There’s a feeling of euphoria as you leave the city lights and head out to the clean, fresh air and star-studded sky of Ballarat. The regional city may be famous for it’s gold rush history, but these days, Ballarat’s wine bars, unique cafes and hidden bookshops are the spots where you’ll really strike lucky. Surrounded by the beauty of tree-lined avenues, heritage buildings and the famous Lake Wendouree, there’s no need to dig to uncover the treasures on every street corner.
Chandeliers hang from the ceiling, while walls patterned with vintage paper and floral curtains offset the tribal masks and retro lava lamps that adorn this cosy space. The coffee here is strong and hot and the menus are enclosed in old children’s Golden Books. The short menu at Eclectic Tastes is both varied and qurky, with one or two pages of current specials which range from Portuguese tarts to fresh baguettes to a top-notch seafood laksa.
2 Burnbank Street, Lake Wendouree
(03) 5339 9252
Vegas & Rose
A perfectly quaint café with walls and windows decked out in everything kitsch, Vegas & Rose doubles as a gift shop, selling sweet-as-pie goods and stationery from Smith’s Rosebud lip salve to Status Anxiety leather purses and pastel-hued embossed pencils. Brewing Coffee Supreme, Vegas & Rose have your flat white sorted and have mastered all the time-honoured brunch classics, including a perfectly smashed avocado and feta on toast.
96 Humffray Street North, Ballarat East
(03) 5332 4287
Records and CDs line the walls of this revamped heritage building in the CBD. The CDs are for sale and played on rotation. Always bustling, L’Espresso offers good coffee and an excellent breakfast menu – the poached pear with yoghurt and muesli a highlight. On Friday nights, they also host a pretty impressive dinner service, with intimate candlelight and soothing records playing while you feast on delicious local produce.
417 Sturt Street, Ballarat
(03) 5333 1789
Nestled in an unassuming shopfront on Ballarat’s main street near Central Square sits Yellow Espresso, with communal wooden tables and Axil Coffee. The small space behind the glass sliding doors is reminiscent of a brunch scene further south, but with its own air of country charm. The all-day menu sources as much local produce as possible, such as La Madre sourdough doused with Meredith feta and focaccias draped in cured meats by Istra. 13 Sturt Street, Ballarat
De’s Recycled Fashions
A vintage boutique offering second-hand clothing and goods, De’s is stuffed with vintage items that span decades. It’s just like digging through your mum’s wardrobe when you were a kid, but before inner city thriftsters have raided the collection. You’re almost guaranteed to come across a vintage treasure in this brightly coloured opportunity shop.
202 South Street, Ballarat
(03) 5332 8300
The Mill Markets
Located just outside Ballarat, the Mill Markets are a hive of activity – an emporium of retro wares, hiding untold treasures from a bygone era. Across 2000 square metres of floor space, stallholders sell an array of goods from swap cards, memorabilia, antiques and jewellery, to recycled clothing. This vast space is the go-to emporium for antique, vintage and collectable goods.
9367 Western Highway, Ballarat
(03) 5334 7877
The Known World
This vintage bookshop entices with its eclectic, appropriately Dickensian window display. Inside, all is quiet, dusty and a little bit magical. Vintage books line the shelves, featuring celebrated authors from Jane Austen to Victor Hugo, while a back room brims with old children’s books and comics. A tiny cafe runs along the back wall, with one or two tables and chairs set up for visitors to sip on a coffee while perusing a book.
14 Sturt Street, Ballarat
(03) 5332 8114
Ballarat is surrounded by some of the best of Victoria’s local producers, meaning there is an abundance of farmers’ markets at nearly every juncture. Just short drives from Ballarat are the Daylesford Farmers’ Market, the Buninyong Village Market, and the Talbot Farmers’ Market, all selling local cheeses, oils, wines, and fresh breads among the bags of stockfeed and roaming livestock. With a basketful of seasonal fruit and vegetables, head back to the historic botanical gardens for a mid-morning picnic, one of the oldest and most meticulously curated gardens in Australia.
WINE AND DINING
The Mallow Hotel
Recently redeveloped, The Mallow Hotel is a stalwart local situated off the main road that has been given a subtle but sweet makeover. Catering to all who stroll through the door – from families to couples on a first date – this sweet little bar has an extensive wine list, delicious menu items and a knowledgeable bar staff. Warm, cosy and packed on a Friday night, The Mallow is one for the locals and the out-of-towner in the know.
18 Skipton Street, Ballarat
(03) 5331 1073
Mitchell Harris Wines
Mitchell Harris Wines is a cellar door for local wine purveyors in a beautifully redecorated heritage building set in the middle of the CBD. Inside, exposed brick walls feature whimsical illustrations and industrial pendant lights hang from the rafters. Cowhide rugs, wooden stools and vintage armchairs add to the cosy ambience initiated by the fire burning steadily in the hearth. The tapas menu and wine list here is obviously key, with the short menu sourced thoughtfully from the local area, and supplemented by some gourmet imported treats.
38 Doveton Street North, Ballarat
(03) 5331 8931
Kambei offers a genuinely traditional Japanese dining experience, steered by head chef Yutaka Kimura. Each delicious morsel is served on beautiful earthenware with careful attention to detail, and is complemented by a well-selected wine list also featuring shochu and sake. The sashimi is fresh and perfectly cut, the miso delicately flavoured, and the matcha ice cream is a little bit of heaven on a spoon. Attentive service, exquisite food and a traditional ambience make for one of the best Japanese dining experiences in regional Victoria.
501 Main Road, Ballarat
(03) 5331 1468
Ballarat is the urban epicentre to smaller, surrounding country towns such as Clunes or Smeaton. Airbnb options are plentiful from Kingston to Daylesford, short drives from Ballarat, to enjoy the idyllic scenery from the windows of a rustic cottage or colonial townhouse.