When it comes to shopping, the NSW city of Goulburn offers up style, substance and charm in abundance.
When you think of the grand shopping boulevards of the world, places such as Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, Rome’s via Condotti, New York’s Fifth Avenue and rue Saint-Honoré in Paris instantly spring to mind. But the NSW city of Goulburn?
While Auburn St, Goulburn’s mile-long main thoroughfare, might not rank alongside the aforementioned fashion and retail meccas on a worldwide recognition scale, it is certainly one of Australia’s most diverse and interesting shopping streets. And one that offers an irresistible ‘country town’ charm that Rodeo Drive can only dream of.
Located an easy two hours’ drive from Sydney, through rolling countryside painted in a sun-bleached palette of taupe and green, or just over an hour from Canberra, Goulburn was one of the earliest inland settlements in NSW; it was surveyed back in 1820, founded in 1833 as a garrison and convict settlement, and bestowed with the status of a city in 1863. Over the years, Goulburn grew and prospered largely off the sheep’s back (its most iconic local landmark, The Big Merino, pays homage to its wool-producing past). The cathedrals and a short-lived gold rush in the region and the development of the rail system further benefited the city’s growth.
The history and fortunes of Goulburn are writ large along Auburn St. The wide stretch boasts a roster of imposing historic buildings with architectural styles that encompass everything from grand Victorian flourishes (including on the former town hall building and adjacent post office) to elegant Edwardian simplicity and the clean lines of Art Deco. And sitting pretty in the middle of all of this is the lovely green space of Belmore Park, with its bandstand, fountains, war memorials and glasshouse.
Fittingly, Goulburn’s thriving retail tradition has also long been centred here. The Rogers Building was established in 1853 as a large country emporium for Jones & Co. before becoming Rogers & Sons in 1901, and Knowlman’s Department Store was opened in 1888 as a branch of the London-based company. The very latest garments were sent straight to Goulburn from Britain as soon as they were created, making it quite the fashion-forward place to shop in its day. While the Rogers Building still stands today (with Harvey Norman now in residence), the building that housed Knowlman’s Department Store, which was located diagonally across Auburn St, only ceased trading in 1982. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by a fire in 1999.
The best way to approach retail therapy along Goulburn’s celebrated ‘country mile’ is to find a parking spot right on Auburn St (if arriving by train it’s a five-minute walk from the Heritage-listed station). Make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes, and set off at a strolling pace to walk its length before swapping sides and heading back in the opposite direction. Along the way you’ll notice locals greeting each other by name, pausing their daily routine to chat before heading off again with a wave and a smile. It’s heartening to see this time-honoured country-town tradition of socialising is still alive and well today.
While the mix of shops and businesses on Auburn St is vast and varied, there are a number of ‘must-browse’ locally owned-and-operated stores that should not be missed.
The Baxter family started making its famed boots by hand in Goulburn in 1850. Today, Baxter Boots & Shoes is the oldest family-owned footwear company in the country, and its flagship store is filled with an array of designs rendered in premium leathers and the highest-quality materials. A plus of visiting here is the heavily discounted samples, seconds and sale items on offer, from the classic Pony Rider women’s design to strikingly stitched and embellished Western boots. And the brand’s iconic Goulburn boot makes the perfect souvenir of your visit.
You can smell this fragrant emporium before you see it thanks to its selection of scented soaps and candles, and all manner of indulgent potions and lotions for the body for both men and women. There is also a wide selection of gorgeous gemstone jewellery and unique crystal specimens, as well as giant (and we mean really big) rattan baskets that will add instant country chic to any interior, and priced at pleasingly non-city prices.
Every country town/city worth its salt has a country outfitters, so it shouldn’t surprise that Goulburn’s is situated in pride of place on its main street. While there are the obvious inclusions here such as RM Williams, Akubra, Blundstone and Driza-Bone, the range at The Country Outfitters also boasts Calvin Klein and cool designs by Aussie labels such as EST 1971 and Elwood.
The display in the front window of this boutique is the perfect preview of the treasure to be found within, with a curated selection of clothing, homewares and gifts artfully arranged to catch the eye. Once inside, browse the interesting selection of fashion, jewellery and accessories, and don’t leave Vintage House Homewares & Gifts without taking in the cute section for children’s clothing and accessories tucked into a cosy nook at the back of the store.
Having started as a family-owned-and-operated business in nearby Crookwell, Your Home Matters took up residence on Auburn St when this original store and its subsequent Goulburn outlet were combined to make a one-stop shop of unique and interesting Australian labels, including bestsellers such as Elk, Wilson + Frenchy, Cluse and Voluspa. Owner Michelle Anable chooses labels and pieces for her bright and welcoming store based on the principle of quality over quantity.
Where to eat
Interesting cafes are part of the amenity of Auburn St (and its surrounds) and can be found in abundance, providing perfect spaces to linger and refuel at midway through a shopping expedition. Roses Cafe has an enviable spot in an 1889 building (originally the Technical School outbuilding of the Mechanics’ Institute) overlooking Belmore Park and next to the grand Victorian courthouse. Harvest Goulburn, located on the corner where the original Knowlman’s Department Store building once stood, serves up Toby’s Estate coffee, country-size servings created from the best local and regional produce and sweet treats including raw food options.
Goulburn Donut Shop is another iconic store that holds a lot of special memories for road-trippers who like to pull away from the hum of the Hume Highway. Tucked into the pedestrianised Russell Lane, just off Auburn St (follow the delightful Tree Spirit mural by artist Jason Wing to the door), Goulburn Donut Shop is a must-stop for the signature hot cinnamon donuts as well as ‘cowboy burgers’ and specialty spiders.
Meanwhile, keep an eye out for the kitsch-chic neon sign outside the Paragon Café, which you can see up and down the street. This local institution, established in 1940, has an extensive menu featuring burgers, pasta and the ubiquitous classic Aussie steak sanga, another country classic that Rodeo Drive et al is sorely lacking.