Ballarat Things to Do

  • The water wagon at Sovereign Hill
    The water wagon at Sovereign Hill
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  • outdoor area during a live concert in 2006
    outdoor area during a live concert in...
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  • My wife in front of the Olympic Monument (11/2012)
    My wife in front of the Olympic Monument...
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Most Recent Things to Do in Ballarat

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    Cutting corners

    by iandsmith Written Dec 30, 2006

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    Something different

    This is the Trades Hall building, dating from 1887. I wondered how significant is was that it was built on such an unusual block with a decidedly pointy end at one corner. Was this indicative of how tough it was for them to get anything?
    It also features a highly decorated baroque facade. The interior features cantilevered bluestone stairs and timber lined ceilings and one couldn't help but notice that the Eureka flag was being flown defiantly from atop.

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    Craig’s Royal Hotel (Bath's Hotel)

    by iandsmith Updated Dec 30, 2006

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    Grand building, grand location

    This imposing edifice was constructed between 1862-1890.
    It underwent extensive work on the portico and interior in 1901. The site was bought by Thomas Bath (Bath Lane) in 1853. He was issued with the first hotel licence and constructed the original timber hotel. Bath's hotel was famously the site of the Royal Commission into the Eureka Stockade uprising. The hotel was one of the first buildings to be lit by gas, made, interestingly enough, from gum leaves and oil.
    The hotel was sold to Walter Craig in 1857.
    Notable guests have included Prince Albert, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Clarence, the Duke and Duchess of York ( King George V and Queen Mary) the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Dame Nellie Melba (opera singer) and the livery stable behind the hotel was run by Adam Lindsay Gordon (poet and noted jockey) in 1867/8. There is a memorial to Adam Lindsay Gordon in no less a prestigous location than Westminster Abbey. Gordon's cottage has been removed and reconstructed in the North Botanical gardens. It is now an Art and Craft Gallery. Open daily during October to April (10am-4pm) and on weekends from May to September.

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    Arts

    by iandsmith Updated Dec 29, 2006

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    Nouveau style
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    Slotted in around Camp Street, a curiously twisted affair, is some of the most varied architecture and scenery in the town.
    The first picture shows the new building for the University of Ballarat Arts and is decidedly modernistic in style, while the second pays respect to the indigenous heritage of the area and the last, with a clash of building materials, is the Fine Art Gallery.
    The fourth shot is the old Post Office, now part of the university as well.

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    Irish Murphys

    by iandsmith Written Dec 29, 2006

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    Time fur a wee drop?

    The original Hotel, the Camp Hotel, was built in 1861 on the site of the Little Engine Mine. The Art Nouveau Building you see now was erected in 1907 and remained intact until 1998 when it became Irish Murphy's.
    There were so many mines it's interesting to see how the sites were utilized in later times. Though the streets may not be paved with gold, there's certainly gold beneath them.

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    It's fun to stay at.........

    by iandsmith Updated Dec 29, 2006

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    Unusual shape

    This building was opened by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin.
    The YMCA was formed in the 1880's and this building was the home of Ballarat's YMCA from 1908 until 1994.This Edwardian style building features a pepperpot dome and an impressive sheer wall disappearing down Field St.
    It's sort of tucked away in this street of twists and turns, but Field Street is one of the highlights of any walking tour of Ballarat.

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    What's in a name?

    by iandsmith Updated Dec 29, 2006

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    Queen and her subjects
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    The name Ballarat comes from the aboriginal “balla-arat” meaning “resting place”.
    It was generally always "double a" until the local government amalgamations in 1994, when the new City of Ballarat was proclaimed. The "double a" spelling is used less now, but many local organisations like the Crafts Council and the Astronomical Society still stick to tradition by continuing with the original spelling.
    Personally, I don't really care either way, as someone a tad more famous in literary circles than I once wrote, "a rose by any other name...".
    In the centre of Sturt Street, itself named after a famous explorer, you will find the memorial (pic 5) to the classic saga of the Burke and Wills expedition, an ill-fated affair where a man named King was the sole survivor of a trip that went off with much fanfare and ended up in Australian folklore as a disaster.
    Other statuary is reflective of the Great Britain heritage, with the Scottish poet Robbie Burns (pic 3) gaining a place. The Carrara marble statue, designed by Mr Thomas Thompson of Ballarat was commissioned by a committee chaired by Mr Thomas Stoddart in 1884 and was produced in Italy. It was unveiled on April the 21st 1887. The statue depicts a young man with his dog. The granite base is inscribed on four sides with lines from his poems.
    There are two (pics 1 and 4) in honour of Queen Victoria, the latter being supplied by the CWA (Country Womens Association).
    As ever in all Australian country towns, there is the monument to the fallen (pic 2), ever reflective of the folly of war and the waste of humankind.

