It was like time travel back to 1850
22.01.2017 - 26.01.2017 23 °C
Ballarat (population 93 501)
Ballarat is arguably the most significant Victorian era gold rush boomtown in Australia. Just months after Victoria was granted separation from the state of New South Wales, the Victorian gold rush transformed Ballarat from a small sheep station to a major settlement. Gold was discovered on 18 August 1851. Within months, migrants from across the world had rushed to the district in search of gold. The population went from hundreds to 40 000 within a few years. But, unlike many other gold boom towns, the Ballarat fields experienced sustained high gold yields for many decades, with 9 of the ten biggest gold nuggets ever found, coming from this area. This prolonged prosperity can be evidenced to this day in the city's rich architecture.
We enjoyed the buildings you recognise in Lydiard street where several scenes from the Australian TV series, Dr Blake was/is filmed. We even watched the current Oscar favourite, Lalaland, in the old Regent Theatre.
The Eureka Rebellion began in Ballarat, and the only armed rebellion in Australian history, the Battle of Eureka Stockade, took place on 3 December 1854. Eureka is interpreted by some as the origin of democracy in Australia. Today it is still a major regional centre (even hosting the rowing and kayaking events from the 1956 Summer Olympics).
A significant heritage tourism industry has grown in Ballarat since the 1960s. Ballarat is most notable for the award-winning open-air museum known as Sovereign Hill, a recreated 1850-1860 gold mining settlement opened in 1970. Sovereign Hill is Ballarat's biggest tourism drawcard and is consistently rated among one of the best outdoor museums in the world and continues to expand. We think it was the best of the attractions we’ve visited so far (spending two full days walking the streets and exploring every building – second day is free). Sovereign Hill accounts for over half a million of Ballarat's visitors and $40 million in tourism revenue. The town is filled with staff (all in period costumes) re-enacting scenes, operating the bakery, foundry, candle-making and much more. We went underground into an old mine, attended the theatre (including presentations on gender etiquette!), sweet making, wheelwrighting, red coat shooting, a china town, and more.
After this we were off to Lake Bolac to a free camp next to a beautiful (full) lake. We opted for a quiet Australia Day, BBQing a nice rump steak and relaxing under the trees.