Ballarat often cops an unfair wrap for it’s reputation on, how do I put, for being not so cool. It’s literally cool, as in cold, quite often actually but behind people’s unfounded judgments is a bustling little town filled with plenty of cool.
I moved to Ballarat a little over two years ago now. What brought me to this town I hear you wonder? Well a fortunate combination of work and love and in my time here I’ve gotten to know all the ins and outs of this corner of the earth.
Situated about 105km from Melbourne, with the likes of Daylesford a further half an hour away, this 178 year-old settlement poses as the perfect weekend getaway for all Melbournians.
For your convenience I’ve listed the best places to visit, in no particular order, so you will see nothing but total coolness in your travels…
The best of Ballarat:
Top Cafés and Restaurants:
L’Espresso has long held the title of my favourite spot to grab a coffee in the ‘Rat. With it’s moody, eclectic and untouched interior this café seemingly turns it’s nose up at the so-called ‘trendy’ café scene. However, the locals find it’s unique character appealing and you may be hard pressed to find a seat on any given Sunday. Not only do they do the perfect brew but their seasonal menu, paired with an impressive wine list, will have you coming back time and time again.
If you’re a lover of wine then you can’t head back to Melbourne without stopping by Mitchell Harris for a glass of their own and a selection of tapas made with produce from the region. Just a heads up here, the cheese board goes more than alright and you’ll find it hard pressed to leave after settling down in a cosy corner. Oh and the potato pizza is also a must!
This coffee spot is brand new to Ballarat having opened its doors only a matter of weeks ago. Now if it’s trendy that you’re after then this is the spot for you! From a variety of savoury bagels, the odd Doughboys Doughnut drop and all your quinoa salad needs FIKA is right up with the times.
Having recently returned from a trip to Italy it’s fair to say I know a good pizza when I eat one! The Forge’s wood fire pizzas are a dining highlight in Ballarat with no other pizza place in town coming close in competition. Toppings are generally more skewed towards more of an Australian style than Italian but this makes for marvelous meat lover varieties including my favourite, the pulled pork pizza.
Blink and you’ll miss it. Dyer’s Steak Stable is perhaps one of the most innocuous restaurants I’ve come across but I’m also yet to find a more mouth-watering piece of steak. With a slightly higher price point you certainly get what you pay for in terms of the quality of food, service and overall dining experience. Dyer’s is perfect for a date night for two or an intimate family gathering.
Top Shops and Boutiques:
Your senses will instantly be treated to a feast of delights when you walk through the door at Sweet Fern. Exquisite aromas fill the exclusive Aesop stockist from their wide range of luxurious fragrances and bath and body products. You’ll always be greeted with a smile and warm and friendly service sees customers becoming regulars at this beautiful Ballarat boutique.
Stems is without doubt the best florist in Ballarat. Not only do they have amazing arrangements and enough moth orchids to last a lifetime but their market section also allows for easy browsing and the opportunity for you to put something together yourself at leisure. To say they stock a wider variety of blooms feels like an understatement, they literally have everything and some.
Lark is a little slice of fun in the heart of Ballarat. This store specialises in design-led gift and home products with all things cute and quirky fit to brighten up your day. It’s tantalisingly hard not to walk out with an arm full of products so be sure to put this sweet shop on your list of must-sees.
I still take great joy in browsing through a bookstore and Collins Books offers locals the widest range of paperbacks and hardbacks in town. Their cookbook and sports titles are a standout in their extensive range but just make sure you have enough money in the meter to allow yourself an ample amount of browsing time.
Ballarat is impartial to a home décor shop or 10, which seems somewhat excessive given the population, but having sussed the majority out I can confidently say Wen & Ware living is one of the best. With a complimentary mix of Asian and European styles, think beautiful timber features, on-trend metals and marble, you’ll find a fabulous addition to your home here.
I love Voyager! I get giddy with excitement just thinking about a visit there. Voyager is a super stylish furniture, interiors and homewares store with Pinterest worthy pieces everywhere you look. This interior design-heaven is always worth a browse and is sure to provide you with plenty of #inspo for months.
Last but not least, an honourable mention goes to the lovely Lake Wendouree. There are a number of cafés and restaurants around this popular spot for your leisure or if you’re feeling energetic a lap of the lake will take about an hour or longer if you choose to stop and ogle at the fabulous real estate.