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3 days of cafés and curiosities

Visit Ballarat

28 Jul 2022

Filed underSee & Do

Public holidays in the second half of the year can feel a bit like we’ve signed up for a getaway on a freeway, battling it out with half of Melbourne for the same regional hotspot.

Tack a day or two of leave either side of a regular weekend and you’ve got yourself a not-so-public holiday.

In these times, spontaneity is food for the soul.

Only 90 minutes from Melbourne, it is easy to travel to Ballarat on a Thursday night and make the most of your bespoke long weekend.

If you love a latte and all things vintage, this one’s for you. We’ve kept the dining casual, leaving more time for treasure hunting.

Wrap this antiques expedition around a pre-booked degustation at Peasant or Underbar, or just slow down and see where the weekend takes you.   

Friday: Wander historic Lydiard Street

Start your morning with a stroll past the picturesque boat houses on the eastern shores of Lake Wendouree. Follow the beeline of local joggers for brekkie with a view at the Yacht Club. For a quality cuppa on your way to historic Lydiard Street, try neighbourhood faves Eclectic Tastes Café & Panty, Tin Roof, or the Lydiard General.

Pause for tea and a toastie at the Lydiard General, in the historic northern precinct of Lydiard Street, Soldiers Hill.

Next stop, Lydiard Furniture and Antiques, specialists in rare Australian antiques and collectables. They’ve been dealing in antiques for over 30 years and can provide advice on how to build and maintain a quality collection of your own.

Tucked away behind the Art Gallery of Ballarat, you’ll find a tin shed packed to the ceiling with ephemera, antiques, industrial vintage and barn objects. Founded by two friends with a keen eye for the old and the unusual, Rocket and Belle is a fossicker’s dream. Think hand painted photographs of early Ballarat residents, bird cages, corked medicinal jars, and rusty garagenalia.

Fossicker’s delight: Rocket and Belle

Around the corner, enjoy a brunch board of local produce at Café by Griller’s Mark. For lunch on the go, forage for edible curiosities from Campana’s Cellar and Deli – leftovers for the road are not guaranteed!

Admire the grand facades and boutiques along Lydiard and Sturt Streets. Stop by Tickety Boo in the Mechanics’ Institute for teacups, jewellery, crystal, fine china and beautiful linens. For a deeper dive into Ballarat’s golden past, take a self-guided or guided walking tour of the grand Victorian downtown.

Wind down for the evening at Pencilmark Wine Room. Our winning combo: chicken liver parfait by Underbar chef Derek Boath on baguette slices from 1816 Bakehouse, paired with a local rose by Eastern Peake Vineyard.

Saturday: Cemetaries, Bakery Hill & Golden Point

The Gatehouse cafe will bring a little bit of Mediterranean flair to your morning, with a generous side of gothic; you’ll find this quirky eatery at the entrance to the Ballarat New Cemetery (‘new’ being relative – the cemetery opened in 1867).

The Gatehouse Cafe: situated in a gatehouse built in 1908, the refurbished cafe reflects the owner’s Maltese heritage.

Continue your treasure hunt in Main Road, Bakery Hill. The Known World is a quality second-hand bookshop with eclectic Art-Deco vibes. The collection spans the classics, poetry, fine art, philosophy, militaria and local history, as well as nostalgic childhood favourites. The bookshop shares space with The Dressing Room Recycled, purveyors of preloved clothing and accessories from the 1920s – 1990s. Plus, there are more vintage threads nearby at That Little Vintage Shop, Hats in the Attic, and The Main Emporium.

Explore vintage stores and street art on Main Road (image courtesy Matte Dunne)

Meander along the historic thoroughfare to Ballarat Antiques at 34 Main Road, Bakery Hill (open 7 days) and Junkhunters Collectables at 244 Main Road, Golden Point (open Wednesday – Sunday). The smaller Golden Point store is a go-to for bargain hunters.

Also in Golden Point, Pieces of Joy, shares a curated selection of homewares from around the world. Here you’ll find tasteful and functional décor to complement your antique furniture – velvet cushions, gold etched cocktail shakers, drinks trolleys, and more.

If the vintage trail has got you peckish, Goldmine Restaurant serves up skyline views of the city’s historic heart. It is open for lunch and dinner, with a European-inspired sharing style menu and craft brews by Red Duck.

Bookend the day with another visit to a gold-rush era cemetery – Eerie Tours of the Ballarat Old Cemetery depart on Saturdays from the corner of Drummond Street North and Macarthur Streets. Don’t be deterred by Ballarat’s infamous winter nights; clouds of breath in the torchlight only amp up the spookiness.  

Sunday: Eureka

Where to caffeinate ahead of final day of fossicking? Well, Fossick, of course – a super cute café and homewares store in East Ballarat.

Fossick Cafe and Wares (image courtesy of Tara Moore)

From here, explore the Eureka Stockade Memorial Park and the Eureka Centre. See the original Eureka Flag and other compelling historic artefacts from the Victorian gold rush. History buffs should make a point of exiting through the gift shop. The selection of high-quality books and homewares includes a range by local designers; we love the redcoats and rebel leaders illustrated by Ben Sanders. Before you hit the road, stock up on some sweet treats at Lilly’s Cafe at Eureka (they also serve up an excellent wet chai).

Located on the Western Highway, The Mill Market is a convenient stop just out of town. A cavernous shed filled to bursting with carefully curated stalls, the market is truly a maze of curiosities. You will need a couple of hours to do it justice, so pack a beanie and gloves if it is cold out. Coffee and snacks are available on site to help sustain your sense of adventure. The market is open until 6pm daily, leaving you plenty of time to rummage. Just don’t be surprised if you’re back next weekend with a trailer.

Ballarat Mill Market promises a collector’s A-Z, with a large selection of vintage clothes, retro signs, antique and restored furniture, china, toys, tools and more.

Some final tips for niche collectors

For close to a decade, Heroes HQ has been a cultural oasis for collectors of graphic novels, comics, trading cards and superhero merchandise. They also support Ballarat comic artists by stocking limited-edition trading card games and apparel. Check out their store in Wendouree or order online.

If you’re looking for a rare album, help is at hand. Rediscovery stocks a vast collection of CDs, vinyl LPs and singles, cassettes, and band memorabilia.

Steampunk fans will enjoy Time Lapsed Collectables, a time-tunnel gallery where anything old is deemed reusable. Discover vintage collectables, renovator bits and bobs, and bespoke furniture crafted by artisan recyclers. Novelties abound, from a brass praying mantis to glowing uranium glassware.  

Found a vintage treasure on your not-so-public holiday in Ballarat? Tell us where you struck gold at #visitballarat


The City of Ballarat acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land we live and work on, the Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung People, and recognises their continuing connection to the land and waterways. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging and extend this to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.