A Gold elds Township and Outdoor Museum
Sovereign Hill is an iconic national symbol of Australia's Gold Rush and is situated in the historic city of Ballarat, approximately 100 kilometres from Melbourne. Sovereign Hill is an Outdoor Museum, a recreated gold elds township set over 25 hectares and recognised as the richest alluvial gold elds in the world. The museum aims to actively preserve Australia’s rich goldmining legacy by providing visitors with a direct experience of the gold rush and the day to day working lives of miners on the gold elds.
Sovereign Hill is a much acclaimed tourist destination attracting 500,000 visitors annually and contributing an estimated $35million to the Ballarat economy each year. It was inducted into the Victorian Tourism Hall of Fame having won the state award for Major Tourist Attraction in 2003, 2004 and 2005 consecutively. It was also nominated “Australia’s Best Historic and Cultural Experience 2009” by Travelling in Australia Magazine.
Between 1851 and 1861 hordes of immigrants from Europe and China flooded into Victoria spurred by the frenetic excitement of striking it rich after the world’s richest alluvial gold deposits were discovered in Ballarat in 1851. Overnight the Victorian goldfields became a cosmopolitan hub of ex-convicts, Polish soldiers, Dutch sailors, English doctors, and Chinese labourers “new chums” in pursuit of the gold mining lottery.
Life Not Easy for the Chinese on the Goldfields
Significant to Ballarat’s Gold Rush legacy were the Chinese immigrants. In 1858, 40,000 Chinese out of a total population of 150,000 had settled in the Ballarat goldfields. Many aspired to return home quickly to their families laden with riches extracted from the “New Gold Mountain”. Regrettably, they were the target of prejudiced attitudes by both European gold miners and the Australian Government of the time. To force them off the goldfields, Chinese miners were hit with harsh government taxes and mining licences and made to live in segregated Chinese camps.
When alluvial gold deposits began to run out many Chinese miners returned to China, or married European women and became westernised, others resigned themselves to living on the fringes of the Ballarat community as marketgardeners, green-grocers and herbalists.
Ballarat’s golden days ended in 1918 when the last goldmine at Black Hill closed as mining had become unprofitable due to the high cost of pumping groundwater from deep mines and due to labour shortages caused by World War 1.
Immersion in a Living Outdoor Museum
Visitors to Sovereign Hill’s Outdoor Museum can re-live the exhilaration of the Gold Rush by immersing themselves in the various activities available such as: Shopping 1850s-style in the iconic Main Street. Being photographed with costumed characters. Panning for gold in the diggings creek - a finders keepers policy applies! Taking an underground tour of the Red Hill Mine, where the second largest gold nugget of 69kg was discovered. Viewing demonstrations on 19th century trades and crafts such as wheel-wrighting, blacksmithing, and candle making.
The Gold Museum
Directly opposite the Outdoor Museum, stands the striking glassfronted Gold Museum, Ballarat’s Regional Social History Museum exhibiting 150,000 items from mining and military history through to costume and photography. It showcases the collections of the 1850’s gold rush including gold nuggets, alluvial deposits, priceless gold artefacts and gold coins. Its stunning exhibitions display the golden history & heritage of Ballarat and lend support to the living gold rush experience presented in Sovereign Hill's outdoor museum.