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HOT: Winter Wonderlights, Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

HOT: Winter Wonderlights, Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

The Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights are back for another year from Saturday 30 June – Sunday 22 July 2018 as part of Ballarat’s Winter Festival. Just like a mini White Night Melbourne, 25 of their Victorian buildings are lit up with festive yuletide animations, faux snow falls throughout the day, and over 15km of fairy lights gives the entire township of Sovereign Hill a golden glow.

Expect a magical day out in olden day Ballarat with snowfalls, Christmas decorations and stunning light projections!

sovereign hill

Sovereign Hill is 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.

sovereign hill

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

sovereign hill

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

sovereign hill

During Winter Wonderlights 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.

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

It is a really magical atmosphere, especially when the snow falls.

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

In addition to regular attractions and programming there is a Christmas-themed theatrical program and festive stalls.

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

If you’re visiting Sovereign Hill for just one day 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 scheduled activities and just to wander where the crowds, kids and fairy lights take us.

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

The unmissable highlight is when the Main Street lit 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 position at 5:30pm at the top of the hill, which is a new area for the projections this year and less crowded than the rest of Main Street. It also means that you can walk in one direction down Main Street on the way to the exit.

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

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

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

We admire the animations, chasing the images of the Gingerbread Man down the hill. The chimney is a highlight feature so make sure you hang around there for a big surprise when the Gingerbread Man climbs up it!

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

We leave by about 6:30pm and the projections are slated to finish at 7pm. They appear to run in about a 20 minute loop from each location. 

sovereign hill winter wonderlights

Winter Wonderlights is a magical experience for young and old and well worth a road trip to Ballarat. It is included in the standard Sovereign Hill entry fee, which allows visitors to enter on two consecutive days. We are there from 2:30pm-6:30pm but you can easily stay for longer.

Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights is part of Ballarat’s Winter Festival which runs from Saturday 30 June – Sunday 22 July 2018. The festival includes ice skating, music, family-friendly shows and a potato festival!

Click here to find out what Sovereign Hill is like the rest of the year.

Click here for more things to do in Ballarat with kids. 

HOT Tips:

  • 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;
  • Bring lots of snacks (a thermos, even better) as eateries get crowded, especially from 5pm. 
  • You can get the award-winning pies and sausages rolls from the Hope Bakery within the Sovereign Hill cafe, though 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 and have dinner elsewhere – The Forge Pizzeria is 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 (waterproof coat, layers, gloves, scarf, hat). Ballarat experiences harsh winters and once the sun goes down it is really cold;
  • Gumboots are a good idea as the pathways get muddy. For some reason my kids always love walking in the ditches too!;
  • Bring a torch/glow sticks for added fun;
  • Projections start at 5:45pm though the fairy lights switch on a bit earlier;
  • The best position for when the projections start is to start at the top of Main Street and 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) but the horse carriage rides only take cash. There is an ATM at the entrance, Sovereign Hill cafe and the post office;
  • Sovereign Hill is a comfortable 90-minute drive from Melbourne along the Western Highway;
  • train and tour coach services which operate daily from Melbourne; and
  • RACV members get 10% off tickets though unfortunately the standard Entertainment Book 25% off discount is not available for Winter Wonderlights entry. 

Joyce Watts

Joyce Watts is a former intellectual property, IT and media lawyer turned entrepreneur. She combines her love for kids, food, travel and bikes into several passion projects.

She owns an online bike store CycleStyle.com.au; develops and produces bike-related creative experiences for families via WheelieGoodFun.com; and writes another popular lifestyle and food blog called MEL: HOT OR NOT The decisive guide to Melbourne with (non-kid related) reviews about things to do and places to go in Melbourne.

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

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