We’ve spent a good of time taking a step into the past this week, and it’s really been a lot of fun.
1850s Gold Rush
Ballarat was the site of Australia’s gold rush in the 1850s. One of the town’s big attractions celebrates that early history. Sovereign Hill is essentially an open-air museum dedicated to re-creating the first decade of the big gold rush.
In addition to old-style buildings, all the staff are dressed in period costume. Much of the machinery used for the mining industry has been preserved and is kept in working order so that you get a real feel for how things were done.
One of my favorite demonstrations was the gold pouring. Getting gold from the form its find it in the ground to ingot form for sale was quite the process. They have a very cool demonstration showing the final process of melting it down, purifying it, and then pouring it into the ingot mold. Kids will get a bit of physics education as well.
Your admission ticket gets you into most of the activities, including gold panning, but there are a few others events that require an additional purchase. At the candlemakers, they lead a very informative presentation on candlemaking prior to the kids (and adults if you want) being able to do some candle dipping on their own. There are also a few mine “tours” which can be interesting if you’ve never done something like it. You only go down 18 meters (60 feet) into the mine, but it is still interesting. They’ve put together some entertainment that goes along with the mine tour and included some really great cultural and historical information.
Most of the extra activities are offered at very reasonable prices, and the mine tours offer a family ticket which can save you quite a fair amount of money.
If you’re interested in coming back the next day, you can get your admission ticket validated at the site’s post office (make sure the name you write on the ticket matches your photo ID because you’ll need to show that for readmission). This gives you free admission on the 2nd day, but it does have to be the consecutive day. When you return, enter the building and turn to your right instead of going through the normal ticket lines. They process the 2nd-day visits.
Parking is also free. There are a few different establishments offering food and beverage, and you can expect to pay typical restaurant prices. If you have the Ballarat Pass, it includes admission to Sovereign Hill (and yes, you can still get the 2nd day for free). The mine tours and most of the shops accept credit/debit cards, and there is an ATM machine located in the food kiosk area.
When you’re done at Sovereign Hill, you can cross the street and check out the gold museum. Your admission ticket also gives you free admission into the museum. I wasn’t as impressed with the museum so can’t really encourage people to make a special visit.
We really enjoyed our visit here and did return the 2nd day for more fun.
Also included with the Pass is admission to Kryal Castle. This is billed as a medieval adventure park. However, the park is really more of an interest if you have younger children. We went with a friend and her 12-year-old son, and both boys agreed it just wasn’t that interesting for older kids. I actually felt it was a bit of a letdown. Their website and brochure make it seem much better than it proved to be for both our families.
This one gets a “go ahead and skip it” from Tigger and I. Go to the wildlife park instead.
Do you like to take a step into the past and do any type of historical travel? What was your favorite experience?