Here’s a question: where can you go for an impromptu road trip out of Sydney, that you’ve probably never heard of and can accomplish in a weekend? Welcome to Gulargambone.
Located just 576 kilometres from Sydney (or 75 minutes north of Dubbo), this quaint country town is situated on the banks of the Castlereagh River, in Coonamble Shire. Gulargambone was first inhabited by the Indigenous Weilwan people and is an Aboriginal word meaning plenty of galah birds. Since the advent of European settlement in the 1800s, their way of life has sadly all but vanished, with Gulargambone becoming home to grazier settlers who gazetted it as a new village in 1883.
My partner and I have become more and more interested in exploring little-known regional parts of Australia over the years, and the idea of this spur-of-the-moment little trip had us renting a four-wheel drive (for extra driving comfort) making a beeline up of Bells Line of Road to get us out of Sydney. Having spent several years travelling along this road while at university in Bathurst, it felt like a familiar homecoming as we pulled into the many local orchards to buy snacks for the journey. There really is nothing better than a ripe, juicy peach plucked fresh from the tree!
As we passed through the thriving town of Mudgee, the iPod was getting a great workout while our puppy slept soundly in the back. We felt ourselves start to breathe more deeply as we hit the open roads.
A barrage of cheery signs greets you as you enter Gulargambone, proudly boasting the town’s many achievements. Lovely manicured lawns line the streets and several impressive corrugated iron Gular artworks make their presence felt. It is no wonder that Gulargambone was crowned the New South Wales Tidy Towns State Winner in 2005.
Upon arriving at the local pub, though, I was soon told that this was not always the case. Back in 2000 facing a similar imminent death to its neighbouring counterparts, the locals decided they were not going down without a fight. They bandied together and embarked on a string of community-based initiatives to keep the town alive. They opened the first community-owned post office in Australia, set up a new multi-purpose health service, built a community garden and then opened an award-winning cafe and gallery, Cafe Two Eight Two Eight.
Members of Gulargambone now run most of the town. Cafe 2828, for example, is set up on a rotating roster and the home-cooked food served is worthy of its own cookbook. The date scones fresh from the oven are arguably the best I’ve ever tasted and ever since I was lucky enough to be given the recipe, I seem to be baking them for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
One of the weekend’s other highlights was dinner at the local pub, the Gulargambone Hotel, run by Pete and Gina Gilmore (who come complete with their four children in tow). Whether Pete’s pouring you a cold schooner from the tap or running out back to make sure your sirloin is cooked to perfection, the warmth that emanates from this pub is one the things that will be sure to keep the business thriving. Pete has even hand-built a pizza oven in the courtyard!
The passion and spirit of Gulargambone’s people is indeed infectious. The unofficial Mayor, Col Ryan is a true blue Aussie legend and we’d like to thank him for kindly introducing us to the many unforgettable faces.
At the end of the weekend, we could actually see ourselves settling down in a little town like this; filled with that true sense of community spirit. Somehow I just didn’t feel that loneliness was commonplace in this town, everyone had a real sense of belonging to something special.
Around the area
If you’d like to plan a longer trip to the area, the Warrumbungle Mountains National Park is only 65 kilometres away and apparently has a great National Parks and Wildlife Service Centre, Spring Observatory and plenty of camping, bird watching and bushwalking. Or, you could continue your drive all the way to Lightning Ridge – 230 kilometres away.
Located in NSW’s Central West Plains, Gulargambone is over a 500-kilometre drive north-west from Sydney. But if you’re pressed for time, Regional Express regularly flies to Dubbo (taking 70 minutes from Sydney), situated about 115 kilometres south of the township.
Where to stay
Located within walking distance to all major sites in the town, this 1 bedroom studio apartment was originally built in 1927 it served as the local bank. And at just $120 per night, this luxury accommodation option could rival that found in any major town.
Address: 35 Bourbah Street
Contact: Kerry and Jim Thompson on 02 6825 1944 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This caravan park is set in the centre of town and includes a heap of amenities for guests including, camp kitchen (with a pizza oven), fire, T.V. and toilets. The place is also pet-friendly, so bring your fur-babies along for a cute adventure. If you’re looking to meet some other weary travellers, the park holds a B.Y.O. happy hour every afternoon for you to mingle with other guests and the local community.
Having a guided tour of this place is like discovering a rare Australian gem. Whether you choose to stay here or not, you must swing by and have a look. And make sure you buy a bottle of Graham’s homemade Gular Piss – it’s legendary in these parts and not a bad drop!
Address: 17 Skuthorpe Lane
Contact: Bernadette and Dave Frazier on 02 6825 1666
Gulargambone Visitor Information Centre is situated inside the 2828 Cafe, at 28 Bourbah Street. Otherwise, visit Coonamble Shire to learn more.