Ballarat Things to Do

  • The water wagon at Sovereign Hill
    The water wagon at Sovereign Hill
    by Rambling_Rover
  • outdoor area during a live concert in 2006
    outdoor area during a live concert in...
    by Kate-Me
  • My wife in front of the Olympic Monument (11/2012)
    My wife in front of the Olympic Monument...
    by cjg1

Most Recent Things to Do in Ballarat

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    Sovereign Hill Gold Mining Outdoor Museum

    by Drever Written Apr 12, 2014

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    Panning for gold
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    Set on a former gold mining site, this award-winning outdoor museum recreates the hustle and bustle of life during the gold rush days in the 1850s. A living museum it sprawls across 60 acres. This area, once pock-marked with alluvial workings and two abandoned quarries, is now a vast outdoor stage representing life in the goldfields of Ballarat.

    In the diggings you can pan for gold in Red Hill Gully Creek which is salted regularly with fine alluvial gold. The little specks of gold though proved elusive. A solid cube of shiny metal worth $50,000 is easier to see.

    Among a fascinated audience I listened to a blacksmith at ‘Goldpour’ explaining the complex procedures needed to extract gold from crushed quartz rock. In a crucible "cooking" at 1200 degrees Celsius gold slowly became molten. For safety he wore a thick protective apron, elbow length gloves, sturdy boots, and goggles. Picking up the crucible with a long-handled pincer, he poured the molten liquid, a stream of thick, golden honey, into a mould.

    It solidified within a couple of minutes, but just in case any of us considered a quick grab, he ran a metal rod across the block’s surface, and flames shot upwards. He immersed the nugget in a trough of water, where it sizzles and steamed. Picking it up he held it up for us to admire.

    Elsewhere the wheelwright’s machinery and saddler’s tools are still in use, making and repairing equipment for Sovereign Hill’s team of 40 horses, the wagons, stage coaches, and gigs which carry guests.

    At Red Hill Mine we went 13 metres underground on a tour of the workings. The miners excavated by pick, hoe, sledgehammer and crowbar as blasting was too expensive - the dust and noise must have been horrific. Although the miners were well paid—they made about $75,000 a year in today’s currency—many of them died early of lung disease, and because of mining accidents.

    Eventually we came to a life-size, moving "hologram" a reincarnation of Cornish miner, Richard Jeffrey. He stumbled on what was the biggest gold nugget ever found, the Welcome Nugget - at 69 kilograms, still the second largest nugget in the world. Many were fooled by the hologram thinking it was a real person and they tried to photograph it using flash only to find that there was nobody there in their photograph.

    Main Street was busy with people garbed in the clothes of the period and horse-drawn vehicles. Here miners and their families shopped for soap, spices, herbs and coffee at stores such as Clarke Brothers Grocery. The windows of the Criterion Store display the latest in Victorian style crinolines, bonnets and accessories. Robson & Wayne’s Apothecary Hall contains mysterious powders and some rather formidable surgical instruments. Speedwell Street, leading off Main Street, is residential.

    We paid the Gold Museum across the road from Sovereign Hill a visit. It houses an extensive and valuable collection of gold products. Also it contains a large panoramic view of Ballarat taken in the early days of photography from the town hall tower.

    I left details of my great grandfather here. He had been out in the goldfields here and returned home a wealthy man. I knew from the dates he was out in Australia that he must have worked in the Victorian gold fields but other than that I knew nothing. The Gold Museum offered a tracing service but so far they haven’t contacted me with any information – perhaps eventually!

    Sovereign Hill presents its Australian mining heritage with pride and verve—and its buildings represent meticulous attention to accurate historical architecture and style. Both entertaining and educational, it takes a large part of a day to explore Sovereign Hill’s shops, displays and the Chinese quarter.

    The museum is open 10am to 5pm every day except Christmas Day. The Gold Museum that is next to Sovereign Hill is open 9:30am to 5:20pm.

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    Ballarat a historic town

    by Drever Written Apr 12, 2014
    Ballarat Town Hall
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    Gold discovered near Ballarat in 1851 attracted an influx of over 10,000 miners in a year. These and those providing services transformed Ballarat from a pastoral town into Victoria's largest settlement. To get an idea of life back then visit Sovereign Hill outside the town the award-winning recreated 1850s gold mining settlement rated among the best tourism theme parks in the world.

