Ultimate guide to things to do in Ballarat & Bendigo with kids
A fantastic destination for all ages, Ballarat is packed with plenty of interactive and engaging fun for families. Just one and a half hours from Melbourne, Ballarat and its historic villages offer incredible scenery, fun events and delicious local produce in the heart of Victoria’s historic Goldfields. A visit to the adventure playground at the Botanical Gardens is a must for all ages, as is a day at pretty Lake Wendouree. If you visit on a weekend or during school holidays the 20-minute ride on an historic horse-drawn tram around the lake is a must.
Join the knights and jousters at the incredible Kryal Castle, Australia’s only medieval adventure park. Go panning for gold at Slatey Creek, enjoy a close encounter of the critter kind with the assortment of free-roaming native animals at Ballarat Wildlife Park and head to Sovereign Hill, which is without doubt Ballarat’s biggest attraction or families. The extensive village offers a look into what life would have been like in 1850s Ballarat during Victoria’s rough and ready Goldrush era.
Victoria’s fourth largest city, Bendigo was the first city to be recognised as a UNICEF and UNESCO Australian Child Friendly City so you can pretty much guarantee kids will love its parks, playgrounds and attractions. The Bendigo Experience is a convenient multi-attraction pass that offers visitors discounts at four of Bendigo’s most popular attractions including the Bendigo Pottery Interpretive Museum, the Central Deborah Gold Mine and the Golden Dragon Museum and the Vintage Talking Tram Tour.
Top things to do in Ballarat & Bendigo
There’s history, food, and loads of fun to be had in this region packed with so many family attractions. Here are ten to add to your list.
- Ride the vintage tram in Bendigo.
- Take a free walking tour to uncover the history and heritage of Ballarat
- Get a glimpse into Victoria’s gold mining past at Sovereign Hill
- Enjoy a picnic lunch a Ballarat’s spectacular Lal Lal Falls.
- Ride the historic goldfields steam railway from Castlemaine to Maldon.
- Enjoy a day of knights and damsels at Kryal Castle
- Central Deborah Gold Mine – Bendigo.
- Get spooked on a Ballarat Ghost Tour.
- Enjoy a day exploring the Ballarat Botanical Gardens.
- Visit the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (M.A.D.E) located on the site of the 1854 Eureka Stockade.
Things to do in Ballarat & Bendigo with…
Pack a picnic lunch and head on a playground crawl with your tots. The Bendigo Botanic Gardens Play Space with its enchanting fairytale theme is a great place to start. Keep the fun going at the Lake Weeroona, which is jam packed with ramps, tunnels, ladders, chain bridges and scrambling walls to keep active little ones amused. In Ballarat there are several playgrounds around Lake Wendouree along with bike tracks, loads of space to run wild and countless ducks and swans to watch.
If the kids are after more feathered or furry cuteness, Donegan’s Farm is a real farming property around 20 minutes form Ballarat where the kids can bottle-feed baby lambs, hold baby chickens and learn about farm life. Or perhaps they’d prefer to enjoy getting up close and personal with the free-roaming native animals, exotic reptiles and hands-on encounters at Ballarat Wildlife Park.
Sovereign Hill is a must for families. The extensive village, complete with blacksmith, school, church, sawmill, gold mine, coach house and a street full of shops, recreates life during Victoria’s rough and ready Goldrush era. During the day explore the underground mine, enjoy re-enactments, watch folk musicians perform, take a horse-drawn coach tour, and get tips on panning for gold in the river. At night, the dramatic story of 1854’s Eureka Rebellion is retold with ‘Blood on the Southern Cross’, an acclaimed sound-and-light spectacular that is not too be missed.
If your little knights and damsels want to step further back in time, head to the awesome Kryal Castle, Australia’s only medieval adventure park where they can witness live jousting, jesters, jugglers and fire eaters. When you’re all historied out, enjoy a round of mini-golf and find your way through the twisted Tangles Maze and mystery trail at Creswick.
There are plenty of opportunities to learn while you play in the Goldfields region. Located on the historic site of the 1854 Eureka Stockade in Ballarat, M.A.D.E (The Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka) offers kids a chance to understand what democracy is and why it is so important, and the struggle people face for rights in Australia and around the world.
Bendigo’s Discovery Science and Technology Centre is another top spot for curious kids. Take on the southern hemisphere’s tallest Vertical Slide with a sheer drop of seven metres and speeds of 30-40km per hour, or journey through the cosmos in the planetarium, or just enjoy the cool science workshops, shows and awesome interactive exhibits. If you’re still curious, ride the historic goldfields steam railway from Castlemaine to Maldon or walk in the footsteps of miners past on an underground tour of the Central Deborah Gold Mine in Bendigo.
