Ballarat is one of Victoria’s major regional centres in the centre of the Goldfields region and a magnificent regional town for families. The 1.5-hour drive from Melbourne means it’s doable in a day – but with so many things to do and places to eat it’s worthwhile enjoying a longer stay.
Here are our family-friendly tips for a weekend away to Ballarat.
**These winter school holidays make Ballarat your family getaway destination – find out what’s on for the Ballarat Winter Festival.**
Table of contents
Things to do in Ballarat
Sovereign Hill is the biggest tourist attraction in town and worth visiting with either under 5s (who are free) or older children who will appreciate the history on display. Go during winter for a Christmas in July experience ‘Winter Wonderlights‘ and there’s a playground with a gold rush theme. Full review.
Sovereign Hill, 3 Bradshaw Street, Ballarat (03) 5337 1199
2. Livvi’s Place Ballarat – Victoria Park Inclusive Playspace
This huge playground is inside Victoria Park and near Lake Wendouree. It spans about 10,000 fenced, square metres, features multiple play zones and accessible equipment designed for people with all abilities, with a double flying fox, multiple swings, slides, a carousel and a water play area.
It also includes shade sails, picnic shelters, barbecues, picnic tables, toilets and change facility.
Livvi’s Place Ballarat – Victoria Park Inclusive Playspace, Sturt St, Newington
3. Sebastopol Water Play Park
The water splash park at Victoria Park Sebastopol features an exciting variety of equipment including tipping buckets, shower sprays, run-through water tunnel and four water cannons.
There is also a small plastic playground next to the water play suitable for younger children.
The water jets are operated by a button which runs for 15 minutes at a time during the hours of 9am – 9pm during the warmer months of the year.
Sebastopol Water Play Park, Victory Park, 243 Vickers Street, Sebastopol
The Eureka Aquatic Centre is a public pool facility with outdoor pools as well as lots of other water play features!
There’s a shaded toddler’s pool, small playground, a 25m pool with a short water slide into one end and a splash pad.
Eureka Aquatic Centre, 102 Stawell St S, Eureka
The Art Gallery of Ballarat is the oldest and largest gallery in regional Australia. During school holidays they run activities and workshops, and sometimes there are sessions for families during school term too.
We love our visit to Eliza-Jane Gilchrist’s Strange Garden and her intricate cardboard-based sculptures (1 December 2018 – 17 March 2019), where we participate in a drop-in unfacilitated experience to make our own cardboard garden creations.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard St N, Ballarat Central VIC 3350
Every time we visit Ballarat we drop into this beautiful bookshop in a historic building belonging to the Old Colonists’ Association of Ballarat.
They have a whole third of the store dedicated to children’s/Young Adult literature, with comfy benches and a warm cosy atmosphere throughout.
Collins Booksellers Ballarat on Lydiard, 22 Lydiard Street, Ballarat
Find Accommodation in Ballarat Victoria
A huge wooden playground suitable for all ages by beautiful Lake Wendouree. Full review.
Lake Wendouree Adventure Playground, Wendouree Parade, Lake Wendouree, Ballarat
Of course, the home of the Eureka stockade would have a Eureka stockade/gold rush themed playground! It’s across the road from Eureka Aquatic Centre. Full review.
Eureka Gardens playground, 102 Stawell St South, Ballarat
9. Yorkdale Estate Central Park
Yorkdale Estate Central Park has a substantial playground by Adventure+, commissioned by the estate. The playground’s most obvious feature is a 6 metre tower with an enclosed slide. There are plenty of play opportunities for younger and older kids, with monkey bars, additional slides, rock seesaws and a sandpit with digger.
There are picnic tables and some artificial shade, with trees planted to eventually provide natural shade. There are also grassy spaces to kick a ball or throw a frisbee. Best to go to the toilet and fill water bottles before visiting, as there are none available at the park.
Yorkdale Estate Central Park, Greenhalghs Road, Winter Valley, Ballarat
From penguins to koalas, wombats to penguins, crocodiles to Sumatran tigers, the family-owned Ballarat Wildlife Park strives to give the best interactive experience with some of Australia’s most unique animals.
Ballarat Wildlife Park, 250 Fussell Street Ballarat East, 03 5333 5933
Wander through the beautiful Ballarat Botanical Gardens on the western side of Lake Wendouree: regional Victoria’s oldest inland botanic gardens is a medley of mature trees and marble statues set within colourful flowerbeds.
Covering 40 hectares, it’s also home to the Robert Clark Conservatory, a striking modern build harbouring an oasis of seasonal displays that’s a hub for the Ballarat Begonia Festival held each March.
Ballarat Botanic Gardens, Wendouree Parade Lake Wendouree
12. Kryal Castle
Knights in shining armour, damsels in distress, wizards and witches – Kryal Castle has it all all!
