Just a 2.5 hour drive from Frankston, Ballarat is the perfect destination for a mini vacay with the fam, even in the heart of Winter. Yes, it was cold! But with jackets, beanies and gloves, we braved the elements (which to be honest, weren’t all that bad and didn’t dampen the adventure one bit!) and enjoyed the annual Ballarat Winter Festival, which included a trip to Sovereign Hill’s Winter Wonderlights.
The entire MLTS team of four adults and five children, stayed right across the road from Sovereign Hill at the Mecure Ballarat. Each family had a two bedroom apartment. The apartments were basic but comfortable, clean and roomy, perfect for our needs. Each had a lounge room, dining table, fully equipped self contained kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom. The staff at the hotel were so friendly and accommodating. We weren’t the quietest of guests that’s for sure with five kids between us but we always managed to get a long table (8 + a high chair) for breakfast (full buffet, yum!) and the kids loved the little activity packs they were handed to keep then entertained (quiet!) during dinner at Billy’s Bistro & Bar. This is the perfect location if you’re planning to visit Sovereign Hill while you’re in town as it’s literally across the road and an easy walk with the kids.
613 Main Rd Ballarat
We enjoyed a buffet breakfast at the Mecure each morning which was plentiful and kept us all well and truly full until lunch time. We also enjoyed a quick lunch at Beechworth Bakery (the beestings…. oh em gee) and a great dinner at The Forge Pizzeria which the kids loved. The Forge had a really cool rustic feel about it and everyone’s meals were absolutely delish (think pork belly wood fire pizza, homemade gnocchi with lamb ragu, sweet potato chips with chutney and pesto aioli and the cheesiest croquettes you have ever tasted!).
We also enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Mecure’s in house restaurant “Billy’s Bistro & Bar” after our day at Sovereign Hill which was perfect as the kids were tired so we didn’t want to travel far with them. The service was impeccable and the staff were genuinely lovely with the kids and very understanding. We all enjoyed our feast of pot pies, burgers, soup, crumbed chicken and lamb cutlets and also loved the fact that we could walk back to our apartments within a couple of minutes without having to haul the kids back into the cars.
The Forge Pizzeria
14 Armstrong St Nth
Billy’s Bistro and Bar
613 Main Rd Ballarat
1800 881 627
The Ballarat Winter Festival is on until the end of July. We enjoyed ice-skating in the middle of town and the kids loved the giant inflatable slide. A visit to the Ballarat Wildlife Park was also a highlight of our trip. It’s funny, we have both been to Ballarat many times before but neither of us had visited the Wildlife Park! Home to Australian native animals such as koalas, kangaroos, tassie devils, reptiles plus a new exhibit of little penguins, the park was pleasant to walk around (easy pram access) and had a lovely homely vibe to it as the kangaroos roamed the grounds freely. Crunch the crocodile was an amazing exhibit! This guy was 5 meters huge! The kids loving watching him get fed. They also loved the special winter addition of campfires and the giant marshmallows on sticks which they got to toast. A really lovely touch to end a great family visit.
Of course the absolute highlight of our trip was our visit to Sovereign Hill. We arrived just after lunch as the Winter Wonderlights show doesn’t start until 5:45pm. Our timing was perfect and we got to see and do everything before the sun starting to set. The older kids enjoyed the tour of the mine and panning for gold, the old fashioned bowling alley and candle dipping. The bakery was of course amazing with its famous vanilla slice and ginger bread men. Sovereign Hill is really such a great place for the kids to learn about the history of the gold mining era, we also loved it because it’s not overly commercial with souvenirs or rides. It’s just literally old fashioned, educational fun. Winter Wonderlights which is on until the end of this month was just so wonderfully magical. As the sun set the Christmas in July ambiance took over with carolers and fairy lights. There was a giant marquee with free craft for the kids (little wooden house decorating) and plenty of warm drinks and hearty food for sale. The light show in the main street though was one of the best things we have ever seen with fake snow falling down on the kids and custom projections lighting up the buildings. Honestly so so good, we highly recommend going if you can get there before the end of the month, we will be back next year for sure!
For more information about the Ballarat Winter Festival visit www.visitballarat.com.au/winterlude
Mama loves to share was hosted at Billy’s Bar and Bistro, Sovereign Hill, Ballarat Wildlife Park and the Winter Festival ice-skating but all opinions expressed in this article are 100% our own words and thoughts.