birds. His works have been exhibited around the world. To get there take the Bungaree turnoff from the Western Highway about 9 km east of the city centre. Once in Bungaree get onto Lesters Rd where you will find the gallery, tel: (03) 5334 0307.
Yuulong Lavender Estate
Yuulong is a lavender plantation set on a hilltop in a bushland setting overlooking the valley. The lavender flowers in summer and the farm is open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. in January and from Wednesday to Sunday for the rest of the year. You can watch the harvesting by sickle from December to March, inspect the herb and cottage garden, purchase fresh lavender in season and dried lavender flowers all year round. A range of other lavender products are available, along with cottage plants, skin-care products, crafts and light refreshments. A farming and music festival is held annually. It is located on the Yendon Rd. Head east of Ballarat along the Western Highway for 20 km then turn off for Gordon and its 8 km south at Mt Egerton (or take the Yendon No.2 Road from the Midland Highway), tel: (03) 5368 9453.
Enfield State Park
Enfield State Park is located about 22 km south of Ballarat via the Colac Rd (head out of Ballarat along Albert St). 3 km south of Enfield is Misery Creek Rd, the point of entry into the park which is currently recovering from a major bushfire in 1995. There are fine wildflower displays in spring and plenty of eastern grey kangaroos, koalas and echidnae amidst the stringybark and peppermint gum.
Picnic facilities can be found at Surface Point - the site of a Chinese mining settlement in the 1860s. From here there are signposted walking tracks to Enfield, Long Gully and Bald Hills.
Lake Burrumbeet is 22 km north-west of Ballarat, adjacent the Western Highway. It is a good spot for water sports and there are scenic picnic areas and excellent trout fishing opportunities. It is also the most significant eel-fishing ground in the state. The eels spawn in the Coral Sea, off the North Queensland coast, then head south and enter the country's lakes and rivers.
Lake Lear month is located 19 km north-west of Ballarat, just off the Sunraysia Highway. It is a popular venue for boating, swimming and fishing in summer.
Learmonth Trout and Fauna Park is located on the Sunraysia Hwy at Learmonth (tel: 03 5343 2287) and Mitchell Park Trout Farm is on Wiggins Rd near the Ballarat Airport, tel: (03) 5334 6523.
Ballarat Taxis offer two tours: one of the city and one which takes in the area's two wineries (see entry onBuninyong). They operate any day by appointment and do pick-ups from the door, tel: (03) 5331 3355.
Events and Festivals
Ballarat is home to a large array of annual events and festivals. The Royal South Street Competition, for example, is Australia's oldest Eisteddfod competition. It is held from August to November.
Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields is a series of musical performances held in historic churches and buildings around town during January. The Buninyong Gold King Festival is held in February and the Ballarat Antique Fair and Begonia Festival in early March. The latter focuses on enormous begonia displays at the Robert Clarke Centre in the Botanical Gardens. The festivities also include a floral carpet, made from 80 000 flowers, a street parade, art shows, music, theatre and fireworks. The Ballarat Heritage Festival is held in late March and early April.
Springfest is held around Lake Wendouree in November. It entails around 1000 stalls selling local arts, crafts, food, wine, flowers and plants with plenty of free entertainment - jazz, vocal and orchestral music, camel, train and motorbike rides, jumping castles, clowns, magicians, celebrities etc. The Ballarat Cup Carnival and Ballarat Show are also held in November and the Eureka Week Celebrations in late November and early December.
See Visit Ballarat website