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

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - Front Page -

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

More 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

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

VINE TIME: Mt Frome vine­yards near Mudgee. Pic­ture: 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.

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