In Victoria, a lot of primary schools organised field trips or camps to Ballarat to explore Sovereign Hill and study the significant historical time-period of the Australian Gold Rush, which spanned from 1823 to 1896. My primary school was one of them. As a child, I had loved visiting Sovereign Hill, The Gold Museum and watching the Blood on The Southern Cross Sound and Light Show. My partner, who was raised in New South Wales, had never attended Sovereign Hill. At first, I found this shocking, but then delightful, as it would give me the perfect excuse to go back to Sovereign Hill and see whether it could live up to the childhood-memory
At first, I was concerned that Sovereign Hill wouldn't be as interesting as my childhood-memories would have me believe. However, I'm glad to say my doubts were unfounded, in a way, Sovereign Hill was more enjoyable as an adult rather than a child. As a child, I had to stay with the group out of safety concerns, which meant I often had to linger at stores or locations long after I had already explored them, which for a child, is dreadfully boring. As an adult, I could spend as long or as little time as I pleased. I could go see any event I wanted and bypass any event that I didn't want to see. I was also able to buy more confectionery this time around.
I truly enjoyed Sovereign Hill and highly recommend it to everyone. I also recommend getting in early, not just because it's a long drive, but because the entry queue can get quite long. If you get there before 10:00 am, you can always wait at the Ballarat Beechworth Bakery. The Ballarat Beechworth Bakery is located on Bridge Mall, 6 Grenville St, Ballarat Central and is open from 06:30 am to 06:00 pm.
Sovereign Hill: 10.00 am to 5.00 pm every day except Christmas Day. During daylight saving, Sovereign Hill is open until 5.30 pm.
Gold Museum (which is on the other side of the car-park from Sovereign Hill): 9.30 am to 5.30 pm every day except Christmas Day.During daylight saving, the Gold Museum is open until 6 pm.
Parking Options: There is free parking available, but there are limited spots and you may have to park on the nearby grassy area. I would recommend using the Vline train service (if possible) as Vline also provides a coach-service that will transport passengers directly to Sovereign Hill from the Ballarat Train Station.
Prices When my partner and I decided to go to Sovereign Hill, we made sure to go in the off-peak season and we made sure to get there early (09:30 am – 10:00 am). It still took us half an hour to get through the queue system and purchase tickets. I strongly recommend pre-purchasing the required number of tickets online, and you can do so here
The tickets for the underground mine tours are not included in the ticket price and you must go to the building pictured above, queue there for the required tickets and wait for the tour. Spaces are limited on the tour and, as they are popular, you do need to line up straight away if this is what you're interested in. My partner and I purchased tickets for the 2 pm tour and spent the in-between time exploring Sovereign Hill. This worked well for us, but unfortunately that meant we couldn't go see some of the other demonstrations that were occurring at the same time.
Child (5-15): $4.00
Family (2A & 4C): $20:00
Red Hill Mine Tours are free.
Hat and Sun-screen: While there are some sections of undercover board-walk outside of the shops in the main street, once you move past that, there is very little undercover area. I recommend applying sunscreen beforehand and bringing along a suitable hat for high-levels of sun-exposure.
While there is a modern café available, the queues for the café are long and the food (in my opinion) is a little overpriced. It's also rather disconcerting to go from the historical setting of Sovereign Hill to the modern setting of a café (or at least this was the case for me). You're much better off bringing a packed lunch as, while there are limited undercover areas, there are plenty of outdoor seating areas to choose from.
Sovereign Hill Visitor's Map (PDF) - There are attendants who hand these out at the ticket office, but you can print one if you'd prefer to know ahead of time what you would like to look at. The map also includes what times the daily activities will be occurring.
The Daily Activities:
While there are so many great things to see and to do at Sovereign Hill, I would personally recommend the following:
The demonstration occurs in a separate location to the confectionery store in the main street. You can find the demonstration place located on the map (it's number 27). It's completely worth watching the attendants make boiled sweets, such as the renowned Raspberry Drops (which are delicious, buy as many jars as possible).
Watching the gold be melted down and reformed back into a solid gold-bar was, personally, one of the best events. Unfortunately, the blacksmith forgery is a small room and with raised levels of seating, so everyone must group in tightly and there's limited room for people with prams and people with wheelchairs.
Candlemaker (a 20-minute session) and Candle-Dipping:
The Candle-making demonstration and the candle-dipping (where you can buy and dip your own coloured candles) are both in the same place, location 37 on the map. You can also buy lovely smelling soap here as well (although it is a little more expensive). It's a great interactive activity and it's very popular with children.