Located 120 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, in the central highlands of Victoria, Ballarat is most commonly known for its rich history known as the Eureka Rebellion.

Although the historical roots remain strong, these days, it’s a thriving town with plenty to offer. Wondering what to do in Ballarat? We’ve put together a list of the best Ballarat attractions to check out if you’re passing through. After you’ve picked up your Ballarat hire car, check out these must-sees:

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1.  Lake Wendouree

This beautiful lake put Ballarat back on the map in 1956, as the stage for the Olympics Rowing competition. Overlooking the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, the lake is home to a variety of birds including black swans who, on any given day, are happy to join anyone’s picnic. Walk, cycle or drive around the lake and take in the sights of pretty historic boathouses and array of homes once belonging to those who got to the gold rush early.

2.  Red Wine and a Warm Fire

Rarely do two things go so well together. Red Wine and a Warm Fire is an indulgent wine tour taking you through the Pyrenees region with a delicious lunch to match. From 30 June to 29 July, tours will depart at 9.30am from the Gold Monument, Cnr Sturt and Albert Street, Ballarat. Tickets are $173 per person.

3.  Ballarat Municipal Observatory

Opened more than a century ago, the Ballarat Municipal Observatory and Museum is one of the oldest observatories in Australia. But in no way is it any less fascinating. In fact, the range of both modern and vintage telescopes is quite bewildering and visitors can immerse themselves in all the stargazing they wish (weather permitting of course). Bookings are essential for viewing at the telescopes Tuesday to Saturday. Private bookings are also available Monday to Thursday.

4.  Plate Up Ballarat – The Pie Competition

Who ate all the pies? Judging by the quality coming out of Ballarat, it could be anyone who’s dined in any of the city’s twenty famed restaurants and cafes. From 30 May to 23 July, the top pie producers compete for the crown of best pie. The focus is on local produce and each venue’s pie must include at least three local ingredients. Pie enthusiasts can vote for their favourites and hashtag their choice.

5.  Sovereign Hill

Step back in time to the days of the Australian gold-rush. Sovereign Hill is a unique outdoor folklore museum recreating an era when the city was a flush with thousands of fortune-seeking gold-diggers from all over the world hoping to strike it hot and find riches. The 25-hectare park is full of recreated shops, hotels, theatres, factories, schools and underground mines as well as spectacular shows re-enacting the Eureka Rebellion on the Ballarat goldfields. A full day is needed here to soak in the Victorian history and perhaps even snare yourself some bling.

Even more of a reason to visit Sovereign Hill this Winter for the Winter Wonderlights: Christmas in July. From 30 June to 22 July, decorated Christmas trees will line the Main Street with activities for the whole family including faux snow falls, theatre shows and festive treats! Tickets are available online.

6.  High Tea at Craig’s Royal

High Tea at Craig’s Royal is a longstanding Ballarat tradition spanning more than a century. One look at the venue, and it’s easy to see why. The Grand Dining Room is a feast for the eyes, and the treats are everything you’d expect for a $59.90 price tag. Once you’ve eaten your weights worth in scones, take a guided tour of the lavish hotel and experience the Royal Suites, historical banquet rooms, and bluestone cellar, and be transported to a time of opulence in one of Australia’s truly grand hotels.

That’s certainly not where the fun stops in Ballarat. The attractions are all throughout the town and its surrounding areas – even exploring the town by foot is a highlight in itself. Sturt, Camp and Lydiard Streets all have an incredible charm to them, lined with heritage architecture and streetscapes. The old Trades Hall on Camp is our top pick, but really, there’s so many that catches the eye!

Hire a car in Ballarat

So, now that you know the best things to do in Ballarat, let’s talk logistics. Conveniently, there’s a Thrifty car hire located in town with a range of vehicles perfect for exploring all that Ballarat and its surrounding regions have to offer.

For Ballarat accommodation, there’s no shortage of that either. Visit Ballarat has got you sorted in that department, as well as the best Ballarat pubs for that matter.

So there’s no time to lose – Eureka!