    The Ballarat East goldfield alone produced 18 million ounces of gold. Easily found at first eventually it became difficult and after the 1880s the city's growth slowed. Miners drifted on to newly discovered goldfields elsewhere or if among the successful here sometimes invested their money in a business venture.

    Ballarat has become a tourist destination, having kept much of its Victorian era buildings, a unique culture, and its heritage of listed public and private buildings, monuments, statues and expansive gardens. With a little imagination it is still possible to envisage the town in its brash, confident and golden era.

    Notable heritage buildings include the Town Hall (1872), the former Post Office (1864), the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery (1887), the Mechanics' Institute (1860), the Queen Victoria Wards of the Ballarat Base Hospital (1890s), and the Ballarat railway station (1862). Other fine buildings include the Provincial Hotel (1909), Reid's Coffee Palace (1886), Craig's Royal Hotel (1862 and Her Majesty's Theatre (1875)

    A feature of Ballarate is its wide boulevards. These are so wide the main street, Sturt Street, has over two kilometres of central gardens between the carriageways. These gardens feature bandstands, fountains, statues, monuments and memorials. Among these are a bandstand built in 1913 as a tribute to the band players of the RMS Titanic and a fountain dedicated to the early explorers Burke and Wills.

    The 22 kilometre long Ballarat Avenue of Honour stretches along the Western Highway and consists of around 4,000 trees, mostly deciduous, which in many parts arch over the road. Each tree has a bronze plaque dedicated to a Ballarat soldier that enlisted during the First World War. It begins at the Arch of Victory.

    In late 2006, the town erected the "Big Miner" at the eastern entrance to Ballarat. The larger-than-life statue of a miner holding a pick and pan greets visitors as they approach the city from the east.

    Because of its elevation of 438 metres, Ballarat and surrounding suburbs share a cool climate. It used to be moist - so much so Lake Wendouree created out of former wetlands hosted the rowing events for the 1956 Summer Olympics. Normally a large recreational lake it was dry when we were there. Jetties, berthing places and clubhouses remain but the lake has disappeared. The area has suffered a long period of drought. Clearly this was not the case in the gold boom days for ditches dug for supplying water to separate the gold from other matter cross the countryside. Happily there are plans afoot to recreate Wendouree using recycled water.

    Ballarat is 105 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, with an urban population of around 90,000. Connected by a freeway it is easy to reach from Melbourne and is well worth a visit to examine Australia’s cultural past.

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  • cjg1's Profile Photo

    Lake Wendouree

    by cjg1 Updated May 15, 2013

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    My wife enjoying the lake (11/2012)
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    Lake Wendouree is a man made lake in Ballarat. The lake was created when they dammed up the swamp during the Gold Rush in the 1850's. The Lake today serves as a popular recreational spot for fishing, rowing, boating and canoeing. The Lake even hosted the 1956 Olympic games in the canoeing and rowing events. A special monument commemorates those Olympic Games is along the lake edge.

    Our first day in Ballarat we enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the lake(our hotel was in walking distance). Despite it being a work day, the lake was busy with people fishing, biking, jogging and boating. The water itself was also busy with all the ducks, swans and waterbirds taking a swim and catching some fish. It was a hot sunny day but the lake has plenty of large trees surrounding that kept us cool and shaded for most of our walk.

    We enjoyed exploring the area and stopping at some benches along the way to relax and enjoy some quiet time with each other. The lake is a nice little retreat in the middle of Ballarat.

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    Arch of Victory

    by cjg1 Updated Apr 22, 2013

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    As we drove into Ballarat from the highway we encountered the Victory Arch. This large arch spanned the length of the road almost as if to welcome us into the city. Later we found out this is the entrance point to the Avenue of Honour; which encompassed several War memorials along the road. The Memorials are for the Boer War, WWII, and Vietnam.

