A new winter-long festival across Ballarat is set to see thousands of families flock to the Victorian town over June and July, with a host of exciting events.
The new festival, Ballarat Winterlude, was launched by the City of Ballarat and Ballarat Regional Tourism, and includes a pop up ice skating rink in the middle of town and Ballarat’s two biggest drawcards, Sovereign Hill and Kryal Castle heavily involved.
Sovereign Hill’s Christmas in July event runs from June 25 to July 24, and includes Christmas themed activities and world-class light projections right up and down the main street. Add to that multiple snowfalls throughout the day (and night! and a whole lot of festive cheer and you’ve got yourself a winning family experience!
Meanwhile Kryal Castle is holding The Festival of the Flame, with “fire jousting” and a medieval feast among the many medieval festivities.
Not wanting to miss this one, we decided to grab the kids and head on over to find out what it’s all about. Let’s just say it was pretty incredible! It might have been winter, and yes it was cold, but wow it was something else!
If you haven’t been before, Ballarat is a 90 minute drive from Melbourne (or around 7 hours from Adelaide where we’re based) so we earmarked the first weekend of the festival, packed up the Pajero Sport (thanks Mitsubishi!), piled in the kids and away we went!
First stop, Wimmera Lakes Caravan Resort in Horsham, about 5 hours from Adelaide. It made the perfect overnight stop and broke up the drive for the kids (and us!)
The cabin we stayed in was just perfect! It was clean, spacious, well fitted out and to be honest, hubby and I were both really impressed at just how decent the size was (it was like a unit, not a tiny cabin!) It had everything we needed and really made for a comfortable overnight stop.
The park itself also has a playground, jumping cushion, pool and much more! It’s a part of the Top Parks chain and having stayed at one of their parks on our Great Ocean Road adventure, can really vouch for the quality and family friendly experience. Plus, it’s a really affordable accommdation and holiday option for those families looking for great value for money and a really enjoyable holiday experience. Take a look below, you’ll be pretty impressed!
The next morning all rested and refreshed, we took off around 8.30am given we still had a few hours of travel ahead of us to get to Ballarat. End destination: Sovereign Hill.
It may have been frosty and freezing at such an early hour (hence the beanies!!) but I tell you, she panned out to be a gorgeous day! On our way through we couldn’t resist and deviate off the beaten track to capture this beauty of Mount Zero in the Grampians. Such beautiful colours, and a great excuse to take the Pajero Sport off the sealed road!
The drive is truly quite beautiful right through to Ballarat from Adelaide. We got loads of stunning landscape shots and it is definitely not a boring drive!
We always stop at the Big Koala at Dadswell Bridge for a quick shot on our way through – it’s a bit customary now for us and we capture the boys as they grow up! Plus we grabbed a sausage roll and a drink (totally rate the bakery products!) and kept on moving!
Opinion please: I stopped for a quick selfie with my friend the Koala – I feel a bit creeped out over this one? Think he’s stalking me!? 😉
A few hours later we arrived at Ballarat. Before heading to Sovereign Hill though, we did a quick divert to the Ballarat Wildlife Park (on the way into Ballarat from the highway). Right now they’re participating in the Ballarat Winterlude which includes a whole lot of extra winter activities on top of the park’s usual activities, some of which include:
- Toasting Marshmallows and Damper on the Open fire at the Bushman’s Hut
- Meet the beautiful Alpine Dingoes Eskimo Snow and Luna Blue
- Roast marshmallows in the fire pits
- Join one of their staff for the damper cooking session held daily
Warm up by the fire in the Bushman’s Hut
- Kids can also enjoy a colouring in corner whilst under the watchful eye of super croc Crunch!
Needless to say we loved it, and judging by the looks on they boys’ faces (and the marshmallow smiles) they loved toasting marshmallows on the campfire too!
