GOLD Fever!

G’day!

Let me tell you about a place that’s a lot of FUN for little kids AND big kids …

It’s a place where you can literally step back in time and appreciate what was once the region’s “gold era”.

Welcome to Sovereign Hill … an open air museum located in a suburb of Ballarat (approximately 105km WNW of Melbourne).

Main Street at Sovereign Hill

The hub of Sovereign Hill, Main Street

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

HISTORY
The concept of building Sovereign Hill was initially put forward in Ballarat in the 1960s. The idea was to preserve the historic buildings and reconstruct the diggings that made this provincial city flourish. Consequently, the first ten years after the discovery of gold in 1851 is what has been recreated at Sovereign Hill.

And so on Sunday, 29 November 1970, Sovereign Hill as we know it today, was officially opened.

The town of Ballarat is also significant for the Welcome Nugget (not to be confused with the Welcome Stranger which is the largest nugget ever found in 1869 further north of Ballarat near a town called Dunolly). The Welcome Nugget is the world’s second largest gold nugget, weighing in at 69kgs and containing 99% pure gold unearthed in the Red Hill mine in 1858. At the time of discovery, the Welcome Nugget was worth approximately 10, 050 pounds but it is now worth over US$3M in gold (or even more as a specimen).

Welcome Nugget Replica

Replica of the Welcome Nugget, the world’s second largest gold nugget found in Ballarat, Victoria Australia

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

To find out all about the discovery of the Welcome Nugget, you can actually take the self-guided tour of the Red Hill mine which has been recreated at Sovereign Hill.

Gold Panning

Try your luck at panning for gold at Red Hill Gully diggings, Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

TODAY
Sovereign Hill is Ballarat’s most famous attraction and also one of Victoria’s most popular. The experience here is completely immersive, interactive and put simply, so much fun! The main attraction is the gold diggings which feature a winding creek where you can pan for real gold (and keep it)! But what really brings all this to life are the costumed staff and volunteers going about their daily routine of working in a fully operational replica township and who are more than happy to pose for a photo with you making for an extra memorable visit.

Gold Museum

Gold Museum at Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Gold Museum, located on the same site as Sovereign Hill, is also worth a visit. The museum displays an impressive exhibition of gold and extends Sovereign Hill’s story of Ballarat. The building itself is quite striking with its glass façade that lets the sun in to shine on the gold collections.

There are plenty of exciting attractions to visit in this region and Sovereign Hill in Ballarat is just one of them. To find out more about this area, here are a couple of links (including one where you can join our day tour if you’re not up to driving there yourself):
•    http://visitballarat.com.au/things-to-do.aspx
•    http://www.grayline.com.au/australia-sightseeing/melbourne-day-tours/sovereign-hill-tours

Always welcome any comments you may have!

Your Taste Buds Will Love the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (27 FEB to 15 MAR)

 

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, VIC


Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, VIC Immersery: Festival Kitchen, Bar and Raingarden
Copyright: Tourism Australia
Photographer: Ellenor Argyropoulos

It all started quite humbly 22 years ago (with a program of only a dozen events) as the brainchild of advertising veteran, Peter Clemenger, who had recognised that Melbourne was in dire need of reinvigoration. Fast forward and those events have grown exponentially in festival history to over 200 annually.

The well regarded and much anticipated Melbourne Food and Wine Festival draws in thousands of enthusiasts eager to partake and indulge in hosted experiences throughout the city and sprawling out into regional Victoria. One-off events is the mainstay of the program and offers diversity making the festival unique and extremely appealing. It’s a joyful celebration and festival go-ers are encouraged to be adventurous in their palate and spirit.

 

 Bank of Melbourne World's Longest Lunch, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, VIC


Bank of Melbourne World’s Longest Lunch, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, VIC
Copyright: Melbourne Food and Wine Festival
Photographer: Daniel Mahon

Bank of Melbourne ‘World’s Longest Lunch’ will launch the celebration on 27 February at Fitzroy Gardens. Last year the festival set a record in its history with this event hosting 1,504 diners on a 530m long table situated along the banks of the scenic Yarra River. What a sight it was!

What we love about this festival is the genius creativity born from the collaboration of world renowned international chefs with our very own leading local chefs. The festival has been fortunate to have hosted the who’s who of the culinary world such as Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Heston Blumenthall and Anthony Bourdain.

