Weekend getaway from Melbourne: Ballarat

Hello there from the Land Down Under (dah-oon ahn-dah, said with my poor Aussie accent)!

Can ya believe it, I still can’t!

Hubby and I are trying new ways of traveling and this winter (Australian summer) vacation, we’ve decided to house swap with our Aussie friends who were eager to trade their sun lotion for mittens in the freezing Korea.


#are you for real?

#trading winter for summer

#kangaroo burgers is that a thing?!

#sign me up!

The only down side to going down under is the distance…17 hours and 50 minutes later (2 flights, 1 layover), we arrived in the #2 MOST LIVEABLE CITY IN THE WORLD (used to be #1 for 7 years in the row) – Melbourne. We enjoyed taking a tour around the city and visiting a friend from Delaware, but our short stint came to an end and it was time to make it to our final destination in Australia – home away from home for 2 whole weeks – Ballarat.

Derived from two Aboriginal words, meaning “resting place,” Ballarat is Victoria’s province third largest city (after Melbourne and Geelong). Located only 102 kilometres (63 miles) away from Melbourne, this city of 100,000+ inhabitants will wow you with its friendly locals, flora and fauna, art, culture, food and a famed historical museum, which will take you back to the Victorian gold rush times of the 1850s.

So, let’s take a closer look why Ballarat should be on your next weekend getaway list:

Table of Contents

  1. Ballarat Wildlife Park

  2. Art Gallery of Ballarat

  3. Lake Wendouree

  4. City Centre

  5. Botanical Gardens

  6. Sovereign Hill

Ballarat Wildlife Park

No trip to Australia would be complete without petting and/or feeding some of its famed animals, such as kangaroos, koalas, dingos, meerkats, wombats and other lovely creatures. Sure, you may spot a wallaby or kangaroo while driving through the country side, but wouldn’t you want to take some time to get to know and interact with them instead?! Now I know that wombat fur is coarse to the touch and kangaroos have long, black finger nails on their hands (which remind me of my dog’s but longer). Kangaroos don’t bite, they just nibble (like horses). Koala’s are notoriously sleepy and it was a treat to see both mama and her 6 month old baby awake! Dingo wolves are incredibly smart and if they can fit their head in a hole, they can fit their whole body there too. Meerkats are funny to look at because they seem very paranoid, but totally cute (I probably should have enquired about taking one home so he can teach my Yorkie how to stand on his hind legs).

So many other insightful facts were introduced to us, as my hubby, and our guest and friend from Korea, Steven, were getting their free tour through the park. I think all of us were very elated to have come there and slightly petrified of “Crunch the Croc” aka “Houdini” and his stories of escape from previous parks.

That’s Crunch’s gf in the picture below, she is probably HALF of his size…

And oh yea, wallabies eat paper, if you (accidentally) let them 🙂

Art Gallery of Ballarat

Wondering along Lydiard street and all its photogenic historic buildings, you’ll definitely pass the Art Gallery of Ballarat, if not, just follow the yellow arrow signs on the ground from the train station. With a free entrance its a no brainer of an attraction and the amount of the colonial and contemporary art on display is downright impressive. Check out this recent Photography 101 post about how to learn photography when visiting a museum or gallery.

Lake Wendouree

Immerse yourself in Ballarat’s glistening waters of Lake Wendouree, which means “go away.” Yup, you’ve read that right and the story goes that when “a settler William Cross Yuille asked a local indigenous woman what the name of the swamp was, that was her reply” Wikipedia.


Don’t let that to deter you from visiting this magnificent place, especially when the sun is setting!

Remember, there is no swimming in the lake (despite its ridiculously clear water), but you can take a kayak or a small boat out. Just don’t disturb the birds and the swans and you’ll be good to go.

Follow the locals and walk, bike, jog 6 kilometres around the scenic lake and stroll through the beautiful Botanical Gardens, which are conveniently located on the western side of the lake.

P.S. Don’t take it for granted, because you never know when you come to the lake and instead, see this.

City Centre

My favourite feature of Ballarat are all its historical buildings and churches, which have stood the test of time with some of them dating all the way back to 1891. While the gold rush era was relatively short lived 1850- late 1860, I’m glad that I’m able to admire these architectural beauties in the distant 2019.

With Lydiard and Sturt Streets having the most historic buildings, keep that camera/phone handy during the evening. The blue hour of the day (around 7-8 pm depending on the season) creates a nice juxtaposition with the warm hue of the lit up buildings.

Botanical Gardens

As mentioned previously, Botanical gardens are located on Lake Wendouree’s western side. Other notable features of the gardens include the Adam Lindsay Gordon Cottage, Tramway Museum, Ex POW Memorial, Olympic Rings, as well as floral displays, heritage oak trees, Italian marble statues and Prime Minister’s Avenue. This destination is also free of charge, so bring your blanket, picnic basket and enjoy!

Sovereign Hill

Honestly, while in Ballarat, we didn’t actually pay a visit to Sovereign Hill. The biggest reason being price – at 53 AUS per person (around 39USD). With Ballarat being the beginning of our 7 week adventure, our budget didn’t stretch far enough to experience the Wildlife Park AND Sovereign Hill. It was a tough decision, of course, but being from America, we’ve already seen plenty of western towns stuck in the distant past and panning for gold is also a thing in Montana. There aren’t usually dressed up folks and Disney World-type-of-vibe, still we figured meeting some native Aussie animals would be a lot more memorable.

But, don’t let me stop you curious traveler from experiencing this 64 acre Australian icon and living museum for yourself. If you venture over to this Google Search (safe for work place, I promise), you’ll see why this famed destination welcomes over 450,000 visitors each year. And did you know that apparently you can visit this place 2 consecutive days with just a single ticket. Sounds like a sweet deal, especially if you get to witness this.


I know, I know, Ballarat has it all – some nature, some history, animals and lots of other Instagram-worthy, “experience over things” locations to make your weekend truly memorable. And getting to Ballarat is ridiculously easy, just hop on the train at Southern Cross station and 1:15min later, you’ve arrived at your destination!

Oh and don’t forget to peak out the window as your train ride whisks you through the country side, full of lovely plains, trees, cows, sheep and even kangaroos hopping in the far distance, racing you to the finish line – Ballarat Station.

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Learn more about this historic, yet vibrant city – Ballarat




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