One of the first settlements established after Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson finally crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813 was Bathurst on the banks of the Macquarie River. The city celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2015.
Bathurst is a pleasant 3 1/2 hour drive from Canberra. There are two options both via Goulburn; one is via Taralga, the Abercrombie River and Oberon and the other via Trunkey and the Abercrombie Caves.
Now a thriving regional centre and major education hub, for many Australians Bathurst is synonymous with car-racing with the famous Mt Panorama circuit on the edge of the town (opened in 1938) drawing huge crowds of rev heads and other car enthusiasts to races such as the 12-hour race in February and the Bathurst 1000 in October.
In the past few years many of the key attractions have come together under the banner ‘Amazing Bathurst’ which truly sums up the town.
Set out on a grid design with wide streets and plenty of free parking, Amazing Bathurst includes a number of historic buildings, museums, art gallery, boutiques, a wide range of cafes and restaurants, fresh produce, wineries and other attractions to cater for all interests.
For a country town there are some imposing civic buildings including the court house and a number of those wonderful old solid bank buildings – some still used as banks.
An old public school building dating from 1876 is now the home of the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum which contains the superbly displayed collection of around 2000 minerals, gemstones and fossils collected worldwide by a local Professor Warren Somerville.
The Bathurst Regional Art Gallery is one of many excellent galleries found in regional centres around Australia and has a good collection of works many by locals or artists well known artists like Lloyd Rees and Donald Friend who had association with the region. The thriving artists’ colony at nearby Hill End also is well represented.
Just outside the town is a real oddity – a Tudor Gothic ‘Scottish’ style castle/mansion, Abercrombie House. It has 52 rooms, 7 staircases and 30 fireplaces as well as a ballroom with gold leaf ceiling. Currently owned by the Morgan family for over 40 years, they have great plans to further showcase their amazing property.
For many older Australians, a visit to the home of Ben Chifley, the 16th Prime Minster of Australia (1945-1949), will bring back memories of a great Labor leader. His very modest home, tiny by modern standards, is full of interesting memorabilia and open for tours at weekends.
Keppel Street, one of the main streets of Bathurst, is alive with cafes, bars and restaurants. Start your morning with breakfast at Al Dente Gourmet to Go (the tradies start getting their coffees around 6am) for a tasty egg and bacon pie with coffee, follow up mid-morning with a delicious patisserie (try the renowned lemon tart) by French patissiere Philippe Legall at Legall Patisserie Café and then settle back for a tasty and hearty lunch of eclectic modern Australian dishes at The Hub.
In the evening try the innovative seasonal menu at Cobblestone Lane restaurant in George St with its wide selection of wines including some from the region. Make sure to leave space for the Dessert Tasting Platter.
Bathurst is rapidly developing as another interesting cool climate wine region. Among the better known wineries are Renzaglia Wines, Vale Creek Wines (specialising in Italian varietals), 3 Views Wines and Algona Mount Panorama Estate.
Bathurst has a wide range of excellent accommodation for all budgets. However, if you want to experience the very best, try the boutique B&B property Bishop’s Court, once the home of the Anglican bishops of Bathurst from the time it was built in the 1870s. The seven elegant guest rooms together with the sitting and dining rooms include a number of wonderful objets d’art.
Pictured at top, Abercrombie House, Bathurst. Above, Ben Chifley’s House, Bathurst. Photo’s Roger Allnutt.
Roger Allnutt was a guest of the Bathrust Region Tourism website www.bathurstregion.com.au.