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Curator Julie McLaren's Ballarat In The Know

Familiar Faces

We asked Art Gallery of Ballarat curator, Julie McLaren, what she does when she has visitors coming to town. Keep reading to for her top tips and favourites.

Where are your favourite places to eat out when you have friends or family visiting you, and why?

Pancho is my favourite place in town to eat – their Latin American street food is amazing and they serve the best alcohol-free drinks in town. 

Johnny Alloo is my pick to take friends and family for breakfast and their biscuit milkshake is to die for.

What do you like to do when you have visitors?

I encourage visitors to head to the Art Gallery of Ballarat, which is Australia’s oldest and largest regional gallery. I’m really proud of what our team achieves and the way we’re able to show off our collection of contemporary and historic art in an engaging way. The Gallery shop stocks the best range in town of local and Australian makers, jewellers & craftspeople. I also love Rocket and Belle for their amazing range of vintage finds, which is located just behind the Gallery. 

If you want a nature fix with your visitors, where do you go?

To get out in nature, I love going mountain biking with friends. My partner and I have a tradition where we pick a leaf at the start of every ride as our way of asking permission to tread lightly on Wadawurrung Country. There are plenty of beautiful places to ride around Ballarat – Black Hill is great for more adventurous downhill riding, while Woowookarung has gentler flow trails.

Are there any hidden gems that you like to share with your visitors?

My favourite hidden gem in Ballarat is the Gun Cotton Mills. Hidden away in an industrial zone is Wootten, who make beautiful handmade shoes & bags, and The Greenhouse who have a stunning range of indoor plants and a café which stocks Vegas and Rose sweet treats.

What do you love most about Ballarat? If you were talking to someone who isn’t from here – what would you say?

Ballarat is so much more than old, gold and cold. The changing seasons here are spectacular and people have learned to embrace both the cold weather and the summer season. The city is really alive with possibilities and is constantly attracting new people who are helping to transform Ballarat into a creative, thriving city. Ballarat has the advantages of a small town vibe but also has the capacity to host big events like Spilt Milk, and you only need to travel a short distance to be surrounded by nature.

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12 Mar 2023

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Across Victoria’s Midwest, we acknowledge that we travel across the ancient landscapes of many First Peoples communities.

These lands have been nurtured and cared for over tens of thousands of years and we respect the work of Traditional Custodians for their ongoing care and protection.

We recognise the past injustices against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this country. As our knowledge grows, we hope that we can learn from their resilience and creativity that has guided them for over 60,000 years.

As we invite people to visit and explore Victoria’s Midwest, we ask that alongside us, you also grow to respect the stories, living culture and connection to Country of the Ancestors and Elders of our First Peoples.


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