About 100 km west of Melbourne lies the charming town of Ballarat. Ballarat started to thrive after gold was found in the area around 1850. After the gold was all mined, some really rich quartz fields were discovered, that were worked until the end of WW I. Ballarat developed into a major provincial town, with a lot of matching Victorian architecture, much of which can be found along Lydiard Street.
Ballarat has a turbulent mining past. In 1854 the Ballarat miners rebelled against the hated license hunts and the lack of political influence. Every gold digger was required to have a license, and local law enforcers would check regularly for these, often in a quite violent way. After increased license hunts and the unpunished murder of a minder, about 150 gold diggers got themselves organized and started the Eureka rebellion. Although this did not last long, and was not very successful at first, in the longer run it did help abolish the license fee and give more political power. More on the Eureka Rebellion can be learned at The Eureka Centre (cnr Eureka and Rodiers Sts, admission $8 per person), where multi-media galleries simulate the battle. For a more hands-on experience of the gold digging era you can visit the Sovereign Hill Historical Park, a living history museum recreating a gold-mining township of the 1860s.
When you’ve had enough of all the mining sights, you can visit the Ballarat Fine Art Museum, the oldest provincial gallery in the country. Ballarat also features an excellent botanical garden, besides Lake Wendouree. This large artificial lake was used as the rowing course in the 1956 Olympics, and has a popular walking track around it. The Ballarat Wildlife Park (corner of York and Fussel street) covers the fauna of the area. For imported fauna you can visit the Great Southern Woolshed, where there are shearing demos, trained dogs and other wool related activities.

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