Ballarat, the Victorian city built on gold, is a travel hub for its wealth of places to eat, drink and stay, plus things to do and see. It’s a gold-rush town full of grand Victorian-era architecture and if you are visiting our Cellar Door, we recommend exploring Ballarat, which is just over an hour’s drive from our home in Great Western.
From grand hotels in beautifully restored heritage buildings to modern crash pads and cosy country homes, we round up the best places to stay in Ballarat.
Set in a heritage building on Lydiard Street, The Provincial Hotel offers luxury boutique accommodation in the heart of town. The beautifully restored interior is reminiscent of Kit Kemp’s Firmdale hotels in London and New York. There’s a mix of old and new design touches, with handsome Victorian furniture and highly decorative wallpaper and fabrics alongside generous modern bathrooms and mini bars loaded with local delicacies. No two rooms are the same across the 20 or so Deluxe Rooms, Balcony Suites and Apartments, and when it’s time for dinner or an evening tipple, head to hotel restaurant Lola. There’s refined European-inspired dining and a wine list that focuses on the finest natural and regionally sourced wines. The Provincial Hotel is no longer a local secret, it recently won Best Boutique Style Accommodation at the Tourism Accommodation Australia (Victoria) awards.
Another heritage hotel in the heart of town is Craig’s Royal Hotel, Ballarat’s iconic grand gold-rush hotel that was built in 1862. Dame Nelly Melba famously sang from the hotel’s balcony in 1908, and today, Craig’s maintains its old-world charm with lavishly appointed rooms and high tea in the banquet room (there’s a high cheese for those who prefer savoury – genius!). Settle into a Chesterfield lounge with a glass of something local at Craig’s Wine Bar – the 150-year-old carved wooden bar is original – before dinner at Gallery restaurant, which is headed up by chefs Scott Alsop and Ian Curley.
Located in Lake Wendouree, this ornate Gothic mansion was first built in 1877 as the home of the first Bishop of Ballarat. If the grand proportions, imposing staircase and gold lead stencilled paintwork look familiar, it’s because it was built and designed by the same team behind Melbourne’s State Library, Ripponlea Estate and the Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building. Today it’s a luxe boutique crash pad secluded on 1.5-hectares of heritage-listed gardens. There are six richly decorated guest rooms and common areas include the library (complete with fireplace and billiards table), shaded verandahs, spa pavilion (complete with sauna and jacuzzi) and barbecue area.
Also located in Lake Wendouree, but at the other end of the design spectrum, Lakes Edge Apartments are cutting-edge modern apartments. The apartments are fully furnished for a self-contained stay for couples or families. Each apartment has two separate bedrooms, open-plan living, dining and kitchen, and an outdoor area. Just a stone’s throw from the shore of Lake Wendouree, be sure to explore this scenic pocket of Ballarat on your morning or evening stroll.
Ballarat’s award-winning family holiday park is an affordable accommodation option for families and large groups. It’s close to Sovereign Hill, Ballarat’s family-friendly ‘living museum’ with live shows and gold-rush era activities (think gold panning and cart rides). There are cabins and powered sites for camping and caravans, and plenty to keep the kids busy, including swimming pools, a tennis court and basketball hoop, peddle bikes, an adventure playground and indoor heated spa.
There’s a raft of different places to enjoy either a quick bite or a more substantial meal in Ballarat.
Coffee, artisan baked goods and all-day breakfasts – discover the best way to start your day in Ballarat.
To fuel your day, head to Fika Coffee Brewers. Fika is Swedish for ‘coffee break’ and the name hints at what these guys do best. They serve local Melbourne St Ali coffee alongside a contemporary breakfast menu, inspired toasties, fresh pastries and cult Vegas & Rose doughnuts.
1816 Bakehouse is Ballarat’s go-to artisan bakery and ‘the’ place for anything warm and golden from the oven. There are hand-shaped sourdough loaves, hand-rolled pastries, freshly made sandwiches, plus locally roasted coffee. Must-try is their beef brisket and cheese pie and pumpkin sourdough.
