From its grand architecture on tree-lined streets, to a host of bars, breweries and restaurants, the green oasis of Lake Wendouree and, of course, the iconic Sovereign Hill, Ballarat is worth the roadtrip.
We’ve known it for some time, but Ballarat has become a serious destination for tourists and locals alike, thanks to a new generation of winemakers, beer lovers, superstar chefs and art fans that are beefing up the city’s offering beyond old gold country over the last couple of years.
As if we needed any more proof, the regional town has now taken out Gold in the Victorian Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) 2023 TAC Victorian Top Tourism Town Awards once again. That’s right, Ballarat has been named the state’s BEST tourism destination.
Keep up with the latest Victorian travel destinations, news and tips here.
The Top Tourism Town awards recognise Australian towns with a population over 5,000 people that offer amazing visitor experiences and are committed to working collectively to increase visitation to its region.
Taking the title from Bendigo, winner of the 2022 awards, Ballarat’s rich history, vibrant arts scene, and endless attractions earned them the top gong in the population over 5,000 category, announced at the award ceremony at the InterContinental Sorrento on Thursday, 27 July.
Ballarat previously won the title back in 2021.
Unbeknown to most, Ballarat is home to some of Australia’s best restaurants, cafes and bars like Aunty Jacks, Hop Temple, Underbar, and Roy Hammond, access to a slew of beautiful art – especially with The Ballarat International Foto Biennale, famed events like Sovereign Hill’s Winter Wonderlights, Lake Wendouree AKA one of the most scenic suburban walking tracks in Victoria, plus so much more.
Whether you’ve never been, visited recently, or haven’t made the journey in a while, there’s always plenty of new experiences and activities to revel in.
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Not to be outdone, Sorrento shone bright and snatched the win for the Top Small Tourism Town (population between 1,500 and 5,000). This stunning coastal gem has it all – pristine beaches, charming boutiques, and a relaxed vibe that captures hearts.
And in the tiny but mighty category, Aireys Inlet triumphed as the Top Tiny Tourism Town (population under 1,500). This coastal paradise may be small, but its breathtaking natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere make it a true hidden treasure.
But the accolades didn’t stop there! Bendigo struck silver in the Top Tourism Town category, while Frankston bagged the bronze, proving that both cities offer an unforgettable experience for visitors.
In the Top Small Tourism Town category, Heathcote earned the silver spot, while Woodend enchanted with its bronze-worthy charm.
And let’s not forget the Top Tiny Tourism Town contenders! Red Hill South claimed the silver, and Jamieson danced away with the bronze – both showcasing the magic of small-town life.
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These awards don’t just acknowledge stunning scenery and charming towns; they recognise the dedication of these places to creating unforgettable visitor experiences. With 17 exceptional finalists from all corners of the state, the competition was fierce!
Now, get ready to cheer on our victors as they take on the rest of Australia. The Victorian Gold Winners will be competing for the prestigious title of Australia’s Top Tourism Town, and the grand reveal will happen on September 14th at Parliament House, Canberra.
So, let’s raise a glass to Ballarat, Sorrento, and Aireys Inlet, and celebrate their well-deserved wins. And to all the finalists – keep shining bright, as your dedication to tourism makes Victoria a top-notch destination for locals and visitors alike!