Sovereign Hill is an immersive, open-air, living museum depicting Ballarat during it’s gold-rush prime (1851-1861).
The first area is the settlement/diggings. It shows how the miners lived and worked during the gold rush (which wasn’t in very nice conditions). A recreated Chinese mining settlement was also in this area.
One of my favorite parts was mining for gold in the small creek adjacent to the diggings. And yes, I found some!
We also had the opportunity to go into the recreated Red Hill Mine. It was dark and narrow, but was much brighter and larger than it would have been in the 1850’s.
The second largest gold nugget in the world, known as the “Welcome Nugget” was discovered in the Red Hill Mine in 1858. It weighed 69 kg and would be worth over $3 million today. A model of the nugget is shown off down in the mine.
The main street of Sovereign Hill is based on Main Street in Ballarat East at the time. The shops lining the way are authentic shops recreated from lithographs of Ballarat East in the late 1800’s. They include a bakery, jeweler, grocery, apothecary, candle shop, tentmaker, stables, undertaker, bowling alley, library, bank, and post office. Lots of trades are showcased as well (they were also needed to keep the town going) including blacksmith, tinsmith, wheelwright, farrier, and coach builder. Houses and schools are also brought to life to complete the entire town scene.
In the middle of the heat of the afternoon the “must-see” Redcoat firing took place. The Redcoats came to Ballarat after the Eureka Stockade in order to keep the peace. This type of display reminded me a lot of Colonial Williamsburg.
Another must-see was the gold pour where pure gold is poured into a 3 kg bullion bar worth AUD $160,000. After it was poured, the gold was still so hot that a piece of wood just touching it instantly caught fire.
The Gold Museum is just across the street from Sovereign Hill and it tells the tale of gold mining in Ballarat as well as shows off plenty of examples of nuggets. All of the gold pictured below was found in or around Ballarat.