Hay, NSW: Travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights


The pancake-flat Hay Plain, which surrounds the eponymous town on the edge of NSW's vast Riverina region is claimed to be one of the world's three flattest places. Certainly, you'd be flat out finding many that are any flatter. It's a little like the Nullarbor you're having when you're not driving all the way to the Nullarbor.


Shearing demonstration at the Shear Outback attraction in Hay. SatMay1OneOnlyHay

Photos: Alamy and supplied

Photo: Alamy

If the history of the Australian wool export industry isn't your idea of shear excitement, think again. A short clip outside of town on the confluence of the Stuart and Cobb highways, Shear Outback: the Australian Shearers Hall of Fame is built inside an architecturally-imposing and admired contemporary building with a fair dinkum shearing shed. The museum details the proud and, at times volatile, history of shearing in Australia with expert demonstrations and talks staged daily in the aforementioned shed.


If not the best place to stay in town, The Convent is definitely the most interesting to bed down for night or preferably two. A former convent, as the name suggests, this heritage boutique-style hotel-cum-guesthouse is tucked away in the quiet backstreets of town and is fronted by one of the lushest lawns in what's a parched outback town. Along with its private courtyard pool, there's also a good in-house cafe so breakfast, brunch or lunch is a mere stroll down the hallway from your room. See www.theconventhay.com.au 


To gain an even better, if not more beautiful, perspective of the Hay Plain, drive about 15 minutes out of town along the Cobb Highway and park at the newly-established 360-degree sunset viewing area. Soak up both the spectacular pinker-than-a-galah display as well the silence, punctuated only by the odd cow in the paddocks nearby. The viewing spot also comes with its own sculptural chaise lounge, of sorts. Do take care in the enveloping darkness on the way back into town as wildlife may be about.


HJ3KK5 Photographed near the outback town of Hay, in far Western New South Wales, the Murrumbidgee River. 

Photo: Alamy

Photo: Alamy

Grab a free bike (how good is that?) for an hour from the friendly local tourism information centre off the main street and head off on a pedal along the banks of the eucalypt-shaded Murrumbidgee River which runs through Hay. Following the Bidgee River Trail close to the river, allow for some stops along the way to read the historical markers that explain the natural and human history and admire the sculptures. Of course, you can also tackle the trail on two feet. See www.theriverina.com.au 


It's not only urban folk who have been exchanging the city for the bush but country folk who lived in the city and decided to return to the bush. Interior designer Sheila Smith recently returned to Hay to establish not only her studio in a stately old bank building but also to launch a stylish bed and breakfast. The luxury B&B, is filled with designer furnishings under  towering ceilings, has its own large verandah overlooking Hay's main street and enough space for the exclusive use of four guests. See www.bankbedandbreakfast.com.au 


Not every piece of oversized public artwork in the bush is painted on the side of a silo. In Hay, the local water towers, set back from the main street, have been utilised as the heavy metal canvases for murals commemorating the town's significant human contribution to two world wars. Completed late last year, the murals, located at Sandy Point Beach and painted by Melbourne artist Matt Adante, depict the male and female visages of five local Hay heroes who served in both conflicts. See www.australiansiloarttrail.com 



Except for a small sign indicating its original site, sadly, nothing remains of Hay's World War Two prisoner of war camp, where not only were enemy combatants interred, but also hundreds of mostly Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany known as the "Dunera Boys". But still intact is Hay Gaol, one of a number of 19th century prototype NSW prisons designed by Scottish-born colonial architect James Barnet, who was also responsible for Sydney's grandiose GPO. See www.mgnsw.org.au 


A still working stock route, the 610-kilometre Long Paddock runs from Echuca-Moama on the NSW-Victoria border all the way to Wilcannia in northern NSW. Hay is one of the key points on this touring route and, if you choose, you can start the journey from the town. The Long Paddock is set to receive more visitors once the Cobb Highway, running north of Hay, is fully bituminised (a project not without controversy). See www.thelongpaddock.com.au 


Hay has always tended to be a one-night stopover for roadtrippers travelling the 1375 kilometres between Sydney and Adelaide. But there's more than enough to keep you entertained for at least an extra day and night's stay.

Anthony Dennis visited Hay as a guest of Destination NSW. See www.visitnsw.com; www.theriverina.com.au