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A Weekend Escape from Ballarat to Mooramong

Visit Ballarat

07 Mar 2024

Filed underSee & Do

Set amidst golden plains near the rural town of Skipton, about an hour’s drive southwest of Ballarat, you’ll find an historic estate that was once home to a Hollywood star.

Whether you’re timing your visit to catch an upcoming heritage festival or simply planning a romantic getaway, we share our tips for a weekend in and around the impressive Mooramong Estate.  

Stay under the stars

The homestead at Mooramong Estate was built in early 1860s and remodelled in 1938. While the National-Trust listed homestead is currently closed for conservation (with exciting news to come), the sprawling estate still has plenty to offer for nature lovers. In partnership with Into the Wild Escapes, three new tiny homes offer a secluded retreat on what is now a 4,000 acre working sheep farm. Tiny Helen is a bit like a pastoral painting, with silo views and a panoramic skyline. Tiny Lenore features a bathtub on the deck, while Tiny Justyn is perched near a lake.

Mooramong Tiny Homes

Wildlife watching

Aside from counting sheep and stargazing from your lodgings, you can also take a self-guided walk in Mooramong Estate’s 600-acre nature reserve. It is worth packing your binoculars as the Mackinnon Reserve is home to the endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot, as well as an array of birdlife, including wedge-tail eagles and brolgas.

Clarkesdale Sanctuary is a twitcher’s delight. Located 25mins from Mooramong near the township of Linton, the sanctuary is home to over 150 species of woodland and wetland birds. Look out for peregrine falcons, grey goshawks and sacred kingfishers, just to name a few. There’s an Environmental Centre onsite with a shaded veranda and ten unpowered camp sites. If you are planning to stay overnight, bookings are essential – make sure you register with the Sanctuary Manager.

Back in Ballarat, birdwatchers could easily spend a whole afternoon at Lake Wendouree‘s Fairylands wetland. With the lush Ballarat Botanical Gardens stretching alongside the lake, you can spot up to 40 species in one 90-minute wander.

Lake Wendouree

Cycle the Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail

The Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail is 53km one-way (106km return), terminating 12km from Mooramong. If you don’t have the energy (or the wheels) to tackle the whole length you can easily walk or ride the shorter sections that interest you.

From Lake Wendouree in Ballarat, the trail passes through the historic townships of Smythesdale, Scarsdale and Linton. There are no shops between Linton and Skipton, so we recommend stocking up on snacks and water before you set off.

A highlight of the trail is the Linton to Nimmons Bridge section – a 16km return walk or ride to Victoria’s longest timber trestle bridge, which was built in 1889.

Near Linton, the trail also passes alongside Clarkesdale Sanctuary.

If you are ending your journey in Ballarat, the Lake Wendouree Loop Ride connects the Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail to Ballarat CBD and the V/Line train. The Provincial Hotel and Quest Ballarat Station are conveniently located nearby, as are plenty of heritage watering holes. Round out your weekend at Itinerant Spirits in the railway’s former goods shed.

Nimmons Bridge on the Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail

Stock up on local produce

If you are bike-packing on the rail trail, make sure to leave plenty of space in your panniers for picnic goodies. For fresh local produce, stop by the Ballarat Farmers’ Market near Lake Wendouree on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month. There’s also a country market at Smythesdale on the 3rd Saturday of the month.

In Ballarat, pick up sourdough from 1816 Bakery, cheese and charcuterie at Campana’s Fine Wine & Deli, or fresh pasta and sauces from Carboni’s Next Door. Saltbush Kitchen also offers an incredible selection of salts and rubs to elevate your camp cooking.

Saltbush Kitchen

Ceramics in Smythes Creek

From those driving from Ballarat to Mooramong, be sure to visit the Ross Creek Gallery. Open on Saturdays and Sundays, the gallery in Smythes Creek features recent ceramic and 2D artworks by Ruby Pilven and Janine Ronaldson as well as rotating exhibitions by local artists.

Ruby Pilven

Explore local wineries and cideries

The volcanic plains to the west of Ballarat are perfect for growing fruit ready to be crafted into local drops. From Mooramong you can extend your trip into the heart of the Pyrenees wine region – or opt for a shorter loop back to Ballarat via the likes of Michael Unwin Winery, Eastern Peake Vineyard or Wayward Winery. A return drive through the village of Learmonth will take you past 321 Cider, a family-owned boutique cidery and café.

Eastern Peake

Don’t miss these heritage events and experiences

If you’re drawn to Mooramong Estate for its National Trust credentials, you may want to visit the similarly-listed Mount Mitchell Estate in Lexton. Stay in a cottage behind the homestead or test your green thumb at a guided gardening experience alongside property owner Kate Tol.  

As part of the National Trust Australian Heritage Festival, you can explore Ballarat’s Xin Jin Shan Chinese Library, take a tour or listen to a talk at Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute, stargaze at Ballarat Municipal Observatory, or check out the huge working waterwheel at Anderson’s Mill Heritage Weekend. The 123rd Steam & Vintage Rally will also be held in Lake Goldsmith, around 15 minutes drive from Mooramong, on 4-5 May.

For the ultimate blend of retro vibes and cultural curiosities, it is also worth timing your visit to coincide with the Ballarat Heritage Festival (17-26 May 2024). From celebrity chefs at Sovereign Hill’s Heritage Harvest to a Wadawurrung opera performed on Country for the first time, there’s something for everyone in this jam packed ten day program.

History buffs will also revel in a stroll down Ballarat’s Lydiard Street, one of the best-preserved examples of a 19th century streetscape in the world. Pick up a self-guided walking tour map at the Ballarat Information Centre at Town Hall, or put on your brave face for an Eerie Ghost Tour of the city’s gold rush era cemetery.

You can also experience Ballarat’s Victorian architecture in a whole new light at White Night on 1 June 2024.

National Trust-listed Mount Mitchell Estate

Across Victoria’s Midwest, we acknowledge that we travel across the ancient landscapes of many First Peoples communities.

These lands have been nurtured and cared for over tens of thousands of years and we respect the work of Traditional Custodians for their ongoing care and protection.

We recognise the past injustices against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this country. As our knowledge grows, we hope that we can learn from their resilience and creativity that has guided them for over 60,000 years.

As we invite people to visit and explore Victoria’s Midwest, we ask that alongside us, you also grow to respect the stories, living culture and connection to Country of the Ancestors and Elders of our First Peoples.