23 June 2018

Canberra Day Trips: Visit the character-filled towns of Boorowa and Bowning

| Canberra Day Trips
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Boorowa main street and the Boorowa Hotel. Photo: Hilltops Tourism and Events.

Boorowa is a pretty, character-filled town full of rural charm. There’s plenty to delight visitors to this beautiful location with rich Irish heritage, from historic buildings to interesting heritage walks. The lush pastures around the district produce fine wool and excellent quality lamb. A famous celebration of wool takes place each October long weekend, which includes parades, singing and dancing, markets, activities for the kids and a Running of the Sheep event through the main street of the town.

Not far from Boorowa is Bowning. The quaint village and artistic community is also a haven for history buffs, and if you’re into antiques, you might just find your next treasure in the sleepy town. There are some lovely eateries to grab a meal and discover some fun experiences. Together or individually, the two character-filled towns offer a fabulous day trip from Canberra, and showcase plenty of what the regional destinations around the capital have to offer.

Why you’ll love them


The Shamrock Trails are three heritage walks that explore the colonial and 20th-century history of Boorowa. The best starting point is the brochure Follow the Shamrock Trails around Historic Boorowa. 42 places of interest on three trails around the town are described, and keep an eye out for the informative brass plaques at each landmark.

Check out the splendid stained-glass windows – imported from Ireland – at Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church, which dates back to 1877, and was the first Catholic church built in Australia west of the Great Dividing Range. Saints Patrick, Brigid and Columba are depicted in the impressive windows.

The local Court House, now the Visitor Information Centre, was built in 1884 and operated until 1988. The distinctive double-height courtroom and gracious Roman arches make it Boorowa’s most impressive building.

Nearby, you’ll find the Boorowa Museum in a restored building made of rammed earth. Boorowa was founded on the wool industry so expect to see plenty of items depicting its history in the town. The museum is open on Saturdays or by appointment.

Once you’ve finished exploring the town on foot, head down to the lovely Boorowa River for a stroll or picnic along its banks. You might be lucky and spot the town’s iconic Superb Parrot or even a platypus.

If all that walking works up a hunger or thirst, Boorowa has several fabulous places to enjoy country hospitality. Savour delicious coffee and scrumptious gourmet delights from the region at the Pantry on Pudman, where there is an eclectic range of local gourmet treats, local produce and an eccentric assortment of antiques and collectables.

Walsh’s Country Kitchen‘s gourmet and heritage-style jams and preserves also capture the flavours of the region. It has been going since 1989, and it also provides visitors with the chance to savour the produce of the area.

Running of the Sheep at the Irish Woolfest, Boorowa. Photo: RiotACT archives.


Like Boorowa, Bowning boasts a colourful past which is still evident in the town’s buildings. There’s an old Trooper’s Cottage, a Cobb & Co Coaching Station and two notable old churches.

Bowning Pub & Restaurant is the genuine country pub experience. According to local legend, poets Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson used to drink there. The bistro serves generous pub-style meals with a serve of country hospitality.

Head to the quirky Rollonin Cafe, situated in a replica slab hut, to see some fascinating memorabilia that captures the spirit of the village, or sit outside and soak up the fresh country air. You’ll get service with a smile and excellent coffee.

Next door is a treasure trove of antique delights at the Bowning Antique Centre. There’s an extensive range of furniture, linen, kitchenware, restored clocks, radios and gramophones, books, records and many other collectables. They’re open Thursday to Sunday.

Mayfield Mews offers the perfect way to while away some time. Located in a coach house and stables built over 150 years ago, it offers plants, homewares, sculptures, jams and condiments, and coffee, light meals and refreshments. You’ll find some excellent-quality gifts as well.

Getting there

To get to either of the towns, head from Canberra to Yass via the Barton Highway – it is well signposted. The trip of around 60km usually takes under an hour from the CBD. Boorowa is around 50km north of Yass, while Bowning is 14km west of Yass.

When to go

  • Boorowa’s agricultural show is held in March and the October long weekend sees the Running of the Sheep down the main street of Boorowa during the Irish Woolfest
  • Otherwise, now is the perfect time to visit these two charming villages. You’ll find somewhere to warm up with a coffee or a place to refresh in front of a roaring fire.

Key details

  • Duration: it takes around an hour and a half to drive from Canberra to Boorowa, and under an hour from Canberra to Bowning.
  • Distance from Canberra: it is around 110km from the CBD to Boorowa and less than 100km from Canberra to Bowning. Allow half an hour for the 40km trip between the towns.
  • Recommended for: anyone who enjoys antiques, history, quirky events and getting out into the countryside will find something of interest in Boorowa and Bowning.

Have you spent time in Bowning or Boorowa? Do you have any recommendations for others?

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