Image Credit: Tony Evans Photography
A few months ago I was listening to ABC radio when a caller phoned in from Ballarat. The radio host asked him what the weather forecast was and the caller replied, “Sunny days and happy locals”. Once I heard that, I had a good feeling Destination Bike was going to be a lot of fun.
I wasn’t wrong.
If you think Ballarat, and then think gold rushes and Eureka Stockade, well you’re right.
But you’d also be wrong – this Victorian regional city is absolutely brimming with things to see, do and experience. It’s fair to say that our Destination Outdoor team couldn’t get there fast enough.
Bike Riding in Ballarat
If you’re into road or mountain bike riding, then you are going to love Ballarat. We spent a lot of time with locals, especially members of the Ballarat Sebastapol Cycling Club, and we were blown away with the number of quality routes and tracks on offer. Whether you’re after easy options for family outings, or you really want to give things a nudge; whether you’re in town with a road bike or a mountain bike, Ballarat has all riding bases covered.
If you've brought your own fishing gear, Lake Wendouree is the obvious first choice for dropping a line. Populated with beautiful Rainbow and Brown Trout and the infamous Redfin (English Perch), there is some great fishing to be had (on fly, or using bait) right in the heart of Ballarat.
If you’re after somewhere to take the kids that is guaranteed to deliver results, then jump in the car and head to Tuki Trout Farm. This is actually a great half-day experience, as it’s probably about 40 minutes’ drive from Ballarat, but it takes you into the heart of the most spectacular Victorian outback landscape. The Tuki team are personality-plus and not only can you catch your freshwater trout (in a nano-second), you can then have it cooked and served to you for lunch. That’s got to keep the kids happy!
Ballarat’s iconic Lake Wendouree is pretty much the recreational heart of the town. It’s where so many bike rides start and finish, but it’s also where so many other sports come to take advantage of the spectacular destination. Rowing is big here – really big – as is kayaking and canoeing. You won’t be able to borrow/ hire equipment unless you’re a member, but you will be able to take advantage of the lake yourself if you already have your own boat.
Image Credit: Tony Evans Photography
Running in Ballarat
And if you’re not keen to get on the water, but happy to enjoy it from terra firma, then consider the 6km or so walk/run around its perimeter. Australia’s marathon man and local Ballarat lad Steve Moneghetti has a run named in his honour, and that marks the course every kilometre or so. Along the way you can rely on drinking fountains set up by the City of Ballarat (bigger cities could learn a few things here!). And just enjoy the view – from the Lake itself to the beautiful rotundas found along its banks; to stand-out little pockets like the Olympics area; to the charismatic and bustling boat sheds. Come at sunrise, sunset or any time in-between and we’re sure you will be captivated by this place.
Walking in Ballarat
If you’re the kind of person who likes to walk and learn at the same time, then Ballarat has two great options on offer. Take a Heritage Walk through the town itself. The moment you arrive in Ballarat you can see the legacy left from goldfields wealth – surely this has to be one of the best preserved, most architecturally beautiful towns in all of Australia? A Heritage Walk is a great way to get to know it a lot better, and hear some of the stories and history that has made this town what it is today.
Your other option takes you away from architecture – to a degree – and over to the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. The friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens is a vastly knowledgeable group of locals who strive to educate visitors about the gardens. Sure, this is a great place to just lose yourself in the serenity of well-designed, incredibly well-maintained gardens, but a guided tour will enable you to get so much more out of the experience. We really enjoyed our wander and chat with Terry.
All this activity is making you hungry! Eating in Ballarat
We took it upon ourselves to eat – a lot – when in Ballarat, so that you won’t put an epicurean foot wrong. From breakfast, lunch and dinner, we’ve come up with a pretty impressive list that covers all kinds of food, all kinds of venues and all kinds of really lovely, friendly local business owners and their teams. You won’t want to DIY a single meal.
And you’re getting thirsty, too. Beers, brews, ciders and wine in Ballarat
No outdoor adventure is complete without a cheeky beverage to finish off the day! Especially when you’re on a holiday – there’s nothing more relaxing than kicking back with one of our favourite brews as you chat about how the day went and plan the following day’s activities. Again, we felt it only right to take one for the team and investigate every single brewing option available to you. From coffees to beers, from ciders to wines, we have your Drinks O’Clock all sorted.
Staying in Ballarat
We think we landed in quite possibly Ballarat’s best accommodation venue available to active people, especially bike riders. Check out what we had to say about Sovereign Park Motor Inn and why it should be top-of-the-list if you’re a bike rider heading to the Australian Road Nationals or just planning your own cycling getaway.
If you prefer to sleep in the great outdoors during your outdoor adventures, Ballarat has a number of great campsites to choose from. Slaty Creek is perfect for those who are self-sufficient while the BIG4 Ballarat Holiday Park is a wonderland for adventurous families.
We genuinely had a ball in Ballarat. A few of us even kicked ourselves for not coming here sooner to discover just how much there is on offer. It’s handy that the Road Nats take place in nearby Buninyong, as we will be looking for several excuses to return. We hope you enjoy this Destination Outdoor series as much as us – we’re sure you now have everything at your fingertips to pull together a pretty memorable getaway in Ballarat. Start packing your bags!