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Ballarat's Colourful Culture
ballaratThe thriving city of Ballarat enjoys a pleasant backdrop of the rolling green hills and valleys of the Central Highlands of Victoria. This is a city of unique architecture, which demonstrates the diverse culture that is present within this amazing city. The creativity in the extensive range of arts here is most evident in the city's galleries and exhibition centres, which reveal the true depth of this culture. All of these lovely attributes are combined with the distinctness of the four seasons, which gives Ballarat a very European feel that can be found nowhere else in Australia. Add to this all the attractions of the Victorian Goldfields, which are just a stones throw away, and you have a rewarding and diverse holiday destination from which tourists never leave disappointed!

When it comes to local culture, the best place to start would have to be the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery. This structure is over 120 years old, making it the oldest and largest regional gallery in the country. It is home to an immense collection of works that date back from early colonial times right up to contemporary times. As soon as you enter the museum, you will find that the artifact that stands out the most is the Eureka Flag, which has been housed here since 1895 and holds a special place in the history of the region. It was the battle flag used in the only Australian armed uprising, which took place in Ballarat in 1854, and it stands next to a number of related works. The gallery also hosts many travelling exhibitions, which offers free guided tours and has a cafe on site.

For a true experience of Aboriginal arts and crafts you must visit the Kirrit Barreet Aboriginal Art and Craft Centre. This centre aims to preserve the cultural identity of the local tribes, mostly through the display of first class indigenous art works on display, it also provides the opportunity to learn how to play the didgeridoo and throw a boomerang. Free entry, as well as the fact that it is open seven days a week mean that there are no excuses not to bring the kids down here for an educational and fun outing!

As you step in and out of the galleries you will be surprised at just how closely they resemble each other. The Botanical Gardens are home to a remarkable collection of mature trees set amongst the wide grassy spaces. The Prisoner of War Memorial and the Prime Ministers Walk are also worth the trek to experience the beauty of this city.

Sturt Street is the main street of the city, and is famous for its monuments, statues and fountains. The oldest statue was built in 1893 and is of Peter Lalor, who was influential in the armed uprising of 1854. The most recent monument that has called this street home is a granite war memorial built in 2000. Once you have finished browsing these culturally and historically significant statues then head into the boutique and designer shops that border the tree lined boulevard. After all of this excitement you can then enjoy a meal in one of the al fresco restaurants or cafes. Ballarat has a reputation for fine cuisine, and you can make the most of this at any point of the day or night. The bars and restaurants come alive in the evenings with a vibrant atmosphere that is the perfect way to end a day of sight seeing and is ideal for all those fun loving party lovers out there.

When it comes to places to stay in Ballarat, you will be spoilt for choice, but the best option by far is the Bell Tower Inn. Its four star facilities are spread over eight hectares of prime land, and it is framed by the beautiful Avenue of Honour. The friendly and helpful staff add to the appeal of this special lodge, so why don't you check it out at www.belltower.com.au and fit it into your travel plans. It is the perfect base for exploration of Ballarat and its surroundings. Another great accommodation option is the Comfort Inn Main Lead, a quality boutique style, 3 and a half star hotel that offers luxurious suites. This beautiful Inn is located just 500 metres from Sovereign Hill, and is only a short walk from central Ballarat,. This ease of accessibility is complemented by its amazing facilities that include a spa, a swimming pool, a conference room and a restaurant. This is for all those out there who want to indulge in a little luxury.

The Goldfields are also easily accessible from Ballarat, and their wealth of attractions make for interesting and intriguing tours in your hire car or campervan. A visit to this region will take you back in time to the legacy of the gold rush of over 150 years ago. The Gum San Museum in Ararat pays tribute to the Chinese miners who came across from China and were so influential in the discovery and mining of gold. The Central Deborah Gold Mine in Bendigo offers a unique opportunity of exploring a real gold mine on one of the underground tours.

However, the greatest tribute to the goldrush lies in Ballarat itself in the form of the living museum known as Sovereign Hill. The main feature here is a faithfully reconstructed street depictive of a similar street in the goldrush era. Costumed volunteers wander amongst the old style buildings, and there is even real gold in the creek that runs through the museum. A trip here will offer an insightul look into the unique history of this region, allowing you to gain a powerful understanding of Australia's gold mining days.

Ballarat really does have everything to make your holiday complete, especially when it comes to culture, history and the arts. If you can't fill your vacation within the city confines, then the diverse surroundings are there for your exploration. With The Bell Tower Inn or the Comfort Inn Main Lead as your comfortable and luxurious base, your time here is bound to be an exciting, relaxing and fun experience.

Christine Barton

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