DISCOVER AUSTRALIA: THE BEST OF NSW CENTRAL WEST
The NSW Central West provides quintessential Australian rural scenery, rolling vineyards and delightful country towns that combine colonial style with contemporary energy. The region is also full of agreeable surprises, from great dining to unusual attrac
Best for dining: Bathurst
Elegant Bathurst, poised between the Blue Mountains and the Central West, is gaining a reputation as a regional dining centre that showcases local produce.
‘‘ On Keppel St alone you can indulge all day,’’ Bathurst hotelier Christine Le Fevre says. ‘‘ Al Dente has great coffee and food to go, Hub Espresso Bar offers fresh, regional dishes with Italian and MiddleEastern influences, and the lemon tarts and macaroons at Le Gall’s Patisserie are out of this world.’’
Also showing eclectic influences is Church Bar (churchbar.com.au), where gourmet wood-fired pizzas are topped with goat’s curd and walnuts, or Chinese five-spice duck.
And Cobblestone Lane (thecobble stonelane.com) resembles a chic Parisian bistro, with the likes of smoked rainbow trout chowder and pot-roasted shoulder of Cowra lamb on the menu, matched with Orange wines.
Even grocery stores such as Country Fruit are a treat. ‘‘ Owner Craig Sharah won greengrocer of the year for three years,’’ Le Fevre says.
Pick up Orange apples, Rosnay figs, Trunkey bacon, local relishes and jams and treats from the deli counter for a great taste of Bathurst. More: visitbathurst.com.au Where to drink: Head to the cellar door at Stone Pine Distillery and try berry liqueurs, apple and pear schnapps, and gin flavoured with wild lime. stonepinedistillery.com.au
Best for the family: Orange
The region’s emphasis on country scenery, colonial history and cellar doorsmight seem a challenge if you have kids in tow.
Base yourself in Orange, though, and plenty of activities divert the young ones, with a cinema, tenpin bowling alley, skate park, BMX track in Anzac Park, and an aquatic centre.
Gosling Creek Reserve and Lake Canobolas are great for cycling. The tourist office has a brochure devoted to cycling and walking in the area.
Swimming, sailing, kayaking and fishing make Lake Canobolas, just beyond town, a popular local family excursion.
Don’t miss Adventure Playground adjacent to the delightful Botanic Gardens. Swings, slides, tunnels, sway bridges and timber climbing frames suit everyone from toddlers to teenagers.
If you have a 4WD, take a tour along the bush tracks that surround Orange, where you can explore old goldmine settlements around Ophir.
The kids will enjoy still-working Gunadoo Mine, where the eccentric owner takes you into dilapidated workings on the hunt for gold.
If you want to really wow the kids, enjoy an early-morning hot-air balloon ride (aussieballoon trek.com.au) or a helicopter joy ride (helicruz.com.au) across the Orange landscape, especially beautiful in autumn. More: www.orange.nsw.gov.au
Where to eat Union Bank has a good wine selection and excellent tapas for adults, while kids will enjoy the fruit sodas, fish and chips and burgers (unionbank.com.au).
Best for wine: Mudgee
Mudgee sits surrounded by a rural countryside of slow-munching cattle, hopping kangaroos and hillsides contoured with vineyards.
Vines have been grown here since the 1840s and Australia’s first chardonnay grapes were planted in Mudgee in 1971, yet it has long been overlooked as a wine region. That’s all changing, with mainstream grape varieties giving way to interesting, alternative varieties such as sangiovese, barbera and petit verdot.
At Vinifera Wines (vinifera wines.com.au), Spanish grapes include tempranillo, garnacha, graciano and gran tinto.
‘‘ I noticed the similarity of Mudgee’s climate to that of Spain’s Rioja region,’’ owner Tony McKendry says. ‘‘ I thought, why do the same old thing when something new could be better?’’
Further into the countryside at Lowe Wines (lowewine.com.au), zinfandel is the alternative of choice, along with cool-climate whites normally associated with New Zealand.
Mudgee’s cellar doors offer visitors more than just sipping and spitting. Gooree Park Wines (gooreepark.com) hosts wagyu beef barbecues and visits to its horse stud.
Others offer cooking or art classes, sculpture exhibitions, cheese-making demonstrations, and there’s even a motorcycle museum.
‘‘ With good dining, increasingly luxury accommodation and plenty to do, Mudgee really is a great getaway,’’ McKendry says. More: visitmudgeeregion.com.au
Where to eat
Local winemakers hang out at Roth’s Wine Bar.
There’s a great wine list, live music in the courtyard, and indulgent gourmet pizzas and tapas. rothswinebar.com.au
Best for history Gulgong
One of the best-preserved colonial towns in the country boasts some 150 buildings from its boom time during the 1870s gold rush.
Many of its civic buildings – including a courthouse, post office and town hall now converted to a contemporary art gallery – stand along Herbert St.
Around the corner, the Prince of Wales is the oldest still-functioning opera house in Australia, while the Henry Lawson Centre celebrates one of our favourite poets, who lived in Gulgong during the 1870s.
‘‘ Many colonial towns still have grand public buildings, but Gulgong is remarkable for preserving ordinary worker’s cottages, pubs and rows of shops too,’’ Brian Cooke says.
The local guide, who can be booked through the tourist office, will take you around the town’s sights and the terrific Pioneer Museum.
The museum rambles over several blocks and highlights colonial life in re-creations of a schoolroom, bakery, cottages and wayside inn. More: gulgong.net
Where to stay
The re-created Telegraph Station houses two comfortable, wellappointed, self-catering accommodations: a two-bedroom apartment and a studio. gulgongaccommodation.com.au
Best for stargazing: Parkes
The Parkes telescope is 52 years old, but the movie The Dish in 2000 made the public aware of this world-leading scientific facility, and has brought visitors to its doors ever since.
Just coming to admire the dish, balanced elegantly atop a three-storey tower, is worth the journey.
At the visitor centre, take a look at NASA exhibits and movie props, before taking off in the theatrette’s Elysium Tourist Express to a 3D Mars. Another presentation, Invisible Universe, focuses on the achievements of Parkes scientists.
The visitor centre explains why this is such an important research station. ‘‘ The location, large collecting area of the dish and its technology give Parkes the best telescope anywhere for pulsar astronomy,’’ CSIRO’sDr Simon Johnston says. ‘‘ Australia leads the world in the field.’’
Most of the world’s known pulsars – rapidly spinning remains of old, collapsed stars – were first detected here including quasars and interstellar magnetic fields.
‘‘ They push back our understanding of the origins and composition of the universe,’’ Johnston says. ‘‘ A visit to the dish isn’t just a trip to rural NSW, but to the far reaches of space.’’ More: csiro.au/parkes
A star of another sort is celebrated in January, when Parkes hosts a funfilled get-together of Elvis Presley tribute artists and impersonators. parkeselvisfestival.com.au
Make it happen: Virgin Australia, visit virginaustralia.com, ph 13 67 89. More: centralnswtourism.com.au
VINE TIME: Mt Frome vineyards near Mudgee. Picture: Brian Johnston
WRITE STUFF: One of the three-bedroom cottages at Borrodell Estate outside Orange (left); and learn about one of Australia’s favourite writers at the Henry Lawson Centre in Gulgong.
Pictures: Brian Johnston
TASTE OF THE PAST: (clockwise from top) Relaxing in the study at Bishop’s Court in Bathurst; tuck into a tasty pizza at Roth’s Wine Bar in Mudgee; and inside Gulgong Pioneer Museum.