Going for Gold in Sovereign Hill

The biggest gold nugget ever found was found right here in Victoria. The first nugget called the 'Welcome Stranger Nugget' (named because it was a welcome find) was found by a Cornish man in Ballarat, about an 80-minute drive from Melbourne CBD. The nugget weighed in at a whopping 69Kgs. WOW! It took the group of about 22 men over half an hour to haul it above ground. Once above ground, Richard Jeffery ( one of the founders) brought it home in a wheelbarrow and stored in his oven until morning.

Replica of the Welcome stranger Gold Nugget found in Victoria. Picture courtesy of Flickr

Replica of the Welcome stranger Gold Nugget found in Victoria. Picture courtesy of Flickr

Sovereign Hill recreates Ballarat's first 10 years after the Gold Rush in 1851.  It is a living museum set on an original gold mining site with the exhibits brought to life through interactions with the characters, demonstrations and activities such as panning for gold. Real Gold. 

Bunyips one day 'A Touch of Gold & Daylesford Tour' departs Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays with complimentary accommodation pickups from Hotels and Hostels or you can meet at the main office, 571  Flinders Street.

Once we were all on our bus (24 seater bus with really comfortable seats!) Phil, our tour guide introduced himself, gave us a quick rundown on the plan for the day and we were off. It's an easy, relatively short drive to Sovereign Hill. All photos used (unless stated) were taken by Kassi, my travelling buddy of Ticky Photography

Once we got there, we were given a map, informed of when we were to be back on the bus and sent on our way to explore. Mr Smith was our tour guide around Sovereign Hill. He was a funny, informative guide who showed us around and educated us on what it was like to be in Ballarat in the 1850s.

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The population of Victoria rose from 77,000 to 540,000 in just two years. The biggest foreign contingent on the goldfields was the 40,000 Chinese who made their way to Australia in the hopes of finding gold. You can see this influence clearly when you walk around Sovereign Hill.

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Unfortunately, when the Chinese arrived they were treated differently to the Europeans. The Chinese had to pay a 10 pound ($20) tax if they landed at a port. No other nationality had to pay this tax. This did not deter the Chinese in their pursuit for Gold as they landed in Robe in South Australia and made their way overland to Ballarat. Another tax they paid was a one pound ($10) protectors fee, miners rite and residence ticket. We watched a short video in the Chinese temple about how life was for the Chinese and how they tried to adapt to their new surroundings. 

In Sovereign Hill, you can pan for gold and if you find some you get to keep it. One of our tour group was lucky and struck Gold within minutes. EUREKA!

Eureka comes from the Greek language and means 'I have Found It.' 

We met with a gold miner before we headed underground to experience what life was like in the miners. It was dark with uneven footing and I loved it! We walked through the mine (there is lighting as you walk!) There was audio playing which made us feel like we were the working miners. Once we reached the end of the trail there was an amazing projection of when the Welcome Stranger nugget was found. On the way out, they have a replica which you can try and lift. I tried and of course failed, not once but thrice.

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Once we were back above ground we walked through the town to the Sweet Shop where we were shown how to make Humbugs ( a hard minty sweet) Sovereign Hill is also famous for its Raspberry drops. Mmmmmmm. Raspberry drops. It takes a lot of strength to make humbugs, that's for sure. I think I'll stick to watching and/or eating them. When the humbugs were ready, we all got to taste the freshly made confectionary. They were still warm. We were also given a bag of raspberry drops(included in the tour) as a momento.  Walking through the town streets and seeing all the characters in Victorian Dress makes you really feel like you are back in the 1850s. There is always something happening as you walk around like small improvisations between the locals and town folk.

Still reeling from tasting freshly made Humbugs, Mr Smith takes us to the Gold smelting works to see a $160,000 Gold Ingot (bar) being poured. We even got to hold it! It was not light! The Smelters back in the day worked in very hazardous environments. Many smelters died of mercury poisoning which presents itself with as madness and then death, this was due to the procedures for melting the gold.

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Last stop with Mr Smith was the American Hotel. Here Mr Smith gave us an impromptu Drumming demonstration, in his 'former life' he was a drummer! 'Mr Smith' retired this month after 37 years 'living' in Sovereign Hill! I think Mr Smith junior is stepping up to the role. Also included in our tour was a complimentary drink at the American Hotel as well as a souvenir Gold Coin. After our drink, we went for a wander and got some food. Bellies full, we were ready in time for the marching soldiers and Muscat firing demonstration. 

It seemed like everyone that was in Sovereign Hill made their way to the top of the town for the demonstration. We were told that it was going to be really loud and to cover our ears, I highly recommend listening to this advice! it is Loud and they fire more than once! With the smell of gunpowder in the air, it was time to make our way back to the bus to check out the town of Daylesford.

Dalysford is in the heart of Spa country, known for its revitalizing springs.We stopped off by the lake and checked out a quaint bookshop, I never leave a second-hand bookshop empty handed! From here we made our way to Trentham Falls, Victorias highest single drop waterfall formed nearly five million years ago. Wowzas!

The waterfall was the conclusion to our day and from here it was time to make our way back to Melbourne. Getting back to the city at approx 6pm means you don't miss dinner time.

Bunyips Sovereign Hill experience is definitely worth checking out as it is fun for all ages.