Self Drive Tour
If you wish you can follow a set of blue arrows on a self-drive tour through town, starting at the visitor's centre, at the corner of Banna and Jondaryan Avenues. Adjacent, on a tall column, is a Fairy Firefly Fighter Bomber. It is intended as a tribute to those of the district who served in World War II. The nearby Dethridge Wheel is a memorial to the MIA pioneers. This device measures the volume of water which a given farm draws from the MIA canal.
If you head west along Banna Ave to the central hub you will pass, on your right, the Regional Art Gallery, CWA Park, then, at the roundabout, the attractive courthouse (1928). It is in Memorial Park, where you will also find the Griffith War Memorial. Once you reach the nucleus you will see, in the garden surrounding the Shire offices, a brass statue of a woman which is a memorial to the district's pioneer women, and, in Neville Place, the Regional Theatre, which contains a soft sculptured curtain featuring a panorama of Griffith. It was created by 300 local women. There is also a collection of historic photographs. The curtain can be inspected at 11, 2.30 and 4 on weekdays and at 10.30 on Saturdays.
At the eastern end of town are Griffith Cottage Gallery at 1434 Bridge Rd, Koala Gourmet Foods at 4 Whybrow St, and the rather interesting cemetery with its family mausoleums and elaborate headstones. The latter lies at the corner of Banna Ave and Wakaden St.
Scenic Hill and Pioneer Village Museum
2 km north-east of town, via Remembrance Driveway, is Scenic Hill, a spur of the McPherson range. There you will find the Pioneer Village Museum, situated on 18 ha of pleasant bushland. The complex consists of an array of about 40 old and replicated buildings from the Riverina area. The souvenir shop is housed within the former Bynya Homestead (1879), with largely original timbers. There is an old school, church and shearing shed, large collections of horse-drawn vehicles, steam-powered machines and antiquated examples of working engines, farm machinery and newspaper printing machines. There is a replica pub, post office, blacksmith's, stable and shop of the late nineteenth century, a chemist's dispensary of the early 20th century, an original coach house made of river gum slabs, a transportable type of gaol much used in the early settlements, recreated sections of the commercial and residential districts of old Griffith, a recreation of Bagtown, a drop-log saddler's shop, 'Fairview' cottage (1880) with its home-made nails and timbers dressed with broad axe and adze, Griffith's first hospital, Goolgowi railway station, aboriginal canoe trees, a mini-lake and a picnic area. The complex is open 8.30-4.30 daily (02 6962 4196).
Lookouts and Walks
There are a number of walking tracks around the hill, outlined in a pamphlet obtainable from the visitor's centre. They take in the reservoir, Pioneer Park Museum, Rotary Lookout, the Stepping Stones, the lagoons, two barbecue sites and Hermit's Cave.
If you head north along Remembrance Driveway it will take you to the golf club, Dalton Park and the aerodrome. 1.5 km north-east along Scenic Drive is Rotary Lookout. Further along Scenic Drive is Sir Dudley DeChair's Lookout, a natural rock formation which affords an interesting birdseye view of the way agriculture has developed around the town. Griffith is totally surrounded by orchards and vineyards. From here, or via the Narinari Loop Walking Track from Scenic Hill, it is possible to visit the fascinating Hermit's Cave.
The cave was built by a colourful character named Valerio Recitti, an Italian migrant who arrived in Australia in 1916, aged 17. He immediately went to work at Broken Hill but soon began drifting. At one point he departed for Adelaide with a year's timber-cutting wages in his pocket. There he visited a brothel. Upon leaving he found that he had left his wallet behind and that the bouncer wouldn't allow him back in. After hurling a rock through a window, he was chased and ended up in Adelaide gaol. After his release he left for Melbourne where he intended to pawn his one remaining possession, a coat. Unfortunately he was duped by a passer-by who said he would pawn it for him and never returned.
From there Recitti went to work on the Murray River paddlesteamers. He is said to have taken refuge in the cave while he was passing through in the 1920s and decided to stay. He believed himself to be the only Italian in the area and kept entirely to himself, whereas in fact old compatriots from Broken Hill had settled nearby and increasing numbers of Italian migrants were arriving.
Recitti decided to construct a private utopia. He cleared and decorated the caves, creating massive stone galleries and pathways, cliffside gardens and floral painted rock walls. So as to remain unseen he worked at night and early in the morning, moving hundreds of tons of rock. Eventually he fell and injured himself and was taken to the hospital when found by a passing swagman. There he became a celebrity when the enormity of his work was discovered and much marvelled at. He was reunited with his old friends and went to work for them although he continued to live in his cave.
