Sovereign Hill, Ballarat, Goldfields, Victoria, Australia
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Gold rush history

The discovery of gold in the 1850s and 60s is the most significant event in the evolution of the state of Victoria.

Gold fever hits
Fuelled by extravagant stories of wealth gained at the 1849 Californian gold rush, gold fever hit Victoria following the early gold discoveries in and around Clunes, Warrandyte and Ballarat. But the real rush began with the discovery of the Mount Alexander goldfield 60 kilometres north-east of Ballarat.

Mt Alexander (taking in the goldfields of Castlemaine and Bendigo) was one of the world's richest shallow alluvial goldfields, yielding around four million ounces of gold, most of which was found in the first two years of the rush and within five metres of the surface. When eight tonnes of Victorian gold arrived at London's port in April 1852, the Times of London declared: '... this is California all over again, but, it would appear, California on a larger scale…'

Between 1850 and 1900, Bendigo produced the most gold in the world. Today, the amount found would be worth around nine billion dollars.

Nuggets of the stuff
Mt Alexander goldfield's largest nugget was found in 1855 at Golden Gully by some inexperienced miners who had been sent to a 'duffer' or empty claim. On just their second day digging they discovered the 1008 ounce, 'damper-shaped' nugget and named it in honour of the area's popular gold commissioner, Mr Heron.

The small town of Moliagul became famous when a 69-kilogram gold nugget was found in 1869 at Bulldog Gully. Dubbed 'Welcome Stranger', the nugget was the largest in the world, though it was soon broken into pieces as the district lacked scales big enough to weigh the 60 by 30 centimetre nugget. Today the nugget would be worth over one million dollars.

Population boom
By the end of 1852, 90,000 newcomers had flocked to Victoria in search of gold. Provincial cities like Ballarat and Bendigo grew, bringing railways, roads, libraries, theatres, art galleries and stock exchanges.

In the 1850s the heaviest traffic in Australia was on the road from Melbourne to Bendigo, and by the 1880s Melbourne was christened 'Marvellous Melbourne' – one of the world's biggest, booming and cosmopolitan cities of the era.

Central Deborah Gold Mine

Central Deborah Gold Mine

Gear up in overalls, a miner's hat and lamp and head into underground tunnels in search of gold in a key mine from Bendigo's 19th century gold rush.

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Blood on the Southern Cross

Blood on the Southern Cross

Blood on the Southern Cross tells the dramatic story of the Eureka Uprising by Ballarat's miners against unjust and corrupt colonial rulers. The...

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Gold Museum

Gold Museum

The Gold Museum extends Sovereign Hill's story of Ballarat - a majestic provincial city built on the wealth derived from the great Australian...

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Victorian Goldfields Railway

Victorian Goldfields Railway

The unmistakable nostalgic sound of a steam locomotive's whistle can be heard in the distance on any Wednesday or Sunday as you stroll along the main...

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The original Flag of the Southern Cross (the Eureka Flag) from 1854, on display in a purpose built gallery

Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka

The Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (M. A. D. E) is an Australian museum, which engages visitors in the compelling story of democracy. The...

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Ballaarat General Cemeteries Trust

Ballarat General Cemeteries

Remembering the Past, Caring for the Present and Planning for the Future. The Ballarat Old Cemetery has over 30,000 interments and is rich in...

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Castlemaine Diggins National Heritage Park

Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park

Dig into local gold rush history, fossick for gold, explore bushwalking and cycling trails or cast a line. Set up camp and choose your own adventure.

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Sovereign Hill

Sovereign Hill

Strike it rich with a day out in 1850s Ballarat and pan for gold, ride in a horse-drawn carriage and relive the Eureka Rebellion with sound and light.

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Art & culture