VIC: A day in Ararat

By Cubie - December 22, 2020

I was invited to a baby's full moon (one month old) party in Ballarat. As I was already going to commute to regional VIC, so thought I'll go a bit further to see Ararat since I've been to Ballarat twice a couple of years ago. 
Ararat is about 2.5 hours west from Melbourne, +/- depending on your transportation choice. I took a train to Ararat and was a little shock over the one way train ticket cost of AUD30.80. At time of travel, masks are mandatory in public transports but the train itself wasn't crowded, at least on the day of my commute.  There were plenty of seats going around to for one to choose. I took the 8:16AM train from Southern Cross and arrived in Ararat at 10:45AM. 

Ararat is the only city in Australia to be founded by Chinese immigrants. It was said that many years back in 1857, 700 Chinese miners from Southern China travelled overland from South Australia to Victoria. It was said that if they were to land in Melbourne, they would be charged a head tax of £10 which was a hefty amount at the time. 

Due to this, the prospective Chinese gold miners began landing instead in South Australia and walking hundreds of kilometres to the diggings in Victoria. By stroke of luck, when they were replenishing their water supplies at a spring, they discovered the world's richest shallow alluvial goldfield. 

Likewise Bendigo where there is a Golden Dragon Museum, there is a similar museum in Ararat - Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre. Unfortunately, it is now temporarily closed in response to Covid-19. It was still close when I visited last weekend, however the notice on the door didn't mention when it would be re-opened. 

As I have some time till check-in time, plus I was a little hungry despite having some sandwiches for breakfast. I made a pit stop for brunch at Vines Cafe & Bar. I had a long macchiato and some cauliflower croquettes. 

One of the top sights in Ararat was an unexpected old prison / asylum. There are options of visiting both Aradale and J Ward or just one of them. Aradale was previously a psychiatric hospital until 1998. There are options of day tours or ghost tours to understand the history of Aradale. Or one could visit J Ward which was once a goldfields prison before converted to an asylum for the criminally insane in the 1880's. J ward continued to operate till 1991. It is now a museum offering guided tours of the historic building, it's history and stories. 

I joined J Ward's 1PM guided tour on a Saturday. From the usual 4 sessions daily, it has been reduced to twice a day. Entrance fees of AUD 17 per person. There were only 12 of us including the guide. There were a family of 8, a couple and myself. The tour goes on for about 1.5 hours. 

It started off with some briefing on general J Ward history in a room before heading outdoors. 

Entrance to prison compound

Spot the grapes... said to be carved over years using stones or little things found around the compound

After leaving J Ward Museum, I walked to One Tree Hill Lookout

On paper, it was just a short 4.8km walk from Ararat. My walk from J Ward Museum is said to be 4km according to Google but the last stretch has pretty steep elevation, overall of 77m.

Traffic was very light, on/off there were cars but I was the only person walking. 

One Tree Hill to the left

After many steps of going uphill, the lookout was in view. I was the only one there too. Haha. 

Good views from the top and made me feel like I have earned dinner. 

I wanted to try Sicilians Bar & Restaurant for dinner but it was very busy, both takeaway and eat-in. Not sure if they were all locals but if so, then it must be good right? Anyway, it was too busy and I didn't want to wait so went to another place

So my dinner plan was changed from Pasta Scaloppini to Spicy Noodles with squids. Food was decent. 

So there you go, some options of things to do if you found yourself in Ararat, maybe on your way to the Grampians. 

Side note: Wow, T-3 to Christmas. Merry Christmas :)

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