When security people became convinced he was a spy Recitti was interned with his fellow countrymen at Hay during World War II. He was put to work building roads and instructed his captors on how to improve their road-building methods. When released he was re-employed by his old friends in Griffith. Troubled by visions and obsessions, largely associated with his cave, he returned to Italy when his health began to fail him in 1952 and he died there six months later.
There are a number of wineries in the area which are open for tasting and some conduct guided tours. In Griffith itself are Cranswick Estate in Walla Ave (02 6962 4133), Riverina Wines in Hillston Rd (02 6962 4122), Miranda Wines at 57 Jondaryan Ave, with a tour each Wednesday at 2.15 (02 6962 4033) and West End Wines at 1283 Brayne Rd with tours upon request. All three are open seven days a week except the latter which is only open weekdays, though it has a play, picnic and barbecue area (02 6964 1506).
In the surrounding district are McWilliam's Wines open 9-5 Monday to Saturday with a tour available each Friday at 2. It is on Jack McWilliam Rd, Hanwood (02 6963 0001). There is an outdoor museum with old winery equipment housed in an enormous wine bottle and tastings are held inside an enormous wine barrel with a mural out the front. There are also barbecue and children's play facilities. De Bortoli Wines, one of Australia's largest wineries, is open Monday to Saturday from 9-5.30 and Sundays from 9-4 with tours on Tuesdays at 2. They are located on De Bortoli Rd, Bilbul (02-6964 9444). St Peter's Winery and Distillery are on the Whitton Stock Route at Yenda, established by Count Sissoli of the House of Buton in Italy. They are open Monday to Friday from 8.30-5 (02-6968 1303).
Festivals and Gardens
The local Wine and Food Festival is held annually at Easter and features a street parade, street carnival, ball, family fun day, street theatre, rodeo, grape treading competition, fun run and the Venetian Carnival on the main canal. In October there are the Agricultural Show and the Festival of Gardens which opens up a number of outstanding private gardens for viewing. The Belle Amour Garden is open year round by appointment. It can be found in MacGraith Place north of Griffith. Head out of town on Wyangan Avenue, turn left into Mallinson Rd and then turn into MacGraith Place.
8 km north via Wyangan Ave/Boorga Rd is Lake Wyangan, an ideal spot for camping, picnics, barbecues, fishing, sailing and boating. There is also a wading pool, a playground and animal enclosures. It is well-signposted from Banna Ave.
Cocoparra National Park
North-east of town is 8356-ha Cocoparra National Park. Here a low mountain range rises above the plain, several of the peaks being named by John Oxley in 1817. On the slopes are dry sclerophyll forest with clumps of ironbark and cypress pine. There are tea tree on the forest floor and a range of acacia throughout the park. Colourful wildflowers are profuse in springtime. There are a number of scenic gullies, one of which, Ladysmith Glen, is a highlight. This is a narrow gorge, 33 m deep, which has been cut into the rock by Jack's Creek. The park is a nesting place for the peregrine falcon and the wedge-tailed eagle. There are also plenty of parrots, thornbills, honeyeaters, grey kangaroos and possums plus echidnae, marsupial mice and bats.
The park is 25 km from Griffith via the road which heads east through Yenda and on to Barellan and Ardlethan. Cross the railway line about 3 km past Yenda and then head along Barry Scenic Drive or Whitton Stock Route. A side road leads to the top of Mt Bingar which affords fine views of the area. The stock route was heavily used in the late nineteenth century by Cobb & Co. coaches in transit from Melbourne to Queensland.
There are camping facilities at Woolshed Flat and bush camping is permitted away from roads and picnic areas, of which there are several (The Pines, Jacks Creek, Iron Bark, Woolshed Flat, Store Creek, Spring Hill), all with facilities. The park is also ideal for bushwalking, photography and nature studies.
MIA Forest and River Drives
For those interested in driving, there are the MIA Forest and River drives, Binya State Forest Drive (22 km north-east, via Yenda), and river drives through Willbriggie State Forest, 38 km south via Darlington Point Rd.
If you would like a closer look at local farm life the visitor's centre can organise farm hosting and farm holidays. For a not so close look at the area contact Balloon Aloft Riverina for a hot-air balloon ride (02-6964 2322).