Cross the Blue Mountains and you'll find a wealth of hidden gems and history as you experience the unique Central NSW region. It all begins just two and a half hours drive from Sydney, with Bathurst, Mudgee, Orange, Cowra and Forbes, and a patchwork of towns and villages in-between. Whether you're seeking adventure, food and wine, culture, heritage, or nature, here are 20 great reasons to visit Central NSW.
SEE & DO
Discover quaint historic villages
Central NSW is dotted with charming villages that will captivate you with their architecture, history and quiet pace. With a picture book quality reminiscent of old England, Blayney's eight villages, including Millthorpe and Carcoar, offer antique shops, historic pubs and art galleries. Other gems include Rylstone with its heritage-listed buildings, the gold mining town of Sofala and Trundle, renowned for the longest wooden verandah in Australia.
See the world's second largest canyon
There's no need to travel to the US to see the Grand Canyon. The world's second largest canyon - Capertee Valley in Lithgow – is equally, if not more, impressive. The ruggedly beautiful area is surrounded by the World Heritage-listed wilderness of the Blue Mountains, and is home to towering limestone cliffs, pure billabongs and the former mining town of Glen Davis. Keen hikers can climb to the summit of Pantoney's Crown, which dominates the western end of the valley, for postcard views.
Step back in time
Get face to face with history. Gold was first discovered in the Central West kicking off Australia's first gold rush. For a more modern experience, follow the Gold Trails, fossicking, panning, and prospecting along the way as you learn about the region's mining past and its surprising Chinese history. Head further west to Forbes to see the grave, and the site of the death, of infamous bushranger Ben Hall, who carried out Australia's largest gold robbery in history, stealing 77 kilograms of gold and half a million dollars in today's currency.
Explore the new Orange Visitor Centre and Regional Museum
After an epic 13 years in the making, the new Orange Visitor Centre and Regional Museum has opened its doors with the inaugural exhibition, 'Journeys', exploring the connection to country told through the stories and artifacts of the Wiradjuri people. While you're there, get tips on exploring Orange's amazing wine and coffee culture with 38 cellar doors and 47 cafes.
Meet a real T-Rex
Housed in Bathurst's first public school (opened in 1878), the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum features the internationally acclaimed Somerville Collection, including fine and rare examples of minerals from around the world and significant fossils from Australia. The mineral collection includes specimens from many of the world's and Australia's most important mines, while the fossil gallery tells the story of life on Earth, and includes fossilised dinosaur eggs and the display of three life-size dinosaurs – including Australia's only complete Tyrannosaurus Rex!
Get your Bushie on at the Bush Tucker Day
Taking place in Trundle (north-west of Parkes and Bogan Gate) on the first Saturday in September every year, the Bush Tucker Day gets you up close to Australia's traditional food. The day is piled high with country and agricultural Australian activities, including bush cooking competitions, billy boiling sprint, whip cracking, sheep shearing, dog jumping trials, the Bushies Relay, and even has free bush tucker tasting. There is live entertaining throughout the day, culminating in a show by guest artist Beccy Cole. Don't miss out on seeing Australia's only ABBA Festival in the town, in 2018, either.
Take in 'The Dish'
When Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon, he did so thanks to the Parkes Observatory. You can look forward to space and back in time with Wiradjuri star gazing, as there are a number of spectacular vantage points to witness an incredible starry night sky. The Parkes Observatory, commonly known as 'The Dish', is one of the largest radio telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere and was the location for the Australian film of the same name, starring Sam Neil. Other notable observatories can be found in Bathurst and Mudgee.
Many of the caves in Central NSW hold an interesting history, both Indigenous and European. Ben Hall's Cave in the Weddin Mountains National Park near Grenfell is notorious for being the hideout of one of Australia's most revered bushrangers. For more natural wonders, marvel at the limestone structures at Abercrombie Caves, just outside of Bathurst, and in the Wellington Caves west of Mudgee. To take in a different face of the caverns, you can spend the night in a cave at Hatter's Hideout, a huge sandstone gorge outside of Lithgow. If you still want that bushranger adventure, without going underground, take part in a Blind Freddy bushranger tour in Canowindra, to hear the Central NSW's fascinating early history when many a wild rogue terrorised the region.
Are you ready to rock?
Reckon you have what it takes to be the next Brock or Skaife? Test your skills with a spin on the internationally renowned Mount Panorama Motor Racing Circuit; but remember, as it is a public road there is a speed limit, however, this also means you're able to have as many laps as you want. For a real hot lap, Challenge Bathurst offers training in performance vehicles for the serious adrenaline enthusiasts. You can also visit the racing museum at the entrance to the track to see the history of racing in Australia.
