Sovereign Hill transport options

Not authentically Gold Rush are the full car parks outside Sovereign Hill – the horseless carriages is the main mode of access.

Earlier in July we went to Sovereign Hill with family. They’d been running their Winter Wonderlights for a few weeks, and there were plenty of people attending.

Good fun.

Sovereign Hill: Winter Wonderlights 2023
Sovereign Hill: Winter Wonderlights 2023
Hello Newman
Hello Steinfeld

Of course rather less authentically Gold Rush was the full car parks outside the venue. Clearly the horseless carriages is the main mode of access.

Sovereign Hill car park

We too went by car – alas unavoidable coming with family from their home on the outskirts of Ballarat. There is a bus stop nearby, but only two bus routes with one service each per day – on weekdays only. (And the two buses into Ballarat each weekday depart within 15 minutes of each other.)

Our host may not have realised this, but he’s a Far Parker – someone who doesn’t bother hunting for a spare spot close to their destination, but instead takes the first one found that is within walking distance.

So we got a spot on nearby Grant Street, a short walk from the venue. The only problem was the complete lack of footpaths along the street.

A few of the other nearby streets are also lacking footpaths – including Dunn Street, which is the quickest walking route from central Ballarat.

It’s an understatement to say that footpaths would be helpful, especially for family groups during big events, and for encouraging more people to walk to the venue, not to mention for other journeys around what is – Sovereign Hill aside – mostly a residential neighbourhood of Ballarat.

Lack of footpaths on a street near to Sovereign Hill

I didn’t notice any dedicated bike parking near the entrance, though I wasn’t looking for it at the time. The roads on this evening were pretty busy – cyclists would need to be pretty brave.

Buses weren’t an option for us, but do serve Sovereign Hill. Route 21 is half-hourly every day, which isn’t outstanding, but is actually better than many Melbourne bus routes. And some people were using it.

And they seem to do a semi-reasonable job of having the buses connect to the trains back to Melbourne on weekends – every second bus arrives at Ballarat Station 7 minutes before the train is due to depart.

Passengers wait at the Sovereign Hill bus stop

The failing here is that half the buses don’t connect, which could be fixed with more frequent trains.

It could be worse: on weekdays, V/Line runs trains every 40 minutes outside peak hours… which of course doesn’t work at all well with the buses every 30 minutes, and there seems to be no plans to fix this.

It would be interesting to know if staff at Sovereign Hill find the bus viable, or if the lack of good frequency/connections to elsewhere around Ballarat is a problem.

And alas, they even get the simple stuff wrong: in the PTV route 21 timetable, they list the central terminus stop as “Ballarat Bus Interchange (Soldiers Hill)” – without mentioning of the adjacent railway station.

Overall, as with Melbourne Zoo, I wonder if management have not quite grasped that making it attractive (or at least viable) for more people to arrive by non-car modes can help kerb traffic problems.

On the bright side, unlike some tourist destinations, at least the car parks aren’t bigger than the venue itself.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

One reply on “Sovereign Hill transport options”

A “Far Parker”? Guess that’s the opposite of the person who, at shopping centre car parks, lurks in the rows close to the entrance, waiting for someone to leave – even though there are spaces readily available a few rows back or on a higher level!

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