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I haven’t been everywhere – but Ballarat was on the list

Phil and I are working through the ‘to do’ list provided by the people we are house sitting for in Melbourne, Ballarat is on the list. It is not a prescribed list, yet it has been useful to have some plans, otherwise we would just hang out in St Kilda most of the time, like we did last time.

I have in the past tried to link music to my blog and when researching for an appropriate one for this post I found this. As a person who likes to travel, I really try not to be a travel bragger, and probably fail most of the time. I’ve not been everywhere, and it is not on my list. And we have all met travellers like this.

On our last visit to Melbourne we had the good fortune to meet Geoff in Federation Square. He had suggested we go to this gold rush town, but at the time we were using our stay in Melbourne as down time, after four weeks on the road. We also were really enjoying exploring the city, and so we didn’t go. Ballarat was also on the to do list so this time we thought we would give it a go.

Geoff in Melbourne

We decided to go by train. I love travelling by train. Phil likes travelling by train as it means he doesn’t have to drive and can actually see some of the scenery. Without me being a SatNag.

When you travel by train you get to see the landscape, there is plenty of leg room, and you get to peek into back yards.  I am pretty sure I saw three abandoned trams in one back yard just out of Ballan, I certainly saw fields full of abandoned vehicles and shipping containers used as sheds. I was also struck by the amount of construction of new homes along the line. Melbourne is rapidly expanding and this is already a commuter route for the city workers. With this expansion of small towns, it is set to get busier.

There is one train an hour between Melbourne and Ballarat, and they stop running between 15.21 and 18.02. We wanted to get back to Melbourne in time to feed the dogs, and planned to catch the 15.21 train. We arrived in Ballarat at 11.45, thinking that would give us plenty of time to visit Sovereign Hill, an outdoor museum that tells the story of Ballarat’s gold rush decade following the discovery of gold in 1851.

Mining Exchange

We didn’t go. We didn’t have enough time.

One of the issues was, that if like us you are using public transport to get there, you need to get a bus from the railway station. We didn’t know this until we visited the Tourist Information, in the town. The bus that goes to Sovereign Hill, according to the timetables nice lady in Tourist Information gave use, leaves the railway station at the same time that the train from Melbourne arrives. We had missed the 11.45 bus.


Ever the optimistic travellers, we thought that we’d give it a go. If we got the 12.45 bus we could have two hours there. But it wasn’t just time that was against us.

Ballarat Guides

Armed with leaflets from nice lady in Tourist Office, we had a quick tour of the town and grabbed some pies, from a small family owned bakery, and headed to the bus stop.

Helpful bus driver advised we get a different bus to what nice lady in Tourist Information had told us to catch. Also the timetable on the bus stop was completely different to the one the nice lady had given us. If the bus actually came, and we got to Sovereign Hill we would only have an hour there, if we were lucky. Spending $104 for an hour at a museum, which during the school holidays would be busy, seemed foolish.

We decided not to go to Sovereign Hill and instead explore the town more. It had interesting buildings and we like interesting buildings. But first, we went back to Tourist Information to tell the nice lady that the bus timetable she gave us was wrong. Nice lady was surprised as this was a new timetable. But nice lady drives everywhere so hadn’t seen the timetable at the bus stop. Ah well, she was still a helpful nice lady who gave me lots of information.

Ballarat Walking Guides

And then,  just like getting lost can lead to new discoveries, as happened in St Kilda last week, having our plans for the day completely changed led us to discover a Ballarat that I suspect most visitors never find.

Because of the gold rush Ballarat has a lot of grand buildings. And you could eat yourself around the world, as people flocked from around the world to get rich quick, they brought their cuisine with them. It has a university campus. And some swanky hotels as well as backpacker lodgings.

And then we discovered the record shop. Phil likes record stores.

We have a list of record stores to visit in Melbourne (the person we are house sitting for runs the Record Store Day Australia Facebook page).

And the record store owner, told us to visit this coffee shop.

Which also has a good music collection.

I was disappointed I didn’t get to Sovereign Hill. It is a not for profit community based tourism project, and you know I like to spend my tourist dollar with organisations like this. Yet, I got to see more of Ballarat, and spend my tourist dollar in three small independent businesses. Because, while people flock to these out of town attractions, they are not spending their money in the town. And it is a beautiful town full of history, with quirky shops, lovely buildings and interesting statues, that is worth exploring.

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Next time I will make it an overnight stay, to make the most of what the area has to offer.

And here is another song to remind me to return to Ballarat.



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