Although gold mining is no longer the main industry in Ballarat, it is still a huge drawing card for Ballarat’s tourism industry. Each year, around half of Ballarat’s visitors are here to visit its Sovereign Hill and explore Ballarat’s gold mining history. However, there is a lot more to explore in Ballarat than just Sovereign Hill and the gold mines.
Although you can spend many days exploring in and around Ballarat, 1-day is an ideal length of stay if you only wish to get a taste of Ballarat.
To help plan your visit to Ballarat, I have put together this ‘1-day itinerary to Ballarat’ based on my recent visit. Hope you can find it useful.
Information on how to get to Ballarat, where to stay in Ballarat, and the cost of visiting Ballarat is also provided for your convenience.
One Day Itinerary in Ballarat
Arch of Victory
The Arch of Victory was built in 1920 to commemorate the allied victory in WW1. It also functions as the gateway to the beautiful Avenue of Honour.
As Australia’s largest commemorative arch, the Arch of Victory is located at the western end of Sturt Street and captures the attention of every passerby. There is also a Memorial Wall on the left-hand side of the arch (when driving to the arch from Sturt Street), which is worth checking out.
Avenue of Honour is a tree-lined street extending 22km northwest of the Arch of Victory. The trees along the Avenue of Honour each have a plaque with the name of an enlisted WW1 service personnel from Ballarat.
Ballarat Botanic Gardens
Ballarat Botanic Gardens is a picturesque linear-shaped botanic garden, along the western shore of Lake Wendouree. It offers a range of cool-climate plantations, a modern greenhouse, a stunning collection of statues, the famous Prime Ministers Avenue, and an enormous Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial.
Ballarat Tramway Museum is also located within the Ballarat Botanic Gardens. It can be a great place to visit for tram lovers and families with kids. In addition to appreciating a range of historic trams from the early 1900s, you can also jump on one of these well-preserved trams for a ride around the Ballarat Botanic Gardens and Lake Wendouree.
Ballarat Botanic Gardens opens daily & is free for everyone to visit. However, Ballarat Tramway Museum is only open on selected days & with much shorter opening hours (check out here for up-to-date operating hours). Entry to Ballarat Tramway Museum requires a ticket, which is AUD 10 per adult (July 2022).
After visiting Ballarat Botanic Gardens, make sure you also take a stroll around Lake Wendouree to enjoy some solitude along this tranquil lake.
Lake Wendouree is a man-made recreational lake right next to Ballarat’s city centre. Although close to a city centre, the area around Lake Wendouree is relatively quiet and peaceful. You can also find many black swans and other feathered animals around the lake.
There are well-maintained walking tracks around Lake Wendouree as well. The loop walk along Lake Wendouree takes about 2 hours to complete in a leisurely manner. However, you do not need to attempt the entire loop walk to admire the beauty of Lake Wendouree.
During my visit, I only walked along the western shore of Lake Wendouree to appreciate this tranquil lake. Although I do wish to spend more time along Lake Wendouree, there were more things to check out on this day trip & the lake view does get a bit repetitive after a while.
Sovereign Hill is a large open-air museum recreating Ballarat’s gold rush era from the 1850s. Since opening its door in 1970, Sovereign Hill has become Ballarat’s most famous attraction and brought in hundreds of thousands of visitors per year.
At Sovereign Hill, you can find staff members dressed in the 1850s costumes, re-enacting roles as butchers, candle makers, blacksmiths, soldiers, teachers, and many more. There are many interactive demonstrations and experiences available throughout the day. You can also participate in activities such as gold panning, which can be great fun for all ages.
Shops, decorated in an 1850s fashion, are available throughout Sovereign Hill. From these shops, you can watch how certain goods were produced back in the day & purchase from these hand-made goods.
A cafe (New York Bakery) and a bakery (Hope Bakery) are also available along Main Street in Sovereign Hill. You can not only purchase deliciously baked items for lunch but also experience what a cafe/bakery was like back in the day.
The village Sovereign Hill is based in is on a former gold mine, which spans across 15-hectare of land. If you are only taking a brief walk-through of Sovereign Hill, it should take you only a couple of hours. However, if you wish to explore each building and join most of the interactive activities, you may need to prepare at least half a day here.
Entry ticket to Sovereign Hill is currently AUD 39 per adult (July 2022). If you wish to join additional tours, such as the gold mine tours and the night shows, additional tickets are required. For up-to-date pricing and opening hours of Sovereign Hill, you can check it out here on their website.
