Rated 2 Out of 73 Places to Visit in Ballarat
If you go to Victoria, you HAVE to take the hour and a half train from Melbourne and visit Ballarat.
The hurried bustle of Melbourne changed in minutes once we left the station.
Soon the brown landscape reminded me of the Central Valley of California, where I live. Not much changed during the hour trip, and it sped by so quickly you would not have enjoyed the picture.
Ballarat or Bust
Yes, the 1850 Australian Gold Rush happened in Ballarat. We approached the golden gates at lunch time so our hostesses, Carol’s sister-in-law and niece, took us to lunch at Pipers by the Lake.
Manny, my traveling bear, always says, “I’m never hungry, but I can always eat.”
Notice he liked pasta. I chose pumpkin soup. Australian pumpkin anything is fabulous, and Pipers did not disappoint. In retrospect, I probably should not have opted for the hot soup. The afternoon temperatures soared into the late nineties.
After lunch, I was ready for a nap, but these energetic, climate-time-adjusted women got Manny and me up and on our feet. Weather of almost any kind melts me, but the beauty surrounding the restaurant spurred me on.
After some quick photo ops on the Lily Bridge decorating Lake Wendouree, donned in my Stabilisation Shoes (spelled the Australia way, pronounced stable-I-ZA‘-shun), I was primed for a long walk.
I longed for air conditioning. Instead, we walked down the block a bit and along Lake Wendouree. There really are black swans, so, in spite of the heat, I began to catch their enthusiasm.
Soon we crossed the western side of the street to the City of Ballarat Botanical Gardens. Rated #2 of 73 things to do by Trip Advisor, my guides Mandy, Katie, and Carol could not have made a better choice of introduction to Ballarat for me.
It’s only a few minutes’ drive from the Central Business District of Ballarat, abbreviated as CBD, to find Pipers and the Gardens. BTW, when you visit Australia, realize that you also have to know all the acronyms and nicknames for common words.
The Gardens are divided into three zones. We spent most of our time in the central Botanical Gardens, which you will see when you scroll down. One Australian website referred to the central area as a Victorian pleasure garden.
On either side of the park entrance, there are open parkland buffers known as the North and South Gardens. On this summer day, families and lovers lounged on the cool grass under the shade trees.
The pair of marble lions situated just inside the gates began guarding the entrance to the garden in 1893.
The Gardens celebrated its sesquicentenary (150 years old) in 2007.
The South Gardens
Practically every Australian park I toured honored their soldiers in some way. The Ballarat Gardens feature Australia’s Ex-Prisoner of War Memorial, designed by local artist Peter Blizzard. Opened in 2004, the 130-meter long granite wall has the names of 35,000 Australian Prisoners of War etched into it, 8,600 of whom died and are buried on foreign soil.
Teacher, Carol determined that I would LEARN everything about Australia during this trip. She took it easy on me right after lunch as we strolled along the moving POW memorial. I guess she hadn’t learned about all 35,000 names either.
However, when we marched down Prime Minister Lane, it was a different story. Carol told me about the first, the best, and the worst Prime Ministers.
Here are some Wiki-facts to test your memory for the quiz at the end of this post. Prime Ministers Avenue is set within Horse Chestnut Avenue. Alfred Deakin founded the Federation of Australia Deakin and served as the first Federal Member for Ballarat and the second Prime Minister.
I tried as hard as I could to memorize all the names, faces and fun facts as she enthusiastically told me about each one. TC History Gal should be good at this, right?
The flat pathway through the shade of beautiful trees on a quiet afternoon caused me to zone out. I enjoyed the experience of being in a new place with hospitable people. Conversations buzzed around me like busy mosquitoes. Speaking of mosquitoes, the tiny insects may have had their way with this Prime Minister.
Maybe it was because their names were etched in gold, too light to read. It certainly was not the hot pumpkin soup. Needless to say, Carol may have struck out on this teaching venture. The good news is that if you want to know the Australian Prime Ministers, they are listed here.
The Center Zone
Opened in 1995, Bob Clark donated two million dollars to build the Conservatory to honor his Grandfather Robert Clark – co-founder of The Courier newspaper.
I read that the remains of a zoo dot the North Gardens. Either we did not visit that, or I fell asleep under a tree, and a lion ate me.
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