Thursday, January 3, 2013

Guest Post - Ballarat: Possible Australia's Most Important Historical City

If you've been here for a while you may remember me endlessly moaning writing a fair bit about our big move in May last year. We went from the suburban town that I grew up in to a very small country town not far from Ballarat. As a child we often took caravan holidays to Ballarat and my sister was married here a while ago as she lives in another country town nearby. It is an area I am loving discovering... the best thing about being new to an area is getting to play tourist for a while as you find your way around, and Ballarat certainly has a great deal to offer.

When I was asked if I would like to host a guest post about this region I agreed readily, because I am loving finding out more about it myself. I hope you will too. - Kate

Ballarat figures significantly in Australia’s history because it is the backdrop of the gold rush in the 1850s—a period that saw the change of Australia’s role in the British Commonwealth, dramatically changed its population, and also triggered a string of events which gave birth to Australian democracy.

Before the gold rush, Australia was nothing more a British penal colony and convicts made up the majority of its population. Thanks to the gold rush, this population drastically changed as people from all over the world began to see Australia as a promising new land and to migrate in droves.

For a time, Ballarat became the richest city in the British Empire, supplying more than a third of the world’s gold output in the 1850's. Perhaps it was this perceived unlimited profitability which prompted the local British authority to levy unfair fees and policies on the miners. This eventually led to the Eureka Rebellion, the aftermath of which is said to be the impetus for the first instituted political democracy in Australia.

Historic Attractions

With such a rich history, it is only natural to have a selection of historical attractions that provide visitors with an immersive experience exemplifying how life was during the country’s formative years.

Sovereign Hill is one of Victoria’s most popular attractions and the most famous one in Ballarat. This outdoor museum was built on a low hillside and was designed to recreate the gold rush era and is the closest thing you will ever get to being an 1850's gold miner.

Sprawling over an expanse of 25 hectares, Sovereign Hill features over 60 historically accurate buildings and is populated by costumed personnel who are only too willing to interact and answer any questions visitors may have, and they do this in character.

Expect to get dirty as you get down on your knees and pan for real gold in The Red Hill Gully. Be ready to be driven by one of the horse drawn coaches around the complex. Tours such as the gold mine tour will bring you underground to experience how the miners dug for gold.

Blood on the Southern Cross

This light and sound show is a multi-million dollar production depicting the events leading up to the Eureka Rebellion. Set around key locations in Sovereign Hill, this 90-minute spectacle utilises over seven video projectors, 3000 lights, several 10-metre tall lightning towers, and is powered by eight computers.

To get the best out of this show, it is recommended to get a full dinner beforehand and to wear comfortable shoes and warm clothes, especially during cold weather.

Central Goldfields

Ballarat has around a dozen historic villages and the Central Goldfields Shire is a good example of what awaits you when you visit any one of these villages. This quaint little village allows you to forget the busy city life and treat you to a quiet, and stress free afternoon.

Enjoy old fashioned country style meals at one of the many local historic pubs around the area.  For a taste of mystery, you can choose to explore the hidden goldfields cemeteries, or simply bike through historic early goldfields villages. Collectors and souvenir shops are conveniently located across the village where you can seek out antiques and collectibles. You can also visit historic museums or view fine works at the Central Goldfields Art Gallery.

A lot of that which makes present day Australia what it is now is an result of what happened in Ballarat almost 2 centuries ago. The demographics, the political landscape, the economy, even the practice of calling each other “mate” all had their origins in the goldfields of Ballarat. Visiting these historical attractions will not only provide an enjoyable time for the whole family, but it will also give you a better appreciation where you are by learning more about your roots.

This is a guest post for Visit Ballarat. Which I think you should do. And if you do, let me know and we can catch up for coffee yes? Have you been to my local 'big town'? What did you love about it?