Older kids might like to head to Lake Eppalock, a vast manmade lake around 30 minutes from Bendigo, for boating, swimming and waterskiing. Golden Nugget Discovery Tours offer adventure tours for those visitors who like a little action with their sight-seeing. Don overalls, a hard hat and a miner’s lamp to venture to the heart of a mine, 85 metres below ground to hunt for gold. Their Night Eco Spotlight Walk showcases the Australian Bush as it comes to life with local nocturnal wildlife including Kangaroos, Possums, Gliders, Owls, Frogs and Bats.
Speaking of things that go bump in the night, take a ghost tour of Ballarat, Australia’s most haunted city, with Eerie Ghost Tours. Travel through underground buildings, alleyways, and even the remains of the old Ballarat goal, the location of many an execution, on a paranormal quest that’s not for the faint of heart.
Best time to visit Ballarat & Bendigo as a family
While Ballarat and Bendigo are both quite close to Melbourne, their location on the fringe of the Great Dividing Range means they are generally protected from strong winds and snow.
Often referred to as having a Mediterranean climate, February is generally the warmest month of the year. During winter temperatures can drop to zero and sometimes below. There’s something special to experience every season with autumn and spring especially beautiful as the streets, parks and gardens put on a colourful visual feast for the eyes. While the seasons are fairly distinct, this region can experience four seasons in one day, so no matter what time of the year you are visiting, it’s worthwhile packing some warm weather gear and an umbrella.
The region is consistently busy throughout the year, especially during school holidays so it’s best to plan and pre-book accommodation.
Family-friendly places to eat in Ballarat & Bendigo
This is a region for whole-hearted fun with the kids, right down to pleasing rumbling tummies. Kid friendly eateries are abundant. From pancakes to pizzas, burgers to bistros, you’ll find no shortage of places to fill their bellies.
Zagames and the Robin Hood Hotel are two spots in Ballarat offering cheap kids’ meals, while in Bendigo, Boris Murgers offers a range of irresistible burgers made using local fresh, farm produce. For those with a sweet tooth, there are chocolate shops and bakeries with tempting treats for the picnic hamper. One of our favourites is Indulge Fine Belgian Chocolates in Bendigo. Specialising in handmade artisan chocolates, ice-cream, gelato, cheesecakes and amazing muffins, we’re sure it will become your fave too.
Ample parks and gardens also mean a simple meal can be enjoyed just by filling a hamper or pre-ordering one for a picnic in the great outdoors.
Things to do for free in Ballarat & Bendigo
- In Ballarat, stroll the laneways with their colourful art, cafes and shopping. Lake Wendouree is situated in the centre of Ballarat and offers a wide range of attractions and recreational activities including the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, Australia’s most significant cool climate garden. You’ll also find walking and running tracks, cycling trails, bird watching, an Indigenous playground and excellent picnic and BBQ facilities.
- The City of Greater Bendigo was the first Australian city to be recognised as a Child Friendly City by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in 2009, so there’s no shortage of things to do. The Fun Loong play space is located in Hargreaves Mall right in the CBD where children play on the body of the mighty Bendigo dragon called Sun Loong. Take a walking tour, visit a market, see a gallery or exhibition, the list is almost endless and there are plenty of alternatives for any weather you may encounter.
The best annual events for families in Ballarat & Bendigo
March – Bendigo Festival of Cultures (Bendigo)
A week-long celebration with performances, markets and more plus an all-age concert held outside the Town Hall.
March – Harmony Fest (Ballarat)
A jam-packed 10 days of fun, flavour, music, film and special events celebrating Ballarat’s diversity.
April – Bendigo Sanguine Estate Music Festival (Bendigo)
Held over two weeks, world-class musicians and performances are on offer for all ages at this annual festival.
July – Australian Sheep and Wool Show (Bendigo)
Held over three days, meet the best of the best in the country and their animals – there’s an animal nursery too for littlies.
July – Winter Wonderlights (Ballarat)
Sovereign Hill will ring to the sounds of traditional carols, with Christmas trees and colourful decorations, make believe snow falls and more at their annual Christmas in July celebrations.
September – Bendigo Annual Tulip Display (Bendigo)
A day of free activities based around the flowering of Bendigo’s 30,000 tulips.
October – Ballarat Timeline Festival (Ballarat)
It all started over a stolen pig and now 300 history-re-enactors give displays from medieval jousting to archery plus numerous stalls.
October – Children’s Week (Ballarat)
The City of Ballarat celebrates Children’s Week with a calendar of events for kids.