Ballarat, Victoria travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights


If you're looking to set up a Ballarat base for a day or two, the beautiful art nouveau Provincial Hotel is in the perfect spot. Opposite the railway station on historic Lydiard Street just a couple of blocks away from the city centre, everything you need or want is within strolling distance, so you don't need a car. The inhouse French restaurant, Lola, is worth the 90-minute trip from Melbourne alone. See


xx1ballarat One & Only Ballarat VIC victoria ; text by Lee Atkinson
Hydrant Food HallBallarat
(handout supplied by, no credit, no syndication) 

Everything old is new again in Ballarat, a city that excels in imaginative and stylish makeovers and restorations of historic buildings. Hidden down a laneway in an old warehouse, the Hydrant Foodhall is perennially packed to the original old sprinklers in the rafters with locals, who flock here for the all-day breakfasts, the mezze platter, local Seed & Sprout breads and seriously interesting gluten-free and vegetarian fare. See


Just around the corner from Hydrant the unmarked shopfront that was, until May this year, home to the always-booked-out-months-ahead micro diner, Underbar, the Pencilmark Wine Room is Ballarat's newest place to go for a drink. With space for just 20, and around 100 bottles to try – around 20 by the glass – it's the latest venture from chef and owner Derek Boath, the genius behind Underbar, so don't expect anything ordinary when it comes to bar snacks. See


It's not a real night out on the town these days without at least one stop at a rooftop bar, and Ellington's Wine Bar is Ballarat's first, and another new addition to the city's blossoming bar scene. Ballarat gets cold in winter, but much of the rooftop is undercover and cosily heated, so it's a good spot to round off the night with a glass of something local and some French cheese. It also has a bottle shop, if you'd like to take some of what you drink home. See


If there's a better way to kick start the day than a crab omelette with finger limes and coconut sambal, eaten beneath a backyard Hills hoist, we'd like to hear about it. In the meantime, this is just one of the all-day brunch items you'll find at the new Clothesline Cafe in an old suburban house on Bakery Hill. If you're on the run, the takeaway banh mi or baguette with roasted pumpkin, goats cheese and chermoula is just as good. See


Kilderkin Distillery has been hand-crafting gin in Ballarat since 2017 under the Larrikin Gin label, but they've just opened a new cellar door that feels more like a bar in an old woollen blanket warehouse beside Yarrowee Creek, which means you can now enjoy a G&T – or a gin tasting flight – and a cheese platter at one of the big wooden tables or cosy up on the couch with a cocktail. Unique tipples to try include the pretty pink Scarlet Begonia made with botanicals from the Ballarat Botanical Gardens and the Sunburnt Country bush tucker gin, bottled at 50.7 per cent, matching the highest summer temperature so far recorded in Australia. Wine and craft beer is also available, and the first batch of whisky will be released soon. See


xx1ballarat One & Only Ballarat VIC Victoria ; text by Lee Atkinson
cr: Visit Victoria (handout downloaded from Visit Victoria, no syndication) Ballarat Art Gallery

It's not new – in fact it's the oldest regional art gallery in the country – but beyond the permanent collection of some 11,000 works by Australia's biggest names in art (they're not all on show at once) there's always something new to see at the Ballarat Art Gallery. Current exhibitions include historic watercolours of the goldfields, ceramics, and crochet chicken dinners. Time your visit to include the free guided tour each day at 11am. The gift shop, full of the work of local artists, is worth a visit in its own right. See


It's been a symbol of rebellion and defiance since it was first unfurled on Ballarat's Bakery Hill in 1854, but you can't leave town without seeing the original Southern Cross flag, flown at the battle of the Eureka Stockade, the birthplace of modern Australian democracy. The slightly tattered remains are on display at the Eureka Centre in the Eureka Stockade Memorial Park, where the rebellion took place. See



The actual building on the former site of the Gold Museum opposite Sovereign Hill is still under construction – it's due to open in September – but you can already sign up for masterclasses in everything from basket weaving and netsuke wood carving to knife making and silversmithing at the new Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades. Sure to appeal to weekend hobbyists and master crafters alike with a rotating program of workshops, talks and exhibitions the aim is to "protect, promote and pass on the rare arts and forgotten trades that are at risk of being lost". It also sounds like a lot of fun. See


One for the diary, Hotel Vera, a stunning seven-suite transformation of a 150-year-old former doctor's residence in the city centre, is due to open in spring 2022. The luxury contemporary-styled suites will be reason enough to stay, but it will also be home to the new Underbar, Ballarat's ultimate destination fine diner. With seats for just 14 you'll need to book ahead. See

The writer visited as a guest of Ballarat City Council. See