Discovering the best of Bathurst
For anyone who has travelled the Blue Mountains and surrounds, you’ll know that the real gold lays beyond. As you pass the historic village of Hartley, the slopes open up to sweeping countryside that meanders westbound towards the towns of Bathurst, Mudgee, Orange, and Dubbo until you reach the mid-western plains. While each has their own story, settlement, and corner pub, today we’re heading to Bathurst. Here’s our quick guide to exploring this cultured and celebrated region and discovering the best of Bathurst.
On the outskirts, the golden grass shifts in the wind. It’s mostly farmland until the Hotels and Motels referencing Goldfields and Nuggets catch your eye. The oversized bushman kneeling above his gold-pan is a dead giveaway. You’ve now reached the home of New South Wales’ Goldrush.
Bridges to the past
It’s influence as the first European Settlement is easily spotted in the stately Churches and grand central gardens. Known as a Cathedral City, the town centre is dominated by the War Memorial Carillion on Kings Parade. Home to Galleries, Museums and heritage listed buildings, cafes and artisan stores now line the streets. For curious kids, the Fossil Museum, located in the heritage listed Public School Buildings (1874) is a worthwhile stop where they’ll even be able to see Dinosaurs. I can’t think of anyone over the age of 4 who wouldn’t be mesmerised by the life size t-rex on display. It’s a fascinating introduction to a step back in time.
The surrounds of Bathurst lay within the traditional lands of the Wiradjuri people of the three rivers – the Wambool (Macquarie), the Calare/Kalari (Lachlan) and the Murrumbidgee. European settlers first agreed on Bathurst as a central point of government administration, through for the next 5 years, this met with great resistance from the Aboriginal people. Some 30 years later, with the discovery of gold, the history of Bathurst would be rewritten.
Today, Aboriginal artistic relics, including carved trees can be seen on display in the Bathurst District Historical Society Museum in the wing of the Bathurst Courthouse.
Big kid’s day out
Even as a day trip, if you’re prepared for the 200km journey from Sydney, Bathurst has something for everyone. Every year, school camps flock to the Bathurst Goldfields. Fortunately, we went on the school holidays with only a handful of kids and plenty of space to try our hands at panning for gold. With accommodation also on site, a walk around the Goldfields is a true to life exhibition. Wander into the Blacksmiths shed, turn the Whim or lean against the aging sheds that overlook Bathurst. Our host Gary, who filled us in on all things “goldrush” (Bushrangers included) was as genuine as he was educational.
As the Goldfields are set on Mount Panorama (home of the Supercars Championship), the “rush” ironies are obvious. Every November, the Bathurst 1000 brings life to the mountain as the 1,000km touring car race winds around the hillside. For everyone else driving the circuit at any other time of the year, it’s the perfect spot to overlook the Bathurst Plains, on the western edge of the Great Dividing Range. (Just in case the name Mount Panorama didn’t give it away). And because you don’t need to drive the track 161 times, it’s a quick add on to the Goldfields tour.
There’s also an annual Inland Sea of Sound Festival held at the end of summer on top of Wahluu-Mount Panorama which features a line-up of local and national artists.
Backdrops, bites, and buzz
When it’s time to unwind, abundant fresh local produce can be tasted in cafés, restaurants, pubs or leafy garden settings. Try Vine & Tap at Brooke Moore House, The Hub or Harvest Café and Store for delicious food and an easy atmosphere. It’s always hard to beat Wholefoods and the Pear Tree Co-op on William Street has everything, including Shell, the most helpful health-food specialist ever!
The beauty of Bathurst is that everything on the traveller’s menu can be sampled in just a day or two. You could literally go to town with phrases that describe the region as a real gem, but let’s not. Instead, jump in the car, or take the daily train to a town that has history, culture, magnificent scenery with a story that’s alive. Dare I say it’s worth its weight in…stop!
Read about some of our other favourite getaways in regional New South Wales.