Gold Rush Days

As the home of the big­gest gold nugget ever found, David Thorndike finds there’s still plenty to at­tract peo­ple to Hill End.

Caravan, Camping and Holiday Parks with Kids - - From The Editor -

Hill End in NSW is the site where the big­gest sin­gle gold nugget in the world was un­earthed. David Thorndike and his fam­ily search the area again in case there is one more out there wait­ing to be found.

There’s a cer­tain ex­cite­ment for me that comes with head­ing any­where in Aus­tralia with a rich colo­nial his­tory, and one as­pect of our his­tory I find par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing are the gold rush days. There are a hand­ful of places you can visit to dis­cover what life was like in Aus­tralia dur­ing that era, and one of the best is the town of Hill End on the western side of the Blue Moun­tains, about an hour or so north of Bathurst.

The drive out is now a lot eas­ier than it used to be, with bi­tu­men road for 98% of the jour­ney and the re­main­ing 2% a well graded gravel road that won’t cause any is­sues for the fam­ily sedan. In fact it is now the only way to get there from Syd­ney as the old ‘Bri­dle Track’ which was the orig­i­nal route by horse from Bathurst, and over the last thirty years one of the most pop­u­lar 4WD trips in the re­gion, has been per­ma­nently closed due to a land­slide near Mon­aghan’s Bluff. If you have a 4WD you can still do 90% of the track but must turn around a cou­ple of kilo­me­tres be­fore the bluff on both sides and re­trace your steps back to the main road be­fore head­ing right around to tackle it from the other side.

If this is your plan, the best way to do it, is to head straight into Hill End and drive it from that side. You can choose to camp at one of the two camp­grounds in town, or to tackle the bri­dle track down and over the cause­way to one of the many free camp­ing sites along the river. Want­ing to ex­plore the rich his­tory in­clud­ing the mu­seum, shops, old mines (and of course the pub) around

the vil­lage, we opted to camp on the edge of town at the ‘Glen­dora Camp­ground’, which is equipped with a cov­ered BBQ area and sink, pow­ered sites with fresh wa­ter ac­cess, flush­ing toi­lets and show­ers. This means it is per­fect for those who only want to bring a tent, sleep­ing bags and an esky, while those who are fully self-suf­fi­cient can choose to camp with just an open fire and a starry sky.

Af­ter set­ting up in the late af­ter­noon on day one (we got a late start, not leav­ing home un­til nearly noon), we de­cided not to ven­ture too far from the tent and our fire­place. We were con­tent to spend the last hour of day­light ex­plor­ing the lo­cal bush, with the kids get­ting ex­cited ev­ery time they found a piece of quartz (which was ly­ing around ev­ery­where out­side a 500m radius of the camp­site) with a trace of yel­low in it. “Mummy I’ve found some more gold!” was heard con­sis­tently ev­ery few min­utes, with my wife lend­ing authen­tic­ity to the lat­est dis­cov­ery with her many pos­i­tive and com­pli­men­tary replies. It’s amaz­ing how ex­cited the kids were just to be out bush­walk­ing and ex­plor­ing, and goes to show just how eas­ily we can for­get when stuck in the con­crete jun­gle that qual­ity time do­ing the sim­ple things is much more re­ward­ing and en­joy­able for both par­ents and kids than time spent on Nin­tendo’s or watch­ing movies on the iPad.

We stayed up til well af­ter dark that night roast­ing marsh­mal­lows and telling sto­ries about what we were go­ing to do with our re­cent gold finds. The next morn­ing af­ter break­fast, we headed off into town to walk the vil­lage proper and ex­plore the old stores and its wares. While my wife was in­ter­ested in the hand-made cloth­ing and porce­lain dolls, I lashed out and spent $20 on a fluted gold pan so we could have some fun pan­ning in the river. The kids were more ex­cited by the lolly shop and even more again by the gen­eral store where we stopped for ice creams.

All around the old town are sign­posts and plac­ards let­ting you know what each build­ing is or was at the cen­tre of the gold boom pe­riod, and it is hard to imag­ine that this out of the way place was




03 01 Bush camp­site just out of town 02 Pray­ing for gold didn’t work for us 03 We did pick up a gold pan at the gen­eral store 04 Cross­ing the Turon River 05 First look­out on the Bri­dle Track 06 Min­ing relics can be found all over town



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