BALLARAT is a grand provincial city that makes a memorable first impression, especially if approaching from the west, via the Western Freeway, along the Avenue of Honour. Lined on either side with more than 22km of trees and dedicated to the Ballarat soldiers who enlisted in World War I, it is Australia’s longest such avenue. It ends at the massive Arch of Victory, through which you drive to enter Sturt Street and the city. More than a quarter of all gold found in Victoria came from Ballarat’s fantastically rich reef mines before they were exhausted in 1918. Nowadays, in addition to the more obvious tourist attractions and fine architecture, the town is interesting in its own right, with a large student population that gives the city a somewhat vibrant character and reasonably active nightlife.
Sturt and Victoria streets terminate on either side of the Bridge Mall, the central shopping area at the base of quaint Bakery Hill with its old shopfronts. Southeast of the city centre, Eureka Street runs off Main Road towards the site of the Eureka Stockade, with several museums and antique shops along the way. Main Road is crossed by Bradshaw Street, where you’ll find Sovereign Hill, the re-created gold-rush town. Northwest of the centre, approached via Sturt Street, are the Ballarat Botanical Gardens and Lake Wendouree.