May 25, 2020

Visiting NSW Central West (1990)

Text source: Gregory's Touring Australia 1990. Included for historical purposes only
Photographs: Roderick Eime

It was not until 1813 that the early settlers were able to cross the seemingly impenetrable barrier of the Great Dividing Range and open up the Central West's rich farming and grazing lands.

The 1850s gold rush attracted thousands of people and today towns like Hill End and Gulgong still bear testimony to this significant chapter in the history of New South Wales

Hill End 

Hill End 1993 (Roderick Eime)

Formerly known as Hawkins Hill, now under the control of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, was settled from 1851 and, by 1872, when Beaufoy Merlin took most of his photographs, had a population of 8000, more than a kilometre of shops and twenty-seven hotels.

It was at Hill End in 1872 that the famous Holtermann's Nugget, the largest gold specimen ever discovered in Australia, was unearthed. It was 1.5 metres tall, weighed nearly 300 kilograms, contained 93 kilograms of gold and was worth £12 000.

Most of the surviving buildings in the town date from 1872 and many - including the district hospital that is now a visitor centre and museum, the Royal Hotel and some of the shops - have been restored in recent years. Even those buildings that have not survived are not forgotten - plaques with copies of Beaufoy Merlin photographs stand on many of the vacant sites in the town, showing what used to occupy the site.

Storekeeper, June Durie, Sofala. 1993

Visitors can inspect underground mine workings at Bald Hill, and explore Hawkins Hill, where Holtermann's Nugget was found. They can also fossick for gold at Tambaroora, about 3 kilometres from Hill End, and slightly further afield at the villages of Sofala, Hargraves and Windeyer. Fossickers are sometimes rewarded with small amounts of gold.


Gold was found at Gulgong in 1870, and by December 1872 the population of the town and the surrounding villages was more than 20 000. Among people who flocked to Gulgong were the parents of poet and writer Henry Lawson, who was four when he went to live in Gulgong in 1871. He immortalised the town and some of the people he met on the goldfields in many of his best-loved works.

Today Gulgong is known to many people as the town on the $10 note - the old paper note (not the new plastic one which is universally hated in the town) which townspeople petitioned to save.

Mary of Gulgong's buildings have survived from the gold rush days and are still in use - 170 properties, mostly dating from 1870 to 1910, are classified by the National Trust as being of historic significance.

But Gulgong greatest asset is its Pioneer Museum, which is said by many to house the finest collection of Australiana in the country. Displays tell of the gold rush, the development of transport and agriculture, the war years and the changing way of life of Gulgong's residents. There is even a collection of faithfully restored local buildings at the rear of the museum, including the Reedy Creek Inn, which was first licensed in 1851, an 1871 blacksmith's, a cottage dating from 1891 and a late nineteenth-century schoolroom. Among recent additions is an audiovisual room where a series of presentations documents the lives of the towns pioneer women using the recorded memories of their descendants.

Gulgong's other major attraction is the Henry Lawson Centre, which boasts the largest collection of Lawsonia outside the Mitchell Library. The centre has a number of early editions of Lawson's work, photographs and newspaper cutting detailing his life, and paintings depicting some of the scenes so colourfully described in his poems and stories.

As gold became harder to find in the Central West in the mid-1870s, agriculture again became the dominant activity in the region. Today the rolling hills and flat plains of the area support cattle, sheep, wheat and fruit.


Historic Mudgee Railway Station (Roderick Eime 2017)

This pleasant town is becoming famous for it's thriving wineries, which produce wines to rival some of Australia's best. There are about twenty wineries in the area and although some are owned and run by large Australian wine companies, many are small, independent concerns. Most welcome visitors and offer wine tastings as well as cellar door sales. Quite often visitors will be greeted by the winemaker himself, and be shown some of the wine-making operations. Botobolar winery is particularly interesting because it grows its grapes organically, without chemical fertilisers or pesticides. At certain times of the year, sheep graze among the vines to keep down the weeds, and a sign in the car park warns that "trespassers will be composted". The town is also noted for its honey and at the Mudgee Honey Company, staff will explain how honey is produced, then offer tastings of more than twenty different varieties.


Further west, Orange - paradoxically best known for the apples grown in the region - and Dubbo are modern cities serving their predominantly farming communities, as well as tourists.

Orange, the birthplace and home of poet Banjo Paterson, is on the slopes of Mount Canobolas, an extinct volcano that is now a popular reserve. Walking trails lead to the summit, where visitors are rewarded with 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside.


Rhino at Western Plains 1993 (Roderick Eime)

Home of the Central West's principal tourist attraction, Western Plains Zoo, where the animals are displayed according to their geographic origins. The clever use of moats and inconspicuous barriers means there are no bars between the animals and the public - a bonus for everyone, particularly photographers. An 8- kilometre drive or cycle ride (bicycles can be hired) will take the visitor through Africa, Eurasia, North America, Australia and South America, enabling them to view a number of endangered species as well as more common creatures.

The zoo is near another of Dubbo's attractions, the National Trust-owned Dundullimal, claimed to be the most sophisticated slab homestead in Australia. Dating from the 1840s, it boasted such refinements as plastered internal walls, glazed french doors and cedar windows, and even a bell-pull system for summoning the servants.

In the city centre, Old Dubbo Gaol, dating from 1848, has been brought alive by the introduction of a number of lifelike, animated models that tell their story at the touch of a button.


Wellington Nearby is Wellington, noted for its limestone caves with their dramatic formations of stalagmites, and Burrendong Dam, which offers an abundance of watersports.


Start of the 1997 Bathurst 1000 (Roderick Eime)

The oldest city in the Central West is Bathurst, which was settled in 1815 and is perhaps best known to Australians as the home of the Mount Panorama motor racing circuit. It was the birthplace and home of Ben Chifley, Australia's prime minister from 1945 to 1949, and his humble cottage in Busby Street is among attractions in the city.

Other attractions include Abercrombie House, a grand mansion built in the 1870s, and Miss Traill's House, an 1845-built colonial cottage with fascinating displays charting the growth of the city.

The Warrumbungles 

Located just west of Coonabarabran is one of the state's most spectacular National Parks - the Warrumbungles. Discovered in 1818 by explorer John Oxley, the Warrumbungles offer good bushwalking and rock climbing opportunities. The name Warrumbungles is believed to be Aboriginal for "little or broken mountains" – something of an understatement because the rocky spires and forested ridges of the range rise dramatically from the surrounding plains. A well-signposted network of walking tracks enables visitors to view some of the most stunning scenery and to spot some of the diverse wildlife found within the 21 000-hectare Park. Kangaroos and wallabies abound, while emus, possums and numerous colourful parrots can be seen. Eagle-eyed visitors may even spot that shyest of Australian marsupials, the koala.

Just outside the Park is Siding Spring Observatory, home of the Anglo-Australian telescope, one of the most advanced in the world. The observatory is open to visitors during the day but not at night when its astronomers are at work.

No comments:

Support Traveloscopy - Support Responsible Travel.

Traveloscopy is a freelance journalism enterprise supporting the tourism and travel industries. We aim to encourage people to travel thoughtfully and responsibly and also support sustainable initiatives within the travel sector. You can help us cover our operating costs, even if in just a small way.

Last 30 Days' Most Popular Posts