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Winter Wonderlights, Sovereign Hill Ballarat is the ultimate Christmas in July!

The Sovereign Hill's Christmas in July: Winter Wonderlights is back for another year from Saturday 25 June until Sunday 17 July 2022 as part of the Ballarat Winter Festival.

Expect a magical day out in Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights, where you get to experience a olden day Ballarat winter wonderland with snowfalls, Christmas decorations and stunning light projections!

It's a super popular event so make sure you book your Sovereign Hill Entry Ticket ahead of time – there's no extra charge for the Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill night show.

Over the winter school holidays, you can experience a Sovereign Hill Christmas in July, where Victorian buildings are lit up with festive yuletide animations, faux snowfalls happen throughout the day, and over 15km of fairy lights make sure the Sovereign Hill light show give the entire township a golden glow.

sovereign hill ballarat

Wondering what is Sovereign Hill? It's one of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations and a place to immerse yourself in the history of gold-rush era Ballarat of the 1850s.

There’s so much to do there that we’ve never been able to see it all in over 3 visits!

Must-dos include panning for gold, the underground mine tour (the 40 minute Secret Chamber tour is excellent) and of course the famous raspberry drops from the old-fashioned lolly shop.  (Full review).

winter wonderlights ballarat

During Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill the whole outdoor museum is festooned with Christmas decorations, with wreaths at every shop front, Christmas trees and the sounds of carolling along the main streets.

It is a really magical atmosphere, especially when the snow falls (look at the timetable and plan to get your cameras out).

In addition to regular attractions and programming, there is a Christmas in July at Sovereign Hill-themed theatrical program and festive stalls selling Christmas themed arts and crafts.

Stock up on traditional Christmas decorations, treat yourself to a toffee apple or gather around the Diggings for a mulled wine.

If you’re visiting Sovereign Hill for just a Ballarat day trip, and for the first time, then it’s a good idea to plan your schedule so you don’t miss out on any of the special activities.

As we have been to Sovereign Hill several times and it is VERY busy on our visit (school holidays weekend) we opt not to bother with any of the Sovereign Hill Wonderlights scheduled activities and just to wander where the crowds, kids and fairy lights take us.

We also BYO marshmallows for roasting. I'm not sure why they haven't cottoned on to marshmallow toasting as an activity but every second person asked us where we got our marshmallows from. I buy a giant box of marshmallows made by Ballarat company Grounded Pleasures at a local cafe Higher Society Eatery and they are perfect because they're larger than normal (good for skewering) and very delicious.

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

The unmissable highlight during Sovereign Hill Xmas in July is when the Main Street lights up with a rainbow of moving projections by Electric Canvas, the team behind some of the stunning projections at White Night Melbourne.

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

We take up a position at 5:30pm at the top of the hill, which is less crowded than the rest of Main Street. It also means that you avoid most of the crowding (generally near New York Bakery) and you can walk down Main Street towards, rather than away from, the exit.

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

At 5:45pm the Sovereign Hill Christmas large-scale moving light projections start under a flurry of fake snowfall and music.

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

We admire the Ballarat light show at various locations on Main Street, with projections appearing to run on a loop. Note that the Gingerbread Man doesn't feature this year (much to my kids' disappointment), but it's still a wonderful show.

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

We leave by about 6:30pm, with the projections finishing at 7pm.

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

Winter Wonderlights is a magical experience for young and old and well worth a day trip or even a mini-break to Ballarat. We are there from 2:30pm-6:30pm but you can easily stay for longer, especially if you've never been to Sovereign Hill before and want to see all the sights.

More than 95,000 visitors enjoyed the three-week event in 2019, and with large crowds expected again this year I recommend you pre-book your Sovereign Hill Entry Ticket to avoid missing out.

Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights is part of Ballarat’s Winter Festival which runs from Saturday 25 June until Sunday 27 July 2022. The festival includes ice skating, music, family-friendly shows and more!


