Hubby, Maddison and I went and visited Sovereign Hill recently. Hubby remembers visiting the historic ‘town’ as a child and was keen for us to experience it as a family too. I thought Maddison, being only 16 months old might not get much from it, as a lot of other ‘family friendly’ locations are geared towards older children rather than toddlers. However I was wrong, Sovereign Hill is definitely a destination for the whole family to enjoy!
When you first walk through the doors, you are immediately transported back through time. There are people going about their ‘daily lives’ as you wander through the village. You are free to explore the whole grounds and can wander in and out of the homes, shops and workshops, even the mines. You can talk to the villagers as they pass about what they’re doing or different aspects of life during the goldrush era. Everyone was so friendly and happy to show us things like tips for gold panning, making little lavender bags, candle dipping etc
Some of our favourite activities are detailed below:
Maddison absolutely loved the lavender bag making with one of the ladies walking around (I don’t know if this is a scheduled activity at a certain time or we just caught her at the right time) but the lady sat with Maddison and let her run her fingers through the bowl of lavender pieces and play with the tiny scoops. She was captivated for ages!!
The horse and cart was awesome fun for everyone!! We went on a little tour around village, which is a great thing to do at the start of the day so you can get a little snap shot of all the things you might like to check out.
Bowling – there is an old fashion bowling alley set up where you set up your own pins and have a go at rolling the wooden ball down the groove in the centre. They have two full-length lanes and a smaller one with slightly smaller pins and a smaller ball for kids. Maddison enjoyed participating in this game and as there was a groove in the ground she could actually roll the ball down herself, which was great.
I got to dip a candle in the candle workshop (I think my candle was about $5) and they had 5 different trays of coloured wax which you got to colour your candle with.
Family Portrait – My absolute favourite part of the day was having our photo taken. It is expensive at $79 for the 3 of us, but they take time to get you ready with clothing and accessories and one of the lovely ladies came from out the back and tickled Maddison and interacted with her so that we got a lovely smiling shot of her on her Daddy’s knee. I’m so glad we got this done as a lovely keepsake to remember our holiday.
Panning for gold – this is what most people think of when they come to Sovereign Hill right? One of the ‘miners’ came up and demonstrated his panning technique for us and we were about to find about 20 little flecks of gold that we kept in our little bottle. It was quite good fun, Hubby was a lot better at it than I was.
I luckily had anticipated the water & mud and had packed some old clothes for Maddison, which I would highly recommend if going with a toddler. This took a lot of the stress out of the ‘panning for gold’ experience. Hubby got to do his panning and I played with Maddison in the creek; it was a hot day and it was actually really lovely for her to play with the cool water for a bit.
Hubby really enjoyed watching the Blacksmith demonstration, and I took the opportunity to stop and give Maddison a snack and a drink while he was watching. We actually visited the blacksmiths store afterwards and purchased a handmade copper oil lamp for my Dad for Christmas. They had all sorts of handmade metal goodies for sale, everything from bangles to cookie cutters.
Sweet making demonstration – Hubby has childhood memories of eating traditional boiled raspberry drops, so seeing the handmade sweet demonstration was a must do for him. It was actually really cool seeing how they colour the lollies and how they stretch it out with the large hook. The man also explained some of the slight ingredient changes from then to now. Of course we got to taste them after the demonstration and we had to buy 2 jars to take home too!
We took our pram, as we got there as soon as it opened at 10am, and Maddison had her morning sleep in her pram while I was pushing her up and down ‘main street’. We were able to navigate most places fine with a pram, some of the smaller houses up the hill (away from Main Street) couldn’t have managed a pram due to narrow doorways or stairs, but Maddison was awake by then so we left the pram outside and carried her in to have a look. They also offer pram/buggy hire for $10 a day with an ‘all terrain buggy’ so if you don’t have a pram with you or just have a lightweight stroller this could be a good option.
One of the only things not toddler friendly was the 10-15 min self-guided, underground mine tour, as children had to be walking confidently the whole way by themselves to participate (you aren’t allowed to carry them). Luckily we had Nanny and Poppy with us so Poppy stayed above ground with Maddison so we could go down and have a look. The audio tour was great, I recommend doing it if you get a chance!
Another highlight was the bakery – the sausage rolls and vanilla slices were a big hit (both with the toddler and the big kid)!!
Get there early! They open at 10am, get there as the doors open and miss some of the crowds. A lot of the demonstrations happen early, around 11am too.
- Make sure you find out what demonstrations are on and when and plan around these – you don’t have to do all of them but schedule in the ones that interest you, as they are worth seeing!
- If you’re staying nearby take advantage of the 2 days for the price of 1 at the moment, they just stamp your ticket upon entry and then you can go back the next day and visit the rest of the places you missed on the first day. This is handy with a toddler, as you just never quite know how the day will play out. We took advantage of this and came back and did one of the 45 min underground tours the next day. Yes we took Maddison! You go down on a tram and once down there the tunnels are quite roomy and hubby and I took turns holding her hand and walking with her or carrying her. Our tour guide was lovely too and let us just walk up and down with her when she had had enough of listening at the particular stops along the way.
- Pack a spare change of clothes for bub – ones that you don’t mind getting wet & muddy.
- Don’t forget sunblock and a hat, we were there in Decemeber and it was quite warm.
- There are a few places to buy food but pack some toddler friendly snacks, as there is not a whole heap of toddler friendly food available.
- Budget for the family portrait if you can, I loved it!