If your knowledge of Ballarat stops at Sovereign Hill, it’s time for a serious update. The regional centre has been steadily building on its foundation of gold rush architecture and family-friendly options, adding culinary mastery and craft breweries and distilleries to the mix.

Even more underrated are the Pyrenees, a mountain-flanked wine region past Ballarat that’s around 2 hours’ drive from Melbourne. Known for its robust reds, it’s also home to excellent restaurants and boutique accommodation for overnight stays. So plot your course west for a warming winter weekend – here’s where you should eat, drink, stay and explore.

Eat

Hideaway Coffee Bar

Tucked away in the quieter suburb of Brown Hill, this aptly titled cafe is made cosy by exposed brick, deck seating and terrific coffee. The food menu delivers too, with crème brûlée French toast, honey-kicked chilli scrambled eggs and a stacked fried chicken burger.

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Johnny Alloo

Across the street from the public hospital, the well-trodden Johnny Alloo takes its name from Ballarat’s first-ever restaurateur. Sip St Ali and Proud Mary coffee, then dig into winter favourites like hot smoked salmon, breakfast tacos or vegetarian-friendly Thai pumpkin soup – and maybe sneak in a cheeky wine after.

Summerfield Wines

A good start for sipping your way through the Pyrenees wine region, this popular winery in Moonambel also houses a restaurant that serves a dozen different woodfired pizzas, with free-range pork and lamb (raised and butchered on-site) balanced out with a vegan beetroot option. There are salads and cheese platters too, so you won’t go hungry.

Magnolia

Between Ballarat and Ararat sits Beaufort, the sleepy home to this culinary destination. Founded by Nepalese chef Anjal Joshi, Magnolia’s menu highlights seafood, veggies and other fresh ingredients. Try oysters with Japanese and Middle Eastern inflections, or dig into slow-roasted confit lamb and katsu-style pork belly.

Drink

Road to Red winery tour

Set your own course across the Pyrenees wine region with a self-guided tour. Just download this handy map and take your pick from around 20 cellar doors. There’s even a competition running through to July 15 – just visit six eligible wineries for a chance to win six cases of Pyrenees wines.

Mitchell Harris

A longstanding beacon of wine-sipping in Ballarat’s history-rich CBD, Mitchell Harris is a cruisy hang bolstered by staff who really know their stuff. Sample drops from around the region and curated international selections in a light-dappled former coach-house. Craft beer and spirits are well represented too.

Mrs Baker’s Still House

There’s more to the Pyrenees Ranges than just wine: Mrs Baker’s is a leafy micro-distillery nestled an hour’s drive north-west of Ballarat. Led by titular founder Jane Baker, the small family team makes gin, vodka, whisky and liqueurs, plus limoncello made with locally grown lemons. And the surrounding landscape makes for a good backdrop as you drink.

Renard

A quietly confident highlight of Ballarat’s recent cocktail boom, Renard puts playful twists on native and seasonal ingredients. The wine and spirit lists are deep too, and in the late hours the space doubles as a vibey social club that serves shareable bar snacks.

Do

Lost in Palm Springs at the Art Gallery of Ballarat

California’s iconic desert resort city might seem like an unlikely inspiration for wintertime Ballarat, but that only makes this multidisciplinary exhibition feel that much more inspired. Artists from across Australia and the US take stylistic notes from Palm Springs’ distinctive mid-century architecture, both relishing and riffing on its cactus-dotted pastel veneer.

Itinerant Spirits masterclass

Learn the art of craft spirits with this masterclass from Itinerant Spirits, a distillery housed in a heritage train goods shed. Between regional grains and hand-foraged botanicals, all the perfect ingredients will be at your disposal. And you’ll be able to taste the results of the long distillation process, too.

Black Cat Truffles experiences

Get your hands dirty at Black Cat Truffles in Wattle Flat, 15 minutes’ drive north of Ballarat. You’ll join a guided truffle hunt, followed by a degustation meal by chef Liam Downes. It’s the perfect winter activity for any group of culinary enthusiasts eager to learn more about this elusive ingredient.

Aunty Jacks beer education courses

Ballarat craft brewery Aunty Jacks runs a variety of beer education courses, ranging from style-and-service bootcamps to science-focused brewing programs. You can also just spend a day chatting and tasting with its in-house experts. Whatever you choose, you’ll walk away with renewed appreciation for hand-crafted brews made with a local touch.

Stay

Hotel Canberra

Just a few blocks from expansive Lake Wendouree, Hotel Canberra offers one- and three-bedroom apartments to fit your accommodation needs. It’s also home to not one, but three individual watering holes: Bobby’s wine bar, the degustation-driven restaurant Vesta x Jigs, and the Filipino-influenced cafe and bar The Stables.

Hotel Vera

Near the top end of Ballarat’s central thoroughfare, Sturt Street, Hotel Vera has seven distinct luxury suites in a former 19th-century mansion. It’s an ideal balance between history and modernity, and right downstairs is the fine-dining restaurant Babae, a popular destination for weekend lunch, dinner and drinks alike.

Unyoked cabins in the Pyrenees

If you want to step outside the hotel set-up entirely, opt for one of three hillside Unyoked cabins overlooking Peerick Vineyard. They’re sustainable and off-the-grid, but still with amenities like a hot shower, bar fridge and queen bed, plus extras like a fire pit, yoga mats and a picnic rug.

The Glut Farm

A scenic 45-minute drive west of Ballarat lies a 100-acre private farm in the heart of the Pyrenees wine region. Available either via Airbnb or directly through The Glut Farm website, you can book a group-friendly, three-bedroom farmhouse that sleeps seven adults and boasts an outdoor pizza oven with vineyard views.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Visit Ballarat.