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    Living History in Sovereign Hill

    by Rambling_Rover Updated Nov 23, 2009
    The water wagon at Sovereign Hill
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    One of the many parallels between the United States and Australia is a Gold Rush. On an earlier trip to Alaska we visited the Gold Rush town of Skagway so we had to see Sovereign Hill. We were not disapointed. This is a first rate living history museum and well worth your time. There are museum displays, instructional movies, buildings both old and new that all tell the tale of the 1850's gold rush in the state of Victoria. You can see miners tents and huts, a Victorian vaudeville show, a gold bar being poured and lots of old mining equipment and steam engines to gawk at. Of special intrest to me was the exhibit on the Chinese miners. What a story! We had a full day of it here. Do not miss the pies at the bakery! I would venture to say they were the best I had on this trip to Australia. They are baked in a wood fired brick oven and are delicious! After we saw all we could and posed with the redcoats (We are British reenactors for the American Revolution reenactments in the States) we walked across the street to the Gold museum. Alas our bus was ready to leave and I only got to see a small bit of this musuem before we had to go.

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  • Ballarat Ghost Tour

    by FoxPearl Written Oct 4, 2008

    Eerie Tours Ballarat is a walking ghost tour of the historical Lydiard and Camp St areas, and the website is www.eerietours.com.au
    I am a local resident and was invited on a tour, and since there is generally little to do at night time in Ballarat I jumped at the chance. The tour went for an hour and a half, and was so lively and interesting. Even being a local, there were lots of stories and happenings that I had never heard of, and the tour guide was excellent at telling them. He brought out the history and facts as well which make the stories so much more creepy! It was a very cold night but after we got involved it didn't matter, although I was very glad to have taken their advice when booking to rug up!
    A great experience, and I think tourists and locals would both thoroughly enjoy it.

    Related to:
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    • School Holidays
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    Soverign Hill

    by stevemt Updated Jun 28, 2007

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    Yes this is a very touristy thing to do, but it is informitive as to how things worked in the gold rish era.

    This place has every one of its employees in period costume, doing things the way things were done in that era, (including the punnishments and exectutions)

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    Eureka Stockade

    by stevemt Updated Jun 28, 2007

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    The Monument

    The Eureka Stockade was a gold miners' revolt in 1854 in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, against the officials supervising the mining of gold in the region of Ballarat. It was prompted by grievances over heavily priced mining items, the expense of a Miner's Licence, and taxation (licence) without represenation and the actions of the government and its agents (police, militia).[1] [2] While the events which sparked the rebellion were specific to the Ballarat goldfields, the underlying grievances had been the subject of public meetings, civil disobedience and deputations across the various Victorian goldfields for almost three years.[citation needed] The miners' demands included the right to vote and purchase land, and the reduction of Licence fees. Agitation for these demands commenced with the Forest Creek Monster Meeting of December 1851 and included the formation of the Anti-Gold Licence Association at Bendigo in 1853.

    Although swiftly and violently put down, the Eureka rebellion was a watershed event in Australian politics. The preceding three years of agitation for the miners' demands, combined with mass public support in Melbourne for the captured 'rebels' when they were placed on trial, resulted in the introduction of full white-male suffrage for elections for the lower house in the Victorian parliament. The role of the Eureka Stockade in generating public support for these demands beyond the goldfields resulted in Eureka being controversially identified with the birth of democracy in Australia.

    There is a monument in Ballarat that can be visited

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  • Kate-Me's Profile Photo

    Gold rush themed Mini Golf

    by Kate-Me Updated Feb 7, 2007

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    Newly opened in December 2006, Gold Rush Golf is located at the western highway entrance to Ballarat, where the giant 6 metre Miner at the entrance makes it a very easy place to spot.

    Prices for 1 round: Adult $10, Children $7. $25 per family (2 adults, 2 children)

    The outdoor course is virtually complete, but it will be a few months before the indoor 18 holes will be finished.
    There's also a small cafe with seating area.

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    Ballarat Bird World

    by Kate-Me Updated Feb 7, 2007

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    in the cage with one of the black cockatoos
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    To really appreciate this attraction, you need to know that the waterfalls, tree fern rainforest, ponds, gardens and walkways in its pretty and tranquil bushland setting were originally built as a hobby by just one man, over a period of 20 years. Later, he decided to open it to the public and is still active in running it today.

    There's over 1 km of walkways winding through the park. See the native gardens, and you can walk through a large freeflight enclosure. Other birds are in aviaries, and there are many different species of to enjoy (including some cute talking cockatoos often calling out ''hello? hello? hello?'' as you pass!) Open 7 days, 10 am - 5 pm.

