February 16, 2023
6 mins Read
Most Australians miss out on a spectacular autumn. For a full-on explosion of foliage and the wonderful autumn feeling that goes with it, you have to get away from coastal cities and escape into more relaxing destinations of blue skies, invigorating temperatures, golden vineyards and trees draped in orange and yellow finery.
Goulburn, only two hours’ drive from Sydney and one from Canberra, is just such a place. This inland city is filled with outrageous trees in autumn, including silver birch, golden ash, elm and oak. Even the normally modest crab apple tree erupts in drag-queen flamboyance.
Frost adds to the early-morning beauty of the surrounding countryside later in the season. You’ll need your beanie but you can enjoy hearty meals and crackling log fires at the local pubs. Add cultural distractions, national parks and cool-climate wines and you have every reason to make an autumnal getaway before the arrival of winter.
Goulburn was Australia’s first inland city, so start off by delving into its fascinating story with a Self-Guided Heritage Tour past grand civic buildings, churches and historic homes. It takes a leisurely hour or two, although you’ll be distracted by the shops and cafes. The oldest pub is the family-friendly Hibernian Hotel where you can get satisfying pub grub at Bistro 1850. Meanwhile Bryants Pies has been around since 1851; the steak, potato and pea pie is a classic favourite.
Not that Goulburn lives in the past. Tuck into an on-trend cafe meal at Harvest Goulburn and set yourself up for more walking. The Park Cafe does all-day breakfasts as well as pastas and colourful salads. If you want wickedness, Goulburn Donut Shop wows you with hot cinnamon donuts cooked fresh before your eyes.
Goulburn has a blossoming foodie scene and restaurants that, although serving up international flavours, make the most of the region’s farm, orchard and vineyard produce. You’ll also want to plunder Goulburn Rotary Markets (second Saturday of the month) or the regular markets in surrounding villages for autumnal goodies from talented local makers and producers.
For another great walk around town, follow the Public Art Walk that runs from the visitor centre and takes in metal art installations, sculptures and street art – not to mention more glorious autumn trees – before finishing at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, where you can take a free tour.
Goulburn is ever-evolving, and a couple of blocks away you’ll find the soon to open Goulburn Performing Arts Centre which, along with a cafe and wine bar, occupies the former town hall and its striking glass extensions. GPAC presents a wide variety of cultural performances from opera to contemporary music, dance to circus acts. This opening autumn season includes the short-film Flickerfest, a magic act and concerts by John Paul Young and The Whitlams.
Also opening in late April after a multi-million-dollar overhaul is Goulburn Aquatic & Leisure Centre, just the place to hang out on a blue-sky autumn day. You’ll find indoor and outdoor pools, a hydrotherapy facility, large gym and a cafe. Kids will also enjoy Victoria Park’s skate park and Adventure Playground, which features flying foxes, climbing nets and a maze.
One of the most pleasant places to be in autumn is on the banks of the pretty Wollondilly River. Unwind your mind with a stroll or cycle along the four-kilometre River Walkway. Goulburn Wetlands is a former brick pit rehabilitated for wildlife and busy with birds such as pelicans, herons, grebes and honeyeaters.
Bring a picnic or sausages to the barbecue and play area at riverside Goulburn Historic Waterworks, built in the 1880s to give Goulburn its first reticulated water supply. Both the building and its pumps and boilers are of national significance. Kids will be thrilled at the dragon-like puffing of the machinery when the “steaming” of engines is demonstrated on occasional dates, the next being 17 April and 29 May.
The great thing about Goulburn is that it straddles the best of two worlds. As an inland city, it has a lively urban heartbeat, abundant shopping and dining options, and oodles of culture, as well as an abundance of quality accommodation choices. But Goulburn also sits bang in the middle of gorgeous farmland, bushland and rugged national parks, allowing you to combine city life with outdoor experiences.
Rolling cattle- and sheep-grazing country is magnificent in this mellow season. Early risers will be rewarded by autumn sunrises that stain the scenery in flamboyant colours. Among the scenic drives is Tourist Drive 13 to picturesque Taralga and Wombeyan Caves, and Tourist Drive 16 passing pretty villages and apple farms before heading into the Southern Highlands.
Bungonia National Park has a network of walking tracks that make for brilliant hiking to various scenic outlooks on a crisp autumn day. The more adventurous can tackle caving, canyoning, rock climbing and abseiling. Stay overnight at well-equipped Bungonia Campground and you can further immerse yourself in nature.
Finally, nothing looks finer in autumn than vineyards, so head to the region’s cool-climate cellar doors. Among the choices is Yarralaw Springs which also produces olive oil and has farm accommodation and scenic Kingsdale Wines at Lake Sooley. Raise a glass of shiraz or merlot, admire the copper-coloured vines stitched across the hillsides, and absorb the relaxing atmosphere for an autumnal moment at its best.
For more information on what to see and do and accommodation options, visit Goulburn Australia.
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