By Gwen O’Toole
Planners seeking a destination that’s something less predictable than a capital city, has an enormous amount of history and offers some seriously delicious dining options are certain to be inspired by Ballarat. Whether you’re inspiring or rewarding your team or organising a multi-day conference, the options here are far more than you might initially think.
Following a transformation over the past year under new ownership, the Mercure Ballarat Hotel and Convention Centre has more space for events than most city-based venues. Located just over an hour’s drive from the Melbourne CBD, the property’s on-site Convention Centre can accommodate big-city sized groups (we’re talking nearly 1000 people for a cocktail function or 850 theatre-style) without a fuss. And that’s just in their Convention Centre, there are plenty of other ballroom spaces, breakout rooms and smaller meeting spaces so that no matter what your group’s size, you’ll be sorted out. When the weather’s right, there’s also plenty of outdoor space that wraps around a waterfront area that’s ideal for alfresco functions.
Event spaces offer plenty of natural light, pillarless space, onsite audio visual technicians, free WiFi and plenty of assistance to theme, entertain or generally assist with making your function exactly what you’re group needs.
With 80 4-star accommodation rooms, including nine two-bedroom apartments, Mercure Ballarat Hotel can easily partner with other local properties to assist with larger group accommodation needs. The on-site restaurant Billy’s Bistro and Bar also offers a great option of casual dining for groups for both breakfast, barista made coffees or simply a casual meal or snack break.
Need ideas for team building activities or where to go for an off-site function? The property is just across the street from historic and multi-award winning Sovereign Hill, an attraction dedicated to the unique gold-mining history of the region. At Sovereign Hill, guests can participate in teambuilding activities such as a mine tour, themed dinners, open fire barbeques or even leave with a themed costumed group photo in historic attire.
Other off-site ideas can include wine tasting, a wine blending activity dining at Mitchell Harris Wines where their barrel room or upstairs function space can be easily transformed into a gorgeous dining space for groups. The menu at Mitchell Harris also reflects the best in locally produced wines and local fine produce.
Additionally, the nearby Art Gallery of Ballarat offers event spaces and a variety of exhibitions that can be included or if you’re clever about timing your event, can be an additional activity for your guests to enjoy whilst visiting the area. The Gallery offers an enormous permanent collection of artworks and each year from October- November, the Archibald Prize Exhibition draws in crowds to view Australia’s most popular art award. The Art Gallery of Ballarat is the only Victorian venue to showcase the exhibition each year.
Event organisers can learn more about events at the Mercure Ballarat Hotel and Convention Centre via the new website at meetinballarat.com.au.