Vintage fashion shows, an Apron Festival in a local church hall, double-decker bus rides and a treasure hunt... no wonder 14,000 are expected to visit Ballarat this May 10-11
Ballarat is a short ride northwest from Melbourne by train, but a huge leap in Doctor Who time-travelling years. Although the official Heritage Weekend is booked for May 10-11 the town offers retro fashion shopping, Art Deco architecture, nostalgic bars and gold rush memorials all year round.
Councillor Samantha McIntosh is passionate about Ballarat and the past: she and her partner faithfully renovate old local houses: her own 1930s home featured in the first episode of Who’s Been Sleeping In My House on ABC TV. When she opened it up to the public for afternoon tea and a free tour on a former Heritage Weekend, she was amazed at the response. "There were queues going down the street," she says.
She agrees there is something very special about Ballarat. "I think a few of the people coming along might be curious about the Dr Blake Mysteries" she suggests (shot in Ballarat by ABC TV and now being broadcast internationally).
The locals will be handing out single carnations, the quintessential 1950s flower, as a gift to all who arrive on Mother’s Day. It may be worth catching the train if you plan heading to Ballarat; it is one of the few stations in Australia with a vintage, working bar on the platform.
"I think the Art Deco walking tours led by Robin Grow will be a real highlight," Samantha says. Visitors to Ballarat also rate the local shopping: The Mill and That Little Vintage Shop are worth a trip, as is a heritage Pop Up Shop in the old Mechanics Institute.
Along with steam train rides and astronomy at the Ballarat Observatory with James Oddie and Henry Baker, the town is also offering a Tweed Ride. It’s a day out on bike, but without the lycra; ladies in frocks and gentlemen in hacking jackets are positively encouraged.
"The first year that happened it was really quite casual," Samantha says, ‘but it worked so well that we’ve kept doing it ever since. And everyone just looks great in their tweeds.’
Trains to Ballarat leave from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne every hour.