Spotlight on Ballarat & Central Victoria
In the state’s north-west and all within a half-hour from each other sit Woodend, Castlemaine, Daylesford and Ballarat. During the summer months, these areas transform into a vibrant and busy hub, with day-trippers and weekenders alike choosing to spend their summer break surrounded by beautiful natural surrounds, fantastic galleries, great places to eat, and plenty of history.
Jellis Craig’s four lifestyle offices in this regional area of Victoria shared with us some of their favourite places to go, where to stay, and things to do in the area, just in time for the summer season.
Galleries and Museums
Art galleries abound in Central Victoria. Pay a visit to The Mill in Castlemaine, a hub for foodies, creatives and lovers of art. Described as one of the most beautiful galleries in Australia, the Convent Gallery in Daylesford is a must-visit. The program at The Convent changes every six to eight weeks, meaning there is always something new to explore. No stay in Daylesford is complete without a visit to the Daylesford Museum, a museum established in 1971 with local memorabilia and artefacts. Until January 2023, the Art Gallery of Ballarat will be celebrating the rich lives and the diverse crews about traditional pirate ships in their exhibit, Under the Black Flag. Also in Ballarat, Sovereign Hill hosts a number of Christmas related events over the course of December. From the 20th - 23rd January, Australians folk-roots music festival, Newstead Live, will be back in the historic country town of Newstead near Castlemaine. Expect a range of diverse and highly regarded international and national artists performing in live music venues, concert spaces, workshops, impromptu sessions, spoken word performances and open-mic sessions. The festival is appropriate for all ages with music of all genres.
The Macedon Ranges attracts thousands of walk-loving visitors each year. A particularly popular destination for these visitors is the Macedon Ranges Walking Trail, a full-day 30-kilometre circuit that takes in scenic views, granite boulders, volcanic rock formations and of course an abundance of native flora and fauna. In nearby Trentham is the Domino Rail Trail, a 6 kilometer stretch of old railway line that connects Lyonville with Trentham. Relatively flat and simple to follow, this is an easy walk that ends at the site of the old Lyonville Train Station. Synonymous with the city of Ballarat is Lake Wendouree and its almost 6 kilometre track that winds around its perimeter. Along the way, admire beautiful heritage homes, historic monuments, the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, birdlife and more. The Mount Buninyong lookout is a hallmark of the district and its gentle route is perfect for all level of hikers. 25 minutes from Castlemaine and 40 minutes from Daylesford in the small town of Metcalfe is The Cascades, a series of rockpools, crevices and little caverns that you can spend the day exploring. Relax in a rockpool, take a dip in the many swimming holes, appreciate the scenic beauty of the Coliban River and enjoy a picnic lunch alongside its banks.
A getaway in Ballarat and Central Victoria is all about celebrating the good things – from long, languid lunches, to wine tastings, and relaxed dinners. Larder Café in Daylesford is an essential stop for coffee, breakfast, brunch, or lunch. This café has a Melbourne northside vibe and is perfect for people-watching. A must visit at least once, The Lake House is one of Victoria’s most iconic hotels, with an award-winning restaurant serving modern Australian cuisine. The majority of ingredients are sourced locally, some even grown on their own produce farm, and a visit is a oncein-a-lifetime experience. Over in Waubra near Ballarat, a visit to Wayward Winery for delightful share plates and delicious wine is the perfect weekend lunch experience. Another winery worth a visit is Eastern Peake Winery, which offers tickets for guided winery tours, barrel samples, wine flights and regional produce boards. In the Macedon Ranges, Mount Towrong Vineyard – a small family owned and operated vineyard, situated 600m above sea level with direct views of Mount Macedon and Mount Towrong is a much-loved favourite.
If you are planning on staying a few nights in the area, there are plenty of charming, boutique local accommodation options. In Daylesford, across the road from the Farmers Arms Hotel Daylesford – the oldest pub in Daylesford – lives the Daylesford Art Motel, offering accommodation in a charming, motel-style setting. In Castlemaine the Dairy House is a beautifully updated heritage cottage that sleeps two. Also in the area is Flophouse, a curated collection of luxurious stays in the Central Victorian Uplands. Flophouse offers intimate in-town cottages to spacious rural properties.