The central west of New South Wales is rich farmland, and the undulating green hills provide both seasonal work and easy hiking tracks. Although Dubbo is the region’s major hub, and home to a famous zoo, Bathurst is the most sophisticated town, attracting the Sydney crowds on weekends with fine architecture and numerous museums. Cowra’s fame derives from the breakout of Japanese prisoners here during World War II, while Young was the site of the Lambing Flat Riots against Chinese miners in 1861, significant events in Australian history. Both towns lack major draws though, and could easily be overlooked. Parkes’ main attractions are its nearby observatory and its annual Elvis festival. While not tremendously cosmopolitan, the central west is picking up its culinary act and Orange has developed a bit of a café society. Alternatively, you could lunch at one of the wineries around Mudgee and Young – de rigueur for Sydneysiders escaping the city at weekends and a lovely break from the road.Read More
The pleasant city of BATHURST, elegantly situated on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range 207km west of Sydney, is Australia’s oldest inland settlement. Its beautifully preserved nineteenth-century architecture, quirky shops, lively arts scene and good cafés make it an enjoyable overnight stop. The settlement was founded by Governor Macquarie in 1815, but Bathurst remained nothing more than a small convict and military settlement for years, only slowly developing into the main supply centre for the rich surrounding pastoral area. It was the discovery of gold nearby at Lewis Ponds Creek at Ophir in 1851, and on the Turon River later the same year, which changed the life of the town and the colony forever. Soon rich fields of alluvial gold were discovered in every direction and, being the first town over the mountains for those on the way to the goldfields, Bathurst prospered and grew.
Although there’s still the odd speck of gold and a few gemstones (especially sapphires) to be found in the surrounding area, modern Bathurst has reverted to its role as capital of one of the richest fruit- and grain-growing districts in Australia. The presence of the Charles Sturt University, one of Australia’s leading institutes, gives the city an academic feel and adds to its liveliness. Over the second weekend in October, rev-heads turn up for the big annual motor-racing meetings – centred on the famous Bathurst 1000 endurance race – at the Mount Panorama Racing Circuit.
DUBBO, named after an Aboriginal word meaning “red earth”, lies on the banks of the Macquarie River, 420km northwest of Sydney and about 200km from Bathurst. The regional capital for the west of the state (with around 40,000 people), it supports many agricultural industries and is located at a vital crossroads where the Melbourne–Brisbane Newell Highway meets the Mitchell Highway and routes west to Bourke or Broken Hill. As such, it’s well used to people passing through, but not staying long. If you do stop, the only real attraction is the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, which can easily fill a day.