Say ‘history’ and everyone thinks they’ve heard that story and it’s only more of the same old stuff. So let me just say this weekend in Ballarat is way cooler than that.
When we arrived at Craig’s Royal Hotel, my girlfriend and I could not believe the period detail, it is so over-the-top. Whether you are hanging out in your room or having a pre-dinner cocktail, this place is a class act.
Dinner Friday night was at The Pub With Two Names. Another Ballarat landmark, steeped in history but the vibe inside is contemporary in every respect. Kind of like Melbourne, only much better, because their menu is paddock to plate which means everything is picked fresh, probably that afternoon.
Ballarat’s heritage is everywhere you look. Even when we had breakfast on Saturday, we found ourselves sitting in this larger than life warehouse known as the Hydrant Food Hall. Skylights high in the rafters, rustic exposed brick with a roaring open fire. Feeling it? You will be.
We had no idea that some 8,600 Australians serving this country died while Prisoners of War, never to return to these shores. And being in Ballarat’s Botanical Gardens made this memorial even more moving.
Okay, it wouldn’t be a history weekend without gold and there is even a museum. But what might surprise you is that some of the biggest nuggets have been found in recent years. If you have a metal detector you might want to pack it. I’m just saying — no guarantees of course.
Come lunch we ate at Kittelty’s in the Ballarat Art Gallery. As well as artworks from the 1800s, there are modern collections, across all media, with some on loan from overseas. You’ll want to take your time here, we did.
Early evening we were back at our hotel, for dinner, which we followed with the Bloody Ballarat Tour of murder, mayhem and mystery. A very big thank you to our guide, Andrew, whose ghost stories revealed Ballarat’s darker past. Talk about really interesting.
By Sunday we thought we’d done it all. But the Yellow Espresso was yet another highlight. The coffee, the food, we highly recommend it.
We could not leave, of course, without standing in the very spot of the Eureka Stockade, that marked the start of Australia’s democracy. Even though we already knew a little about Ballarat’s history, no school book comes even close to the experience of actually being here.