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Your guide to a culture-packed weekend in Ballarat

The Archibald Prize comes to Ballarat in October along with festivals, museum shows and plenty to make your weekend away unforgettable

Linda Jackson by Carla Fletcher (image cropped)

Famous for its gold mining past, Ballarat is rapidly transforming into a cultural hub. There’s no better time than now to visit Ballarat and check out all that’s on offer. 

Love your art? Visit Australia’s oldest regional art gallery, the Art Gallery of Ballarat, to view the this year’s finalists in the Archibald Prize, Australia’s famous competition for painted portraiture. Did Louise Hearman deserve to win the $100,000 prize for her painting of Barry Humphries, or are you more with Betina Fauvel-Ogden’s gritty rendering of George Calombaris? More than 50 of the finalist works will be on show. While you’re there, browse the gallery’s impressive permanent collection.

Art Gallery of Ballarat

Make your way to the Lost Ones Gallery if you’re in need of a contemporary art fix, and catch Roz Avent: Nature Brute – an exhibition of Avent’s large, evocative charcoal drawings of Central Victorian landscapes. Take a trip down memory lane with one of the city’s guided heritage walking tours. Admire Ballarat’s historic 19th-century buildings and monuments, if you’re still yearning for more knowledge, continue onto the city’s Gold Museum.

Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka

Visit the Eureka Stockade, the birthplace of Australia’s democracy, and browse the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (above). Wander through the museum’s interactive installations and learn about the infamous rebellion that helped make Australia what it is today.
Head to Ballarat Mining Exchange for Ballarat Cabaret (October 7-9), Australia’s only regional festival dedicated to the art of cabaret. Guests artists include Vince Jones and Paul Grabowsky performing Provenance; the inimitable Meow Meow presenting Feline Intimate; and there’ll even be the chance to attend a cabaret masterclass with Amelia Ryan and Michael Griffiths. 

Ballarat main street at night

SongWays Festival is a four-day, two-night celebration of local music running October 13-16. Homegrown talent will perform in the city’s various music venues. Head to Karova Lounge or Suttons House of Music to enjoy the tunes from the best musicians from Ballarat and beyond. 

Getting there

The easiest way to get to Ballarat is with V/Line. The journey time ranges from 65 to 90 minutes. To plan your journey on public transport visit: www.ptv.vic.gov.au/journey