Popular characters such as King Arthur will be introduced during performances, and in between there are other attractions like a playground and stone maze to explore. A fresh program has been developed so every visitor will see something new. Kryal Castle review
Kryal Castle, 121 Forbes Road Leigh Creek, 03 5334 8500
Right next door to the Mill Market, Gold Rush Mini Golf has two 18 hole courses – an outdoor course celebrating Ballarat’s gold rush history and an indoor Lost Worlds course filled with dinosaurs, medieval characters and Caribbean pirate hideouts. If you’re coming to Ballarat from Melbourne, keep an eye out for the eight-metre-tall Big Miner guarding the front of the Western Highway venue.
Gold Rush Mini Golf, 4/9367 Western Highway Warrenheip, 03 5334 8150
14. Xtreme Bounce
Tire your kids out at Ballarat trampoline centre Xtreme Bounce. They will love the huge arena of high performance trampolines plus the Slam Dunk, Battle Beam, Performance Wall, Dodgeball, Wipeout, and Air Bags. Book online to secure your one-hour jump time.
Xtreme Bounce, 48-50 Heinz Road Delacombe, 0468764394
*Bonus* Sanctuary Day Spa
Ballarat’s Sanctuary day spa is *not* a family-friendly location but I’ve added it here as a bonus addition in case you find yourself in Ballarat without kids.
It’s one of the best day spas in Regional Victoria that you can visit in a day trip from Melbourne and has won numerous awards at the World Spa Awards 2019: Best Luxury Hotel Spa (Australia), Best Luxury Day Spa (Australia) and Best Luxury Spa Retreat (Australia & Oceania).
The Ballarat day spa is located within the gardens of the Mercure Hotel and Convention Centre and features six luxury treatment rooms including two dual suites, private bathing, a floating pedicure lounge, a relaxation lounge with an open fireplace and The Sanctuary with a sauna and heated hydrotherapy pool.
You can visit just The Sanctuary casually depending on capacity (though guests having treatments are given priority).
Sanctuary Day Spa, 613 Main Rd, Ballarat Australia 03 5327 1296
Where to eat in Ballarat with kids
The Forge Pizzeria, 14 Armstrong St North, Ballarat
16. The Mallow
The Mallow Hotel, 20 Skipton St, Ballarat, 03 5331 1073
L’Espresso serves the best coffee in Ballarat (so I’m told, I don’t drink coffee!) and the food was pretty good. But note while I see plenty of families brunching, the venue can be too squishy and dark with young children who want to move around!
L’Espresso, 417 Sturt St, Ballarat, 03 5333 1789
A heritage corner store has been converted into a two-room cafe in a residential street.
The menu focuses on local and seasonal produce with a healthy bent. There’s a kids menu and high chairs.
Websters Market and Cafe, 61 Webster St, Ballarat
Take a trip down a narrow laneway to an old fire hydrant shop and find yourself in a spacious cafe – at Hydrant Food Hall the food is excellent, with a nod to trends while staying true to the seasons and local produce.
There’s space for pram access, lots of high chairs, a fun kids menu (rainbow pancakes!) and you can purchase a kids’ activity pack for $2.50. There is also an accessible toilet with a fold-out change table.
Unfortunately, the cubby house and chalkboard that was present a few years are no longer available.
Hydrant Food Hall, 3 McKenzie St, Ballarat Central
Lick freshly churned gelato in the centre of town, with a few tables and chairs dotted inside within sight of the mounds of colourful creations.
Il Piccolo Gelato, 217 Sturt St, Ballarat
Paper Cranes Ballarat creates authentic and fusion Japanese food on the go – think sushi, katsu burgers, gyoza, chicken curry and bubble tea!
There are a few tables and chairs inside for dining in, though it’s more targeted for takeaway.
It’s the third store for this business, joining their Bairnsdale and Sale stores.
Paper Cranes Ballarat, 8 Armstrong St N, Ballarat Central VIC 3350
22. Hop Temple
As the name suggests, Hop Temple has a very extensive beer menu. But they also have a food menu with plenty of snacks, pizzas and mains like fried chicken and burgers. Hop Temple is a family friendly venue, but do hold trivia nights and other events so it’s best to see what’s going on prior to visiting.
Hop Temple, rear of 24-28 Armstrong Street North, Ballarat Central, 03 5317 7158
23. 1816 Bakehouse
Artisan bakery with a great selection of pies, sandwiches, breads and sweet treats, as well as coffee and other drinks.
1816 Bakehouse, 18 Armstrong Street North, Ballarat, 03 4372 9292
24. Higher Society
Café specialising in breakfast / brunch, and catering for dietary requirements, including vegan options. They have a couple of dedicated kids options on their menu.
Higher Society, 413 Sturt Street Ballarat, 03 5383 0817
Located directly opposite Sovereign Hill, this family-owned pub has a Family Bistro with basic pub meals and the biggest indoor playground in town.
Golden Point Hotel, 639 Main Road, Golden Point, 03 5333 5955
26. The Red Lion
A warm and welcoming family-friendly pub that a fun playground and a considerable kids menu. I love that there is a healthier option of grilled chicken and salad. My kids love that there’s Milo on ice-cream for dessert!