A bonus is that not all events require you to purchase a ticket. There’s at least a dozen celebrations that are hosted complimentary … so why not check out the Festival Artisan Bakery & Bar, Open Kitchen and Crown’s Alfresco Kitchen at Southbank or Fed Square Harvest at Federation Square and Grazing by the River held at South Wharf. Paid events range in price to cater for those on a tight budget to those who can afford a little more depending on the experience and exclusivity of the event. Whatever your budget, there will be a hosted food and wine experience waiting for you!

 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, Melbourne, VIC


Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, VIC Immersery: Festival Kitchen, Bar and Raingarden with Dan Wilson
Copyright: Tourism Australia
Photographer: Ellenor Argyropoulos

If you’re a local, the festival is a premier event to attend, offering gastronomic delights that you’ll not be able to experience any other time of year. And if you’re an international visitor, the festival is guaranteed to heighten the fun factor of your Melbourne stay.

There’s only a couple of weeks til the festival kicks off. Don’t miss this exceptionally enjoyable culinary exploration for your taste buds and get amongst it … there’s 316 events for you to choose from, explore and experience!

Hop, Skip, Jump from Melbourne CBD: Get to know our “inner side”!

G’day!
Take a little break from what you’re doing right now and join me in getting to know some of Melbourne’s funky inner suburbs.

These inner city suburbs I’m about to introduce you to are a stone’s throw from Melbourne CBD making it so easy to access by public transport, on foot, by bicycle and of course, by car if you have it available to you.

Let’s head north and make our way clockwise around Melbourne town …

Painted seat located on the street in Fitzroy

Fitzroy: A taste of the alternative

Fitzroy: Alternative culture, night life and plethora of eateries
Fitzroy (2kms NE Melbourne CBD) exudes all things hip and kooky. Wander along Brunswick Street, Fitzroy’s main drag, and you will instantly feel the alternative vibe with its numerous vintage clothing stores, second-hand bookshops and bountiful cafes, restaurants and pubs. If you’re lucky, you may catch ‘celebrity’ black Elvis rock-n-rolling away on the street … always entertaining to see. Dare to step out of your culinary comfort zone? Vegie Bar is a long standing institution much loved both by the health conscious and the hungry for its satisfying comfort food. On weekends, enjoy Rose St. Artists’ Market, the most exciting and unique place for you to find all kinds of handmade treasures.

Shopping in Richmond

Richmond: Top-to-Toe shopping experience

Richmond: Shopping, sports bars and live band venues
3kms SE of Melbourne CBD is Richmond and I have to admit that I did once shopped til I dropped (I guess I may now have also given away my gender!) along the infamous Bridge Road shopping strip … a top-to-toe fashion experience! With major sports stadiums and arenas nearby, there are also a handful of bars and pubs that are a draw card for sports fans (we do love our sports in Melbourne!) and for those who love to see live bands, legendary rock venue the Corner Hotel always has a fabulous line up.

 

Albert Park Lake with city in the background

Albert Park: The lake is home to Australia’s F1 GP

Albert Park: Albert Park Lake, Australian F1 GP, terrace homes, parks and gardens
Head south 3kms from Melbourne CBD to picturesque and leafy Albert Park, one of Melbourne’s oldest suburbs. I just love walking around this area and admiring the charming heritage homes and delightful Victorian shopfronts of Bridport Street and Victoria Avenue with its collection of upmarket retailers and cafes. Perfectly suited for an active outdoors lifestyle, enjoy the beachfront, parks and gardens, an inland lake that is home to Australian F1 Grand Prix, Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC), a golf course, soccer stadium, sailing clubs and several sporting ovals. Before we leave Albert Park, allow me introduce you to a legend … Andrew’s Hamburgers, burgers made old-fashioned home-style that is big and fresh and many agree, is absolutely worth the journey from even across town to try. The chips are just as amazing too! Let me know how you liked it … bon appetit!

Art Deco Sun Theatre in Yarraville

Yarraville: Restored art deco Sun Theatre on Ballarat St

Yarraville: Endearing village life and architecture
Our next destination is a little further and completes our circuit. Yarraville is 8kms west of Melbourne CBD and is a hidden gem even for many Melburnians. The west has always had a reputation for being a tad on the rough side but Yarraville has transformed into having a wonderful community spirit. Yarraville Village has a charming village atmosphere where you will find the beautifully restored, iconic art deco cinema Sun Theatre and adjacent Sun Bookshop. Coming here, you can’t help but slow the pace down, enjoy its quality village life and notable examples of Edwardian and Victorian architecture of which many house the neighbourhood’s epicurean cafes and restaurants, eclectic bookstores and boutique shops.

