Best new bars and attractions in Central NSW

When Two Heads Brewery opens this month, the citizens of Bathurst will be able to taste locally brewed beer for the first time in decades.

Two brothers, Campbell and Greg Hedley (two heads, get it?), have converted part of the town's historic flour mill into a micro-brewery and restaurant.

They're not the only brewers in the area to spot the potential in atmospheric old buildings. The Mudgee Brewing Company began the trend nine years ago, taking over a former wool store owned by the Anglican Church, followed three years later by Orange's Badlands Brewery, which took up residence in a former fruit farm cool store.

Across Central NSW, heritage buildings are being rescued and reinvented by tourism.There's the century-old shearing shed that has become a boutique hotel. The public school transformed into a fossil museum. And the disused railway station that is now a wine cellar outlet.

Many of these handsome buildings would have crumbled beyond repair but for the vision of tourism entrepreneurs, according to architect and heritage consultant Barbara Hickson. Fortunately, she says, they've invested in "the great character of these old buildings – the ceiling heights, the wonderful details of the masonry work, the patina of age, the human scale".

So what does she recommend you visit if you're heading to Central NSW? 

BATHURST

The Church Bar in Ribbon Gang Lane (named after 1830s  bushrangers) was the town's first school, opened in the mid-19th century by the Anglican Church. But it was derelict and heading for demolition in the 1990s until a local businessman negotiated a generous lease in return for restoring the building and turning it into The Crowded House restaurant. The current management, who renamed it in 2008, gave the building more of funky bar atmosphere while retaining the ornate ceilings and period detail; see www.churchbar.com.au

Meanwhile Bathurst's first public school, opened in 1876, celebrates its 12th year as the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum. With its distinctive bell tower, the beautifully refurbished building is home to the 2000 specimens collected by Warren Somerville; see www.somervillecollection.com.au

Cobblestone Lane marks a street that no longer exists. Chef and owner Heath Smith opened in 2006 as part of a wider redevelopment of the former Webb & Co department store built in 1863. Smith's restaurant was once the department store's loading dock, see www.thecobblestonelane.com.

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The town's latest restoration project is the ongoing rescue of Crago Mill, once part of Francis Crago's extensive commercial empire. Built in 1906, the semi-vandalised mill was bought in 2012 by filmmaker Bernard Vance. As well as Two Heads Brewing, the four-storey mill also features an antiques emporium, an antiquarian book shop and a cafe; see www.twoheadsbrewing.com.

ORANGE

Black Sheep Inn began as a corrugated iron shearing shed 100 years ago but was converted in 2000 by the Napier family into a five-bedroom weekender featuring shearing memorabilia. The separate shearers quarters is now Whispering Moon, a two-bedroom cottage aimed at young families; see www.blacksheepinn.com.au.

Ferment, or the Orange Wine Centre, housed the local Hibernian Society from 1917. Since 2014, its new incarnation has been a wine bar and cellar door. Interestingly, the building was once the meeting place for Alcoholics Anonymous; see www.orangewinecentre.com.au.

Philip Shaw Wines has produced quality wines on one of Australia's highest vineyards for four decades. But its elegant, architecturally designed new cellar door was only opened last year. Its centrepiece is an old blue-stone barn that once served as a cowshed. See philipshaw.com.au.

The Agrestic Grocer is one of three businesses – with Badlands Brewery (www.badlandsbrewery.com.au) and the Second Mouse Cheese Co – that occupy a former fruit packing shed. The 1920s brick section operated as a small dairy while orchards were established and cool rooms were added later. It opened as a cafe and food outlet, selling local produce, in 2010.

MILLTHORPE

Chef Tony Worland opened Tonic in 2003, spotting the potential in what had been an old corner store and an adjacent public hall. Since then, Tonic has consistently received one hat in the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food Guide. What the Worlands now use as a function room has served Millthorpe well over the years, having been used for public meetings, dances and film screenings; see www.tonicmillthorpe.com.

Meanwhile, the town's railway station is now Millthorpe Wine Centre, the cellar door for two local vineyards, Edgecombe and Coffee Hill; see www.millthorpewinecentre.com.au.

MUDGEE

Gary Leonard opened the Mudgee Brewing Company in a 100-year-old former wool store owned by the Anglican Church. As well as brewing six beers, his operation features a large restaurant and a thriving music venue; see www.mudgeebrewing.com.au.

Perry Street Hotel bills itself as the town's only boutique apartment hotel with 13 suites occupying what was built in 1862 as the Mechanics Institute; see www.perrystreethotel.com

As for Eltons Eating + Drinking, its sharing-style menu is served in an elegant shop that first opened in 1896 as Eltons Pharmacy; see www.eltons.com.au.

Should Roth's Wine Bar be included? It's had the same name since 1923 and boasts it has one of the oldest wine bar licences in Australia. But its history is too colourful to ignore. According to Ian Simpson, who took over the business in 2013, the Roth family originally sold under-the-counter grog to thirsty farmers who came into their hardware store for monthly supplies. Despite the modern menu, extensive list of local wines and regular live music, it's still possible to savour the quirky atmosphere of times past; see www.rothswinebar.com.au.

COWRA

Cowra's oldest building, The Mill, has served as the wine cellar for Windowrie Estate since 1996. Built in 1851 and closed in 1905, the mill suffered extensive damage in the flood of 1952. The O'Dea family bought it in 1995 and spent a year restoring it, using recycled timbers from train carriages and cattle yards. A new restaurant, Lot 31 at the Mill, opened in February; see www.windowrie.com.au.

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