When I arrive at this charming, though fortunately twee-free, cottage, conveniently tucked away around the corner from Temora's main street, I'm greeted not by Thelma herself, or, for that matter, even Louise, but Mavis and Madge. Obviously, while I'm travelling solo, I'm going to have company. Those M&Ms, you see, are the resident chooks at Thelma's Cottage. They come to greet me, loitering around the locked glass backdoor, leading me to ask myself whether I should let them in for a proper introduction? Best not, less I incur a cleaning fee, but it's lovely to be blessed with such unexpected company.
Temora, with a population of 6200 or so and part of NSW's vast Riverina region, is a four-and-a-half hour or so drive southwest of Sydney. Best known for its superb aviation museum at the local airport, where spectacular air shows are oft staged, Temora is also the home of Paleface Adios, the horse dubbed the Phar Lap of harness racing for its remarkable winning exploits in the 1970s. The town, while not the most obvious NSW holiday destination, makes for an excellent stop on a road-trip around NSW or even a suitable place to base yourself for forays to surrounding towns and inland cities. Griffith, home to a proud and thriving Italian-Australian community, is one and three-quarters hour drive away to the north-west while Wagga Wagga (spot of clay-shooting, anyone?) is under an easy hour by road to the south.
Named not after the Hollywood film title (or at least one half of it), Thelma's Cottage derives its name from the owner's beloved late grandmother, Thelma Hartwig, with the cottage redolent of the "simple joys of life [of] this wonderful woman". While it probably won't make the interior design excellence cut for a full spread in Country Style or quite appeal to the flaky Instagram generation, this snug two bedroom, fully-renovated (but not excessively so) and nicely-decorated cottage is an affordable delight. Sleeping up to six guests, with two queen beds and two single beds, the kitchen includes an always welcome coffee machine while there's a washing machine and dryer if your clothes are due for a launder after some time on the road. The sizeable, secured backyard is perfect for children with a thoughtfully-provided trampoline, basketball hoop, sandpit, toy car track, outdoor blackboard, grassed area and even a dress up box.
Culinary pickings are slim, though not slimming, in these immediate parts but Thelma's Cottage has a fully-catered "gourmet-style" kitchen with fresh eggs courtesy of our feathered friends and a supermarket only a stroll away. The Royal Hotel on Hoskins Street, the nearby main street, offers a decent enough pub dinner while for brunch or lunch Diamonds & Dust, a non-fusty bric-a-brac emporium with a fine cafe, is a fabulous find with tables and chairs scattered in between the wares. Further along the main street, the White Rose Cafe, with its intact 1950s decor, is a local treasure, as is the Paragon Cafe at nearby West Wyalong (see below) which, while dating as far back as the 19th century, has a wonderfully retro 60s Formica-style vibe.
Hoskins Street is only 75 metres away, and easy walking distance to local shops, restaurants, hotels and clubs, Don't miss (if it only for its considerable kitsch appeal) the statue of Paleface Adios, nicknamed the "Temora Tornado" and a prolific winner during his reign, located along Main Street inside its own park. Further afield, the Temora Aviation Museum is a short drive from the centre of town. West Wyalong, with its historic, miraculously-preserved verandah-covered main street immortalised in a famous painting by the artist Russell Drysdale, is only 50 minutes up the road. Swing back to Temora from there via Ariah Park, a National Trust heritage-listed village dating to the 1920s. Temora is also a stop along the popular Canola Trail touring route which also takes in the shires of Coolamon and Junee.
International travel finally beckons but some of us who managed to get to know NSW better, in between outbreaks and lockdowns, than we'd ever managed to do prior to the pandemic, know that it ain't called the Premier State for nothing. A real country treat and well worth a chook, sorry, look, Thelma's Cottage, and for that matter Temora, is merely one of a host of our most favourite discoveries.
Rates are $170 per night for up to two people and $200 per night for up to five people. Each additional person and/or extra bed incurs a $25 charge per night. Discounts are available for weekly stays. See thelmastemora.com.au; visitnsw.com.au; theriverina.com.au
We don't want to get overly clucky, of course, but Madge and Mavis add a true rustic touch to a stay at Thelma's Cottage.
This part of the Riverina would benefit from some better dining options though the bigger centres of Griffith and Wagga Wagga aren't too far away.
The writer stayed and travelled as a guest of Destination NSW.