Bring it on, Ballarat! The largest inland city in Victoria delivers a jam-packed events calendar in February and March. Just over an hour from Melbourne, Ballarat is an ideal day trip or weekend away. From high-octane BMX stunts to a festival dedicated to raspberry drops, check out what’s on in Ballarat in the last weeks of summer.
Ballarat Beer Festival – 15th February
This relaxed festival sprawls through North Gardens on Lake Wendouree. Although it is a celebration of craft beer and local specialty brewers, the festival does also cater to children. Kids under 14 enter for free, and can enjoy non-alcoholic tastings. The dedicated Kid Zone with an animal farm, face painting and craft areas. The whole family can enjoy the live music, hilarious brewers’ sack race and more. Ballarat Beer Festival is a cashless event. You can pre-purchase your Festival Currency and wristband online.
Super Sunday of Sport – 16th February
If you’re sports-mad, then expect to go totally nuts on Sunday 16th February. There is not one but three awesome sporting events to choose from. Witness the clash between A-League’s Western United and Brisbane Roar at the Mars Stadium. Check out the Cricket for Causes Super 7s match. Or swap spectatorship for getting active at the Ballarat Cycle Classic. After the pros head off, in the name of cancer research, your family can take the 28-kilometre Family Adventure route or the 6-kilometre Lake circuit.
National Raspberry Drop Day – 22nd February
Who knew that there was a festival day dedicated to raspberry-flavoured hard-boiled lollies? Popular historic tourist attraction Sovereign Hill is famous for their raspberry drops and now, for the first year ever, they are joining with local businesses for a party perfect for sweet tooths. Sovereign Hill will be hosting themed events, giving a free bag of Browns Confectionery Factory raspberry drops to their first 100 visitors. Maze House will host a raspberry drop scavenger hunt, Commerce Ballarat will have a ‘count the drops’ activity and you’ll find a giant blow-up lolly jar and costumed characters at Bridge Mall.
Nitro Circus – 29th February
Mars Stadium will echo with the cheers and gasps of a crowd awe-struck by stunt after fearless stunt. The most talented daredevils show off their skills on FMX, BMX, skateboards and scooters in this live-action sports spectacular. Rev your family up and head to Nitro Circus; not your average circus but certainly crazy enough!
Ballarat Begonia Festival – 7th to 9th March
This long weekend festival hosted at Ballarat Botanical Gardens is not just for the green thumbs. There are plenty of flowers to go round, that’s true – including Australia’s largest begonia display, a nursery and talks from celebrity gardeners. But there is also plenty of family fun including character appearances, a Super Sandpit and live music across three festival stages.
Chase ABC’s Bluey and Bingo through the Botanical Gardens, join the Pot-a-Plant activity, then build your own tree house in the cubby play spaces of Tiny Towns. Feeling peckish? Watch cooking displays from Masterchef favourites Poh Ling Yeow, Anushka Zargaryan and Tim Bone, before sampling the wares of more than 20 onsite food trucks.
Ballarat Heritage Weekend – 30th to 31st May
This annual celebration of local history in different venues among the Ballarat streetscapes. This year boasts a retro focus, with 70s and 80s fashion on show at Civic Hall. Learn about the First Nations peoples of the region at the Mining Exchange. Jump aboard a steam train, horse and carriage or Tweed Ride for a different view of the city. Keep your eyes peeled to catch titbits of local history from street performers, then settle in to live shows from the likes of Archie Roach. Last but certainly not least, be sure to attend the quirky Beard and Stache competition on the Saturday!
Eating and exploring in Ballarat
While you’re exploring what’s on in Ballarat, why not make a weekend of it and enjoy the local attractions? Sovereign Hill is a historic attraction that recreates goldrush-era Ballarat. Ballarat Wildlife Park is another favourite, as are Kryal Castle and Art Gallery of Ballarat.
For famous fish and chips, head to Off the Hook, Freshly Battered or Rubicon. For a relaxed beer garden meal, try Western Hotel, Freight Bar and Restaurant, Lake View Hotel, Black Hill Hotel and more. And for the best parmas in the region, as voted by the local experts, enjoy a meal at The Bunch of Grapes Hotel, Royal Oak Hotel or Crown Hotel.
Andrea Rowe and her family take an epic trip around Australia. Read their tips and tales here.
And check out one last video of the O’Briens stepping back in time to the magical medieval world of Kryal Castle!