No need to set the alarm, as Yellow Espresso does all-day breakfast and lunch in the heart of town. Whether you’re after a green smoothie, avo toast or your daily caffeine fix, this popular cafe is a local favourite and often gets busy. Plant based? There are vegan options, from raw cakes to daily soups and a felafel burger.
Drive Café started as a simple suggestion - “what about turning the old servo on the corner into a cafe?” Drive set out to create a space that offers great coffee and inspires community connection whilst supporting local food producers. The menu is delicious and diverse with all day breakfast and lunch plus gluten free and vegan options. Why not sample the Reuben with a glass Best’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Drive is open daily 8am-3pm
From lunch to dinner and aperitivo in between, take your pick from cool cafes, local favourite wine bars and smart casual eateries offering global flavours and local wines.
An early pioneer of Ballarat’s foodie scene, Mitchell Harris Wines opened in 2013, leading Ballarat’s dining renaissance with a smart wine bar attached to their bottle shop and cellar door. Today, the industrial space has maintained its vibrant energy and exciting food and drink offering. From lunch to dinner, there are wine-friendly plates served at the bar – think tuna ceviche with miso grapefruit dressing, polenta chips and beef carpaccio. There are grazing boards to accompany a variety of wines by the glass, including a Coravin menu which allows for much greater choice of the wines by the glass available including some special wines usually only sold by the bottle.
Locally owned and operated, Eclectic Tastes Cafe & Pantry offers more than just your usual cafe experience. Showcasing the diversity of what the region has to offer including local produce, wines, boutique beers and great coffee, this relaxed café-cum-provedore is a surprising dining experience with a menu that spans global favourites and classic Aussie cafe fare. Open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week, from 7am weekdays and 8am on weekends, come for quality casual dining and enjoy a bottle of our Shiraz or Chardonnay, with lamb flatbread, prawn pasta or a Korean chicken burger.
Boatshed is located on the Lake Wendouree foreshore in the very heart of Ballarat. The iconic Ballarat restaurant has been a popular destination on the lake for almost two decades. In late 2017 Boatshed was refurbished, boasting amazing views of Lake Wendouree with a newly created modern-Australian menu. There’s all-day dining starting with breakfast served 7am-11:30am, followed by a hefty menu of share plates, snacks, large plates, toasties, pizza and dessert. Sip our LSV Shiraz on the menu.
Set amongst century old trees on the shore of Ballarat’s beautiful Lake Wendouree, Pipers by the Lake is open for breakfast and lunch daily and serve a simple but balanced modern menu. Their wagyu beef burger is to die for and pairs perfectly with Best’s Bin 1 Shiraz. Or if you’re looking for something a little lighter, try their Thai Fish Cakes with a glass of our Great Western Riesling. After lunch take a walk in the magnificent and historic Botanical Gardens.
Two very different fine dining establishments for special occasions and finessed food.
This discreet 16-seater serves an elegant seasonal tasting menu on Friday and Saturday evenings only. Chef Derek Boath spent time in the kitchen at New York’s Michelin-starred Per Se, and he brings a sensibility for technique and high-quality produce to his unassuming Ballarat restaurant. Reservations open on the first day of each month and get snapped up quickly. Derek’s menu changes depending on what’s in season, but past dinners have looked like this: butter-poached Port Phillip Bay calamari with raw peas, wild fennel, meyer lemon and just warmed buttermilk; lamb rump from Castle Hill with choy sum, black garlic, sesame, ginger and lamb consommé; Canalé de Bordeaux with caramelised Jerusalem artichoke and Perigord truffle.
This European brasserie-style restaurant is set in the atrium at historic Craig’s Royal Hotel (see Where to Stay, above) and evokes Ballarat’s gold-rush glory days. Chef Scott Alsop’s a la carte menu has a Euro flair and features Victoria’s incredible local produce. Start with house-made focaccia and Mt Zero olive oil, then move onto chargrilled cuttlefish with chorizo and chimichurri and Sher Wagyu steak frites. There’s a full plant-based menu and an extensive cellar to enjoy by the glass or bottle.
Travelling through other parts of Victoria? Perhaps you’d be interested in some of our other regional food and wine guides. Take a look: