Dust off the hiking boots, shake off your lycra and grab a picnic hamper, because Ballarat has got some adventure gold waiting for you.

We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung people who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

 

 

Highlights

  • Hiking and cycling trails for all abilities
  • Off-grid cabins and beautiful camping
  • More food, wine, beer and coffee than you can shake a stick at

 

Ballarat might be the third-largest city in Victoria, but you wouldn’t know it with its heritage charm and small-town feel. Whether you’ve got a couple of spare days, a long weekend, or a whole damn week, Ballarat will keep you occupied. From cruisy walks and picnic hangs, to downhill mountain biking and a 210km hiking track, Ballarat’s got a bit of everything.

 

Jean-Claude Van on a Daaaaaam!

Hiking

Mount Buninyong

There’s enough hiking around Ballarat to walk until your legs fall off. First on my list is Mount Buninyong, just a 20 minute drive out of town. There are plenty of walking tracks with views across the region, plus it’s not every day you get to meander around a dormant volcano. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

 

Lal Lal Falls

To really have your breath taken away, head 20 minutes out of Ballarat to Lal Lal Falls. It’s a significant site for the local Wadawurrung people and the name Lal Lal means ‘dashing of waters’. The falls are believed to be the earthly home of Bunjil, the All Father or Creator to a lot of Victorian Aboriginal groups. Witnessing the falls for yourself, it’s easy to see why it’s listed as spiritual place, with an extra impressive drop into a rocky gorge below.

Explore Urban Ballarat

Now, we wouldn’t really be exploring Ballarat if we didn’t explore the city itself… There’s some great urban exploration to be had during a self-guided art walk. It’ll take you through the city’s streets as you uncover Ballarat’s various wall murals.

 

Goldfields Track

Finally, if you’re looking for something to sink your teeth into, you can’t go past the Goldfields Track. It’s a point-to-point 210km trail that links a whole bunch of 1850s gold rush towns (Ballarat, Creswick, Daylesford, Castlemaine and Bendigo) together in one long-ass walk.

This puppy also takes cyclists and is the longest shared-use track in Vic! I hear a little hike-ride adventure calling my name….

Biking

Speaking of cycling, Ballarat has it in spades. No matter if you just want to spin through the city, cruise a rail trail, or hit some downhill, there’s something for everyone.

Ballarat Town Rides

First up, if you’re in need of some wheels, check out Ballarat Bike Hire, or My Ride Ballarat for any accessories, repairs, and servicing. Starting small, there are some iconic rides around the city such as the 9km Ballarat Heritage Ride or the 18km Ballarat Parkland Ride.

 

A cycling city

Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail

For those wanting something a little meatier, the stunning Ballarat – Skipton Rail Trail has all bases covered. The 57km trail is well surfaced and passes through the historic townships of Smythesdale, Scarsdale, and Linton.

A definite highlight of the ride is Nimons Bridge, the third tallest surviving timber bridge in Victoria. Even for those of you who don’t nerd out over old school engineering, this thing is impressive.

Black Hill Reserve Mountain Bike Park

I’ve heard there’s some great downhill at Black Hill Reserve Mountain Bike Park, but after an incident in the You Yangs a couple of years back involving my face, handlebars, and a rock, I’ll leave it to you.

The bike park is right on the edge of town and has some great views out over Ballarat. It’s got some cruisy cross-country green runs and some speedy downhill black diamonds. I’ll stick to the greens, thanks.

Picnic

After all that exploring you’ve earned some R&R, and I can’t think of a better way to do it than a picnic at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens near the banks of Lake Wendouree.

You can fish on the lake, take a stroll along the 6km walking track or take a ship out (read: pedal boat) for some mutiny on the high seas (read: pedalling around the lake until your legs get tired). 

While you’re in Ballarat, be sure to check out the Murrup Laarr Ancestral Stones. The traditional stone hut surrounded by basalt stons is an artwork by Dr Deanne Gilson, a Wadawarrung Traditional Custodian. It’s in the North Gardens Indigenous Sculpture Park, across the road from the banks of Lake Wendouree.

 

Sunrise at Lake Wendouree

Where to Refuel & Stay

Where to eat?

Even the most hardcore adventurers have to eat at some point, and Ballarat has got ya covered. For a coffee, you can’t go wrong at Clothesline Cafe, for lunch definitely hit up Pancho, and if you’re looking for some dinner, Roy Hammond will fill you up with Asian-inspired deliciousness.

 

The cute as heck Clothesline Cafe

 

If you really want to get stuck into it, there’s a local farmers’ market that runs on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month. It’s from 9am to 1pm at Lake Wendouree and they’ve got everything from fresh produce, local baked goods, and plenty of takeaway food to tuck into it.

 

Fresh as at the farmers market | Photo by Matt Dunne

Where to drink?

If you’ve read this far then you’re probably starting to get a little parched, and we just can’t have that, can we? Craft beer enthusiasts rejoice, Aunty Jacks won’t only fill you up, but also teach you about the process. Hop Temple doesn’t stop at beer, with some great wine and food selections.

For the bougie Explorers, you can’t go past Mitchell Harris Wine Bar or the Kilderkin Distillery which has a cellar door you can visit to satisfy all your gin cravings.

Where to stay?

Tiny houses and eco cabins might have become all the rage in the past few years, but there’s a good reason why – they’re bloody sick! Ballarat boasts a few of the finest, with the Jean-Claude Van on a Dam, Monterey Eco Stay at Captains Creek Organic Winery, or the always delightful Unyoked cabins at either Blue Pyrenees Estate or Perrick Wines.

Otherwise, commune a little closer with nature and camp at Creswick State Forest, Smythesdale Gardens or Lake Burrumbeet Foreshore Camping Area. Either way you slice it, Ballarat has you covered on the camping front.

Essential Gear

  • Bikes for all the trails
  • Hiking shoes 
  • First aid kit
  • Warm clothes if visiting outside of summer
  • An empty stomach for all the delicious food and drink
  • A few good books for cosying up in a tiny house

How To Get There

Ballarat is an easy 1.5 hour drive from Melbourne. Head west on the Western Freeway and it’ll take you all the way there.

No car? No worries! There are regular V Line trains departing from Melbourne that take the same amount of time. Easy as!

Leave No Trace

Ballarat is stunning, hands down no questions about it. At We Are Explorers, we reckon it’s a good idea to keep it that way, so make sure to take all of your rubbish with you, minimise your plastic use as much as possible, stick to the paths and try not to disturb the area or animals. Mother Nature will thank you for it!

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

 

Photography by @ben.savage and Visit Vic