Capture some photos in Sovereign Hill

38 Sovereign Hill Photos to Inspire You

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On my solo trip to Victoria, I stopped at Ballarat, a symbol of Victorian goldfields glory and only an hour and a half from Melbourne. I was on my way to Dunkeld, in search of some hiking in the Grampians but I needed a break and figured Ballarat would offer something of interest. Always the good tourist, I stopped at the information centre. They recommended I visit Sovereign Hill, an outdoor museum with 60 historically recreated buildings, depicting life in an Australian goldfields town around 1850. I was a little short on time, Dunkeld was another 2 hours away… I hesitated. But then I thought I wouldn’t have another opportunity to visit Sovereign Hill on this trip. I have selected 38 Sovereign Hill photos to inspire you.

Sovereign Hill

Sovereign Hill is an outdoor museum, spread over 25 hectares, on a site linked to the richest alluvial gold rush in Victoria. Some 60 buildings have been reconstructed according to photographs to depict life during the Gold Rush. Incredibly, Sovereign Hill is a functional township, with workshops and old-time stores. The township is complete with a Main Street full of shops, two hotels and a theatre, a Chinese camp, a gold-panning area and two gold mines.

Whilst the town is a tourist attraction, it is very lively and realistic thanks to the presence of staff and volunteers dressed in costumes, who work in the shops and workshops, and answer any questions visitors may have. It may sound daggy but in reality, it works really well. The staff and volunteers operate the many businesses in Sovereign Hill and the visit is a real experience, with hands-on demonstrations of old-time occupations such as blacksmithing, candle-dipping, wheelwrighting and many more. The people in the stores and workshops are knowledgeable and generally very happy to tell stories relating to the gold rush.

So, let me take you through the dirt roads of Sovereign Hill.

Main Street

The first thing to notice about Main Street is that it’s a dirt road… Yes, no asphalt in 1850! The street is lined with all the relevant shops of the time and a number of operational workshops. The shops act as museums and displays, and some of them operate as restaurants.

The Blacksmith

The first of my Sovereign Hill photos is the blacksmith
General Blacksmith

Red Hill Photographic Rooms

Visit the photographic rooms for some old time photos of Sovereign Hill
Red Hill Photographic Rooms

In 1850, photography wasn’t as common and accessible as today. So, people had to go to a studio to get their picture taken. Here, you can do the same, in costume! But you need to book in advance, it’s a very popular attraction!

The Ballarat Times Office

The Ballarat Times is a local newspaper in my Sovereign Hill photos
Ballarat Times

There is a letterpress in there, and you can have your name printed on a Wanted poster. It’s interesting seeing the process in action: aligning the letters, inking and printing. For a little bit of fun, it’s nice to bring back a souvenir, and the manual letterpress is a fascinating machine! This is the brilliant thing about taking Sovereign Hill photos, you get to capture the working environment.

The letterpress is a fascinating process for my Sovereign Hill photos
Printing Press

Clarke Brothers, Grocers

The grocer and tent maker are two charming shops to feature in my Sovereign Hill photos
Grocery Store

An old-time grocery store, with an impressive collection of pumpkins! The tent-maker next door is a typical business of the gold rush, selling gold prospecting equipment, which includes tents.

The Post Office

For my Sovereign Hill photos, the Post Office is a real one
Post Office

The small group of town musicians are a very nice touch and the post office is fully functional, you can buy stamps and mail your letters or postcards from Sovereign Hill!

This old fashioned equipment made a good Sovereign Hill photo
Old Junk

Hope Bakery

All the products sold there are made onsite, in a woodfire oven… And for an authentic touch, they don’t sell modern soft drinks, it’s more about lemon squash and ginger beer…

Rees & Benjamin, Watch & Clockmakers

So many good Sovereign Hill photos can be taken on the main street
Clockmakers Store

With these two characters in costume, you wouldn’t think this is a contemporary photograph… There is a true authenticity in Sovereign Hill. I’ve seen it described as “Goldrush Disney” but it’s nothing like it. On the contrary, there is a genuine attention to detail and nothing is “in your face” or tacky.

Robinson & Wayne, Apothecaries Hall

The pharmacy must be included in your Sovereign Hill photos
Apothecaries Hall

There, you can buy old-style candies and view the doctors’ room at the back. It is such a nicely recreated shop. I was half expecting to find arsenic for sale! The atmosphere in this shop is incredibly authentic, I hope I captured it for my Sovereign Hill photos.

