Ballarat, Victoria, Australia is around 80 minutes on the train from Melbourne (catch your train from Southern Cross Station). It also happens to be the home of an annual rockabilly festival with retro and vintage clothing stalls, 1940s and 1950s makeovers, year-round rock’n’roll dance classes and some excellent charity shops.
The best time to come to Ballarat if you love retro and vintage fashion, music and cars is the annual Ballarat Beat festival held every February, although the amazing secondhand and vintage shopping is year-round. The Ballarat Beat attracts vintage cars, committed rockers dressed to the hilt, international rockabilly bands and the conversion of Ballarat’s beautiful old pubs into 1950’s venues.
You can drop into the Ballarat Beat festival and watch the fashion parades, trawl the stalls or see some bands at no charge – but if you’d like to make a proper weekend of it, your Rockabilly Passport gives access all areas – for the weekend.
How do you find the festival? Get off the train and it’s in front of you on Lydiard Street. Walk 15 minutes and you’ll find one of the best vintage clothing and accessories shops in Australia. It’s called That Little Vintage Shop and it’s at 13 Main Road. You can find straw baskets of joy, parked outside the shop, to proper vintage prices for European and Australian designers.
The key to That Little Vintage Shop is the superb taste of its owners who make special buying trips and return with everything from Mr John and Merivale Seventies classics, to no-label velvet evening gowns. After you’ve finished shopping, cross the road to Cake Bakeshop, at 30 Main Road, which has tiny fairy cakes and a good selection of tea. Five minutes away from That Little Vintage Shop, you will find Bridge Mall, and two excellent charity shops – Vinnies (St. Vincent de Paul) and Salvos (The Salvation Army). Bargains ahoy. There was a pair of Christian Loboutin shoes, from Paris to you.
Another 15 minute walk away you’ll find Rewind Ballarat, which is small but cool – at 42 Armstrong Street North – with lots of Australiana from the 1960s and 1970s and a good clothes rack. You should have no problem finding something to wear at the Ballarat Beat after that.
You can’t leave town without seeing one of the biggest hauls of 1950s-1970s stuff in Australia. Take a taxi to The Mill Markets (ring 131 008) and you will find a huge barn full of retro and vintage furniture, clothes, accessories, collectables, records, magazines and toys.