The wildlife at the park is amazing, and you might recall from our Kangaroo Island adventures that master 4 LOVES getting up close and personal with the animals. Take a look at the kangaroo holding his arms so he can keep feeding him, just gorgeous! They were SO tame and it was a truly magical experience. #greatmemories
Jason was pretty fortunate to have this hungry mumma come and say hi, complete with baby joey. At first we only saw a leg sticking out, a little wriggling later and out pops a head! #soadorable!!
And of course what visit isn’t complete without patting a baby Koala!! So beautiful!
Next stop was to check into our home away from home at the Lake Wendouree Luxury Apartments and let me tell you we were a little impressed with just how stunning and luxurious they were. It wasn’t at all what we were expecting, but we really appreciated all the little touches!
They might look unassuming from the outside, but step inside and be prepared to be pampered! The gas fire had the place so toasty warm and all the furnishings and facilities really led to a comfortable and luxury stay.
The lounge area had a gorgeous gas fire, 2 x lounges, ottoman, Foxtel, DVD Player, high speed wireless internet and air conditioning.
Plus the off street undercover parking looked after the car, while we enjoyed the warmth indoors!
They have one and two bedroom apartments (ours was a 2-bedroom) and included all linen, electric blankets, bathroom with bath and shower and a fully equipped kitchen with dishwasher and washing machine. It truly was our comfortable home away from home and we’ll definitely be back next time we head to Ballarat! Find out more about the Lake Wendouree Luxury Apartments.
A quick change and we were off to experience Sovereign Hill’s Winter Wonderlights, stepping back into the 1850’s Goldrush Era, Christmas style! This spectacular event is part of the Ballarat Winterlude and includes regular snowfall, a magical Christmas theme, loads of Christmas and winter activities PLUS come nightfall the buildings in the main street come to light with dazzling light and sound displayed (think Vivid Sydney in the 1850s!) It has to be seen to be believed.
It was so spectacular it’s a whole other story so jump over to find out more!
Here’s a sneak peek to whet your appetite!!
Finally after our Sovereign Hill adventures, it was time to head back to Adelaide as our weekend away was fast drawing to a close. Not before, I might add, we stopped for some Medieval Adventures at the highly acclaimed Kryal Castle.
Not having been there before I was slightly curious as to what this could all be about but let me tell you, from the minute you drive up the road towards the castle you knwo you’re in for a treat! It’s HUGE and the character in the building and the entrance really sets the tone (complete with a real moat!)
At first when we entered the kids were blown away by the two huge thrones and the motion detected dragon – and of course had to have a pic!!
As soon as we entered the courtyard we were immediately greeted by this very skilled fire twirler. Totally mesmerising!!
We then tried our hand at archery, and all of us big and small had a go! I was actually surprised how easy it was once you knew what you needed to do!
Jason tried his hand at removing the sword from the stone! The kids stood there mesmerised, thinking dad had a chance. We both knew the truth!! 😉
Then it was time for some jousting!! The men took to their horses on the main oval and it was on like donkey kong! It was great to see the skill in them reaching for targets with their jousting pole and the horses made for great colourful action! My boys were both cheering the white horse (I think because the rider was wearing a suit of armour right?!) Needless to say he didn’t win but that didn’t make them any less excited for a photo opportunity and a chance to pat the horse!
A quick snap with the fire chief (or something like that – he was the one who was in charge of the fire!) – he looked the part anyway!!
Another pose with a suit of armour … I think he got snapped with every one we saw!
They both couldn’t resist using the blocks for a quick photo! Now if only I could bring these home for when they both misbehave!! #jokes
Last, but by no means least, as we left we collected the photos that were taken on the way in. You stand in front of a green screen so have no idea what you’re doing except you know you’re starring in some type of scene. Needless to say they are pretty damn cool don’t you think?!
Kryal Castle is open from 10-4 daily with tickets starting at $19 for kids and $89 for a family of 4. Find out more here.
So there you have it! By far one of the most adventurous and exciting weekends we’ve had in a while AND it’s suitable for kids of all ages!
Be sure to jump on over and enter our competition to win 1 of 4 Family Passes for 2 Adults & up to 4 kids to Sovereign Hill
Download the full Winterlude Program