The boom passed long ago but Nina Karnikowski finds a golden glow remains.
Millthorpe is a land that time forgot. Halfway between Bathurst and Orange, it boomed after gold was discovered in the 1860s, then declined post-World War I, meaning the entire village - now classified by the National Trust - is also a land that developers forgot.
As I cruise Millthorpe's "main drag", Pym Street, on a crisp, sunny Sunday morning, I'm instantly transported back 150 years by the elegant former bank buildings and verandah-shaded historic hotels, the original cobblestone gutters, the faded vintage shop signage and the street benches fashioned from recycled timber and antique cart wheels. A few cheerful good mornings from some of the village's 725 friendly locals, and the impression is complete. I can almost hear the clip-clopping of a horse and cart coming down the main street.
Rewind just half an hour and I'm very much in the modern world at Millthorpe Bed and Breakfast, a five-minute walk away on the outskirts of town. The contemporary home is furnished with all the mod cons: underfloor heating, a gas log fire in the main bedroom, electric blankets, wi-fi, flat-screen TVs and DVD players. The decor is super-slick: leather chairs, plush beds and modern, dark-wood furniture.
There are three bedrooms - a huge main bedroom with big windows overlooking the front yard, one smaller queen room and a teeny single room - all sharing a bathroom and lounge. Thankfully, multiple rooms are only let out when guests know each other, so awkward bathroom-sharing situations are avoided. Ex-Sydneysider Randall Edwards has been running the property for the past five years and lives in a separate section out back, so guests basically have the run of the house - and the fridge.
And then we ate I've come to Millthorpe primarily for an indulgent long lunch celebrating the Orange region's cool-climate wines at the renowned Tonic restaurant. The building itself is delicious, a late-1800s former department store with high, pressed metal ceilings and large windows overlooking the heritage streetscape. And the food? Oh, the food! Tonic nabbed itself a Good Food Guide hat for dishes such as the seared scallops with sweet corn veloute, the roasted beef fillet with mushroom duxelle and spinach cream, and a dessert of rhubarb tart with goat's cheese ice-cream and a side of stewed apples gathered by chef Tony Worland's young son, which we gobble while sipping no less than eight wines from local vineyards including Cumulus and Brangayne.
After the five-course lunch I can't fathom a full dinner, so even though the wood-fired pizzas at the French Press Espresso come recommended, I opt for a complimentary cheese plate and glass of water at the B&B. Sitting in the backyard gazebo surrounded by native plants and shrubs, munching cheese and figs while reading in the dying light, is an excellent way to end the day.
The deal maker No matter how short your stay, Millthorpe Bed and Breakfast is the kind of place that entices you to slow down, curl up and relax with all the modern comforts of home, while being able to step back in time by strolling just five minutes down the road.
Stepping out It's all about shifting down a few gears and taking time to peruse the cafes and eclectic antique and homewares stores. The century-old shed that's now home to Galvanised is a favourite, selling locally made and restored retro furniture, while Tomolly, stocked with beautiful ceramics, stationery and cute kids' clothes, comes a close second. I'm almost tempted by a psychic reading at the Temple of Isis Healing Centre, but chicken out at the last minute after a local tells me the psychic also has ghost busting abilities. I opt instead for more wine tasting - first at the Millthorpe Wine Centre, housed in the historic 1886 Millthorpe Railway Station, then at Angullong Vineyard's cellar door, built in the late 1800s as bluestone stables. Sitting by Angullong's open fire with a glass of their award-winning Shiraz-Viognier, I reflect that while time, and developers, may have forgotten Millthorpe, this lone traveller certainly won't.
Nina Karnikowski was a guest of Taste Orange and Millthorpe Bed and Breakfast.
Millthorpe Bed and Breakfast
Address 11 Morley Street, Millthorpe.
The verdict Comfortable, contemporary country getaway.
Price From $175 a night for up to two people. Minimum two-night weekend stay, breakfast and cheese platter included.
Bookings See millthorpebedandbreakfast.com.au.
Getting there Take the Great Western Highway through the Blue Mountains to Bathurst, then the Mitchell Highway towards Orange. After 20 kilometres, turn left into Millthorpe Vittoria Road and 15 minutes later you're there.
Perfect for A relaxing step back in time.
Wheelchair access Yes.