Since Sovereign Hill is a very popular tourist destination in Ballarat, you can expect a fair bit of visitors here, especially during the weekends and school holidays. With that being said, I visited Sovereign Hill just after 10 am on a weekday (non-school holiday), expecting to have a lot fewer visitors. However, there was a school trip happening on that day & it was very crowded when the school kids were around.
As a result of the immense wealth generated from Ballarat’s gold rush, Ballarat was once a thriving town & comparable to its capital city, Melbourne. With a walk around Ballarat, you can easily spot many grand Victorian architectures. These architectures were all built from the wealth of Ballarat’s gold rush.
Make sure you take a stroll along Sturt Street and Lydiard Street to check out many of the finest Victorian-era buildings in Victoria. They will make you feel like being transported back in time to Ballarat’s glorious old days.
There are also many impressive statues in Sturt Street Gardens, which are worth checking out too.
Art Gallery of Ballarat
After checking out the stunning Victorian buildings on Sturt Street and Lydiard Street, make sure you also check out the famous Art Gallery of Ballarat on Lydiard Street.
Art Gallery of Ballarat is the largest and oldest regional art gallery in Australia. I found the Art Gallery of Ballarat to be the best regional art gallery I have visited. In fact, its collections were actually more interesting than the collections from the Art Gallery of South Australia (personal opinion & everyone’s different).
Entry to the Art Gallery of Ballarat is free. In addition to its permanent collections upstairs, you can also find many temporary exhibitions on its ground floor throughout the year.
The building Art Gallery of Ballarat is based in is also worth checking out. As a heritage-listed building, this purposefully built 19th-century building will greet you with a stunning staircase and spacious high-ceiling display rooms, which is an art itself.
Ballarat Umbrella Laneway
Ballarat Umbrella Laneway is a quiet laneway off Armstrong Street in Ballarat’s city centre. The laneway is covered by colourful umbrellas overhead & a great place for that perfect Instagram photo.
Along this laneway, you can also find many interesting mural arts. There is a cool restaurant/bar towards the end of this laneway, which is well worth checking out.
Black Hill Lookout
Black Hill Lookout is the best place to finish your day trip to Ballarat.
Sitting on a hill, the Black Hill Lookout offers an unparalleled panoramic view of Ballarat and its surrounding areas. At sunset, the entire Ballarat city is also covered with a stunning golden hue, which is simply surreal and magnificent.
Access to the Black Hill Lookout is wheelchair friendly & there is only a short, flat walk between the carpark and the lookout. It is perfect for everyone to visit and admire the beautiful Ballarat.
Walking tracks and bike tracks are also available around Black Hill Lookout for people to explore the Black Hill Reserve, which you may wish to check out if time allows.
How to Get to Ballarat
Visiting Ballarat by Car
Visiting Ballarat by car is the easiest and most convenient way of visiting Ballarat.
Visiting Ballarat by Public Transport
With a direct railway service between Melbourne and Ballarat, visiting Ballarat from Melbourne by public transport is very convenient. A train ride between the Southern Cross station and Ballarat Station takes less than 1.5 hours each way.
Once you have arrived at Ballarat Station, you will be only minutes away from Ballarat city centre. From the city centre, you can access all the attractions on this itinerary either by bus or by taxi. A range of rideshare services is also available in Ballarat.
If you are travelling from Geelong, Bendigo, or Halls Gap by public transport, train services are available. However, there are no direct train services between these places and Ballarat. When visiting Ballarat by train, it will take you about 2 hours from Geelong, 3.5 hours from Bendigo, and 2.5 hours from Halls Gap.
Where to Stay in Ballarat
During my visit to Ballarat, I stayed at a motel (Avenue Motel) on the Avenue of Honour. It was close to Ballarat city centre, with clean rooms. I was only charged AUD 85.5/night (through booking.com) for a double room & breakfast was also included in the rate. There was just nothing to fault in this neat little motel.
For people who love castles, you may also wish to stay at Kryal Castle during your Ballarat visit.
Kryal Castle is a replica medieval castle. It functions as a hotel and an adventure park, which can be a great place to stay for families with kids. Tickets to the adventure park are also included in the room rate on certain days of the week, so a stay in Kryal Castle may work out cheaper and better for those interested in visiting its adventure park.
Costs of Visiting Ballarat
Apart from Sovereign Hill, all the other attractions on this one-day Ballarat itinerary are free. Hence, the main cost of this visit will be your 1-night accommodation in Ballarat & the AUD 39 entrance fee to Sovereign Hill (July 2022).
Other costs of visiting Ballarat also include petrol or public transport expenses, which are highly dependent on your mode of transport and the distance you are travelling.
Food in Ballarat is about the average food cost of any major Australian city. You can lower this cost by choosing more affordable food options and reducing the frequency of dining out.