No? Well, what are you waiting for?
The boys and I had a fab Sovereign Hill experience in the last school holidays. It was fab because it was spread over two days, with their “two days for the price of one” deal. All you need to do is have your ticket validated at the Post Office and then come back in again on the second day for free!
I’ve been to Sovereign Hill in the past, before kids, and have always come away hot and tired. It felt like such a slog to walk up and down those dusty hills in the hot sun, trying to cram everything into a few hours. There was no way I was going to drag my children there until they were much older and able to walk on their own two feet. And actually understand what they were seeing and maybe even learn a little.
My boys loved it when my sister and I finally took them this year! They wanted to see everything and do everything, but like all kids they got bored and tired quickly, so after three hours on the first day we went home, with the promise to come back in the morning. And so we did.
The boys were mad keen on panning for gold, so on the second day, I installed myself with a coffee on a seat in the gold panning area, while they got their hands dirty. I didn’t care how long we stayed there – I had coffee, I had shade, I had my phone. It was a beautiful day, there was a gold panning demonstration, everyone was happy. Once their enthusiasm wore off, we wondered up to the shop and bought some gold dust in tiny bottles of water, so they could take some gold home with them. Then we did ALL the things. We did candle dipping, watched the gold pouring, lolly making and had scones and tea. Well, scones and pancakes and milkshakes and tea.
My favourite part of Sovereign Hill has always been seeing how people lived in the gold rush days. I love those tiny tents and huts and cottages. They seem to have been made for dolls and it’s quite confronting to see in how little space people used to live. Even the cottages are tiny, small enough to fit into our family room.
Learning about life in the gold fields means you can bowl the old-fashioned way, buy a tea cup or a top hat and visit Victoria Theatre for a show.
You can even shackle yourself up in leg irons.
The centrepiece of Sovereign Hill is the old gold mine which has regular tours, some free, some paid. We took one of free self-guided tours, but I have to warn you that it’s not for the faint hearted. There are light and sound effects, even a simulated flood, so if your children are sensitive, like mine, probably give that a miss. Mr 6 had to be carried most of the time underground and Mr 9 wasn’t terribly impressed either. Luckily, this meant that neither was keen on any of the bigger, paid mine tours.
Yes, Sovereign Hill can be expensive if you don’t bring your own food and purchase ALL things from ALL the old-style shops, but most of the activities are free and spaced frequently throughout the day, so with a little planning you can move from one to another and avoid pester power.
The two days for the price of one is perfect for locals like us, but it would be quite easy for out-of-towners to organise, too. There is accommodation at and around Sovereign Hill and the city of Ballarat itself offers plenty of sight-seeing opportunities, not to mention Lake Wendouree with its walking and bike trail, massive playground and water birds to feed.
Did I just sound like a Ballarat brochure? Oops! I guess I like this town just a tad.