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Sovereign Hill - Ballarat

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by Catherine Wills (subscribe)
I'm in Melbourne often enough - so why not write a bit about some places I've seen :)
Published July 16th 2012
The year is 1851 and the thought of gold has led you the township of Ballarat. Will you make your fortunes here, or will you fail in the quest for gold? Or perhaps you'll just stop by one at a cosy cafe for a tasty treat and purchase a prize from the gold museum.

That's just one way you can take advantage of stepping back in time at Ballarat's Sovereign Hill.

About an hours drive out of Melbourne, here you can enjoy the glory days of yester-years without missing out on the fun of modern days.

The outdoor museum of Sovereign Hill has something for everyone of all ages.

Start by taking a walk down the main street of 1851 and enjoy the old-fashioned styling of the Clarke Brothers' Grocer and the Ballarat Times Office. Here you can indulge in some sweet smelling spices an soaps, or step next-door to the grocer to read about the local news and gossip in authentic 19th century print-offs.

The main street
The main street


The tinsmiths and the blacksmiths will remind you about the way that labor used to be done before machinery became so advanced. See the tinsmith cutting some tin and copper to create some plates and candle lamps. Or watch as the blacksmith makes shoes for the horses that still work around Sovereign Hill.

Speaking of horses, you won't miss out on seeing the magnificent creatures in action. While walking along the main street, be mindful of those horses pulling carts along behind them. This is a fantastic way to see the sites of Sovereign Hill, enjoying the views in a comfortable carriage pulled by exceptionally strong horses.

Horse and cart ride around Sovereign Hill
Horse and cart ride around Sovereign Hill


If you're belly begins to rumble, you won't be disappointed. The Hope Bakery is original from the day, but the food provided is sure to meet modern-day appetites. With meat pies, pasties, biscuits and breads all baked in a traditional wood-fired brick over, the aroma of the store along will get your taste-buds excited.

Also, be sure to treat yourself to a delicious sweet delicacy - the confectionery shop is one not to miss.

And of course we mustn't forget the reason you are here - GOLD. Have your own chance at panning for gold in the river. Spend as long as you like here until you get lucky - persistence in the key to spotting those specks of gold floating along the water.

Panning for gold


Aside from exploring the shopping life of days gone by, Sovereign Hill provides a number of interactive exhibitions to educate you on your visit. Among these are Trapped!, an exhibition about a mining disaster which occurred in 1882, as well as the famous Sound and Light show called 'Blood on the Southern Cross' which plays at nighttime featuring the story of the Eureka Stockade of 1854.

To be even more immersed in education, there is the opportunity to visit an old-fashioned school in Sovereign Hill. There are two schools you can go into and sit on the rather uncomfortable desks and practice some cursive handwriting using a quill and ink. There is even a teacher to help you form those letters properly and give you score out of ten.

A day well spent.


Sovereign Hill is certainly a worthwhile day out for the whole family, friends or couples. With so much to see and do, a day spent in the past will be sure to enrich your present.
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Why? Explore history
When: Anytime.
Where: 39 Magpie Street, Ballarat, Victoria, 3350 Australia
Cost: Depends on age and concession, see website
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