This open-air living museum has been named Australia’s Best Major Tourism Attraction four times. It recreates Ballarat as it was just after gold was discovered in 1851 and brought untold wealth to the city. Built on the site of an actual mine, it’s interactive and remains great fun for all ages.

Pan for real gold in the stream, attend a show at the theatre, see boiled lollies being made, try your hand at 1850s bowling, and take a ride along the dirt streets on the horse-drawn coach.

Tours of the underground mine are curated around true stories from the gold mining days. Trapped tells the tragic story of one of Australia’s worst underground mining disasters, when a flood trapped 27 miners underground at Creswick. The Secret Chamber takes you deep underground to hear the story of two Chinese miners sent by their father to Ballarat in search of riches … but with a twist to the tale. Journey Through the Labyrinth of Gold immerses visitors in the life of a miner, showing first-hand how they blasted through quartz-bearing rock.

Pricey but popular is the photography studio, where you can dress up in old-timey clothes, pose for the camera and take home a framed black and white photo of yourself (and friends). This normally books out early in the day so be quick.

There’s an emphasis on keeping alive the rare trades and forgotten crafts of the gold rush era, and visitors can learn skills such as rope making and candle dipping, see how an old newspaper was printed and watch blacksmiths, confectioners and wheelwrights in action.

The attraction might be timeless, but it has its eye on the future. In 2022 Sovereign Hill is set to launch the Australian Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades (CRAFT), part of the museum’s 20-year master plan, offering workshops in woodworking, ceramics, leather, glass, metal, stone and more.

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Updated: June 25th, 2021

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