Ballarat was indeed just that this Easter long weekend and with great reluctance we headed back to Melbourne yesterday afternoon after some long, glorious days enjoying the sun at Sovereign Hill and in the daybed looking out over the rolling hills of Black Hill from the floor to ceiling windows of the house we’d booked on airbnb.
We drove up on Good Friday and briefly stopped in at Kryal Castle just to have a peek as it was closed. Instead, we said hello to the most beautiful horses I’ve ever seen in the paddock outside and walked up to the entrance of the castle where we were surprised by a costumed worker who had seen us and promptly opened the front door to allow us a look inside. We will save a visit for another time as Kryal Castle has been there since 1974 but I’ve never yet gone.
We drove in to town past the fabulous Mill Markets which we did later visit on Sunday morning but found more trash than treasure besides a vintage egg cup and handmade Asian teapot in the shape of an elephant for me. Given it was Good Friday, we spent over half an hour queueing at Apollo’s Fish and Chips with locals and tourists alike but had a great time enjoying the retro posters and 80s music – it was the happening place to be!
Queues seemed to be the flavour of the day as Sovereign Hill was even more crowded on Easter Saturday morning. I tried to buy online tickets the night before but the system wasn’t operational so once again, we spent 40 minutes waiting to get inside although I have to say the wait was worth it. The crowds dissipated once you were in and while the main street was still very busy (lots of Indian and Asian tourists) – we had a great time re-living our youth and seeing the place for the first time though the eyes of our children. This included buying raspberry horse head lollipops from the boiled sweet shop, to getting personalised Wanted Dead or Alive posters to panning for gold with everyone. We skipped the mine tour given we’ve done one previously in Bendigo, as well as the horse and cart ride but managed to enjoy everything else including the candle making demonstration, musket firing, a drink at the bar, pies and chips from the bakery and bowling at the alley.
My tip is go first thing in the morning, make sure you have a hat, sunscreen and comfortable shoes as it’s pretty dusty and the ground is hard. I’d made the mistake of packing cold weather clothes thinking it would be more like Daylesford (instead it was more like Bendigo) and stupidly had forgotten to pack a hat. Having said that, there are plenty of shady places to take refuge in unless you are panning for gold or out on the main street.
We were pretty knackered on the Saturday night after walking most of the day so it was great to have dinner at the Black Hill Hotel which was walking distance away from our house. We snaffled the last of the fresh oysters and enjoyed respective mains of pork belly and Japanese style salmon – all of which were delicious and there is a kids menu as well.
We’d stopped in briefly in town on the way to Sovereign Hill where we got to admire the street art and walked past the Ballarat Iyengar Yoga centre. We returned the following day to have lunch at Kittelty’s Cafe inside the stunning Art Gallery of Ballarat (a tip I’d been given from Age food writer Richard Cornish) after driving to Start Cafe and finding it closed. The cafe is also opposite the majestic Regent Theatre and all the beautiful heritage buildings in the main street are wonderful to look at.
While we had brought our bikes, the morning had been a bit blustery so we visited in the afternoon instead and enjoyed the still current Begonia Festival in the greenhouse and the black swans swimming at Lake Wendouree near the calming and serene Ballarat Botanical Gardens.
We spent our last night having dinner with my sister and her family who were also visiting over the Easter break – we had a great kitchen to cook in with a rambling garden outside filled with herbs, veggies, fruit trees as well as a cubby and trampoline so we would definitely stay there again.
We didn’t want to come home yesterday but work and reality await…