In July Ballarat comes to life with the Ballarat Winter Festival. Discover the more than 40 events held throughout the city in celebration of winter.
By Della Vreeland
What to expect
- See Sovereign Hill come alive for Winter Wonderlights
- Test your coordination on the pop-up skating rink
- Taste the delicious flavours of the region
- Time: 3 days
- Distance: 116.5 kilometres (72 miles) from Melbourne
- Transport: car
- Price: $$
Each July, Ballarat gets warm and cosy in celebration of the cool change with a month-long winter festival.
Sovereign Hill pulls out all the stops for a Christmas in July celebration. Add ice-skating, a visit with the penguins and warm winter soul food to complete a cosy winter weekend in Ballarat.
Day 1: Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights: Christmas in July
Drive to Sovereign Hill for the Christmas in July celebrations. During the day, Sovereign Hill’s iconic township will evoke a sense of old-world wonder and yuletide feels.
Take a stroll down Main Street as snowflakes fall over the Victorian-style buildings, decorations fill the window displays, the smell of Christmas treats and spices fill the air, and traditional Christmas-themed pantomimes are performed. If you’re up for a challenge, try and catch the Gingerbread Man as he mischievously plots his escape from the hungry visitors.
By night, watch Sovereign Hill’s Main Street sparkle as more than 20 of the buildings light up with large-scale image projections and Christmas animations. Set to Christmas-themed music, the show is bigger and brighter every year, evoking the spirit and enchantment of Christmas.
There are also plenty of food options at Sovereign Hill, but for a delicious experience, visit the New York Bakery and try one of their award winning pastries.
Day 2: A hub of winter wonder
Take to real ice in the heart of the town centre at the pop-up ice-skating rink. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, the ice-skating will immerse you in the reality of the wintertime as you take to real ice and glide (or stagger) your way around the rink.
Drive out to the Ballarat Wildlife Park and watch the little penguins as they swim around in their underwater viewing deck. After you’ve admired these happy little feet, get up-close-and-personal with the meerkats in their new home before meeting the koalas, kangaroos and crocs. Meet the beautiful Alpine dingoes, roast marshmallows in the fire pits, and warm up in the Bushman’s Hut.
Day 3: Food and wine to warm your soul
Visit one of Ballarat’s most treasured attractions The Art Gallery of Ballarat. The gallery will be hosting the French exhibition Into Light during the wintertime, giving audiences the exclusive chance to view some outstanding 19th- and 20th-century impressionist artworks from the Musée de la Chartreuse. Featuring pieces reflecting the romantic seascapes and tranquil landscapes of northern France through to paintings celebrating pure light, colour and the lives of ordinary people, this show will have you yearning for a Parisian life of calm, culture and delight.
During your Ballarat visit, make sure to explore all the culinary delights that await including the city’s ever-growing café scene and craft beer offering. Start off with a wholesome brunch and premium coffee at one of the prized cafes such as The Hydrant Food Hall or hit up Fika Coffee Brewers for some Sensory Lab coffee and indulgent bagels.
The Ballarat Winter Festival will this year play host to the Ballarat Potato Festival, the inaugural Salumi and Charcuterie Festival as well as The Red Series Wine Festival. Experience the time-honoured spud in a variety of dishes and forms, indulge in a range of meaty-delights and craft beer, and celebrate the vino of the region as you warm your heart, soul and belly.
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