Ballarat is Victoria's third largest city, located just over an hour by road or rail west of Melbourne.
Ballarat has enjoyed a rich and prosperous heritage thanks to the Gold Rush which began in 1851. News that the Ballarat region was home to the richest alluvial goldfield in the world resulted in a population explosion as people came from all over the world seeking fortune. By 1855, Ballarat had grown to a city with a population of 100,000 people. Impressive public and private buildings sprung up which were financed from the wealth generated by the diggings.
These days, long after the gold has run out, the city retains much of its rich gold heritage in the form of opulent buildings, fountains, and tourist attractions which celebrate the city's history. Notable buildings include Ballarat's Town Hall (built between 1870 and 1872), Her Majesty's Theatre (1875) and Craig's Hotel which was built in several stages between 1853 and 1891.
The Avenue of Honour is a grand boulevard in Ballarat which commemorates local soldiers who fought in the First World War. It commences 4 kilometres west of the city centre, at the junction of Sturt Street and Learmonth Street, where a 17 metre high cement and brick arch was built over the roadway in 1920. From here, the boulevard extends 22 kilometres westwards, lined with over 3,000 trees, each with a bronze memorial plaque listing the name of a soldier.
Step back in time to Ballarat's gold mining days at Sovereign Hill which is a recreated gold township of the 1850s where you can experience life in that era. The Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka is situated close to the site of the 1854 Eureka Stockade Rebellion where miners and officials engaged in a bloody battle over miner's rights.
An important asset to Ballarat is Lake Wendouree, a man-made lake covering 200 hectares, located a couple of kilometres west of the town centre. The lake hosted rowing events during the 1956 Olympic Games, commemorated by the Olympic Rings monument at the south-western corner of the lake. The lake's reed beds and islands are an important oasis for bird life. The Botanical Gardens are situated near the western side of the lake and feature a floral conservatory, fernery, lawns and an avenue of bronze busts of all the Australian prime ministers. A vintage electric tramway operates along Wendouree Parade between the Botanical Gardens and lake foreshore.
Around 10 kilometres south of Ballarat's city centre is the small township of Buninyong. It lays claim to being Victoria's first inland town and has an interesting collection of historic buildings including the old library (built in 1861) and the stunning Italianate-styled town hall and court house. To the east of town is Mount Buninyong - an extinct volcano rising to a height of 745 metres. At the summit is a picnic area, several walking tracks and a lookout tower that offers superb views across the surrounding countryside and towards Ballarat.