The first time I visited Ballarat I took a wander along a charming tree lined, wide boulevard, I smiled, and proceeded to devour the whole spectacle – palatial structures of ornate stone, garlands of varicoloured flowers, flowing fountains of dramatic effect, and majestic statues of historical significance. I paused in front of one such statute, Queen Victoria, which happened to have a chirpy bird sitting on its head, as if on cue to cause me to giggle. It was a sensational thing for me to have paused there because my fixed gaze upon the propagated expression of an era moved slightly to more of a different survey of the scene. In the background from where Queen Victoria stood, my eyes caught the notice of a quaint modern French café. Since I love mostly everything French, I instantly decided to pop in.
I sat at a table on the sidewalk where I took a sweet bite of luscious, French pastry mingled with creamy, French vanilla custard into my mouth. Immediately it occurred to me that I am in the circumstance eating delicious, Ballarat made pastry cooked with local, fresh ingredients and doing it in a kind of Ballaratian resident style – seated at a café sidewalk table. Whilst I savoured each mouthful of the sweet, French-inspired-cum-Ballarat-made creation I noticed many interesting things going around me. The heritage surroundings appeared in sync with traditional manners. A spunky guy passing my table tipped his cap to me in a gentlemanly gesture. Other pedestrians passing me were more likely to throw a nod or a smile my way than icy or sleazy stares like the ones I receive in Melbourne. The people and the town along this boulevard appeared admirably presentable. I loved it!
I did not know about such a stylish, delightful aspect of Ballarat, like the one I experienced this day. I pondered what makes people think they want to visit Ballarat? My motivation is I want to visit the theme park Sovereign Hill, to be amused by its historical counterpart of life during the greatest gold rush bout. I imagine other visitors want to visit Ballarat for this same reason. But my curiosity also invited me to explore the possibility of other allurements that could be situated in the area that I do not know about. I settled on working on that at once. Eventually I began to articulate my findings. Hearing specifically and discovering concretely what everyone is experiencing in Ballarat fascinates me.
If Ballarat in the mid 1800’s gold boom is an extraordinarily rich and sophisticated region, Ballarat today is that same living cultural legend formed from the gold rush years. In Ballarat, the picturesque settings, friendly locals, enchanting wildlife, historical legacies, themed attractions, vibrant food and wine sector, art happenings and exciting events surprise and delight even the most well versed traveler.
Whether Ballarat’s scene is contemporary or established, the reason for its appeal has stayed the same – Ballarat exists in both the present times and the historical times, making it fascinating to visitors and enquiries alike. The heritage is instantly recognisable, yet subtly things have moved along since the former days. I find it much fun to spot the differences between the old and the new whether it is a revamped mode of transport, a change of fashion, a reconfigured interior, or a new dinning menu.
The National Visitor Survey from Tourism Research Australia is an Australian Government funded program and designed to gain a better understanding of visitors to a region, including the motivations and satisfaction with their visit. Their latest survey showed Ballarat was increasingly the destination of choice to experience history, arts or culture, visit the attractions or events, relax and rejuvenate, and discover and learn something new. Their survey also states, “The open ended comments highlighted two main themes of visitor satisfaction around the experiences and trip attributes. Visitors were most happy with: the variety of natural and man-made attractions especially the gardens, lakes, history/heritage sites, museums and galleries; and the ambience of the town created by the old buildings, relaxed atmosphere and friendly locals.”
With so many satisfying things to do in Ballarat a little forward planning is advantageous for capturing the best experience when travelling for a short visit. It is also most enjoyable learning about new features in a place to explore and share. The purpose of this blog is to communicate what has been experienced or learned and recommend the home truths about what to expect from the region that is useful and contributes to the whole Ballarat visitor experience.
Together we shall explore and journey through all that wonder Ballarat has to offer. I thank you for your support and I look forward to reading your contributions.