Don’t let the rumours of Ballarat’s weather stop you from planning the perfect outdoor escape. It doesn’t matter the weather, there’s boundless fun to be had in the great outdoors.
From short hikes and picturesque lookouts, to outdoor attractions and cool street art to explore at your own pace, your only decision is deciding where to start.
Here’s our top picks for exploring Ballarat’s wide open spaces…
The Ballarat region is surrounded by extinct volcanos, old forests and picturesque views that seem to extend for days, so you’ll definitely find a hike to get your heart pumping, including Mount Buninyong, the Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail, Goldfields Track and La Gerche Forest Walk at Creswick.
A little further afield in the Pyrenees you can hike along the Beeripmo walking track or discover waterfalls along the Waterfalls Nature Walk at Mount Buangor and Mount Cole State Forests.
Home to picturesque landscapes, forests, national parks, mineral springs and gorges, there’s also plenty of wide open spaces just waiting to be explored in the nearby Moorabool region.
Take a short drive and snap a photo of cascading water at Lal Lal Falls. A popular picnic spot for locals over the last 130 years, the 34-metre gorge is also one of Victoria’s most significant cultural sites. Situated on the traditional Wadawurrung/Wathaurung country, Lal Lal Falls is believed to be the earthly home of Bunjil (the All Father or creator to most Victorian Aboriginal tribes).
For anyone who likes a good hike, we highly recommend the Werribee Gorge.
When it comes to the perfect picnic spot, it doesn’t get much better than Lake Wendouree.
Watch the swans as you devour handmade croissants and pies from 1816 Bakehouse, or find some shade under the 100-year-old trees at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens and enjoy delicious treats from local sweet icon Vegas & Rose while you marvel at the colour of the curated gardens.
Take a leisurely stroll along the lake’s 6km track while taking in the stunning views or jump on one of the pedal boats and explore the lake from a different perspective.
One thing we love about Lake Wendouree is that no matter the time of year, you’re guaranteed an Insta-worthy shot.
Go at your own pace and you’ll find plenty of places to take a break along the way.
If you’re looking for a little fun before sitting down for a delicious picnic among good company, then have we got an adventure for you.
Using your smartphone to solve clues and riddles, the AmazingCo journey will take you to local artisan producers where you’ll collect delicious picnic ingredients before ending at a stunning picnic spot somewhere in Ballarat.
History is everywhere in Ballarat, often serving up the perfect backdrop – just like the old Ballarat Bitter mural in Lyons Street South.
There’s also so much modern street art to uncover around Ballarat like the Cax One beauty which is located on the side of the city’s niche perfumery in Armstrong Street South, Sweet Fern.
On the side of Webster’s Market and Café, you’ll also find a very cool Travis Price mural.
It’s one of many murals created by this Ballarat illustrator around the city, with other locations including Hop Lane, at the end of the Main Road and in McKenzie Street.
One of Australia’s favourite outdoor museums, Sovereign Hill recreates Ballarat’s first 10 years after the discovery of gold in 1851, when thousands of international adventurers rushed to the Australian goldfields in search of fortune.
It’s just like stepping back in time — from the excitement of the diggings where you can pan for real gold to the hustle and bustle of Main Street where you can catch a coach ride, shop for sweet boiled lollies and make your own candles.
Get up close and feed the free-roaming kangaroos and admire koalas, wombats, little penguins and other Australian native animals at the Ballarat Wildlife Park.
Around the park you will also see cheeky meerkats, dingoes and emus, as well as the park’s most popular inhabitants – Crunch the five-metre crocodile and Satu the Sumatran tiger.
Whether you prefer getting off-road and taking in the scenery, or you’re after a challenge and in for the long haul, there’s a smorgasbord of cycling trails awaiting your discovery in the Ballarat region.
Hire a bike (or the electric version) for the day and discover Ballarat at your own pace, or hit the streets on one of the new e-scooters.
Source local and seasonal ingredients and gourmet wonders at some of the region’s most popular farmers’ markets, including the Ballarat Farmers’ Market which is held on the second and fourth Saturday of every month at lake Wendouree and the Bridge Mall Farmers’ Market which operates on the first Saturday on the month.
Stock up on regional produce and pantry items, source a bottle of award-winning vino, and indulge in some homemade delights.
Choose to explore Ballarat in your own time and at your own pace on a self-guided tour around the city.
Or buddy up with a knowledgeable tour guide for an experience like no other.
A traditional grazing property, Smeaton’s Tuki Trout Farm pursues organic and sustainable principles in rearing its rainbow trout and pasture-fed beef and lamb.
Indulge in a pond to plate experience by hooking yourself a rainbow trout from the farm’s fully stocked pond. You can then have it cooked fresh in the restaurant, or cleaned and packaged ready to take home.
Come winter and truffles are hot property. The Ballarat region is perfectly suited for growing truffles thanks to its cold, frosty winters and warm summers – all requirements to kick off the fruiting bodies and maturation process in the truffle.
Book online for Black Cat Truffles, which is situated just 20 minutes outside of Ballarat in Wattle Flat.
You can also join truffle-dog Sally at Oakhill Truffles for a private tour of the Gordon truffleier. Nestled on the grounds of the original Gordon Presbytery and Convent, these local truffles have been compared with the very best that France can produce.
Discover the mystery and stories of the gold rush era with Eerie Tours’ Ballarat Ghost Tour. This tour travels through underground buildings, back alleyways and through the remains of the old Ballarat Gaol, the site of the highest number of executions in regional Victoria.
Towards the end of every summer, the Britt family open the gates to their Dunnstown farm for their annual Pick Your Own Sunflower weekends.
Take a short 20-minute scenic drive out to Coghills Creek and you’ll discover Eastern Peake Winery. Visit the cellar to enjoy top drops, including some of the best Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah in the state. You’ll instantly understand why Owen Latta has been awarded Australia’s Young Winemaker of the Year.
Situated just off Ballarat’s beautiful Avenue of Honour, the Michael Unwin Wines cellar door has become a popular weekend destination for local wine lovers. Processed and bottled onsite, you’ll likely find yourself right in the middle of the wine making process when you arrive.
If you’re up for a little road trip, pack the car and hit the quiet country roads on a discovery of vineyards, cellar doors and stunning views of the Pyrenees wine region.
While we’re on the topic of wine, make the most of the beautiful Pyrenees scenery and book a night in an Unyoked cabin at Peerick Vineyard and Winery.
Captains Creek Organic Winery is also home to a secluded and intimate luxury escape inspired by the need to live small and more sustainably. Entirely off-the-grid, this tiny home is the perfect opportunity to unwind and recharge among nature.
The newest addition to Ballarat’s accommodation portfolio is Jean-Claude – a 1970s York caravan that has been lovingly restored and sits next to a dam (the van on a dam – hence the name) alongside a well-appointed amenities shack. Situated in the quiet village of Buninyong, it’s the perfect location for serious reflection.
If glamping is your thing, then check into The Garden of St Erth in the secluded Wombat State Forest.
Main image: The view from the top of Mount Buninyong, captured by Matt Dunne.
Sign up to our newsletter and get the latest updates.
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.