Sovereign Hill: an open air museum that feels rather like stepping onto the set of Westworld. It exhibits Australia’s exciting goldrush history, and the effect that gold had on the town of Ballarat, where it’s situated. It first opened in 1970 and has since become an iconic attraction for the state of Victoria, attracting around 450,000 visitors each year. You’ll be able to really immerse yourself in a wealth of activities and displays, discovering what life was really like in the 1850s with costumed actors bringing the town to life, and a number of animals residing there, including 40 horses. The place even offers accommodation if you wish to stay there!
This was my first time visiting Sovereign Hill, and about Riley’s fourth which says a lot as he was keen to re-visit and share the experience with me. It’s costly to get in (these places usually are) at $57 per adult, however the content within is well worth it. Additionally, prices of gifts and souvenirs in shops through the town are very reasonably priced, even a little on the cheap side, but not lacking quality. My souvenir shopping needs were certainly taken care of.
We had an absolute ball. We booked in to have our photographs taken in true 1850s fashion, something I’d also experienced at Blists Hill in Shropshire, England, when I went with a friend years ago. Dressing up as a lady and gentleman and posing for our photograph was a huge highlight of the day, although this was another costly activity at $38 each. All the same, we were keen to have it done and received one large photo and two small ones printed for the cost.
There are numerous demonstrations running throughout the day at regular intervals. Luckily, your ticket includes another days entry in the price if you feel you haven’t seen enough – however, we managed to cram a lot into a day. We saw the gold pouring ($180,000 worth to be exact) a musket firing and voltaic battery demonstration, sweet making, forging at the blacksmiths, and a harnessing demonstration at the stables for the resident Clydesdales that pulled the carriage round the town. Each demo was very well presented, engaging and informative. The gentleman doing the voltaic battery demo was especially memorable, with his flawless acting and humerous presentation.
We even panned for gold in the river and spent time exploring the houses, shops, and meeting the animals. The actors are fantastic: every so often, and if you’re in the right place, there will be a scene played out on the street. From newly weds making a drama and picking a fight with another gentleman outside the jewellery store to Redcoats marching the street, there was always something going on. You can find out where and when to catch these little theatricals on a board in the town theatre.
We thoroughly enjoyed browsing all the little stores around town and souvenir collecting. From iron purchases at the blacksmiths to your very own printed wanted poster, there’s a lot you could easily spend your money on. The candle shop contains a vast array of colourful waxes, and soaps with divine scents for just a few dollars. There’s also plenty of little trinkets, jewellery, and even household brass pots and pans you can buy.
The town was beautifully kept, from lovely gardens to the well maintained and preserved buildings, providing an insanely authentic feel. I discovered a life size wooden Clydesdale horse in the children’s play park that Riley had trouble getting me off in the end!
We’d absolutely recommend splashing the cash on this one and heading here for a day out. Riley and I stayed until closing time and still didn’t see everything. There was also candle making and wheelwrighting to see, and many demonstrations are interactive as well as hugely informative. The warm, freshly made raspberry drops we were handed out at the sweet making demo went down an absolute treat!