Don't forget to add the doctor's room in your Sovereign Hill photos
Doctor’s Room

The apothecary is a fascinating Sovereign Hill photo subject

Glasgow Saddlery

This shop makes and sells a range of horse-riding equipment. If you’re not a rider, you can select a fine handmade leather belt.

New York Bakery

The New York Bakery is good lunch while you plan your Sovereign Hill photos
New York Bakery

The largest restaurant in town.

Charlie Napier Hotel

The Charles Napier Hotel is authentic for your Sovereign Hill photos
Charles Napier Hotel

This is a hotel as they were in those days. It even has a Freemason’s room and a scale at the front!

The scales at the front of the Charlie Napier Hotel are great for a feature in your Sovereign Hill photos
Scales at the Napier Hotel

Some of the volunteers in costume sit in rooms and you can engage in conversation, and ask questions. To me, this is a very smart way of bringing the place to life.

The Freemason's Hall at the Charlie Napier Hotel is sure to feature in your Sovereign Hill photos

The Waterloo Store

The Waterloo Store is a photo highlight at Sovereign Hill
The Waterloo Store

The Waterloo Store offers a broad range of clothing and everyday items. The little girl in me can’t help but be fascinated by the dresses, hats and petticoats of a bygone era. I had to include this shop in my Sovereign Hill photos.

Clark Brothers Tinsmiths

There are so many store fronts for your Sovereign Hill photos
Clarke Brothers

This is where you can buy tin and brass objects manufactured in the Soho Foundry up the road.

Ash & Dawson, Builders & Undertakers

Don't miss the undertakers and the candle works for a great series of Sovereign Hill photos
Undertakers and Candle Works

In this shop, you can view the coffin-making workshop and the funeral carriage.

The undertakers is an unusual visit for your Sovereign Hill photos
Coffin making in progress

Hewett’s Yarrowee Soap & Candleworks

For my Sovereign Hill photos, I absolutely loved the candle works experience
Candle Works

This is a very interesting workshop for Sovereign Hill photos, showing the candle-making process by hand, where wicks are dipped in melted paraffin (or melted fat in the old days) layer after layer. Some of the machines are dated 1858 and were imported from the UK. At some point, the township of Sovereign Hill required the production of 10,000 candles per day. Here you can do your own candle-dipping.

The candle works workshop is preserved for your Sovereign Hill photos
Candle Works

Women operate the candle works and they are very knowledgeable and passionate about the topic… The process is slow and fascinating to watch. I asked whether the candles were ever made of beeswax, but apparently, the beekeepers didn’t like to give wax for this purpose, as it took too long for the bees to rebuild it. So the candle works relied on animal fat, collected from farms and private homes. There are posters around town asking for fat, that’s what it’s for.

The Soho Foundry

The Soho Foundry is the most striking shop front for Sovereign Hill photos
Soho Foundry

This is an impressive workshop, where tin and brass objects are produced. You can even buy gold pans! Like many others in Sovereign Hill, this building houses a real business. Objects are produced and sold on site, which makes the whole operation very purposeful. You may say that it’s only “for the tourist”, but it’s also a way of preserving a know-how.

The tinsmith workshop is full of objects for your Sovereign Hill photos
Tin Smiths
The Soho Foundry is maintained for your Sovereign Hill photos
Foundry equipment

The Empire Bowling Saloon

The Fire Station and the Bowling Saloon are good topics for your Sovereign Hill photos
Fire Station and Bowling Salon

This bowling alley came as a huge surprise to me when visiting Sovereign Hill, but apparently, bowling was very popular during the Gold Rush. As I walked in, I felt it was such a step back in time, I couldn’t help but ask if women were allowed… And I was told that I was welcome so long as I wore pants… I was safe then! Everything is made of wood, including the ball, that you throw with both hands on a single rail. There are nine wooden pins to hit and no robot to pick them up after a strike. This is a great attraction, even for someone who doesn’t like bowling! It was certainly one of my favourite topics for my Sovereign Hill photos.

The Bowling Alley is one of my favourite Sovereign Hill photos
Bowl like it’s 1850…

Brown’s Confectionery Manufactory

The Brown Confectionary is a real goldfields vision for your Sovereign Hill photos
Brown’s Confectionery Manufactory

Boiled lollies are all the rage in Sovereign Hill and there are made right in front of you. I tasted the musk lollies, which have an old-fashioned and peculiar taste,  and I also learned that sugar can be as sharp as glass…

In your Sovereign Hill photos, you can include the manufacture of sugar lollies
Cooling the sweets

The Gold Mine

There are two gold mines in Sovereign Hill. One is a self-guided tour, the other is more involved visit underground, which includes a ride on a little train.

