Located between 75 and 90 minutes by train from downtown Melbourne, Ballarat is the state of Victoria’s largest inland community (visiting during December, check out the u-pick cherry orchards in Bacchus Marsh – a rail stop on the way to Ballarat).
Known for its gold mines, Ballarat has a very ‘western’ feel. Gold was first discovered in the area in 1851 and like other gold strikes around the planet, this region was soon flooded with miners – but unlike other major gold strikes, the gold fields lasted much longer before they were ‘played out’.
In 1858 one of the largest gold nuggets was found not far from downtown (now built up with numerous businesses), the Welcome Nugget weighing in at a whopping 2,200+ ounces. Unfortunately it was later melted down in London and turned into gold coins.
Visitors by train can easily walk into the central part of town – worth exploring are its city streets with the beautiful architecture. Other highlights naturally include gold mining related activities – Sovereign Hill is an open air recreation of a 1850s era gold mining town where visitors can pan for gold and the Gold Museum. About a 25-30 minute walk from the train depot is Lake Wendouree – a relaxing place to hang out and or bring a picnic lunch (benches are located at intervals along the path that circles the lake).
For more information about Ballarat, visit: www.visitballarat.com.au