Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published September 28th 2016
Head On Down The Highway To Surprising Ararat
Ararat is a large rural town in Western Victoria, established in the mid 1800's following the discovery of gold. Steeped in history and set in idyllic rural surrounds the town extends a welcoming hand to visitors. Long touted as the Gateway to the Grampians and only an hour's drive from Ballarat this sometimes overlooked holiday destination has much to offer. So come by and take some time out to relax and explore.
Take a ghost tour of Aradale (Photo from Aradale Ghost Tours - Aradale Lunatic Asylum)
1. Aradale Day Tours. Opened as the Ararat Lunatic Asylum in 1865, Aradale operated as a psychiatric hospital until its closure in 1998. Tours of the facility which has over 70 buildings, run on Sundays and Wednesdays and include commentary of the institution's history and of the history of the Victorian mental health system.
2. Aradale Ghost Tours. Eerie Tours present ghost tours, paranormal investigations and dinner and accommodation deals at Aradale. During its 130 year history, more than 13,000 people died in the psychiatric hospital which claims to be one of the most haunted locations in the country.
3. J Ward Museum. Originally established as a goldfields prison in 1859, J Ward was converted to an asylum for the criminally insane in the 1880's which continued to operate until 1991. It is now a museum offering daily guided tours of the historic building with commentary about its history and the telling of some of its many stories.
J Ward (Photo by J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria)
4. Green Hill Lake. Just 4km out of town on the Western Highway, Greenhill Lake is the go to place for recreational water sports. Set in picturesque countryside the area also offers a number of bush walking tracks. Camp grounds at the lake have public toilets, showers, drinking water, BBQ's, picnic tables and a children's playground.
5. Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre. In 1857 a group of Chinese miners discovered the Canton Lead which gave rise to the establishment of the town of Ararat. The Heritage Centre displays artefacts from the period and houses exhibitions about the history of immigrant miners in the mid 1800's. Visitors can have a go at gold panning, try calligraphy, play Chinese games and learn about the Chinese language.
Lions guard the entrance (Photo from Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre Facebook Page)
6. Railway Heritage Museum. Established in 1995 to preserve the railway history of the region the museum contains two historic signal boxes originally commissioned in 1891, a collection of railway memorabilia and a working model train.
7. Jailhouse Rock Festival. This annual festival which has been running since 1995 celebrates the 1950's and 1960's. Throughout the town there is music, rock 'n roll dancing, period fashions, cars and motorcycles, food and drink, merchandise stalls and more.
Cars from the 50's and 60's. (Photo from Ararat Jailhouse Rock Festival Facebook Page)
8. Langi Morgala Museum. The museum is named in the local Aboriginal language for 'home of yesterday.' The historic 1874 building was originally a wool and wheat store and now houses Ararat's social history collection featuring objects from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries including gold fields and aboriginal artefacts, large machinery, and a refurbished blacksmith's shop.
9.One Tree Hill Lookout. This lookout just 2kms from town on One Tree Hill Road offers 360 degree views across Ararat, The Grampians, Mount Langi Ghiran, the Black Range and vast expanses of Western District Plains. There is a picnic shelter at the lookout.
Ararat from One Tree Hill lookout (Photo by WalkingMelbourne CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
10.Ararat Regional Art Gallery. Housed in the historic town hall building the Gallery features both in-house and touring exhibitions in addition to exhibitions by local and visiting artists and those resulting from community projects.
11.Heritage Buildings. With a history dating back to the mid 1800's it is no surprise Ararat is home to a significant number of historical buildings. These include the imposing 1899 Town Hall, the 1871 Shire Hall, the 1899 Brigidine Convent of the Sacred Heart and the 1938 Midland Theatre. Take a walking tour of Barkly Street or a self-drive tour of Greater Ararat.
Ararat Town Hall (Photo by J.T. Collins collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria)
12.Alexandra Gardens. These pleasant gardens established in 1873 include a lake, a fernery, a waterfall, an orchid house, mature trees, floral beds, herb gardens, rose gardens, historic fountains and wishing wells and a bridge to an Asian garden island. There is an easy 800 metre lake walk and facilities include free BBQ's, public toilets, and a children's playground.
13. Chalambar Golf Club. For those of you who like a spot of golf this picturesque rural club at the base of One Tree Hill is rated in Victoria's Top 50 public access golf courses. The club offers a Par 70 layout, two lawn bowling greens, and a bar and bistro.
Fancy a spot of golf in this picturesque setting (Photo from Chalambar Golf Club Facebook Page)
14.Performing Arts Centre. Situated in the town hall building the Ararat Performing Arts Centre has a busy calendar. Local and visiting artists and touring shows are regularly staged. Check upcoming events to see what's on during your stay.
15.Pied Piper Gallery. Across the road from the historic town hall the Pied Piper Gallery features fine art, photography, lead lighting, textiles, quilts, woodwork, jewellery, metalwork and Grandma's craft with an emphasis on supporting local artists.
16.The Grampians. Ararat is known as The Gateway to the Grampians, a rugged sandstone mountain range thought to be 380 million years old. There are a number of lookouts and walking trails in the Grampians from which visitors can marvel at spectacular rock formations, waterfalls, wildflowers, and native wildlife.
Visit the nearby Grampians (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
18. Wineries. Established in Ararat in 1970 Montara Wines is only one of a number of wineries in the Grampians area which includes Best's Winery, The Gap Vineyard, Grampians Estate, Kimbarra Wine, Mount Langi Ghiran, Seppelt Winery, and Westgate Vineyard.
Mist over the Montara vineyards with Mount Langi Ghiran visible in the distance (Photo from Montara Wines Facebook Page)
20.Stay a While. There is so much to see and do in Ararat and the surrounding areas you will surely want to stay a while. Choose from a wide array of accommodation options from hotels, motels, B&B's, and holiday homes to caravan parks and camping grounds.
Ararat is around 200kms and about two and a quarter hours from Melbourne's CBD on the Western Highway. More information can be obtained from the Ararat and Grampians Visitor Information Centre by telephoning 1800 657 158 or (03) 5355 0281 or by visiting the website.