    *** I've many more bird photos taken at this attraction I love so much and visit often.... you can see them on my "Buninyong, Vic" pages.

    Entry fee is very reasonable - $10 adults, $9 concession, $6 children (2007 prices)

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  • iandsmith's Profile Photo

    Thars gold in them thar hills - still

    by iandsmith Updated Jan 23, 2007

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    The old Post Office, now a uni

    During 1854 - 1858 more than 2 1/2 million ounces, worth about 10 million pounds in those days, was taken from Ballaarat (original spelling) using pick and shovel, and probably much more was taken away by lucky diggers in their boxes and bags of goldbelts. And just this note in passing - the total amount of gold secured in the Ballaarat district from 1851 till today is more than 21 million ounces, or 643 tons; worth, at the present price of gold, the tidy sum of $440,000,000.
    Since that piece was written, the price of gold has gone up!
    There are mines still here and one, where there are known reserves of gold, is held up because of water flooding the mine. This occurred when the First World War erupted and miners, who were paid a pittance, went off to the services where they could get a reasonable pay and feed. This act left the mines without labour and so they just sat there and the water found its way in; so much so that these days they haven't worked out how they can pump it all out. It seems almost incongruous in times of severe drought that you couldn't sell the water first and then dig for the gold.

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    Camp Street Precinct

    by Kate-Me Written Jan 12, 2007

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    during the Games
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    Camp Street is home to several of Ballarat's early historical buildings, including a two storied brick courthouse. Many of these buildings are now incorporated into the University of Ballarat's arts faculty, which fills much of the street.
    It's an interesting development, finished just a few years ago, with historical buildings mixed with ultra modern ones which have been added in the spaces in between the old buildings, including student accommodation.
    The area is sometimes now used as an entertainment site (such as for the occasional rock concert and during the 2006 Commonwealth Games, where it was set up as a 'live site' with giant screen and live feed from the Games in Melbourne, and also other on site entertainment.

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    Historic buildings

    by Kate-Me Updated Jan 12, 2007

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    Lydiard Street North
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    The main historic building areas of Ballarat are firstly Camp and Lydiard Streets (Lydiard is where the Mining Exchange is located and many other heritage buildings in Victorian style with wide verandas) and also Sturt Street.
    There is also a signed historic walk which you can take, which includes Camp and Lydiard Streets.
    To learn more about the history of Ballarat, Visit the Eureka Centre - easy to find with its huge (pictured) Eureka Flag (Ballarat East, Eureka St)
    To see splendourous restored predominantly Victorian and Edwardian style historic houses, Drummond Street North, Ascot and Talbot Streets have plenty of character.

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    Botanical Gardens

    by Kate-Me Updated Jan 11, 2007

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    Botanical Gardens
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    Ballarat's Botanical gardens are world famous for their beautiful begonia flowers, and the annual 2 week (March) Begonia Festival.
    Here is a picture of one of the many statues in the gardens, with the Robert Clark Conservatory pyramid in the background, where many of the Begonias are grown and displayed.

    Picture 4 is a statue of Wallace in the gardens.

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    Wesleyan Church 1883

    by iandsmith Updated Dec 30, 2006

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    Attractive from any angle

    This elaborate, patterned brick church with its dual frontage is an important feature of the streetscape and a notable building despite all the others on Lydiard Street. The interior features amphitheatre style seating.
    The first church school erected on this site by the Wesleyan's slid down the hill. I wonder if God may have been making some sort of statement?

    Dana St itself is named after Captain Henry Edward Pulteney Dana who was assigned to a detachment of native police. They served at Ballarat briefly, collecting the hated licence fees.
    As you stand on this corner and look down the Dana St. Hill, you will be able to see where some of Ballarat's goldfields were. The valley below with its gravel lined creeks and gullies was the first to give up its riches.

    Deep lead mining under the escarpment you are standing on here was the scene of subterranean warfare. When one mining company encroached on anothers claim, stinkbombs of burning sulphur were thrown into rival tunnels. If this did not evict the trespassers, the rival miners used fists, picks and shovels to drive out the invaders. It wasn't all beer and skittles as they say. Life in the mines has never been for the faint-of-heart.

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