If you’re eager for an outdoor adventure, but you also don’t want to commit to a hike that takes all day, then you’re in the right place.
Ballarat might not be the first place you think of when you’re planning your hiking adventure, but it certainly packs a punch with its exhilarating range of day hikes. (And what’s better is the fact you won’t have to share your experience with hordes of outdoor adventurers.)
Surrounded by extinct volcanos, old forests and picturesque views that seem to extend for days, you’ll definitely find a hike to get your heart pumping.
1. Mount Buninyong
At the top of this extinct volcano are arguably some of the best views of the region.
As for getting there, you’ve got three options: the 1.2km Crater Walk with viewing platform (accessible to people with a disability), the 3km Zigzag Summit Walk and the 3.5km South Walk to the summit via the Crater Walk.
Make sure you bring a camera because once you’ve reached the top of Mount Buninyong (which sits pretty at 745m above sea level) you’re just a short climb up the fire tower away from 360-degree views over Buninyong and surrounds.
2. Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail
Don’t let the 57km distance scare you, it’s what makes this walk so popular among locals – You can start at any point along this old railway and make your own adventure. However, we highly recommend making sure you check out Nimmons Bridge – this 1850’s hand-built timber trestle rail bridge is one the largest of its kind in Victoria and is the most photographed spot along the entire trail.
Take a picnic to enjoy, or stop by the Courthouse Hotel in Smysthesdale for your favourite pub meal.
3. La Gerche Forest Walk, Creswick
Wander through 100-year-old trees planted by Creswick’s first forest bailiff – John La Gerche. Signs along this 2.2km trail talk to the impacts of mining on the forest and La Gerche’s efforts to save the trees. While you’re in Creswick, why not check out St George’s Lake.
Afterwards you could always head into the main street of Creswick and pick up a French pastry and coffee from Le Peche Gourmand (you totally deserved it).
4. Werribee Gorge Circuit Walk (Ballarat side of Bacchus Marsh)
If you’re travelling from Melbourne, then this is an easy pitstop off the Western Freeway. Start at the Meikles Point picnic area and follow the signed path; you’ll find yourself experiencing heart pumping hill climbs, shuffling along gorge edges and taking in spectacular views.
This 10km circuit can take anywhere between 2-4 hours, depending on your fitness levels.
You’re bound to need nourishing after this walk, so continue your journey onto Ballarat and sit down for a late lunch and cold brew. Whether you’re in need of juicy wings and double-stacked burgers, or you’re craving a bowl of squid ink past and vino, you’ll definitely find a meal that will have you wondering why you haven’t been to Ballarat sooner.
5. Mount Cole State Forest
Make Ballarat your base for today and hit the road towards Mount Cole (after a hearty breakfast at one of our favourite cafes of course), just a one-hour drive west.
From the easy 7.2km Waterfalls Nature Walk that takes you on a circuit walk of the falls of Mount Buangor, to the four-hour Middle Creek Cave Hill Track which will have you scrambling over rocks until you find yourself looking at a cave, you’ve got plenty of tracks to choose from to suit your adventure levels.
Then head back into Ballarat and spend your afternoon unwinding at the city’s newest brewpub Aunty Jacks, or opt for a relaxing massage at the award-winning Ballarat Sanctuary Day Spa.
Better yet, why not book a night’s stay at The Provincial and rest your weary head on one of their luxurious king sized beds after filling up on a three-course dinner at their in-house restaurant, Lola.
Once you wake you can explore the rest of Ballarat on the back of The Provincial’s famous blue retro bikes.
If you’re looking for a longer adventure, then you’re going to want to pull out the hiking boots and hit the Goldfields Track.
This 210km track between Ballarat and Bendigo takes mountain bikers and bushwalkers through some of Victoria’s most historic towns and forests. Opt to tackle the entire track, choose the shorter 44km Eureka Track (which starts at Mount Buninyong and heads through the heart of Ballarat before plunging into gold rush era churned landscapes and on to Creswick), or simply pick two points anywhere on the track to explore between. No matter your choice, you won’t be disappointed.