Bendigo was important during the Gold Rush, but Ballarat was to become positively iconic. Ballarat was not just a booming gold town, it became the site of the Eureka Stockade, a place and event that stands in Australian history in a position similar to that of the Alamo in Texas. While not everyone at the Eureka Stockade was killed, it was, like the Alamo, a murderously one-sided battle that became a rallying point for national sentiment.
However, there were lots of things drawing me to Ballarat besides just the site of the iconic skirmish. Among those things was Sovereign Hill, a recreation of Ballarat during the days of the Gold Rush, a bustling frontier town populated with re-enactors who take you back to a rough but vivid era. I love history and re-enactments—have gone so far as to have spent a year as re-enactor myself (American Revolution)—so I was overjoyed with Sovereign Hill. I wandered happily through hotels and miner’s camps, school rooms and stores, the newspaper office and theater, and the wagonwright’s and blacksmith’s shops. The “townsfolk” were delightful and eager to share what they knew about the area’s history and the life of the people they portrayed. Splendid place. If you fancy a bit of Aussie history, I recommend a visit.