Sovereign Hill is in the town of Ballarat. It is an 1851 gold mining town that has
been recreated on the site of the original mining area. It is not a “heritage town”
where old buildings have been gathered for display and preservation. It is totally
created on a Disneyland scale. It is quite authentic and has been around long enough
to give all the buildings and mine equipment weathering typical of what one expects
in a boom town. Entry was expensive but we did get a lot for our money. We were there
There was an area representing Chinese miners who were and extensive group of miners
arriving in the thousands and setting up their own mines and areas for living.
Through the middle is a small creek where one can pan for gold. This morning it is
overrun with kids. Several school groups have chosen today for their end-of-school/start-of-summer-vacation
Every morning (twice on really busy days) the crew salts the creek with real gold;
so it is possible to have success for your effort.
Another important feature are the many people dressed as if they lived and worked
in the town. There were soldiers, bakers, shopkeepers, blacksmiths, miners, stage
coach driver, etc.
The town actually sits atop an old gold mine. The original steam powered equipment
is still running. The large gray building to the left of the smoke stack houses the
main winding gear and behind it is the boiler.
We were (for an additional fee) able to ride down into the mine in this sloped car.
Down below we were led through a series of tunnels that had been lined with the post
and crib walls. Periodically there was a side display, like a diorama in a museum,
and the guide explained the significance of the display. We could just as well been
on the surface in a building for all the “real” mine we saw.
Several times a day they have a display of pouring an ingot of gold. The re-enactor
does really pour an ingot of gold, worth about $160,000 AUD and after he cools it
you can go up and touch it. That’s about as close to that much gold as any of us
will ever get.
Among the things happening was a tinsmith making brass bowls and lids, candlestick
holders and other small items on the belt driven lathes and tools.
After marching through town to the beat of a drum we had a ceremonial firing of old
muzzle-loading rifles at the town square.
Then it was on to the candle makers. Here you could purchase a pre-made candle, either
smooth or lumpy sided, and dip it into the colored waxes. Depending on the order
and depth of dipping it was possible to make a pretty or a horrid candle. Kathy’s
came out pretty but you should have seen the results of the more enthusiastic of
the children. Have I told you yet, the place was overrun with rug rats!
By the middle of the day the kids had given up on their gold mining efforts and Kathy
decided she wanted to try her luck at it.
As you can see the bank is littered with the gold pans and all one had to do was
pick one up, scoop up some sandy creek bottom and swirl it around. And Kathy did
find some fine specks of color which she put into a small bottle filled with water
(purchased for $1).
While this was going on I sat in the shade, watched the stage coach make its rounds
(you can ride too for an extra fee), and kept track of the Seahawks winning in their
Sunday night football game back home. Yes it is Monday afternoon but we are that
far ahead of the west coast of the USA in time zones.