Ararat was originally inhabited by the traditional Tjapwurrong Aboriginal people, a rich culture comprising some 40 clans, or around 4,000 individuals. Eels were a staple food for the Tjapwurrong and in autumn, neighbouring clans gathered at the fishing grounds at Lake Bolac to take advantage of the annual eel migration.
Europeans first settled in the Grampians region in the 1840s. In 1841, Horatio Spencer Wills stopped to camp near a large mountain whilst driving his stock through the area and named it Mt Ararat, writing in his diary: “like the Ark we rested”.
A party of Chinese prospectors stumbled upon the world’s richest shallow alluvial goldfield there in 1857, a discovery that quickly attracted thousands of other prospectors and the town, now known as Ararat, grew.