Located on the Werribee River, Ballan is another small town which shared in the spoils as tens of thousands of fortune-hunters flowed through the region on their way to the Ballarat goldfields.
First settled in the 1830s, Ballan took its name from a village in Ireland and quaint old stone houses trace back to those early days. Just out of town, Emily Park homestead is a living link to the squattocracy, while the Balan Hotel first opened its bar door in 1851.
These days, Ballan - rather unkindly described as 'ungracious and unlovely' by Graham Innes, in his autobiography, The Road to Gundagai - is best known for its mineral springs, while Caledonian Park on the eastern fringe of the town is a favoured picnicking and swimming spot. The trout in Pikes Reservoir challenge anglers from far and near.
To the south of Ballan lie the rocky outcrops and rewarding walking trails of the Brisbane Ranges National Park and the You Yangs Forest Park. The Boar Gully camping ground, which is equipped with toilets, water and a picnic area, is a comfortable base for forays into the Brisbane Ranges park.