Gold Bullion Pouring and Gold Museum

For Sovereign Hill photos, the pouring of gold bullion is a popular topic
Gold pouring

There is a presentation of moulding gold bullion, impressive! However, it can be busy, so make sure you get there in time to get a good spot to get some good Sovereign Hill photos.

Gold Panning

Don't forget to include gold panning in your Sovereign Hill photos
Gold panning

Next to the Chinese Camp, you can pan for gold. For real. In the pans made in the Soho Foundry, no doubt…

The Chinese Camp

The Chinese Camp is an interesting subject for Sovereign Hill photos
Chinese houses

Sovereign Hill has a recreated Chinese Camp, complete with a Buddhist Temple where you can make an offering of incense. Furthermore, there is an “Office of the Protector of the Chinese”, following the racial tensions common in those days.

The School

Sovereign Hill photos should also include the local school
National School

The school was full of kids trying their hand at tracing letters with nibs and ink, which is another lovely surprise of Sovereign Hill. Indeed, it doesn’t get more real than that!

The school teacher looks perfect for Sovereign Hill photos
Mistress at the school

W. Proctor, Wheelwright & Coach Manufactory

The wheelwright is a mighty building for your Sovereign Hill photos
Wheelwright factory

This is a serious operation, manufacturing coach wheels. You can even buy a handcrafted wheel as a decor, for $500. Not enough room in my luggage, unfortunately…

The complicated mechanics of the wheelwright workshop are perfect for Sovereign Hill photos
Wheelwrighting workshop

Sovereign Hill photos are full of really cool details like those wheels


You can also capture the cottages for your Sovereign Hill photos
Private house

This is a little eerie, a glimpse into people’s private lives, complete with a laundry, a kitchen, and a live cat sleeping on a bed! But it’s great for Sovereign Hill photos!

The cottage laundry is a photo reminder of hard work at Sovereign Hill

Other things to do in Sovereign Hill

If you stay overnight in Ballarat, the evening sound and light show “Blood on the Southern Cross” depicts the Eureka Rebellion and should be worth a look.

Also, there are horse-drawn carriage tours to take you around the streets of Sovereign Hill.

How Long Should You Spend in Sovereign Hill?

You could easily spend a full day in Sovereign Hill, there is so much to do and experience. And to make the experience all worthwhile, you should take your time. Some attractions are quite popular, and you may have to wait in line. However, I only had 4 hours thereafter my cookie-decorating class at Miss Biscuit and that was sufficient to get a good overview. Indeed, I had time to take lots of photos and to walk all over the village. So, I would say that a half day is a minimum, and if you have children, maybe allow a bit more.

Overall, this visit of Sovereign Hill was a blast. I’m always wary of tourist attractions but this was very interesting and enriching. I loved the handmade industries of Sovereign Hill. Whilst Sovereign Hill would be great for children, the enjoyment is accessible to all.

If you want to extend your road trip to Victoria, I highly recommend visiting the Great Ocean Road.

Sovereign Hill

2 Days in Melbourne

Great Ocean Road

Therefore, I hope you liked my 38 Sovereign Hill photos. Do you have some stories about Sovereign Hill you would like to share? Please comment below, I would love to hear them!

Save these photos of Sovereign Hill to Pinterest!

Sovereign Hill is an outdoor museum near Ballarat, Victoria and depicts life in a Victorian goldfields town.
Experience the gold rush at Sovereign Hill
The Victorian Goldfields come alive at Sovereign Hill
Sovereign Hill is a fantastic recreation of the Victoria goldfield era

12 thoughts on “38 Sovereign Hill Photos to Inspire You”

  1. Sovereign Hill is a family favourite and the place where we take all our international visitors for a day on the goldfields – highly recommend a visit!

  2. Angela @ Angelas Jam

    Absolutely amazing photos!!
    I haven’t been since I was in primary school, maybe 20 years ago!
    It’s not a place I tend to think about going, I always think I need to take kids (which I don’t have).
    I might pop this on the list!
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Angela, thank you for your comment. I don’t have kids either but I still really enjoyed the visit. There are great things for kids but Sovereign Hill doesn’t cater specifically to them, it’s more for everyone to enjoy. I look forward to going back there!

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