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The Pioneer Settlement Swan Hill

Home > Melbourne > Day Trips | Fun for Children | Fun Things To Do | Historic Houses | Places of Interest
by Jeni Wilson (subscribe)
Teacher educator and author of many teacher reference books. Amused by random ideas and loves random acts of kindness. Enjoys writing humour...seriously!Please see my Instagram: wilsonjeni
Published August 2nd 2014
Take A Stroll Down History Street
History, Pioneer settlement, historic artifacts, old churches, stereoscopic theatre, Devonshire tea, historic machinery, historic tractors, Swan Hill attractions, Sovereign Hill, museum,

'Oh wow, this is cool' was the mantra of the day. This was a surprising response because when we pulled up we had one unwilling participant. He was only persuaded that this was going to be worth it with mention of the old-fashioned lolly shop.

When I told my mother we were going to Swan Hill she reminded me that we went to the Pioneer Settlement when I was a child. In fact it is the only family holiday I do remember. It was inevitable that I take the kids and I am awfully glad I did.

History, Pioneer settlement, historic artifacts, old churches, stereoscopic theatre, Devonshire tea, historic machinery, historic tractors, Swan Hill attractions, Sovereign Hill, museum,
Look closely and you will see an old fashioned bike


The Pioneer Settlement is built around the old church that has original bricks. The other buildings and machinery has been bought to the site and rejuvenated. The result is quirky little streets that cast you back to the yesteryear.

Because we had arrived after lunch we were advised to go straight to the horse and carriage rid in case the volunteer went home. It was a quiet cold winter's day but on the weekend everything is in full steam. When we approached the tree that the horse was tied up on to we noticed two elderly men having a good chinwag on the veranda of a nearby shop. It truly was like walking back in time. The kids couldn't believe the horse ride and the car ride were so bumpy.

History, Pioneer settlement, historic artifacts, old churches, stereoscopic theatre, Devonshire tea, historic machinery, historic tractors, Swan Hill attractions, Sovereign Hill, museum,
Giddy up


In 1925 the Dodge Tourer would have been a sight for sore eyes. Steve told us that it could go 45-70 kms an hour but that would have been bumpy. In those days the roads were poor but the lack of windows probably didn't hamper the spirits of the proud owners of the Dodge.

History, Pioneer settlement, historic artifacts, old churches, stereoscopic theatre, Devonshire tea, historic machinery, historic tractors, Swan Hill attractions, Sovereign Hill, museum,
It was fun to imagine the prestige attached to driving in a car when others walked or rode


We didn't hop on the paddle steamer river cruise after just spending five hours sitting in the car but I'm sure it's a popular and relaxing attraction especially in the summer. The light and sound show at night is meant to be great but was postponed when we were there because of the furious winds.

It is clear that the volunteers and workers, many who appear to be well being their working years, loved this place and know their history. Not only did they answer questions but also they initiated conversations and clearly loved the opportunity to share their knowledge.

History, Pioneer settlement, historic artifacts, old churches, stereoscopic theatre, Devonshire tea, historic machinery, historic tractors, Swan Hill attractions, Sovereign Hill, museum,
How music has changed in a century


When we went into the Drapery, Dot asked if we wanted her to play the instruments. My daughter stepped back when the street piano was played. It was loud and overpowering reminding me of a royal Melbourne Show. She also played an 1896-barrel organ, a pianola and a diamond tipped 1915 Edison record player. The kids weren't impressed by any of the music. It sounded nothing like Eminem. When I asked my son what he thought the record reminded him of he said 'A humongous CD!'

Dot told us that when her children grew up and her husband died this pioneer town became her new family.

History, Pioneer settlement, historic artifacts, old churches, stereoscopic theatre, Devonshire tea, historic machinery, historic tractors, Swan Hill attractions, Sovereign Hill, museum,
This was real life


The recreated streets had lots of old shops to look at. What a collection of artifacts they have. We had great discussions about the printers, post office and the chemist. Most of the old wares the kids had never seen before. It reflects a life so alien to their high tech world. I have to confess I couldn't stand near the dentist too long. Having lost part of a tooth on the way up this just hit a raw nerve.

History, Pioneer settlement, historic artifacts, old churches, stereoscopic theatre, Devonshire tea, historic machinery, historic tractors, Swan Hill attractions, Sovereign Hill, museum,
How long will it take for you to choose?


To be honest I couldn't have cared less if we didn't go to the machinery section but to my surprise we spent a significant amount of time there. True it was hard to get away from Newton and his tales but then again we didn't try hard. It's funny how simple things please. They have a most extensive exhibition of old tractors and my kids had to climb up on every one of them to turn the steering wheels. This was motivated by the fact that the mammoth effort required actually turned the front wheels of some of them.

History, Pioneer settlement, historic artifacts, old churches, stereoscopic theatre, Devonshire tea, historic machinery, historic tractors, Swan Hill attractions, Sovereign Hill, museum,
Miss Daisy, where are you?


Newton (tractor engineer and historian) clearly loved his job. He pulls apart old machines and puts them back together. He told us in great length about the 1929 relic (only two others left in Sweden where they were made) was only meant to take nine weeks to fix but he has documented every part of this operation, which is now up to 18 months.

History, Pioneer settlement, historic artifacts, old churches, stereoscopic theatre, Devonshire tea, historic machinery, historic tractors, Swan Hill attractions, Sovereign Hill, museum,
How old are boys too old for things that move?


The Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement takes up several acres so allow a few hours. If you like you can dress up and take your own photos on your phone, watch horseshoes being made, have a wanted poster created, see wood being turned and you must go to the stereoscopic theatre. Who could believe that this was once considered revolutionary? Your visit could be an all day event if you include a river cruise and lunch or Devonshire tea at the bakery.

History, Pioneer settlement, historic artifacts, old churches, stereoscopic theatre, Devonshire tea, historic machinery, historic tractors, Swan Hill attractions, Sovereign Hill, museum,
A good old fashioned malted milkshake and scones, jam and cream are in order


The kids learnt so much about the early years I am astounded. My son enquired 'Is this really what it was like in the olden days?' and 'When we grow up will this be the olden days?' I learnt a few things today too about history and kids and what they know and don't know.

This is my son's version of where the name for Swan Hill came from: 'Swan Hill has no swans and hardly any hills. It only has one swan shaped hill and that's why they called it Swan Hill. Believe it or not? You'll have to go to find out.
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Why? Have fun learning about history
When: Open everyday except Christmas and Boxing day.
Phone: 5036 2410
Where: Monash Drive, Swan Hill,
Your Comment
Were the toy monkeys on the music organ meant to represent the money collecting pet monkeys musicians used to have?
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12247) 1694 days ago
I loved this review. It brought back so many wonderful memories for me of trips to Swan Hill and the Pioneer Settlement. One of my great-uncles was a founder of the Settlement
by eve.c (score: 2|302) 1691 days ago
Swan Hill was one of my favorite holidays as a child too.
i cant wait to take my son there.
by feeba (score: 2|104) 1693 days ago
Well done for coming 2nd, Jeni.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12247) 1682 days ago
It used to be so busy years ago
by grhmw (score: 1|37) 1692 days ago
Great photos once again, and a great article.
by H. Clare Callow (score: 2|109) 1632 days ago
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