Words by Della Vreeland Images Supplied
There are many things that people associate with the word Ballarat. Rich history, the gold rush, cold weather, heritage buildings, world-class tourist attractions, family-friendly.
But one thing I find particularly worthy to note is the city’s distinct seasons – the fact that upon visiting Ballarat, you can be sure to experience the weather of each time.
Summer is hot but green abounds. Winter is cold with glistening boulevards. Spring is mild with lush landscapes. And autumn is cool with vibrant surrounds.
Each season sets the scene for an idyllic family adventure characterised by charm, history, nature and wildlife. While in the colder months you may need to rug up, take it from a local – the sun will still peek through the clouds and the cool-climate will allow for a rich and unique exploration beneath stunning canopies of red, orange and brown.
You can kick start your family adventure with a visit to Lake Wendouree. Located in the heart of Ballarat, the lake and its accompanying play spaces and walking trails will keep you and your little ones occupied for hours on end. Explore the iconic Adventure Playground or First Nations Play space, admire the resident swans and birdlife, visit the Vintage Tram Museum and take a ride along the lake, venture through the mystical Fairy Land, or grab some grub and a good coffee from one of the lakeside cafes.
The Ballarat Botanical Gardens are also a sight to behold in autumn or winter, with the vibrancy of the season cast upon all who visit. Places of note in the gardens include the majestic marble statues, the avenue of Prime Minister busts, the Robert Clark Conservatory, as well as the stunning seasonal flowerbeds – creating a beautiful backdrop to your autumn picnic or stroll.
Of course we can’t make mention of a Ballarat family adventure without referencing Sovereign Hill. A world-class, award-winning outdoor museum, this star attraction will appeal to every member of the family. Gold panning, mine tours, horse-and-carriage rides, rare trade demonstrations, street performances, boiled lollies galore, a massive playground – all set amidst a perfectly-recreated 1800s Ballarat complete with diggings, Victorian shops, cottages and schools. Sovereign Hill will also present a special school holiday program during autumn, with activities and workshops that are sure to delight the little tikes.
Speaking of star attractions, the Ballarat Wildlife Park is an adventure waiting to be experienced. This outdoor reserve is not only home to some of Australia’s most-loved creatures, but also prides itself on its conservation efforts. You’ll be welcomed by meerkats, kangaroos, koalas, emus, wombats, Tassy devils, penguins and a huge (I do not use that word lightly) five-metre crocodile named Crunch. Since you’ll probably be exploring the park for a while (you can also take advantage of one-on-one animal encounters), make sure to either pack your own food to eat amongst the wildlife, or dine at the on-site cafe.
For something with a dash of culture (and set indoors), the Art Gallery of Ballarat has a range of collections that will engage the whole family. The oldest and largest regional gallery in Australia, the children will be able to explore works from the colonial years through to more contemporary pieces. Many of the artworks also have questions for kids to consider as they tour the gallery, allowing for a truly immersive experience for all ages.
Another renowned Ballarat attraction lies within the medieval walls of Kryal Castle. Open every day during the school holidays, this land of myth and legend basically epitomises family adventure. Try your hand at some archery, explore the Dragon’s Labyrinth, watch a real-life joust, catch some theatre or find your way through the castle maze. You can also choose to stay overnight in one of the suites because what’s the point of doing things by halves?
If all this isn’t enough of a family adventure, Ballarat’s surrounding natural parklands and reserves are certain to round-off the experience. A drive (or bike/hike, if you’re that way inclined) up the iconic Mount Buninyong is another sure way to surround yourself in the beauty of the region, and with panoramic views to boot. If you can bring your bikes along for the ride, the Skipton Rail Trail meanders through some of the district’s most historic landmarks, both natural and manmade, and is definitely worth checking out. Other outdoor wonders to explore, particularly with the change of season, include the Buninyong Botanic Gardens, La Gerche Forest Walk in Creswick, and the Woowookarung Regional Park. Each of these parks comes alive in autumn, with colours, charm and calm that only Ballarat can deliver.
WHAT: Ballarat Family Adventure
FIND OUT MORE: visitballarat.com.au