As the mercury rises, there’s no better way to keep cool than to head inland to the emerging Central West destination Bathurst.
Bathurst is dotted with charming rural villages, patchwork plains and world-class museums. And while curling up beside a log fire in winter is a great way to embrace the Central Wests’ cooler climes, you’ll find the region is a summer haven, too.
Take the three-hour drive west of Sydney, and you’ll find a region where crisp waterholes in which to swim, fish and boat are as plentiful as cool-climate vineyards and farm gates where stone-fruit orchards grow wild.
Best of all, there’s something for every member of the family, no matter the age group.
Farm gates and cellar doors
A regional town with a burgeoning food scene? ‘Well of course’, you might say, but we’re not talking about Bathurst’s vibrant restaurants and cafes, rather the plethora of farm gates and wineries keen to welcome you.
Make the most of magnificently fleshy summertime stone fruit at Yarralee Orchard, a family-run operation that sells its harvest of peaches, nectarines and cherries (among other fruits) at the farm gate shop on Saturdays, and through its onsite vending machine mid-week.
Prefer to pick your own fruit? Cherry orchards are a popular attraction during November through December, although prime picking times vary depending on the climate. Hill View Cherry Orchard, located 10 minutes’ drive from the CBD, is one popular option, as is Limekilns Cherry Farm, which offers pick-your-own tours during weekends during the fabled cherry season. Meanwhile, George and Sue’s Cherry Farm & Produce teams cherry-picking experiences with fantastic produce from its shed shop. Bookings for all experiences are essential.
Bathurst clearly has no qualms about showing off because it can also lay claim to being the home of quality, cool-climate wines. Take a scenic drive linking the historic villages of Perthville, Ophir, O’Connell and Rockley, and keep an eye out for local, small-batch, family-run vineyards hiding in plain sight. On the must-visit list? Vale Creek Wines, which specialises in Italian varietals, Renzaglia Wines – home to a newly refurbished cellar door (open by appointment) – and Winburndale Wines where the wine is made and bottled onsite.
Outdoors and fossicking
Everybody loves spending the balmier months of the year in the great outdoors – even more so when there’s a pot (or a pan at least) of gold at the end of that particular rainbow. Bathurst’s colourful gold-mining history is as legendary as it is long, and today, the allure of finding a nugget or two still draws the crowds.
Keen to go out on your own and try your luck? Two public gold-fossicking areas, Tambaroora Commons Fossicking Area, Hill End and Ophir Reserve, are located about an hour from the town centre and present a golden opportunity for the whole family to fossick as you like. Sapphire Bend, just a 50-minute drive away in Oberon, is a spot where you can search instead for sapphires, zircons, and occasionally, industrial diamonds and gold.
Of course, if you’d rather be led by the professionals, there are plenty of local gold-panning tours you can join. Detour Adventures run a range of gold-panning and gem-fossicking tours (half and full day) and provide all the equipment necessary, while Simmo’s Offroad Tours offers scenic gold-panning tours by 4WD. Happily, all tours cater for kids.
Prefer to buy your gemstones from a store and keep your eyes fixed on the surrounding landscape? When it comes to natural beauty, the Bathurst region is Miss World-level genetically blessed with a wide variety of walking trails in pristine bushland, spectacular crystal and limestone caves and parks designed to keep the fussiest of little ones entertained for hours.
Enjoy a hike at the Hill End Village walking track and/or the Grove Creek Falls Walking Track, explore and camp amid the limestone formations of Abercrombie Caves, go horse riding at Yarrabin and take time out to let the kids run wild at Adventure Playground.
That’s just the start of course; for a full list of outdoor activities, visit Bathurst Region Tourism.
For more ideas, don’t miss our 10 best things to do in Bathurst.
Mt Panorama/Wahluu Motor Racing Circuit may be famous for motor-racing events such as the Bathurst 1000, but anyone can enjoy the exhilaration of driving (or walking or riding) a lap or two of the 6.2-kilometre public circuit. Just a head’s up; as it’s a public road for the majority of the time, and unique in its rural setting, dotted with private residences, a winery and even a fruit orchard, a 60 km/hour speed limit applies. Drive it like you stole it? Nope, not here.
Make a pitstop at the National Motor Racing Museum, a space that celebrates the rich history of Australian motor sport and remains a must-visit for every member of the family. An ever-changing round-up of more than 100 racing cars and bikes combined with the sights and sounds in The Immersive Room, help to make this one of Bathurst’s top attractions. Hot tip: don’t miss a visit to the Peter Brock Wing and be sure to read all the famous autographs on the ladies’ toilet walls.
Of course, if you haven’t quite had your fill of Bathurst’s supercar action, you can also pop in at Ash’s Speedway Museum. Often described as ‘the largest man cave in the world’, this is actually the largest collection of speedway memorabilia in the southern hemisphere featuring global items from as far back as the 1920s. Consider it just another way of keeping ‘cool’ this summer.