A number of elaborate and historical buildings grace the streets of the town, including the Town Hall and Shire Hall in Barkly Street, both built in the late 1800s. Other places of historical interest include the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre, the Langi Morgala Museum located in the former wool store, and J Ward, which originally served as the Ararat County Gaol until 1887 when it was then turned into an institution for the criminally insane.
A number of attractive parks and gardens are located in Ararat, including the not to be missed Alexandra Botanical Gardens which feature a large lake, colourful garden beds and a conservatory.
Just a few kilometres north-west of the town is the One Tree Hill Lookout, which provides panoramic views over Ararat and the surrounding ranges.
West of Ararat, on the road west to Moyston, are several wineries and a number of scenic spots providing good views of the Grampians. Continuing further along this road leads to the Grampians National Park and the park's town centre of Halls Gap, making Ararat a convenient base for exploring the natural beauty of this acclaimed natural attraction.
Other natural attractions in the area include the Mount Buangor State Park to the east which features eucalypt forests and a waterfall dominated by Mount Buangor which is the area's highest peak. Further east is the Langi Ghiran State Park with its rugged granite formations.