Located 400 km north of Sydney via the New England Highway, Nundle is an old goldmining town situated amidst some genuinely spectacular scenery between the towering slopes of the Great Dividing Range and the Peel River which is popular with anglers. Sheep, cattle and wheat are the economic mainstays of this little village which today contains some 200 inhabitants.
Nundle is said to derive from an Aboriginal word meaning 'mouth'. Historically, it is located on the eastern boundary of the enormous Goonoo Goonoo grant made out to the Australian Agricultural Company in 1832 (see entry on Wallabadah). The company considered selling this portion of the grant after it was finally issued the deeds for the land in 1847 but the discovery of gold in 1851 at nearby Swamp Creek changed their minds. They formed and floated the Peel River Land and Mineral Company.
Soon prospectors from California, Jamaica, Europe and China were strewn along the Peel River and up the mountain slopes. By 1865 the population was around 500 with about 50 businesses in operation. Nundle was declared a town in 1885. The ruins of old mine workings and equipment lie scattered about the valley floor and up the mountainsides to this day. Traces of gold are still found, along with a variety of gemstones, and people continue to pan on the Peel River or fossick in the Hanging Rock area. With Peel River and Chaffey Dam nearby the area is also popular with anglers. The council chambers in Jenkins St have a pamphlet outlining fossicking and fishing sites in the district, as well as a scenic drive pamphlet.
There are camping grounds at both Swamp Creek and the Teamster's Rest, a caravan park in Jenkins St and, at the western end of Oakenville St (across the river), are a golf course and bowling club. The Nundle Rodeo is held in February.
Things to see
Jenkins St and the Courthouse Museum
There are several historic buildings on Jenkins St. The Peel Inn dates from the 1860s and can furnish some tourist information. They also keep the key to the local history museum which is located within the two-storey red-brick courthouse with its rendered round-headed window arches, hipped roof and shady verandah (1880). It contains mining implements from the goldrush days and other items. It is usually open on Sundays from 12.30 p.m. - 4.30 p.m. or at other times by appointment, tel: (02) 6769 3292. There is a small entry fee. The tiny Primitive Methodist Church (1882) is now a second-hand clothing shop. There is also an antique shop in Jenkins St.
Mount Misery Underground Gold Mine and Gold Museum
Situated in a restored coffin factory at the corner of Gill and Oakenville Streets, the museum focuses on the goldrush days and features a 120-m mine tunnel. There is some mining memorabilia, as well as crafts and antiques for sale. They are open seven days from 10.00 a.m. - 5 p.m. Telephone (02) 6769 3459 to arrange group bookings and meals. Gold panning equipment can also be hired here.
The Golden Opportunities Store in Jenkins St sells antiques, curios, stamps, coins, furniture, English china, gifts and souvenirs. It is open at seven days a week, tel: (02) 6769 3250.
Bowling Alley Point
11 km north of town, along River Rd (mostly gravel), is an old goldfield known as Bowling Alley Point. Just north of Bowling Alley Point you join Nundle Shire Rd, which is tar. This takes you to Chaffey Dam which holds 60 million litres of water and covers 542 ha. The embankment is 54 m high and 430 m long. The foreshores are quite beautiful. Anglers may be rewarded with catfish, yellowbelly and trout. There are picnic-barbecue facilities and opportunities for camping, walking, power-boating, sailing and windsurfing, tel: (02) 6764 2290.
Happy Valley Rd heads east off River Rd just north of Nundle. It leads past Nundle Nursery and Nundle Yabbie Farm where the crayfish can be caught or bought, tel: (02) 6769 3363. Continue east along Happy Valley Road up to the top of the mountain range (1100 m above sea-level) where the massive treeless rock face of Hanging Rock looms overhead. Ignore the intersection atop the plateau (11 km from Nundle) and proceed along the main road. You will soon pass through the village of Hanging Rock. Just beyond the village are the Sheba dams (with a surface area of 3.6 ha) which were erected by hand over a three-week period in 1888 to serve the sluicing needs of goldminers. Today it is a lovely spot for an outing with picnic and barbecue facilities in a bush setting. Signs lead on beyond Sheba Dams along the top of the mountain range, overlooking the Barnard and Peel Valleys, to the Arc-En-Ciel Trout Farm where there are conducted tours of the ponds and hatchery. Fishing equipment is available for hire with all catches cleaned and packed for you. You can also purchase fresh and smoked trout, and smoked trout pate. The farm is open seven days but it is essential to book first, tel: (02) 6769 3665.
