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Two cyclists going past the Art Gallery of Ballarat
Photograph: Visit Ballarat

7 things to do in Ballarat this summer

Head to gold rush country for extraordinary food and drink and the great outdoors

By Time Out in association with Visit Ballarat
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There is a new reason to rush up to Ballarat: the city is in the midst of a creative renaissance. 
Designated a UNESCO Creative City, Ballarat has embraced its entrepreneurial past with new projects like the Australian Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades that is celebrating the heritage trades that helped build the city. There is also a wealth of new makers, producers, chefs and brewers who are bringing awarded restaurants and boutique hotels, chocolatiers and craft beer to the storied streets of Ballarat. You can also experience the region’s natural beauty at the meeting place of Lake Wendouree and surrounds, and enjoy the sun at a string of popular events. 

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Ride the Lake Wendouree Loop
Photograph: Supplied/Visit Ballarat

Ride the Lake Wendouree Loop

‘Murrup Laarr’ (‘Ancestral Stones' in Wadawurrung), a contemporary stone sculpture by local First Nations artist Deanne Gilson, is just one of the sights you can experience on a ride around Lake Wendouree. You will cycle past the Ballarat Botanical Gardens and the old cemetery and drop into the Farmers’ Market on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. Neuron e-bikes can be hired opposite the train station, which is the start of the cycle trail; grab a coffee at Restaurant Lola to get you started and enjoy a great ride.

Try Made of: Ballarat food and drink experiences
Photograph: Supplied/Visit Ballarat

Try Made of: Ballarat food and drink experiences

Ballarat’s makers and producers are coming with unique ways for you to not just taste their wares but immerse yourself in an experience where can blend, brew, unearth and bake alongside them. At craft brewer Aunty Jacks, there’s a beer and bread workshop that combines craft brews and 1816 Bakehouse bread, both made from the same grains. Go on a two-hour truffle hunt every Saturday at Black Cat Truffles for their summer truffles. Saltbush Kitchen invites you on an Australian bushfoods tasting experience, or you can blend your own gin at Mrs Baker's Still House.

Kick back at summer cellar doors and wine bars
Photograph: Supplied/Visit Ballarat

Kick back at summer cellar doors and wine bars

When local chef Derek Boath moved his hatted restaurant Underbar to the new Hotel Vera, he opened Pencilmark in its place – a wine bar with curated snacks and a perfectly selected list of local wines. Ballarat is the gateway to the Pyrenees wine region and it would be a crime not to explore local drops while in town. You can sip at wine bars like Pencilmark, Mitchell Harris or the rooftop at Ellington’s, or head to a cellar door: Wayward Winery has views of the Pyrenees as you taste, Blue Pyrenees Estate has been making wine since 1963, and Captains Creek makes top-notch organic drops. 

Go on a hike – and a picnic
Photograph: Supplied/Visit Ballarat

Go on a hike – and a picnic

Ballarat is surrounded by some breathtaking natural beauty that can sometimes be overlooked with so much going on in the city. Make sure you explore the region by going on a hike, but bring some of Ballarat’s great food with you. You can pack up your own picnic from the Ballarat Farmers Market where you'll discover crusty bread, local honey, Cornish pasties and cheeses and jams. Take it to Mount Buninyong, an extinct volcano where you can pause for lunch on the crater walk with great views.

Pick your own sunflowers
Photograph: Supplied/Visit Ballarat

Pick your own sunflowers

Located in Dunnstown, just out of Ballarat, the Britt family sunflower field is in full bloom from mid-February to March when you can wander the bright yellow fields and collect a bunch of your own sunflowers. This is one of the most Instagram-friendly rural experiences in Victoria and it sells out fast so book yourself a spot as soon as reservations open in 2023.

Experience unique accommodation
Photograph: Shannyn Higgins

Experience unique accommodation

Craig's Royal Hotel is a heritage 1862 building that has hosted royalty and prime ministers in its time. Now it's a lavish hotel for all budgets that also happens to be one of Ballarat’s most popular pubs. Grayling’s Gift is a 19th-century church in Lexton that has been lovingly restored. Or for something more natural, try the Garden of St Erth, a hidden glamping getaway in Blackwood or quirky Jean-Claude Van on a Dam, a restored 1970s York caravan parked on a dam.

Attend summer events in the gardens precinct
Photograph: Supplied/Visit Ballarat

Attend summer events in the gardens precinct

Summer Sundays involves free live music from local artists, emerging musicians and big-name acts in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens with a pop-up bar full of local Pyrenees wines. Seven Ups are the headliner for the January 8, while January 15 will showcase a firework show over Lake Wendouree to finish the night. See full lineup for the 15 Jan hereThe adjacent North Gardens is a site offering plenty of natural shade and a picnic-style atmosphere, ideal for festivals and concert events. The Red Hot Summer tour takes place here on Saturday March 4 with Paul Kelly headlining supported by Bernard Fanning, Missy Higgins, Mark Seymour and more. And the Ballarat Beer Festival returns on Saturday February 18 with one of the biggest selections of craft brews in one place. 

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