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  1. Family on a carriage
    Photograph: Supplied/Sovereign Hill
  2. Live demonstration
    Photograph: Supplied/Sovereign Hill
  3. Family doing gold panning
    Photograph: Supplied/Sovereign Hill
  4. Candle making
    Photograph: Supplied/Sovereign Hill

The best things to do at Sovereign Hill this autumn school holidays

Just a two-hour drive from the CBD, this immersive living museum is the perfect autumn day trip

By Saskia Morrison-Thiagu for Time Out in association with Sovereign Hill

If you grew up in Melbourne then you most likely had a school excursion to Sovereign Hill. As a youngster, there was nothing more exciting than jumping on a bus with your mates and being transported back in time to the Gold Rush era. 

But if you haven't visited in a while, there's never been a better time than the Easter long weekend and autumn school holidays to check it out once again. Over the years, Sovereign Hill has expanded even further to include more immersive, first-hand experiences that encapsulate the atmosphere of 1850s Victoria. 

You can walk through a time capsule of residential cottages, chalkboard classrooms, mineshafts, old warehouses, blacksmith workshops and, of course, the goldfields where gold hunters risked it all for the chance to find gold. 

You can even win a real gold nugget worth $500, via an activity called Gold Strike. It involves picking a bag of wash dirt at random, then pouring it into a pan to see if you're a lucky winner. Kids and adults alike will be keen to strike it rich.

Didn’t find the yellow bounty? No problem, you’ll get a chance to hold a real gold nugget (called the Australia nugget for its resemblance to the shape of our country) from Sovereign Hill's exclusive collection, and it's worth $80,000. Now that is one hefty nug!

Aside from looking for gold, there are plenty of other ways to immerse yourself in the Gold Rush era, including discovering more about some of the trades and skills that migrants undertook at this time.

Highlights from the autumn program include a candle-making workshop where visitors can make their own scented glass jar candle, an opportunity to assemble your own pull-apart wheel at the wheelwright factory, a chance to have a go at 1850s crafts (like making lavender bags and toys) and even try dark room photo printing using glass negatives. 

Candle making
Photograph: Supplied/Sovereign Hill

After you try your luck at these experiences, you may also want to meet some of the experts in these areas. During the autumn program, there will be multiple opportunities to meet the wheelwrights and coachbuilders and hear about the projects they are working on, plus see them in action. Other live demonstrations include blacksmithing, gold pouring, printing and confectionary making.

For the history buffs, don't miss the back-of-house tour which provide a rare opportunity to see the Sovereign Hill collection of more than 150,000 objects. And those that are still curious and up for a challenge can head over to the Rare Trades Centre and learn a rare or nearly-forgotten trade like leather plaiting or watercolour paint making.

Sovereign Hill is for all ages, so you can take the little ones or go with friends for a guaranteed fun day out. Tickets range from $29-$132, and be sure to head to the Sovereign Hill website for more info. You can also find out more about the workshops on offer at the Rare Trades Centre here

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