Ballarat sounds such an inauspicious name, but add gold fever to the mix and it grows a particular magnetism.
The town itself is far more noble than the name implies. Mr Urquhart laid out the town grid system and Sturt Street is a stunning 60 meters wide, festooned with statues down the middle. Much of the 1800 architecture is preserved and gives an elegance to the city. Iron makers must make their fortune there as so many houses have ornate filigree ironwork decorating their verandah or balcony.
Sovereign Hill is a living museum, capturing life of the gold rush. There are opportunities to go down mines and witness their shows. The power of the battery sheds, which used to crush the quartz to powder to release the gold, was awesome. It penetrates your whole frame.
The High Street of working shops are served by costumed characters, small bands play violin in both the street and the pub. The frequent passing of the horse and carriage adds to the ambience and life of the place.
The site is divide into Chinese camps, the goldrush tents, the more established houses with schools and churches, coffee shops and saddles.
It is quite easy to spend three hours there and if you have children you may need longer, especially if they pan for gold, a free activity with real gold micro sized chips to be found and kept. Actually, there were many adults who got that particular itch.
There is an excellent gold museum just opposite and included in the price. This offers insight into the gold economy and how the town has grown with the mining. It also has some interesting information on gold as a religious icon and as decoration denoting wealth. I liked the underground diagrams of the mines which showed horse hospitals! The ticket for both events cost $42.50