Eureka! On a whim, we decided to do something historical this past weekend (Aussie Father’s Day weekend) and visit Ballarat, a late 1800s gold-rush town, about 90 minutes from Melbourne. It was a surprising uphill drive with views of burnt orange hills, rows of gum trees and, as a bonus, kangaroos beside the roadway.
We entered Sovereign Hill, a recreation of Ballarat during the Aussie gold-rush period. Main Street is lined with cafes, shops and craftsmen. Actors in period costumes and even Redcoats, just as we Americans know them, parade around town.
While we half-heartedly panned for real gold, (yes, people find gold shavings in the stream) others were getting their whole bodies into the activity and into the cold, muddy water. We later heard that the ‘gold’ is planted, but planted or not I might have made more of an effort had I known it was real.
We took an underground tour of a gold mine, watched a $170,000 gold pour, ate homemade lollies and even bowled a few historic rounds. At the candlemaker’s presentation, my daughter boldly declared we were from New York City and with oohs and aahs from the audience we were pronounced the tourists who traveled the farthest. The man from China came in second. Nice.
Despite the blustery winds and wearing the wrong navy khakis to a dust filled town we had a great time. Sovereign Hill has a lot to offer. There is much to learn about this country we’ve forgotten on the other side of the world.