There’s a renaissance underway in Central NSW, as historical buildings are transformed into hip new hotels, bars, restaurants and edgy art spaces, and an exciting calendar of events bring a new energy to the region.
The Central NSW region starts as you descend the Blue Mountains, a short two-hour drive west of Sydney. From here, the landscape is dotted with castles, historic sites and a rich cultural history at every turn. While its idyllic countryside and enchanting towns are definitely a drawcard for weekend-breakers, the region’s sophisticated restorations and celebrated events are bringing a new wave of nomads to this picturesque part of the country.
If your roadtrips starts in Sydney, turn left before Lithgow and take the scenic route to Bathurst via Oberon, stopping at the Long Arm Farm Cafe for lunch. In Bathurst, pitstop at Tremain’s Mill – the edgy new arts and dining hub housed in a restored mid-19th-century, heritage-listed flour mill – before checking into the new 4.5-star Byng Street Boutique Hotel in the Byng Street heritage precinct in Orange.
The all-new The Schoolhouse Restaurant and The Arthouse Bar and Courtyard in the recently-reopened Union Bank is perfect for dinner and a cocktail. Nearby Forbes and Cowra have just wrapped up their own restorations also worth a visit; Carrawobitty Rural Retreat has undergone extensive renovations of their homestead and surrounding gardens, and restorations are still ongoing at the fairytale Iandra Castle in Grenfell just outside of Cowra.
Perhaps more exciting than the region’s redevelopment is its quirky calendar of events and attractions. Whether you’re into food, foraging, or watching a colourful fleet of hot air balloons take to the sky in an aerial challenge of epic proportions, plan your visit to coincide with one of these fabulous events or open days.
Trundle Abba Festival, Parkes
The tiny town of Trundle (near Parkes) transforms into a sea of jumpsuits, bell-bottoms and all things retro for the Trundle ABBA Festival on Saturday 2 May. A groovy day awaits packed full of family-friendly entertainment including the world’s number one ABBA Tribute Band, Bjorn Again, along with fashion parades, dance exhibitions and market stalls. While you enjoy the only Abba Festival held in the world, let Trundle show you the country hospitality it’s famous for.
Field to Forest, Oberon
Field to Forest returns to Oberon from 1-30 April and features foraging and food events, including wild mushroom foraging tours with Detour Adventures, workshops and pine-forest lunches with Diego Bonetto, a recently-opened wine trail and producer events at The Long Arm Farm café and Jenolan Caves.
Bathurst Heritage Trades Trail, Bathurst
Rare and lost trades and crafts will be on show at the Bathurst Heritage Trades Trail, held over one weekend from 28-29 March in Bathurst. The annual event hosts more than 100 artisans, with planned demonstrations, workshops, local music, food stalls and other quirky entertainment on the agenda. For a similar step back in time, visit the nearby Rebellion on the Turon event in Sofala on 15 March to see a live cannon fire, a miner’s rebellion reenactment and street performances in full fancy dress.
Sculptures in the Bush, Blayney
A new tourist trail of outdoor artworks and sculpture will dot the scenic landscapes around Blayney from 6-17 April for Sculptures in the Bush – a fun, community event that’s part of the Hay Bale Art Challenge. There will be competitions for hay bale art, farm art and the most inventive scarecrow.
F.O.O.D Week, Orange
Orange F.O.O.D Week returns from 27 March with nearly 100 food and wine events across ten inspiring days, beginning with the popular Night Markets. In May, Orange will fly the rainbow flag for the Rainbow City Festival – its first ever LQBTQI+ festival – from the 22nd until the 24th.
Enjoy the beautiful, vibrant autumn colours at the Cowra Japanese Garden & Cultural Centre –the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. The garden is a monument to peace and reconciliation between Australia and Japan, boasting five hectares of meticulously manicured gardens complimented by tranquil waterfalls, bonsai, tea houses, koi carp and an onsite cafe.
Iandra Castle open day, Grenfell
Grenfell’s biggest attraction, Iandra Castle, will host its open day on Sunday 12 April this year. Located on Mount Oriel, the Homestead is a unique part of Australia’s heritage and a rare example of a feudal-like estate, modelled on the English Manor System. Expect a festival-like atmosphere on the day, with tours of the homestead and picnics throughout the magical grounds.
Condo 750, Lachlan
Whether it’s glamming up or getting down and dirty, Lachlan has it a lot to offer. With picnic race meetings in March and April and the adrenaline-charged Condo 750 navigational off-road rally over the Easter weekend, there really is something for everyone. Want to relax, instead? Come and do just that at the wonderful Lake Cargelligo.
Excitement is building for the Canowindra International Balloon Festival which takes place from 15-20 April. Don’t miss this spectacular display of balloons lighting up the night sky at the Balloon Glow and Night Market which includes food and wine stalls, live music and – the highlight of the night – the Balloon Glow.
Heritage Trail and Somewhere Down the Lachlan Sculpture Trail, Forbes
Enjoy the ultimate country getaway in Forbes with a tour of the Aussie Biscuit Factory (weekdays only), a walk through the vines at Banderra Estate Winery, a Sourdough or Farmhouse Ferments workshop at Girragirra Retreat, or visit the local wool-garment producer Woolerina. Get lost between worlds, where heritage meets contemporary, on the Heritage Trail and Somewhere Down the Lachlan Sculpture Trail.
Don’t drive? Catch a direct flight to Orange, Bathurst and Parkes from Sydney. For more information and to start planning your visit to Central NSW, go to Visit Central NSW.