Chill out at Bathurst Winter Festival
See the city lit up, and experience an almost European winter wonderland over the July school holidays (July 1-16), as Bathurst hosts an outdoor ice rink, Ferris Wheel, and events around twilight markets. See the city's icons illuminated over two key festival nights, including 'Ignite the Night' that revolves around comfort food and mulled wine, and 'Brew & Bite' which promises tasty eats and locally brewed craft drinks to warm the cockles.
EAT & DRINK
Join a culinary adventure
Don't miss the inaugural Grazing Down the Lachlan, which will be held on September 23 in Forbes. Under the creative direction of renowned Sydney chefs O Tama Carey (formerly of Berta) and Mat Lindsay (Ester Restaurant), the event will see seven stations of mouthwatering food and matched wines staged along the banks of the Lachlan River. The menu will showcase authentic, sophisticated dishes that hero farmed and foraged native foods. Once the gastronomic feast is done, guests will be transported by bus back to Forbes.
Enjoy high tea at Abercrombie House
For those who enjoy the finer things in life, don't miss high tea at the historic Abercrombie House in Bathurst, held on Sundays throughout the year. Expect a scrumptious feast, tasting plates and Champagne, with live classical music to help set the scene. Built in the 1870s by Bathurst pioneers, today it's the 52-room home of the Morgan family, with self-guided tours offered Wednesday to Sunday.
Indulge at Mudgee Wine & Food Festival
Every September, Mudgee holds a giant wine festival and the region comes alive with numerous cellar door events including live music, special lunches, and dinner. The freshest local foods, unique providore creations, and top quality wines are the heroes of the show, against the backdrop of historic Mudgee. The event also includes the not to be missed Go Grazing and Go Tasting events.
Cowra Japanese Gardens
Get a taste of the Far East in Central NSW. The Cowra Japanese Gardens are a replica of the original Japanese landscape garden, built in the 16th century. Delve into Japanese culture and craft, as well as regular tea ceremonies, at the Cultural Centre. The garden is particularly spectacular in September during Cherry Blossom season.
Wines and vines
Mayfield Garden near Oberon began to take shape in the mid-1990's and today is one of the world's largest privately owned cool climate gardens. This year the Cool Climate Wine Show will team up with Mayfield on October 21 to create the Cool Climate Wine & Food Festival. It's a celebration of world class cool climate wines from over 20 local vineyards, gourmet cuisine from 10 local restaurants and delicious local produce all in one spectacular location – Mayfield Garden. There will be wine tutorials from leading regional winemakers, cooking demonstrations and for the budding fashionistas the very popular Fashion in the Gardens competitions.
Go green at Girragirra Retreat
Tucked just five minutes outside of Forbes, Girragirra Retreat combines green living and luxury and is the perfect place to chill out and reconnect with nature. Designed by multi award-winning architect, Tone Wheeler, the accommodation is set on a 50-acre organic farm and guests are welcomed to head out into the permaculture food garden and pick fresh produce for dinner. The retreat includes two king bedrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, including a generously-stocked breakfast pantry, and a gorgeous private courtyard for dining beneath the stars.
Find romance at The Speckled Nest
This stylish garden studio is nestled within the historic village of Millthorpe, offering accommodation for two. Enter through French doors into an open plan living area with a kitchenette, while a private verandah overlooks the garden and is a lovely space to sit and sip a glass of wine. Speaking of which, you'll be welcomed with a delectable wine and cheese platter upon your arrival.
Sleep in a converted shearing shed at Black Sheep Inn
What could be more Aussie then resting your head in a shearing shed? This century-old shearing shed has been remodelled with five double rooms with en suites, a lounge with an open fire and a spacious dining room. In nearby Orange, sample cool-climate wines, sit down at fine-dining restaurants or meander through galleries and gardens. Back at the inn there's also a self-contained, restored shearers' quarters, with an additional two bedrooms.
Or on a train carriage
Perched on the Great Diving Range, Ruwenzori is a secluded, and fully self-contained bush retreat, consisting of four beautifully restored antique railway carriages. The accommodation sleeps 13 guests and is surrounded by beautiful gardens, bushwalking trails and lookouts with spectacular panoramic views. The retreat is single-hire only, so you'll have the hideaway all to yourselves, and is ideally positioned just a short drive to Mudgee and Gulgong.
Stay at luxury boutique hotel, Bishops Court
This gracious manor, built as the residence of Anglican Bishop Samuel Marsden in 1870, is set on sweeping parkland overlooking Bathurst. The two-storey residence offers seven rooms, a charming dining room staged within the chapel and on-site restaurants. Partake in a cooking class, stroll through an acre of parkland gardens or simply relax in the library.
Fore more great holiday ideas in Central NSW visit visitcentralnsw.com.au
This article was brought to you by Central NSW tourism.