The Red Lion, 217-229 Main Road, Ballarat, 03 5331 3393
27. The Park Hotel
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, The Park Hotel has a great dining space for families and a large indoor playground.
The Park Hotel, 1615 Sturt Street, Alfredton, (03) 53341470
A family-favourite restaurant and while there is no playground or space for kids, the booths are spacious, the meals are fun and there’s activity sheets and crayons for kids if really needed. Check their website for daily deals. There’s always room for pancakes!
The Pancake Kitchen, 2 Grenville Street, Ballarat 03 5331 6555
Other reader tips include:
Where to stay in Ballarat
Whenever I’m looking for family-friendly accommodation I like to research on Stayz and Booking.com. There are lots of places to choose from, so here are my recommendations for places to stay in Ballarat that either I have stayed at or my trusted friends have booked.
Lascelles Ballarat consists of two grand Victorian terraces with luxe, boutique accommodation right in the heart of the Ballarat.
Located in Errard Street North, Ballarat Central, it is within easy walking distance to the Ballarat CBD, cafes, restaurants and even the lake and heritage precincts. Sovereign Hill is a 7 minute drive and Kryal Castle is 14 minutes away.
The first Terrace #6 has a downstairs 2-bedroom townhouse (The Mainstay) and an upstairs top floor 2-bedroom apartment (The Overlook). The second Lascelles Terrace #8 (The Grand Terrace) is a grand 6 bedroom house that is great for groups.
Both houses have been lovingly restored with a modern and contemporary overlay. All the townhouses feature luxury bedding with electric blankets, extensive zoned heating throughout, fully equipped kitchens, modern fixtures, large screen smart televisions with Netflix and blu-ray DVD players.
I stayed in the 6-bedroom house with some friends and found the rooms to be very comfortable, with excellent amenities in the living areas – and it fulfilled our criteria of having a fireplace for quiet reading!
The Grand Terrace includes a master suite, dining room seating for 12, contemporary kitchen, two bathrooms and rear sunroom overlooking a private outdoor entertaining area with a beautiful garden and firepit.
Enjoy free Wi-Fi and free off-street parking too.
This stay welcomes house trained pets (ideally hypoallergenic) of most sizes and breeds. Maximum of 2 pets allowed per booking and are only permitted on prior arrangement.
House at No. 10 is a centrally located Ballarat accommodation with free WiFi, air conditioning, a patio with garden views and barbecue facilities. We don’t use the outdoor area much as we visit in winter, but it’s great to have the option.
The holiday home has 3 bedrooms, a flat-screen TV, an equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a washing machine, and 2 bathrooms with a shower. The beds are *super* comfortable, you might just not want to leave.
The house is light and spacious and spreading out over three bedrooms means the two kids don’t have to share a bedroom (which they don’t normally), thus avoiding arguments!
You’ll also find games for the kids and even a piano!
Book House at No. 10 now
Just around the corner from House at No. 10 is Ballarat Premier Apartments in central Ballarat. Originally built in 1901, the property offers accommodation featuring Victorian-era décor that’s been renovated to modern standards.
This restored hotel offers self-contained 1, 2 and 3-bedroom apartments and deluxe rooms. The rooms have a refrigerator and a sofa. Most accommodation features a kitchen or kitchenette. Some suites also boast a fireplace, a spa bath or a balcony. All Heritage rooms feature a grand chandelier.
Book Ballarat Premier Apartments now
Lady AB wanted to stay in a caravan so I found Gordon Bush Retreat on Airbnb. It offers not just one, but two caravans on the same bush block – which means no sharing with noisy kids!
As it’s a family’s holiday ‘house’ there is a swing, trampoline and a full camp kitchen. Note the toilet and bath are outdoors so the accommodation may not suit very young children.
33. Jack’s House
Step back in time to a 1960s renovated hilltop house in Golden Point with views across the city through picture windows. The bungalow has 2 bedrooms with 2 beds, 1 bath and fits 4 people.
Exposed brick and the extensive use of natural wood maintain a mid-century atmosphere, enhanced by period furnishings and gleaming softwood floors throughout.
Chill-out and watch TV in the living room or let your kids’ imagination run wild in the walled courtyard without any worries.
34. The Miners Church
*The Miners Church is not currently open for bookings*
We visit Ballarat on a particularly busy weekend (Clunes Booktown Festival) so we decide to base ourselves in Buninyong, about a 20 minute drive. Thanks to a reader tip we stay in The Miners Church. It is such a wonderfully quirky place and so kid-friendly that we can’t wait to return.
Our 3 bedroom cottage is $200 a night. This includes a substantial cook-your-own breakfast with freshly laid eggs, bacon, homemade bread, cereal, and muffins. The owners provided a portacot and high chair at no extra charge. Best of all, the kids have a ball, with gardens to explore, trees to climb and a whole separate games room in a replica schoolhouse.
This post contains affiliate links. If you book using the links there is no extra cost to you and I earn a small commission that helps me to provide valuable and useful information free for you! Thanks in advance – Joyce