I love visiting Ballarat, even if it is only a day trip. The old stores, the history and the tales are always fabulous. I actually lived there back in 1991-1992 and worked at Ballarats famous historical site known as Sovereign Hill. I worked in the corner store on main street known as Rees and Benjamin. Ted Harrison had the lease for the store at the time and was quite the larakin. We sold watches, trinket boxes and beautiful old fashioned jewellery. Part of my employment was to be available for rides on the stage couch, assist visitors with directions and historical information and to have my photo taken by lots of tourists. It was so much fun…well, except for the clothing….
I still remember the hassle of getting dressed in those costumes – agghh… The layers upon layers were so frustrating. Ballarat can get rather cold and windy so it was necessary for my own comfort to wear thermal underwear! The clothing worn by staff were not whole pieces, so you needed a warm layer underneath. For example, a shirt was not an entire shirt. It was just a half sleeve, from wrist to just above the elbow, that was held in place by elastic sewn into the fabric. The lace collars were tucked into the top of the dress. We wore 2 skirts under the dresses to give them the fullness the needed. All the dresses I wore required a very colonial looking headpiece, held in place with lots of bobby pins.
Sometimes the staff were allowed to choose their clothing. I remember always choosing this gorgeous lemon and apricot coloured dress with the most beautiful lace on the ends of the sleeves. Another dress I remember wearing was plum coloured. All the staff had to buy their shoes from a shoe store in Ballarat that looked authentic to that period in time. We were not allowed to wear any jewellery unless the costume department gave permission. Makeup was very, very minimal and if our hair was dyed we were not allowed to show any regrowth. All that aside, it was so much fun. Oh, except when you needed to visit the bathroom…..you didn’t hold on with all those layers on! Any indication your body gave you, you went straight away!
When I worked there, I don’t remember the sound and light show, The Blood on The Southern Cross. But since 1992, I have been back to watch the show. The event is a retelling of the Eureka Rebellion which was a dramatic battle between gold miners and Government forces at Ballarat on 3 December, 1854. If you are looking for something different and memorable to do, this would be a great night out in Ballarat for you and your loved one.
Now if you love reading medieval romance and dream of a sexy barbarian swinging you up onto his shoulders and taking you to his manor, then you will want to visit Kryal Castle. Driving east out of Ballarat on the Western Freeway, turn left onto Forbes Road (10 minute drive from Bridge Street). Surrounded by farmland, this fabulous medieval theme park is everything you would imagine it to be – a legendary land of myth and medieval adventure with knights, dragons, wizards, kings, queens, princesses, fairies and so much more.
Within the Castle walls is a sprawling medieval village of activities, beginning with the Dragons Labyrinth which reveals the legend of Kryal. Witness jousting tournaments with mounted knights in the Castle arena, wizardry, squire training, archery and sword battles. Extend the adventure and sleep like a King or Queen for the night in beautifully appointed Castle Suites, capturing the glory and mystery of times past. Kryal Castle was transformed to create a family-friendly venue which, in 2013, won the coveted title of Victoria’s best new tourism development. Admission is $31.00 per adult.
Ballarat has so much to see and do. From museums to art galleries. Her Majesty’s Theatre on Lydiard Street, The Gold Museum on Bradshaw Street and its many wonderful speciality and gift shops. From Melbourne inner city, it is only a 1 hour 20 minute drive to Ballarat. V-Line offer a train service from most capital cities. Plan a fabulous weekend to Ballarat and take a walk through Australias gold mining history.
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Note: On Average, it takes 1 hour and 20 minutes to drive from Melbourne’s CBD to Ballarat.