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Tips for Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights:

  • Peak times are school holidays and weekends;
  • Parking is free on-site, though on busy days you may have to park in the Gold Museum or down the hill;
  • BYO snacks and water so you don't have to wait in line when hunger and thirst strike. Eateries get crowded, especially around lunch and dinner time. I actually like to bring a thermos of hot food;
  • If having a period photograph, riding in a horse-drawn carriage, watching a gold pour or going on a mine tour is high on your to-do list then get there early and put your name down/buy a ticket as soon as you arrive. Everything except the mine tour was sold out by the time we arrive at 3pm;
  • The mine tour has 90 seconds of complete darkness as you descend, which can be really scary for little kids;
  • Some of the popular experiences such as candle-making are actually open until 7pm this year, so you can wait to do them after other experiences/shops have closed at 5pm;
  • Instead of waiting in line at the Lolly Shop you can buy Raspberry Drops at various locations and get the award-winning pies and sausages rolls from the Hope Bakery within the Sovereign Hill cafe, although without the Victorian-era atmosphere;
  • If you want a sit-down dinner you'll need to book in advance;
  • You can get a pass out if you need. For instance, if you arrive at opening time 10am then you may want to have a rest in the afternoon before returning to see the Winter Wonderlights.
  • You can also get a pass out in order to have an early dinner elsewhere – The Forge Pizzeria is in town and recommended (you'll need to drive) and a reader also suggests the Japanese restaurant across the road from Sovereign Hill;
  • Most of Sovereign Hill’s attractions are outdoors so wear lots of warm gear. Ballarat experiences harsh winters and once the sun goes down it is really cold (although Sovereign Hill snow is generally not real). We dress in merino underlayers top and bottom, a jumper and a waterproof jacket, plus beanies, scarves and gloves. ;
  • Gumboots are a good idea as the pathways get muddy, even on a dry day (plus if you have kids who love gold panning they WILL walk into the water). Do NOT wear white sneakers! I highly recommend the super comfortable, waterproof Merry People boots for women and kids;
  • Bring a torch/glow sticks for added fun;
  • Projections start at 5:45pm though the fairy lights switch on a bit earlier at 5:30pm;
  • Sovereign Hill hours during Winter Wonderlights are 10am – 7pm;
  • The best position for when the projections start is to start at the top of Main Street and then head down the hill, towards the exit. The momentum of the crowd means that you’ll be unable to push your way up the hill;
  • All the shops take EFTPOS (even for small amounts). There is an ATM at the entrance, Sovereign Hill cafe and the post office;
  • Melbourne to Sovereign Hill is a comfortable 90-minute drive along the Western Highway;
  • train and tour coach services operate daily from Melbourne; and
  • pre-book your Sovereign Hill Entry Ticket to avoid missing out.

Check out what else is happening in Ballarat for the Ballarat Winter Festival 2021

Click here to find out what Sovereign Hill is like the rest of the year, including a review of the evening light show AURA

Click here for more things to do in Ballarat with kids


This post contains affiliate links. If you book using the links there is no extra cost to you and I earn a small commission that helps me to provide free, valuable and useful information for you! Thanks Joyce

Kristyna Hess Lockdown Portraits 1000 X 667

Joyce Watts is a former intellectual property, IT and media lawyer turned serial entrepreneur.

As well as being the founder of TOT: HOT OR NOT she helps businesses with their SEO, email marketing & social media as BrightSmart.com.au; she owns an online bike store CycleStyle.com.au and develops and produces creative experiences for families via WheelieGoodFun.com. She used to publish another popular lifestyle and food blog called MEL: HOT OR NOT The decisive guide to Melbourne.

She lives in inner-city Melbourne with her husband, two children and seven bikes.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Hi there
    Do you recommend if staying in Ballarat , staying right near Sovereign Hill and walking to Winter wonderlights festivities or staying anywhere in Ballarat and driving/ parking at Sovereign Hill?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Sally

      I think either of those options are fine – there’s a lot of parking at Sovereign Hill normally but I suggest timing your arrival to between 4-5pm so you’re not parked too far away!

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