With a population of 82,000, Ballarat, 113 kilometres west of Melbourne, has had a profound influence on the Victorian economy and national democratic values.
The hub of one of Australia’s most productive gold rushes in the mid-19th century, it was also the centre of Australia’s only civil uprising, the Eureka Stockade Rebellion of 1854, when miners united in their resistance to overbearing governmental authority.
A dig at Bakery Hill in 1858 had the distinction of producing one of Australia's largest gold nuggets, the 62.85 kilo Welcome Nugget. Only the huge Holtermann Nugget, which weighed 285.8 kilos when it was prised from a Hill End mine in NSW in 1872, making it the largest single lump of gold ever found in the world, and the Welcome Stranger (70.92kg) - found at Moliagul in Victoria in 1869 - have been bigger.
Befitting its standing as Victoria’s oldest and largest provincial city, Ballarat has beautiful Victorian architecture. Some of the finest buildings are to be found on Sturt Street, a tree-lined boulevard divided by central garden plots. The locals will convince you that the street is exactly three chains (60 metres) wide - the space needed for a bullocky to turn his team and wagon.
Few Australian buildings have so divided a city or taken quite so long to complete as the Ballarat Town Hall. An original plan raised in the early 1860s for a basic, functional building was scrapped when the 1868 council decided Ballarat deserved something grander and launched a design competition. A judge was appointed, he chose a winner and was then over-ruled by the council who sent the architects back to the drawing board. Eventually J.T.Lorenz, P. Oakden and H.R.Caselli produced a design acceptable to the city fathers and the building featuring Corinthian columns was built at a cost of $36,000 in 1872. The tower that dominates the existing building was added in 1912.
Things to do:
Sovereign Hill - an open air museum and historically recreated 1850's goldfields township. At the Hill, you can relive the booms and busts of the lust for gold at Ballarat's Sovereign Hill - an absorbing recreation of a gold mining township of the 1860s. Sprawling over 14.2ha, the Hill complex has been built on the site of original diggings. Staff maintain the theme with period dress and visitors can try their luck panning in the Red Hill Gully Creek.
Heritage Walking Tours - The city's Information Centre is centrally located in Sturt Street, and organised heritage walking tours are conducted each Saturday and Sunday. Lydiard Street is worth a stroll to take in another array of impressive old buildings including Her Majesty’s Theatre, the Art Gallery and Craig’s Royal Hotel. From Sturt Street one can go to Lake Wendouree and the outstanding Botanic Gardens. An avenue framed by busts of Australian prime ministers, the lake and the flower displays combine to make a day in the gardens quite memorable.
Themed Attractions - Ballarat also has it share of themed attractions including Kryal Castle, Dinosaur World, Great Southern Woolshed and the Eureka Stockade Centre. For a new slant on the Eureka uprising, visit the Montrose Cottage and Museum with its display ‘The Women of Eureka.’