While the farm was very relaxing, and we enjoyed kangaroo spotting and avoiding snakes, we also took little day trips here and there to experience other towns and sights.
A quick side note about the snakes, as they were top of mind during our stay. Our Airbnb farm experience came with a warning from the hosts to be aware of “brown and red bellied black snakes here and although they are shy, if you surprise them or walk on them, they may get cranky.” Making either of these snakes cranky wouldn’t be a good thing as the eastern brown is the 2nd deadliest in the world and the red bellied black, while not deadly, would do some serious damage.
And now onto our first day trip. One day we took an hour and a half drive to Ballarat on lots of small country roads (including single (shared) lane roads) to get there. The views were beautiful and even included watching and waiting for a herd of cattle to cross in front of us!
We spent the day at Sovereign Hill, an outdoor museum that all about Ballarat’s first 10 years after the discovery of gold in 1851! The streets and shops have been recreated to look and feel like the 1850s, and the costumed “citizens,” “tradesmen,” “school teachers,” and “shopkeepers” make everything come alive. It was GREAT!
On the far end of the town was a beautiful Victorian garden area, complete with a sundial!
We got to pan for gold and even keep a tiny vile of the flakes we found! Unfortunately, we didn’t strike it rich, despite the efforts of Mike and the kids! :/
While I had a latte at the New York Bakery above ground, Mike and the kids did a mine tour, which they all really enjoyed. Afterward, they all confirmed that I would have hated it! 🙂 It worked out just fine as I thoroughly enjoyed my latte and even had time to wander around The Drapery Store, which was full of tea cups, fabrics, hats, etc.
In a woodworkers’ shop, there were a bunch of different toys and gadgets for sale that the tradesmen make onsite. We found some really great little tops but decided we’d come back later to let the kids get them with their pocket money. Unfortunately, they were all gone when we came back!
The sweet shop lady asked if we’d be around for a bit and then went and asked the tradesman if he’d make a couple for G and L. She told us to come back in a quarter of an hour, but when we realized that he was going to make the on the spot (as opposed to going to a storage closet and pulling more out), we stayed to watch. It was really cool to watch as the block of wood he placed on a belt-run lathe became a beautiful little wooden top! 🙂 And the kids thought it was cool that they were made especially for them!
For a snack/lunch, we stopped by the Hope Bakery that used a traditional Scottish wood fired-oven to make super tasty sausage rolls, bacon/cheese rolls and various Cornish pasties (½ veg/½ apple, all veg).
We stopped by the confectionery to watch a demonstration on making raspberry drops – a deliciously sweet little hard candy!
Throughout the day, we’d see the Clydesdales pulling coaches around the town. In one of the barns, G met a ½ Clydesdale ½ Welsh pony named Ruby.
There are two schoolhouses at Sovereign Hills, where school kids can spend the day dressed in period costumes and experience what it would have been like in an 1850s classroom.
One of the demonstrations we watched was gold smelting! We watched the gold smelter melt the gold in a huge kiln to take out the other metals. Below, he poured the now pure gold into a bar mold. The bar below was worth $160,000 AUD! Our favorite part was when he put the boiling hot bar of gold into the tub of cold water that started to boil immediately as the heat was transferred and cooled! He asked the audience if the water would still be hot or not. When the reply was no, he reached in, yelped, and yanked his hand out! It of course wasn’t hot, but it made everyone jump! 🙂
G and L both had a turn at the bowling saloon and followed the rules by using two hands to “throw” the ball.
There was sweet little church just down the street from the bowling saloon, which was shared by Episcopalians, Methodist, and Presbyterian congregations.
We stopped by the steam boiler used for powering the mining equipment. The same boiler has been in use for more than 100 years! We also wandered into the buildings used to make carriages and wagon wheels.
On our second go round of panning for gold (still largely unsuccessful), G met some kids (several boys and a girl named Lucinda and her friend), who were very interested in the fact that she was from the U.S. 🙂
We really had a great day! There was so much to do and see and learn! We even thought about going back for a second day (our tickets allowed us to do that), but the drive back and forth was just a little two long for two days in a row.
Speaking of the drive, we took a slightly different way back to the farm that was faster and on slightly bigger roads, which was nice. 🙂 That evening, Mike and kids went for a walk to visit the horses, mule, and donkey.
I sat on the verandah listening to the kookaburras laughing, which really sounds like this! While I was sitting there, I saw a kangaroo come hopping by through the paddock in front of our house. When the kids and Mike came home, they were all excited about a kangaroo they saw, which it turns out is the same one I saw!