October 11, 2020

Follow the Goulburn Heritage Trail

If you said the one thing you remember about Goulburn was the Big Merino, then you’d be in good company. The massive concrete beast, dubbed ‘Rambo’ by good-natured locals, celebrates the region’s wool and sheep industry which catapulted Goulburn along the road to economic success almost 200 years ago.

Goulburn - Main Street - 1913

For nearly the same length of time, the major road to Melbourne passed through the centre of Goulburn. Then, in 1994, the Hume Highway bypassed the city altogether, necessitating an 800m move for Rambo and his giftshop to bring him closer to the new highway. 

The bypass brought a new focus for Goulburn and a chance for visitors to appreciate the colonial charm of the near-200-year-old city with its abundance of heritage-listed buildings and city parklands. Local traders and tourism businesses have successfully turned their attention to luring and keeping visitors engaged, rather than simply feeding and fueling them.


Of particular note is the outstanding Rocky Hill War Memorial, completed in 1925 and recently renovated, it was the recipient of a Tripadvisor 2020 Travellers' Choice Award, putting it on par with some of the best attractions in the country. There’s a great view from the summit and an excellent museum with rare WWI memorabilia.

The railway marked a growth spurt for Goulburn when the line from Sydney opened 150 years ago. Railway history is an important facet of Gouburn’s history and you can see much of that bygone industry at the Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre*, once the bustling workshops for rail infrastructure.

Working men can work up quite a thirst, and Goulburn’s heritage-listed brewery* is the oldest surviving brewery and industrial complex in Australia and was designed by Francis Greenway. Make sure you enquire first about opening times and tours.

The Goulburn Heritage Walk

A leisurely and invigorating stroll around Goulburn’s historic centre will allow you to see many of the city’s ornate Victorian and Georgian buildings in just a couple of hours. Plus, there are numerous opportunities for coffee stops and light meals along the way.

One option is to start at the Goulburn Visitor Information Centre (where you can get a map) and head NE back toward Sydney, taking in the dozen or so significant properties on a 60-minute loop.

You’ll pass the current police station, formerly a convict hospital, conveniently close to RJ Sidney Craig’s Funeral Home, built in 1858 as the Rock of Cashell Hotel. Keep going past St Clair, a historic 1840 home, now a museum, into Grafton St toward The Exchange Hotel (1882). Amble past more century-old houses to the red letterbox where you can say you posted a postcard in a genuine 1850s letterbox. Why is the slot so high? So you can post your letter without dismounting your horse. Of course.

By the time you turn around at Sterne St, you will have passed several more noteworthy homes including that of Thomas Marsden, one of Goulburn first newspaper editors. On your return, take note of 51, one of the earliest homes and saddlery with an interesting past. 

Historic Goulburn Court House

An alternative or additional route takes in the several impressive civic buildings arranged around leafy Belmore Park, the central heart of the city. You can’t miss the imperious ‘Italianate’ courthouse that would slot comfortably into a period movie scene or the classic late Victorian post office and railway station, all built ‘sparing no expense’ in the 1880s when Goulburn was hitting its stride as a major rural and commercial hub. 

The old police station opposite the visitor information centre served Goulburn’s needs for 100 years until 1970. Today it is the Argyle Emporium, one of the most fascinating used bookstores anywhere in the country. Some half-million items are squirrelled away in the many rooms and cubby holes. The old cells which once held thieves, murderers and bushrangers, now protect rare antiquarian tomes, many as old as the building itself and older. 

Staying and eating in Goulburn

Despite being a major rural centre, Goulburn retains a most definite ‘country’ feel and this is reflected in the accommodation offerings with plenty of comfortable, small hotels, pubs and BnBs. For example, the Astor offers both rooms and plush suites right in the heart of town or else if ‘pub charm’ is your thing, the historic Southern Railway Hotel (formerly the Coolavin Hotel) in the Sloan St heritage precinct is your ticket.

Otherwise, if recognisable accommodation brands are important to you, there is the top-rated Best Western on the Sydney side of town, the sparkling new Quest Serviced Apartments in the shopping strip or the Mercure right behind the Big Merino near the southern exit.

The famous Paragon Cafe, Goulburn,

For diners, Goulburn evolved serving travellers often in a hurry, so cafes and dining rooms evolved all along Auburn street to cater to the constant cavalcade of traffic passing through town. Now visitors are staying longer and more inclined to savour a leisurely meal, but some of the traditional cafes remain with the Paragon Cafe, since 1940, a prime example of this bygone era. 

Make Goulburn your next road trip or train weekend destination and let yourself be surprised. However, you may need more than one weekend. 

More information on things to do and see: https://www.goulburnaustralia.com.au/

News Flash: The Visitor Information Centre is now open on weekends from 10am-4pm

All material (c) Copyright Traveloscopy.com unless noted otherwise.

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