‘Pride of Ballarat’: Craig’s Royal Hotel sold for $13m

Craig’s Royal Hotel has sold.
Craig’s Royal Hotel has sold.

A landmark hotel once dubbed the “pride of Ballarat” by American novelist Mark Twain will stay open for business in the heart of town.

Craig’s Royal Hotel at 10 Lydiard St South sold for an undisclosed price believed to be about $13 million.

The gold rush-era building has hosted author Twain, members of the royal family and notable Aussies, including Sir Don Bradman, Dame Nellie Melba and Sir Robert Menzies, since first opening its doors in 1853.

Hospitality giant Black Rhino Group, which already operates 15 venues across Victoria including Richmond Social, bought the building.

Inside the landmark building.

Will Connolly, vice president of selling agent JLL Hotels and Hospitality, says Black Rhino Group planned to keep the hotel’s 37 boutique rooms, The Gallery restaurant, Craig’s Cafe, bars, function rooms and 45 poker machines running.

“They were initially attracted because of the great reputation the hotel has in the food industry, but also its strong gaming trade,” Connolly says.

“This property was extremely unique because of its history and prestige.”

The agent says the vendors, John and Mary Finning, were happy to sell for close to their original $13 million asking price.

There are 37 rooms inside the hotel.

The couple renewed the building to its glory days across seven years, after buying it for $1.65 million in 1999. Finning previously told the Herald Sun it was at “backpacker standard” before being redeveloped.

“I don’t think there’s another hotel in Australia that has such a colourful and significant history,” Finning says.

“Partially because it was located in Ballarat, which they say was the richest city in the world during the gold rush.”

The landmark first opened in 1853 as ‘The Ballarat’ before its namesake Walter Craig took possession in 1857.

The grand gold rush-era building from the street. Picture: Ian Currie

The word ‘Royal’ was added to the name soon after, when Queen Victoria’s second son, Prince Alfred, made the hotel his headquarters during Ballarat’s first ever visit from a royal family member.

King George V and Queen Mary also visited when they were Duke and Duchess of York.

The hotel’s namesake also had a legendary racing connection — his horse, Nimblefoot, won the 1870 Melbourne Cup.

This article from the Herald Sun originally appeared as “Craig’s Royal Hotel: Ballarat landmark sells to major hospitality group”.