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Australian historical attractions breathing with life

A journey back in time is often full of wonder, romance, and fascination.

Fortunately, Australia has a wonderful collection of pioneer settlements and other like attractions that evocatively bring to life a period that once was.

It’s time to put the past in front of us and explore these engrossing heritage attractions.

Stumble upon all sorts of fun things at Swan Hill's Pioneer Settlement in VIC.

Pioneer Settlement, Swan Hill, VIC

Encounter Murray River life from yesteryear at Swan Hill’s Pioneer Settlement, which is armed with a fine collection of historical buildings, working machinery, and people dressed in period costume. Experience the intensity of the blacksmith shop, take a paddlesteamer or horse-and-cart ride, and grab old-fashioned sweets at the lolly shop. At night, a spectacular laser show traces the history of the Murray back 30 million years.

Visit when…staying at BIG4 Riverside Swan Hill or BIG4 Swan Hill.

Take a step back in time at Swan Hill.

Old Tailem Town, Tailem Bend, SA

It’s billed as Australia’s largest pioneer village, and Old Tailem Town sure is comprehensive. Uncover life as it was for South Australian settlers with the aid of 100-plus heritage buildings, all brilliantly and carefully presented to allow visitors a tangible reminder of the past. The natural setting enhances a feeling that you’ve entered a time machine and gone back a century or more.

Visit when…staying at BIG4 The Bend Holiday Park.

Old Tailem Town delivers a tangible insight into the past.

Caboolture Historical Village, QLD

Seventy-plus heritage buildings and 110,000 museum items spread across 12ha equals one heck of a historical attraction. This vast village offers a great glimpse into the past thanks to the likes of old-style butchers, a post office, and general store, but there’s plenty more to capture attention here, including some rather unique attractions…

Visit when…staying at BIG4 Sandstone Point Holiday Resort or BIG4 Caloundra Holiday Park.

Dozens of heritage buildings are dotted around Caboolture Historical Village.

Cascades Female Factory, Hobart, TAS

The Cascade Female Factory made our list of top Australian gaols but also warrants inclusion in this group of historical attractions for the experience it offers. All that tangibly remains of this World Heritage site are ruins, but the inclusion of a theatre-style tour called The Proud and the Punished cleverly and evocatively brings the past to life and easily allows visitors to step into the shoes of the convict women who were incarcerated here.

Visit when…staying at BIG4 Hobart Airport Tourist Park.

The stories live on through a powerful theatre-style tour at Cascades Female Factory. Credit: Alastair Bett.

The Village, Loxton, SA

Take a trip down memory lane – or at least Main St – and marvel at an almighty collection of recreated buildings and exhibits that allow visitors to effortlessly experience life as it were for the Riverland region’s pioneers. Spend time within the walls of huts, schools, churches, banks and other businesses and it’s simple to imagine that you’re a part of yesteryear.

Visit when…staying at BIG4 Loxton Riverfront Holiday Park.

Marvel at the massive collection of recreated buildings and exhibits in Loxton. Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission.

Sovereign Hill, Ballarat, VIC

The gold rush of the 1850s sent the nation into a frenzy and marks one of Australia’s most significant periods post-European settlement. At Sovereign Hill, this gripping past is brilliantly brought to life. A wander along Main St captures the bustling atmosphere of this time: replica buildings, horse-drawn coaches, and costumed characters abound. Beyond that, there are demonstrations and activities galore, including the opportunity to pan for gold. It’s all backed by an absorbing sound-and-light show at night.

Visit when…staying at BIG4 Ballarat Windmill Holiday Park, BIG4 Kryal Castle Holiday Park or NRMA Ballarat Holiday Park.

Unearth the past through engaging activities and displays at iconic Sovereign Hill.

Historic Village Herberton, QLD

What began as one man’s vision has led to a magnificent recreation of a tin-mining town that reflects everyday life in North Queensland dating from the 1880s. At this carefully crafted village, explore pubs and pioneer camps, garages and grocers, banks and butchers, and various other shops all set out across 6.5ha of picturesque grounds. It’s backed by all manner of antiques, machinery, vehicles, and more.

Visit when…staying at NRMA Atherton Tablelands Holiday Park.

Historic Village Herberton is a magnificent recreation of an old tin-mining town. Credit: Historic Village Herberton.

Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village, Warrnambool, VIC

Breathe life into the past with a visit to one of the Great Ocean Road’s best attractions. The Maritime Village includes dozens of old buildings that provide a snapshot into the goings on of a thriving 19th century port town. As a bonus, a visit here comes with sensational views, and guided village tours are available. Don’t miss a visit to the display-packed museum, while the evening sound-and-light show is utterly enthralling.

Visit when…staying at: Tasman Holiday Parks - Warrnambool or NRMA Warrnambool Riverside Holiday Park.

Sensational views and village tours are on offer at Flagstaff Hill.

Perth Mint, WA

Strike gold at this impressive attraction where recapturing the past means enjoying a sensory experience. Watching a gold pour might not sound like much but it’s an incredible spectacle, while the Gold Exhibition glitters from all angles and is filled with remarkable displays. Or take a guided heritage walk and follow a path that’s, dare we say it, paved in gold.

Visit when…staying at BIG4 Perth Midland Tourist Park or Perth Central Caravan Park.

Go for gold at Perth Mint. Credit: Tourism Western Australia.

Highfields Pioneer Village, QLD

Prepare to unearth a plethora of stories with the confines of this inviting pioneer village. Wander through 60-plus buildings and be captivated by a series of yarns that each act as a history lesson. While here, be sure to dedicate plenty of time to a trio of museums covering the themes of ambulances, the fire brigade, and energy.

Visit when…staying at BIG4 Toowoomba Garden City Holiday Park.

There are stories aplenty at Highfields Pioneer Village. Credit: William Wood/Highfields Pioneer Village.

Pioneer Village Museum, Kangaroo Valley, NSW

A prized collection of original or replica buildings and other historical structures tells the stories of years gone by at this enticing attraction. Alongside cottages, farm sheds, and a country school are the likes of a suspension bridge and memorial hall. Once your blast into the past is complete, be tempted by a network of neighbouring walking tracks that reveals a wealth of beautiful bushland. 

The Pioneer Village Museum is set among beautiful surrounds. Credit: Pioneer Village Museum.

Port of Echuca Discovery Centre, Echuca, VIC

Relive the days when the Murray River was an integral trade route, and the Port of Echuca was a hive of activity. Delve into a time when paddlesteamers plied up and down the river through a series of absorbing attractions and uncover plenty of fascinating yarns along the way. Taking a paddlesteamer ride from the heritage-listed wharf is an essential Echuca experience and allows visitors to easily imagine the mood of this exciting period.

Visit when…staying at NRMA Echuca Holiday Park or Torrumbarry Weir Holiday Park in Victoria, or just over the river at Tasman Holiday Parks - Merool on the Murray or Tasman Holiday Parks - Moama on the Murray.

Port of Echuca allows you to experience life as it was many years ago.

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