Melbourne from the air

Aerial view of Melbourne with Albert Park Lake in the foreground

Going out and exploring just beyond the Melbourne CBD to these wonderful inner city suburbs will not only enhance your experience and knowledge of our eclectic and absolutely fabulous city but also complement some of the day tours we have on offer.

Which part of Melbourne has been memorable for you? Got any ‘secrets’ to share? We would love to hear your comments and suggestions!

Romantic Ideas in and around Melbourne

Zios Restaurant

Valentine’s Day dining at Zio’s Restaurant

Hang on; Valentine’s Day is this Friday!?  For those not romantically inclined, this popular day for celebrating love can seem to creep up way too soon after Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  With limited time to sort something out or for those who need ideas for next time, here are some suggestions on what to do together on Valentine’s Day in Australia’s city of love: Melbourne.

Melbourne is bursting at the seams with new food and drink hangouts amongst old favourites.  Enjoy afternoon cocktails at Naked in the Sky; the rooftop bar is very popular due to its massive range of infused vodkas and fancy cocktails, trendy atmosphere and spectacular unspoilt views of the city.  Afterwards there are plenty of eateries along Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, for something not too fancy but still absolutely delicious, try the oriental delights at Rice Queen. However, Valentine’s Day is a day to spoil your loved one somewhere small, intimate, quiet, special and has exceptional food and wine.  You then can’t go past Zio’s Restaurant in East Melbourne, set in a small terraced building; Zio’s has a range of food to cater for all tastes in the perfect setting for a romantic dinner, if it’s cold there’s even a few wooden fireplaces.  There’s no better way to spoil the one you love than to get them Zio’s famous chocolate soufflé for dessert, it’s heavenly.

Valentine’s Day luckily falls on a Friday, so why not spread the romance over the rest of the weekend!  If the weather is nice, Melbourne is scattered with many parks and gardens to explore. The Cranbourne Botanic Gardens, around an hour out of the city is a huge park showcasing Australia’s large variety of beautiful native plants; the park is perfect as a lunch spot and a walk.  Your traditionally romantic English-style gardens such as the Fitzroy Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens provide stunning settings for picnics, there are plenty of paths to walk around and the lush green grass is perfect to lie on for a bit of relaxation.

Melbourne is only a few hours’ drive to the rolling green pastures of the Yarra Valley, an area synonymous with romance.  A day in the Yarra Valley region can easily be done by car and at your own pace.  To impress your loved one on Valentine’s Day you can’t go past tasting fine wines at the Dominique Portet cellar door set in a romantic French style building. The Yarra Valley Dairy cannot be missed for their award winning marinated fetta, perhaps take a cheese platter and sit out on their deck taking in the serene views of the valley.  A few hours can also easily be spent at Hedgend Maze, hidden down a dirt track; this delightful hedge maze is great fun. You are given a list of clues and you need to match the clues with various objects you find in the maze to be able to solve the mystery.  There’s also mini golf, Frisbee golf or relax in the beautifully manicured gardens with an ice cream.

Chinese New Year in Melbourne

Building the Dockland’s Dragon ready for it’s launch!

After an intense sporting period in Melbourne with the MCG playing host to the Boxing Day Test of Australia versus England and the Australian Tennis Open which was played out to large crowds things have returned to a steady summer buzz.

Chinese New Year celebrations took place on many of the streets of Melbourne over the weekend but if you missed out then you can still catch the ‘Docklands Dragon’, a 100m long illuminated Chinese dragon in Melbourne’s Docklands starting today until the Sunday 16th February. In conjunction with this there is also nightly entertainment between 6.30 – 7.30pm including Chinese music and dance, street theatre and stalls. More details can be found on the Destination Docklands website.

If the heat of thecity is too much then why not head down to the Mornington Peninsula located about 1 hour out of Melbourne. It’s a great place to explore stunning bay side beaches, excellent farm gate experiences, a wide selection of boutique wineries or to indulge in a hot springs experience at Peninsula Hot Springs or make the most of summer with some strawberry picking at Sunnyridge Strawberry Farm.