For those seeking a tree change less than an hour from Melbourne, Ballan – with a population of less than 3000 and a median property price still well below $400,000 – offers a surprisingly affordable and appealing opportunity.
Just 78 kilometres north-west of Melbourne and with 18 direct train services a day, Ballan (with its own mineral springs) boasts some of the earthy appeal of neighbouring Daylesford, but with more of a quiet small town ambience amid a wealth of quirky local cafes and op shops.
Ballan was originally part of the tribal area of the Wauthorong people (part of the Kulin nation) before gold was discovered in the region in the 1850s, at which time the first white settlers moved into the area. Today it sits in the middle of a thriving wine and springs region – with towns including Trentham, Blackwood, Daylesford and Ballarat all within easy access – but it still retains its country charm.
For Elke Kerr, who works for an environmental non-government organisation in Melbourne, Ballan made sense. She was searching for an affordable town that was on the train line to Melbourne so she could commute daily.
“Ballan was perfect. It has everything I need, which isn’t much. Op shops, a couple of cafes, hardware and farm supplies and a nursery,” she says.
She purchased her 1930s weatherboard house on 800-square metres in May, 2015, for $259,000 and has since opened up the fireplaces, built fences around it, replaced gutters and transformed the formerly overgrown back yard into a thriving garden complete with fruit trees and veggies.
“I was looking for a place that still had the country town feel, that was not too over developed, and retained its original architecture and great community.”
She says the town “isn’t too gentrified” and has a good mix of people including old locals, farmers, families and artists.
According to Mark Dudley, branch manager at Rayner First National Real Estate, the town is changing and the property market booming, but many of his clients are baby boomers wanting to get back to their grass roots.
“We get a lot people from the city who say they are just sick of having to live on top of others and wanting to reconnect with the forests, fresh air and animals,” he says. “Ballan also appeals because its one of the easiest cities to commute to – its a very direct road and rail link.
“On top of that, Ballan is still one of the most affordable places around. It’s between several major centres – Melbourne, Ballarat and Geelong – so people find it easy to commute from here with lots of options in terms of jobs and transport.”
- Visit Ballan’s Mineral Springs located about five kilometres west of the town centre, near the entrance to the Bostock Reservoir picnic area;
- Spend the day sifting through the town’s five op shops, including the quirky Steptoes with its fairytale inspired tiled front garden and several rooms of clothes and knick knacks;
- Enjoy great organic coffee and try the Dukkah eggs with coriander and mint peas on poached eggs at the Tin Plate cafe in Ingles Street;
- Take a 15 kilometre walk to Mount Hope in the Wombat State Forest – just a short drive from Ballan.