With a full day of fun and family activities topped off by a magical Wonderlights show, we absolutely loved Christmas in July at Sovereign Hill.
Sovereign Hill is one of the best places in Victoria for visitors to immerse themselves in the rich and lasting legacy that the discovery of gold has endowed upon our nation. Sovereign Hill actively preserves Australia’s rich, living history and heritage, providing visitors with an accurate and thoroughly researched experience of the gold rush era.
Some of our fondest childhood memories were spent at Sovereign Hill. Stepping foot into Sovereign hill is like taking a step back in time – experiencing the working lives of Australia’s gold miners, re-living the exhilaration of the Gold Rush and discovering the lively day-to-day activities that made up life on the goldfields.
Sovereign Hill offers a wide range of activities no matter how old or young. Just wandering through is an atmospheric experience, heightened by the numerous costumed staff and volunteers portraying the behaviours of the 1850s!
Lunch at street stalls and carts
We started our day at Sovereign Hill wandering around and exploring the Main Street and its tasty street stalls and carts. There is something for everyone including tasty rolls from the butcher’s shambles, mulled wine and potato sticks to name a few.
Holding a cup of mulled wine whilst strolling past the Christmas trees and festive decorations lining Main Street put us in the Christmas spirit.
Horse Bazaar – Coach Rides
Sovereign Hill has a large stable of working horses, including Clydesdales and Percherons. We also enjoyed catching a ride in a coach drawn by some of their gentle giants.
Self-guided underground adventure tour of the Red Hill Mine
Right next to where you pan for gold, we joined the 10-minute, self-guided underground adventure tour of the Red Hill Mine, which depicts the discovery of the 69 kg Welcome Nugget – still the second largest gold nugget ever found.
At the confectionary factory, we watched eagerly as the confectioner used original equipment and processes to make traditional boiled lollies - which we sampled whilst still deliciously warm.
Underground mine adventure tours - Journey through the Labyrinth of Gold
Sovereign Hill also offers some amazing underground mine tours. We joined the "Journey through the Labyrinth of Gold” tour where we learned about the everyday dangers of 19th century gold mining. Soon we were riding the inclined tramway deep into the gold mine on a fully-guided underground adventure like no other.
We saw how Ballarat's miners lived and worked as they blasted and dug out the rich gold-bearing layers of quartz rock. This tour included demonstrations of the technology they used and the chance to view areas of original workings. It concluded with a ride to the surface on the mine train.
Live performances happen throughout the day at the Victoria Theatre and on the streets by Sovereign Hill's own actors and musicians.
Four o'clock Tea in United States Hotel Dining Room
After an eventful afternoon, we relaxed in the glow of the open-fire...
...as we sampled a festive tower of treats with continuous coffee and tea at the United States Hotel Dining Room.
The dining room offers a secluded dining experience in an elegant Victorian setting.
Snowfall on Main Street and Wonderlights
By night, as the sun set, Main Street was transformed by a stunning snow and light show with sparkling grand-scale images and bright Christmas Wonderlights dancing along the building façades.
It was a magically surreal experience to stand in the streets as snow fell from the sky and beautiful lights brilliantly lit the buildings.
Taste of Christmas Dinner in the Charlie Napier Hotel
There was no better way to end our first day of Christmas at Sovereign Hill than dinner in the Charlie Napier over a good old-fashioned, 2 course Christmas dinner.
Accommodation - BEST WESTERN PLUS Ballarat Suites
We stayed the night at BEST WESTERN PLUS Ballarat Suites, which is located only 100m from Sovereign Hill and close to the town centre of Ballarat.
BEST WESTERN PLUS Ballarat Suites is newly built and provides luxurious four-star accommodation.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in one of their suites. The beautifully appointed room was spacious, and boasted a comfortable king size bed and a large, contemporary bathroom.
Breakfast in bed
If you want a really lazy start to the day then it is hard to resist having breakfast served in the luxury of your room...
We opted for a wonderful spread of ham, cheese and tomato toasties, banana porridge as well as muesli, coffees, and juices – all delivered to our room as the morning sun rose.
After a short stroll, we were back in Sovereign Hill.
We were glad to have a second day to explore Sovereign Hill as there was still so much more we had yet to explore!
1850s-style shopping on Sovereign Hill’s iconic Main Street
Sovereign Hill is also home to craftspeople practising 19th century trades and crafts using original machinery and equipment. The goods produced are sold throughout Sovereign Hills’ shops and factories. We enjoyed stepping back in time at the Drapery Store and trying on a range of fashionable hats and accessories for ladies and gentlemen. We also enjoyed exploring the Apothecaries’ Hall with displays of medical equipment and its doctor’s surgery. Herbal soaps, lotions, remedies and hair brushes are all for sale.
Sovereign Hills’ famous lollies were delightful. After seeing how they were made in the factory, we couldn’t resist leaving without some Raspberry Drops.
Underground mine adventure tours - The Secret Chamber
After enjoying the Journey through the Labyrinth of Gold Tour, we decided to join another one of the tours, The Secret Chamber. Soon we found ourselves walking through a maze of tunnels with only flickering candlelight to guide us past dig sites, shafts and forbidden places, until we reached The Secret Chamber.
The sound of traditional Chinese music drew us in - and the rock walls revealed their secret. We loved watching in wonder as the story unfolded around us - the story of Chin Tem and his brother is a tale based on the adventures of the young Chinese diggers who flocked to Ballarat in the 1850s in search of gold.
Lunch at New York Bakery
Sovereign Hill has hotels and restaurants offering a traditional dining experience in unique Victorian settings. We enjoyed The New York Bakery’s restaurant-style dining with a combination of traditional and contemporary dishes in a Victorian setting.
A variety of meals are available with something to suit everyone.
We highly recommend relaxing with some tea and some of New York Bakery’s delicious buttermilk scones - moreishly served with rich double cream and jam.
Snowfall on Main Street
As the snow fell and Sovereign Hill once again turned into a snowy winter wonderland, it was time to say goodbye.
We thoroughly enjoyed our mid year festive celebration at Sovereign Hill and would highly recommend the experience for all ages. Situated in the historic city of Ballarat, Sovereign Hill is located in Bradshaw Street and is easily accessed by car, train, and tour coaches operating daily from Melbourne. To make the most of your experience, we would recommend staying in Ballarat during your visit and the BEST WESTERN PLUS Ballarat Suites is definitely a great option. Christmas in July runs until 12 July.
What: Christmas in July at Sovereign Hill
Where: Sovereign Hill is located in Bradshaw Street and can be easily accessed by car, or by train and tour coach services which operate daily from Melbourne.
Accommodation: Best Western Plus – Ballarat Suites
Address: 525 Main Rd, Ballarat VIC 3350
Phone: (03) 5329 0200
Gastrology bloggers attended Christmas in July courtesy of Sovereign Hill.