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Published November 30th 2020
The Ultimate Goldfields Experience
If you're a fan of Sovereign Hill, you'll be pleased to know that the Grand Dame of Victorian tourism icons is about to undergo a major facelift. With the family favourite attraction about to turn 50, the Federal Government has injected $10.1 million into the first of four redevelopment phases to be implemented between 2021 and 2030.
Sovereign Hill has come a long way since opening in 1970 and an injection of $10.1 Million will ensure it's attracting thousands of visitors well into the future. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Key elements of Stage 1 include a Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades, an Australian Centre for Gold Rush Collections and a Gold Pavilion exhibition space with completion dates pencilled in for 2022 and 2023. The Centre for Gold Rush Collections will be housed in the revamped Gold Museum adjacent to Sovereign Hill.
Sadly the Empire Bowling Saloon is closed due to Covid restrictions .....
..... but visitors can still watch more than $100,000 worth of molten gold be turned into a 3-Kilogram ingot. Photos: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The idea of a Sovereign Hill pioneer village was first considered in the 1960s aimed at preserving historic buildings and recreating the gold diggings that gave birth to the city of Ballarat. It first opened to the public on 29th November 1970.
Pre-Covid Sovereign Hill was attracting more than 750,000 visitors annually and injecting millions of dollars into the local economy.
Like much of the state, Sovereign Hill was forced into lockdown over recent months but the good news is that with Victoria now enjoying a return to 'Covid Normal' living, Sovereign Hill has reopened its doors to 20% of its normal capacity on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 AM to 5 PM. And it's celebrating by offering Adult tickets at $39, Children $20 and a Family of four, five or six at $99. At this stage, ticket sales are limited to 1000 guests per day.
Horses play a big part at Sovereign Hill, thrilling crowds for the last 50-years. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Many of the attractions well-known activities, including troopers and other characters in costume on the street, panning for gold in the diggings and coach rides, will be available but with COVID-safe restrictions in place to ensure the well-being of everyone. Daily activities and demonstrations which will go ahead include musket firing, candle-making, wheelwright, blacksmith and printing demonstrations and access to the Battery House and Boiler House.
Gold Pouring demonstrations will go ahead with a maximum of 20 visitors per demonstration, mine tours will continue with a maximum of 10 visitors per tour and Brown's Confectionary making demonstration will go ahead with a maximum of 7 visitors per session.
You will be required to wear a facemask when inside and when queuing. Masks are not required outside when you're able to socially distance.Your best bet is to visit the webpage www.soverignhill.com.au for up to the minute guidelines, a full list of daily activities and on-line bookings.
You don't just visit Sovereign Hill, you live the experience of the greatest gold rush the world has ever seen. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
With COVID restrictions under constant review and with the lifting of further restrictions likely in the near future, I like to think that Sovereign Hill will soon be back to full operation and looking forward to its major redevelopment over the next few years.
Sovereign Hill is a vibrant and exciting experience where visitors do more than learn about gold field's history - you live it and can't help but come away with a newfound respect for those hardy diggers and their enterprising ways.
Getting There .....
Sovereign Hill is in Golden Point, Ballarat 119-kilometres northwest of Melbourne and about a 90-minute drive via the National Highway M8.
Great informative article Ian. I have only been to Sovereign Hill once, soon after it opened. Those photos of the horses brought back many memories as my father was a market gardener and his 'tractor' was one draft horse. They are gentle giants.