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    George Hotel

    by iandsmith Updated Dec 29, 2006

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    George Hotel

    The George Hotel in Lydiard Street North is the 3rd `George' to occupy the site.
    The first was initially known as the "George Inn", Ballarat's second officially licensed hotel. The "George Inn" was built by George Howe and Francis Herring who originally arrived in Ballarat very early in its history, on the 1st September 1851. According to the early Ballarat historian, W.B. Withers, Howe and Herring "jumped" a claim and proceeded to take 37 Ibs weight of gold out of the ground.
    Howe and Herring built their "George Inn" on the present site, the western side of Lydiard Street, midway between Sturt and Mair streets, which was then opposite the police camp. In "Lydiard Street North, Ballarat" 1855 by W.B. Benson, which hangs in the City of Ballaarat Fine Art Gallery, there is a good impression of the original building.
    The George was also patronised by the more fashionable members of the mining community. The arrival of rail transport to Ballarat in 1862 had a dramatic effect on Lydiard Street.
    This first building stood until the 1880's. For many years aspirants for Parliamentary honours addressed open air meetings from the George balcony to the crowded assemblages below.
    The second George hotel, of brick construction, was an impressive double storied building. The third George Hotel, of brick construction was erected in 1902 with a three storey balcony verandah which is almost unique in Victoria. The local architects E. & B. Smith designed the new building in the classical manner as with each subsequent story the level of decoration decreased. It was built by J. McGregor and had 30 bedrooms and four bars in the overall total of seventy five rooms, which also included four sitting rooms and a billiard room. The ground floor facade and the main entry were decorated with marble and the staircase was of walnut.
    There have been subsequent alterations to this surviving building which has been renovated in recent years as the result of two apparently deliberately lit fires, in 1978 and 1988.

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    Recycling

    by iandsmith Written Dec 28, 2006

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    Classic neo classical facade

    The Woodshed Antiques has opened its doors in the historic Masonic Lodge situated in the heart of Camp Street.
    They specialise in fine Australian cedar furniture and quality imported antiques, contemporary gold and silver jewellery and interesting gift lines.
    Originally in Armidale in New South Wales, they have relocated successfully to Ballarat.
    The Doric style columns at the front add a grandiose air to the fine establishment inside.

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    Things judicial

    by iandsmith Written Dec 28, 2006

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    A bastion of legality
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    Should you spend some of your time in Ballarat walking the streets and noticing the architecture, as I obviously have, one thing will become apparent and that is that there's lots of legal chambers in the city.
    It's fairly obvious that this must be Victoria's second most judicial heartland after Melbourne. To be sure, some of the buildings may not originally have been chambers but they've certainly collared some of the grandiose establishments on show these days. Here are a couple of samples I came across.

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    Lydiard Street (South of course)

    by iandsmith Written Dec 28, 2006

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    Australia's finest?

    This could be the finest block in all Australia. Unfettered by anything save the occasional parking sign, it flaunts its architectural beauty basked by the midday sun.
    The Gothic spire, the neo classical facades and the colonial classic architecture make this a street worthy of perusal.
    This shot is taken from Sturt Street looking south.

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    The making of the city

    by iandsmith Written Dec 28, 2006

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    Town Hall - the lights are back on

    Back in 1857, a rival Municipal Council was formed in Ballaarat East. Many thinking citizens saw what a mistake it was to have two Municipalities separated by only a creek, and these tried hard to bring the two together. But though the City was already ready, the East Council bitterly opposed it. On no less than four occasions the ratepayers of Ballaarat East were asked to vote at a poll on the subject, and each time it was rejected by a large majority. The 1914-18 War however, brought the two Councils into more friendly relations. In 1921, another poll was taken and this time it was carried by 708 to 616 votes. On 15th May 1921, the Governor of Victoria performed the ceremony and since them Ballaarat has been one City. The old enmity between the "Township" and the "Flat" had died away, and every part of the City has benefited by the amalgamation.
    This shot shows the Town Hall, a splendid edifice of bluestone quoins and Gothic tower, not to mention the spirit of Christmas.

