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Gold rush history

Victoria

  • Sovereign Hill, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. Photo: Roberto Seba

Get a taste of the gold fever that hit Victoria when gold was discovered in the 1850s, propelling the remote colony onto the world stage. At one stage, the gold output was greater than in almost any other country in the world. Miners arrived in the thousands, with townships popping up overnight and the riches laying the foundations for Victoria's future.

Discover the Goldfields
The best place to witness the legacy of the gold rush is in Victoria's Goldfields region, where ornate buildings, historic gardens and a Chinese heritage proudly proclaim the discovery of gold. Ballarat, Bendigo and Castlemaine have some of Victoria's best examples of the architecture that gold built, while Maldon, Dunolly and Talbot have exquisitely preserved Victorian streetscapes. Wherever you stop around the Goldfields, there's a strong sense of this rich past.

You can even get a hands-on sample of gold mining life at the Mt Alexander Diggings, the site of the world's greatest shallow alluvial gold rush.

A treasure trove of regional museums tells the story of the gold rush, with the standout the perennially popular Sovereign Hill. The living museum is like stepping back in time to Ballarat during the 1850s, where a bustling Main Street is abuzz with costumed ladies and gents, horse-drawn carriages and parading soldiers. Pan for gold in the Red Hill Gully diggings and stay after dark for the sound-and-light show, 'Blood on the Southern Cross'.

The High Country's golden one
It mightn't be the lost city of gold, but the precious metal was initially elusive in the tiny High Country town of Eldorado until the 1850s, when it boomed into a gold rush town. Today you can walk around the hulking, silent gold dredge and channel the past in the tiny pub – reputedly the smallest in Victoria. Go gold panning at the El Dorado Museum and browse gold and tin mining relics.

Also in the High Country is Yackandandah, a National Trust classified former mining township that still bears the elaborate streetscapes of the gold rush largesse. Take an underground tour of the Karrs Reef Gold Mine and pay your respects to the many Chinese gold miners laid to rest in the historic cemetery.

Gold in Gippsland
Follow in the footsteps of gold prospectors to Gippsland, who made tracks to Walhalla, Omeo and the settlements around Dargo when gold was discovered during the 1860s and 1880s. As Victoria's first established port, Port Albert welcomed thousands of Chinese miners on their ways to the goldfields.

Tiny townships like Briagolong were founded on the back of the gold rush, attested by the heritage buildings still dominating the streetscapes. Omeo's Oriental Claims historic area remains the highest alluvial gold field in Australia. Tour the old pioneer's hut and take the wine and gold drive from Omeo or Swifts Creek and discover the Cassilis historical area, once among the richest goldfields in the state.

Seemingly frozen in time, Walhalla gives you the rare chance to experience life as it was when the three-kilometre Cohens Reef vein of gold was discovered. During the gold rush Walhalla was home to 4000 gold seekers and one of Australia's richest towns. Relive the days of the early miners on Walhalla's scenic railway, and enjoy a stroll around the town's evocative heritage buildings.