There are camping grounds at both Swamp Creek and the Teamster's Rest, a caravan park in Jenkins St and, at the western end of Oakenville St (across the river), are a golf course and bowling club.
Local information is available from the council chambers in Jenkins St (tel: 02 6769 3205) and from the Nundle General Store, which is also in Jenkins St, tel: (02) 6769 3374.
North of Bowling Alley Point is Chaffey Dam which holds 60 million litres of water and covers 542 ha. The embankment is 54 m high and 430 m long. The foreshores are quite beautiful. There are picnic-barbecue facilities and opportunities for camping, walking, power-boating, sailing and windsurfing. There are a variety of waterbirds to be seen, including pelicans, plovers, cormorants, ibis and wild duck and anglers may be rewarded with catfish, yellowbelly and trout. On the north-western shores, covering 20 ha, is Dulegal Arboretum. Visits are only possible by prior arrangement, tel: (02) 6764 2290.
Dead Horse Mine
A little further along Happy Valley Road, 5 km east of Nundle, the Two-Mile Walk heads off to the right. Along this old road are old shafts, diggings and equipment and other remnants of a goldmining settlement which burned down long ago. This road is only accessible to walkers and 4WD vehicles. April and John Blackwell operate a working gold mine here and they will show you the washing process and the tunnel, which cuts through an ancient river bed that proved inaccessible to the early miners. There is also the opportunity to do some panning.
Beyond Two Mile Walk the road winds its way steeply, past old mullock heaps where the hillside was overturned in search of gold, to the top of the mountain range (1100 m above sea-level) where the massive treeless rock face of Hanging Rock looms overhead. Once you have ascended the plateau (about 11 km from Nundle) there are two branch roads almost directly opposite each other. Lookout Road on the right leads to the rock itself where there is a scenic vantage point with excellent views of the chasm and the valley below.
The road on the left is signposted to Ponderosa Forest Park where there are walking trails, possibilities for overnight camping and all appropriate facilities. It also leads through the Zircon Gully Fossicking Area.
If you continue along the main road past either of these branch roads you will soon pass through the village of Hanging Rock where a side road on the right leads 200 m to 'Barrakee' where you can obtain local tourist information and fossicking directions.
Just beyond Hanging Rock village are the dams (with a surface area of 3.6 ha) which were erected by hand over a three-week period in 1888 to serve the sluicing needs of the miners. The operation was carried out by the Mt Sheba Company which leased the water rights for the area the previous year. Today it is a lovely spot for an outing with picnic and barbecue facilities in a bush setting abundant with trees, birds, lizards, wallabies and pademelons. There is also a 1.2-km bush walk. This is regarded as good fossicking country with zircons, sapphires and other semi-precious stones to be found.
Arc-En-Ciel Trout Farm
Signs lead on beyond Sheba Dams along the top of the mountain range, overlooking the Barnard and Peel Valleys, to the Arc-En-Ciel Trout Farm where there are conducted tours of the ponds and hatchery. Fishing equipment is available for hire with all catches cleaned and packed for you. You can also purchase fresh and smoked trout, and smoked trout pate. The farm is open seven days but it is essential to book first, tel: (02) 6769 3665.
Timor Caves are a series of subterranean limestone caverns to the south of Nundle. Take the road south out of town. After 32 km you will come to a left which leads through Ellerston and on to Moonan Flat, Belltrees and Gundy. Just 2 or 3 km along this gravel road you will see a signpost indicating the whereabouts of the caves which are within walking distance of the road. The Timor Caves are easily accessible but good shoes, a strong light and common sense are a must. Camping is available for a fee, tel: (02) 6546 6089.
Dag Sheep Station
Also south of Nundle, via the road to Murrurundi, is Dag Sheep Station which offers accommodation, sheep shearing, horseriding, mountain biking and traditional camp oven cooking, tel: (02) 6769 3234.
The Hills of Gold Motel, on the corner of Jenkins and Oakenville Sts, organises gold panning and district tours tailored to your needs, tel: (02) 6769 3222. Fiona's Mini Bus Rentals also arrange chartered tours of the area, tel: (02) 6767 9084 or (015) 293 511.
Nundle Tourist Information Centre
Nundle General Store Jenkins St
Nundle NSW 2340
Telephone: (02) 6769 3374