One of the great things about the award winning outdoor museum Sovereign Hill at Ballarat is the amount of activities that one can participate in. You can either dig for gold, pan for gold in the river, ogle bars of gold in sheltered comfort, experience how miners lived, or frolick amongst “denizens” of a former gold-mining town in the 19th century. While not all that glitters is real gold – for obvious security reasons – one can be fairly assured of having a glowing and goldilicious good time here!
Our first stop at the Gold Museum brings us face to face with the 4.4 kg, $250,000 Goldasaurus, a huge nugget of pure gold.
Located northwest of Melbourne city, Ballarat was famous for being a mining town, and the site generated the greatest amount of gold during the Victorian Gold Rush of the 1850s. The city occupies an area of 740 square kilometres and houses an estimated population of over 88,000, and has a mixture of Victorian-era architecture interspersed by modern day buildings. Considered one of the state’s premier tourism destination, Ballarat attracts some 1.8 million day trip visitors and about 13% of Victoria’s annual 1.1 million overseas visitors.
Taking a walk along the streets and roads of Ballarat, one can’t help feeling that it has retained much of that old world small town charm of a bygone era, while still modernising itself. The streetscape is vastly different from Melbourne as you may have guessed, and while vestiges of gold-generated opulence can be seen in its buildings, most are classically elegant rather than overtly ostentatious.
The Ballarat train station built in 1862 is the first place to check out. One can see that the name Victorian Railways befits the regal look of this building. The V-Line train from Melbourne stops here.
Perched atop a hill in the gold mining city of Ballarat in Victoria, Sovereign Hill is an award winning outdoor museum cum heritage attraction which first opened in November 1970. Recreating the essence of a 19th century mining town, the open-air museum occupies a sprawling 25 hectare site that is linked to one of the richest alluvial gold rush in the world. Adding to its authenticity are staff members dressed in Victorian-era clothes who are friendly in an unpretentious manner.
Unlike commercially oriented theme parks plastered with sponsor brands, Sovereign Hill charms with realistic portrayal of life in the 19th century devoid of 20th and 21st century logos. Many of the shops also adopt traditional ways of making and retailing heritage goods and services, from blacksmiths to bars and bakeries. What’s especially surprising were the multiple layers of experience which one encounters as a visitor, which whisks one magically away to a different time and place.
Our day began with a bang as a costumed musket-eer shows us how traditional guns were fired.
What is the most significant moment in Australia’s history?
In the hearts of many, such a moment is represented by the Eureka Stockade, a bloody rebellion of miners against their colonial government oppressors in November 1854. Happening in the gold mines of Ballarat, the tale of the Eureka Stockade is one peppered with values of hardship, courage, determination, and the fight for freedom. What began as a drunken fight leading to the death of Scottish gold miner James Scobie ended up triggering a major skirmish between 276 British military police and soldiers against some 150 men who fenced themselves in with a man-made stockade.