They say shit happens. And it sure did when we got a call from our real estate agent to say that our investment property’s bathroom flooded. And we had to travel an hour and a half away from Melbourne to assess the damage. All of our weekend plans went down the drain, so we decided to make the most of a shitty situation by exploring some of Ballarat’s hidden gems.
Here are 5 things you can do in Ballarat without breaking the bank.
Located in the centre of Ballarat, Lake Wendouree is surrounded by beautiful parks, barbeques and botanical gardens, making it the perfect spot for a picnic. You can pack your basket full of complex carbs, then burn it off by walking a 6km track around the lake. With over 100 different bird species, you’re bound to meet some new fauna, including the majestic black swans that make Lake Wendouree a regional icon.
Ballarat Farmer’s Market
While you’re at Lake Wendouree, why not check out the Ballarat Farmer’s Market? It runs from 9:00am to 1:00pm every second Saturday of the month, on Wendouree Parade, right opposite the Botanical Gardens. Aside from stunning lake views, it boasts 40-50 stalls selling a wide variety of local produce and handmade goods. Yes – there is a coffee van on site, so pick up a home-made pastry from one of the stalls, and order your piping hot latte to go. Just make sure you don’t drop any crumbs near the swans – because those things can be fiesty!
Lal Lal Falls
Did you know there are waterfalls less than 20 minutes away from Ballarat? Probably not. And that’s because these spectacular streams are horrendously overlooked in most Ballarat listicles. And it’s an absolute tragedy. You can take a short 200m walk to a viewing platform that overlooks the waterfall, or you can get a closer look by trekking further down Von Guerard’s Viewing Track. But make sure you visit after it rains so there is enough water flowing downstream. Otherwise the impressive waterfall will be nothing but rock.
Once you’ve checked out Lal Lal Falls, head into Yellow Espresso and fuel up with their damn good beer battered barramundi. Shaun and I first discovered this gem while renovating our investment property in Alfredton, and have come back at least five times, always ordering the same thing from the menu. With yellow furnishing, timber bench tops and hanging plants, this bright and bustling café brings a bit of Melbourne to Ballarat (except with cheaper prices and shorter wait times).
Ballarat Wildlife Park
With a range of native and exotic animals including penguins, meerkats, kangaroos and koalas, this privately-owned wildlife park gives Melbourne Zoo a run for its money. It just welcomed its first Sumatran Tiger, Maneki who is the most striking creature you have ever seen. And you can even feed roaming kangaroos from the palm of your hand. Tickets are just $35 per person and gates are open from 9:00am to 5:00pm, meaning you can visit at any time of the day.
What’s your favourite thing to do in the regional town?