If you ever wanted to engross yourself in medieval history, pan for gold and experience life in the 19th century, then a day trip to the gold mining town of Ballarat would definitely be perfect! Sitting at the heart of Victoria’s goldfields and one of the most significant gold rush era Victorian boomtown, Ballarat today is also known for contemporary offerings against a historic backdrop. Their award-winning wineries, an ever-evolving food scene, stunning parklands and a year-round of exciting festivals is indeed worth a weekend getaway.


Here we give you 5 things you don’t want to miss in Australia’s gold epicentre!


1. Sovereign Hill


Sovereign HillPhoto: experienceoz.com.au


Depicting Ballarat’s gold rush era in the 1850’s, the open-air museum at Sovereign Hill is one of Victoria’s most popular tourist's attractions. It features 60 historically modelled buildings and costumed staff showcasing history. Get a feel for life in a gold-rush town as you peek into crafts workshops, watch blacksmith demonstrations, ride a stagecoach or try your hand panning for gold.  Travel back to the gold rush era as you take the underground tour of the Red Milne to watch the multi-million dollar sound-and-light show ‘Blood on the Southern Cross’, depicting the 1854 Eureka Uprising.


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2. Lake Wendouree


Lake WendoureePhoto: visitvictoria.com


Walk, cycle or jog around the 6-kilometre circuit of the famous man-made lake called Lake Wendouree. The scenic lake was the venue for the 1956 Olympics Rowing Competition. Take in the scenery and abundant birdlife as you kayak or sail from the water’s edge, do some leisurely fishing and watch vintage trams pass along nearby streets. Fifteen trams were preserved as a memorabilia from Ballarat’s tramway era. Marvel at historic boathouses and some of Ballarat's most prestigious homes. In recent years, it has been the venue for the annual Goldfields Festival and Springfest extravaganza. It also offers other attractions and including the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, a playground and an excellent picnic with barbecue facilities.


3. Winter Wonderlights 


Winter WonderlightsPhoto: winterwonderlights.com.au


Join the much-awaited festivities of the Winter Wonderlights Festival held in July and watch the award-winning outdoor museum Sovereign Hill transform into a magical winter wonderland! Get to hear Christmas carols fill the air. See beautiful Christmas trees and decors line the main street of the museum while faux snow falls magically at regular intervals. There are also hands-on activities for the children to enjoy, a full-theatre program and of course, delicious treats. Other exciting activities include ice skating in the heart of Ballarat, exploring igloo haven and snow globe, finding your way through a mystical forest and watching little penguins swim gracefully through the Ballarat Wildlife Park.


4. Diverse Culinary Experience


Food ScenePhoto: Taco Bill Mexican Restaurant, Ballarat


Indulge in delicious local food and award-winning wine straight from the region’s wineries. With a vast variety of fresh produce and ingredients along with a demand by a multicultural population, there is an easy access to great food and wine. Chow down on burgers and craft beers, taste traditional dishes including Thai, Spanish and Italian. Ballarat also has a thriving craft beer scene. There are even bars and restaurants who offer beer lovers a liquid gold on-tap alongside delicious eats.


5. Kryal Castle


Kryal CastlePhoto: theculturetrip.com


Travel back in time at Kryal Castle, an adventure park replica of the medieval time where dragons, queens, kings, knights and wizards roam. Complete with a drawbridge, you can start your day at The Dragon’s Labyrinth, see the Torture Dungeon and Museum and watch as brave knights compete for supremacy in the main arena.  Wander through the maze, watch as the wizard mixes potions and test your strength with the Sword in the Stone. Guests can also sleep at the castle with dinner and show packages available.


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