31 March 2012

Trip to Ballarat

As part of our 2012 resolutions, Matt and I promised that we would make more trips on a regular basis in all varieties: day trips, weekend get-aways, and week long vacations.

It took us until March to get on the ball...better late than never!

I decided that Ballarat would be the best choice for a little day trip. Ballarat is a township about a 1.5 hour drive northwest of Melbourne. I hired the car and got my Melways out to plot our path and that was pretty much the extent of my planning (it was more of an exploratory trip than an itinerary based trip).

The big thing to see in beautiful Ballarat is a place called Sovereign Hill, which is similar in concept to Colonial Willamsburg in the States: people in period costume going about life in late 18th century Ballarat.

What makes Ballarat so special? Much like California in roughly the same time period, Victoria experienced a gold rush! Ballarat was a town that grew around one of the biggest gold mining areas in Australia. People came from all over the world to come strike it rich in Oz.

(Like history? Read more about Ballarat's story here).

As these things usually go, a few got rich and but many just found rocks. But plenty of businesses sprang up to accommodate the miners and their families. The gold rush spawned an economy and the beginnings of the town.

I didn't really know what to expect out of Sovereign Hill but we paid the entrance fee and I have to tell you, it was really fun!

We saw how the miners lived:

With that fire going it felt pretty cozy in there!
We tried our hand at panning for gold (we were horrible at it!)

Went underground and toured a mine:

Watched a demonstration of the gold melting/pouring process:

Saw the Red Coats marching down the main street to demonstrate the might of the Her Majesty's Empire:

Got my picture taken with the drummer (he was quite moody):

Enjoyed a candle making demonstration:

Other sights in town:

I had to get a picture of Matt with the United States Hotel sign. Weird!

My Engineer Husband loved explaining to me how this steam engine works.

Classic Matt. (That's a pea hen in the tire making idea why it was there!)

Realized that Victoria's obsession with coffee began a long, long time ago!

 Included with the entrance fee to Sovereign Hill is a ticket to the Gold Museum across the street. We spent about 30 minutes in there. So much gold!

A major part of Australia's economy is still based on mining. Young miners in Western Australia make pretty decent livings mining gold, iron ore, copper, coal, and many others for companies like BHB Billiton with China being the biggest buyer of many of these resources. It is interesting to see how a town like Ballarat fits into the big picture of the Australia of today. The mining rushes of Ballarat, and other areas like Bendigo and Western Australia, were major drivers of immigration to Australia. Much like the United States, immigrants came to Australia seeking wealth and a better life. 

It was a fun day and it was good to learn more about the beginnings of this country.

Until next time,