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    Changing times, changing fortunes

    by iandsmith Written Dec 28, 2006

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    Shaded centre of Sturt Street

    In 1871, Ballaarat was gazetted a City, and the City Hall was finally completed, though it took ten years to finish. In the late seventies the City Council was in sore financial difficulties. The overdraft was about 50,000 pounds. The bank was pressing. All sorts of desperate economics were practised, such as the clock at the City Hall not being lit at night, and many of the street lamps were put out of action. These, coupled with a reduced works programme, enabled the Council to weather the threat of insolvency.
    Early in 1858, the Municipal Council had engaged George Longley to make a Botanical Gardens on the west side of Lake Wendouree. He stayed there for 40 years, through the lean financial times because this was a work of love. His project was well carried on by his successors, Lingham, Rooney, Toop and Beaumont. Today the gardens form one of the great attractions of the City.
    Till 1887, the centre of wide Sturt Street was occupied by two lines of tall blue gums; beautiful to see, but making the street dark, dull and damp in winter time. In that year, Mayor T. H. Thompson, despite much opposition, had the gums uprooted and their places taken by oaks and elms. Then, in 1896, Mayor C. C. Shoppee (there's a name you won't find in many phone books!) made a flower garden in the centre of the street between Armstrong and Doveton Streets. The people owning shops in other parts of Sturt Street got to work and with the help of Mr Arthur Farrer, gradually built up the "floral way" of which Ballaarat folk are so proud today.

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    Boom to near bust

    by iandsmith Updated Dec 28, 2006

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    History writ large

    The year 1869 was the time when the mining industry reached its most prosperous point. In that year there were more than 300 mining companies with extensive plants around Ballaarat, giving employment to thousands of miners and supporting some seventy sharebrokers, buying and selling shares for their speculating clients. The population of Ballaarat was more than 60,000. Mind you, many of the miners were working for a pittance.
    The following year the bottom fell out of the industry. The drop in the value of Ballaarat mining shares was equal to half of all the revenue of the Government of Victoria. Hundreds of citizens were ruined and most of the mines were closed down.
    The miners left for other goldfields in such numbers that the population dropped by almost half. Ballaarat's future appeared gloomy indeed and it seemed inevitable that it would wane, as many of the other once prosperous mining towns had done.
    But Ballaarat had citizens of vision and fortitude. They set to work to promote new industries, chief of which were the Phoenix Foundry and the Sunnywide Woollen Mills. These gave work to many men, and though Ballaarat was hit badly by the slump, the city was able to keep fairly prosperous.
    The building pictured is at the corner of Camp and Mair Streets and is symptomatic of Ballarat's changing fortunes as the names of two former businesses that owned it are still visible on the side. It is to the current owner's attitude of not removing them that we owe a debt of gratitude.

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    Gold and grief

    by iandsmith Updated Dec 28, 2006

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    Myers Department Store on Sturt St

    On 10th June 1858, at the corner of Mair and Humffray Streets, at a depth of 180 feet, the fabulous and famed "Welcome Nugget", weighing 1/2 cwt. of pure gold, was found. In today's money it would be worth around $100,000.

    Several big disastrous fires - one in 1860 destroyed both sides of the business block between Eureka and York Streets - and frequent destructive flood that inundated Main Road forced the merchants to seek safer areas. They moved their business places to the plateau above Grenville Street. Main Road lost its importance as the shopping centre, and Sturt Street gradually became the place where the business was done.

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    A moving experience

    by iandsmith Written Dec 27, 2006

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    The Burke and Wills memorial
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    Early in 1852, the Government sent up Surveyor W H Urquhart to lay out a township. He quickly saw that low-lying Main Road was an unsuitable spot.
    For a while he considered the high land near the present junction of Humffray and Grant Streets, but he finally decided to get out of the population areas and lay his township upon the plateau. He meant the new township to go north and south.
    Lydiard Street was to be the main official street, with public offices, churches, banks and hotels; Armstrong Street was to be the main business street; Doveton Street, the residential street, while cross streets were named Dana, Sturt and Mair Streets.
    On 5th May 1857, the first municipal Council met at the Golden Fleece Hotel in Lydiard Street, with James Oddie as the first Chairman. A pipe was laid from the lake. It went underground, along Webster, Drummond and Sturt Street till it came to where the Burke and Wills Monument stands today. Here came the carriers with their water carts which they filled from the stand pipe, and then hawked the water around the Town, selling it at 10 shillings per car load.

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