Follow your (he)art for the weekend at the best galleries, theatres and music venues in Ballarat, Bendigo and Castlemaine.
Friday night: Ballarat
Grab your keys and hit the road to explore Ballarat's live music venues, dining scene and historic theatre. Ballarat is just a 90-minute drive from Melbourne and well and truly rivals its metropolitan neighbour for Friday-night fun. Get into the swing of the weekend with a show at Suttons House of Music, catch touring acts at the Karova Lounge, or join locals for live music at the East. Theatre lovers, see what's on at the historic Her Majesty's Theatre.
Foodies, find hatted Thai at Catfish or get your pop-art and dumpling fix at Fu Man Lou. Tipplers, get crafty at Hop Temple or get to know local grapes at Mitchell Harris Wine Bar.
For a stylish sleep, book in to Lascelles Terrace Boutique Accommodation.
See: Suttons House of Music; Her Majesty's Theatre; Karova Lounge; The East
Eat: Catfish; Fu Man Lou
Drink: Hop Temple; Mitchell Harris Wine Bar
Sleep: Lascelles Terrace Boutique Accommodation
Saturday morning: Ballarat
Wake up and wander the galleries: start with the exceptional collections of Australian art at the Art Gallery of Ballarat and contemporary counterp(art)s at the Lost Ones Gallery.
Need a he(art) starter? Coffee and breakfast is an art form at Yellow Espresso and Eclectic Tastes.
See: Art Gallery of Ballarat; Lost Ones Gallery
Eat/drink:Yellow Espresso; Eclectic Tastes
Saturday afternoon: Bendigo
Make your way to Bendigo for a rollicking Saturday afternoon on the Blues Tram, rolling through the streets with local brews and blues on the first Saturday afternoon of every month.
Take a leisurely wander through Bendigo's arts precinct, taking in the boutique galleries on View Street and the street art on Chancery Lane.
For a sun-downer, make a laneway stop at Dispensary Bar & Diner.
See: Blues Tram; Chancery Lane
Drink/eat: Dispensary Bar & Diner
Saturday night: Bendigo
As night falls, take in a show at new-kid-on-the-arts-block Ulumbarra Theatre or its seasoned cousin the Capital.
Treat yourself to local culinary excellence at hatted Masons of Bendigo and perfect the art of a long slumber in the Schaller Studio Art Series Hotel.
See: Ulumbarra Theatre; Capital Theatre
Eat: Masons of Bendigo
Sleep: The Schaller Studio
Sunday morning: Bendigo
Spend the morning wandering to your art's content at the Bendigo Art Gallery, one of the country's oldest and largest galleries with an impressive roll call of touring blockbuster exhibitions.
Fuel up with specialty small-batch brews from Brewhouse Coffee Roasters and brekky at Percy and Percy before making your way to Castlemaine.
See: Bendigo Art Gallery
Eat/drink: Brewhouse Coffee Roasters; Percy and Percy
Sunday afternoon: Castlemaine
Meander home via Castlemaine's gallery and markets, fuelling your creative pursuits with local brews and menus.
Wander the landscapes at Castlemaine Art Museum, home to a specialist collection of traditional and contemporary Australian art. Venture to creative hub The Mill for seemingly endless stalls of upcycled, vintage and bespoke local treasures, from clothing and coffee to furniture and beer.
For further, sustainable sustenance, stop at The Local before wandering back to Melbourne.
See: Castlemaine Art Museum, The Mill
Eat/drink: Castlemaine Brewing Co. (at The Mill); The Local
Optional extras: Castlemaine
Take the long play option and spend the evening in town. Catch a gig at live music pub The Bridge Hotel or at the beautifully restored art deco Theatre Royal, host to films and touring acts.
For dinner, make popcorn your main at the Royal, feast on good-quality pub grub at The Bridge Hotel or indulge in high-end Provincial fare hatted at Public Inn, hatted by The Age Good Food Guide.
See: The Bridge Hotel; Theatre Royal
Eat/drink: The Bridge Hotel; Public Inn