Caravaners have a definite advantage when it comes to uncovering the hidden delights that lie off the beaten track.
On our tour of this region, we will make a loop from Bathurst, three hours west of Sydney, to Parkes and then to Cowra, ending at the beginning in Bathurst. When you think of Bathurst, you might think of car racing, but there is plenty more to this region than that. In 1872, Bathurst was the largest inland settlement in New South Wales, owing to the gold rush. This means that there are plenty of museum displays and well-preserved buildings to discover, particularly at Hill End, where gold was first discovered in the state.
A self-guided tour of Hill End, with its backdrop of mountains and gorges, will reveal why the town not only inspired gold bugs, but also many Australian painters. In the 1870s, Hill End had 10,000 residents and one kilometre of shopfronts, including an oyster bar and an opium den! Explore the ruins and historic cemeteries, and even whole streetscapes that remain from the late 1800s.
Visit Chifley Home – at 10 Busby Street, Bathurst – an old house and museum that was the 1914 home of Prime Minister Ben Chifley and his wife, Elizabeth. Set up like a museum, the home contains the original household furnishings and personal effects of the Chifley family.
Travelling two hours west of Bathurst puts you in Parkes, where you can discover things that are even older than the pioneers – stars, planets and galaxies. The rolling plains of Parkes are home to the CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope, which has become synonymous with the town. The dish, which is 64 metres in diameter, still operates 24 hours a day, and the visitors’ centre is a great repository of information for space enthusiasts.
Next, it’s on to Forbes, which is well known for its historic buildings. The heritage walk is a fantastic way to get to know the town, with 18 unique historical sites to explore. Make sure that you visit the grave of infamous bushranger Ben Hall, who was shot by police in 1865, aged just 27, after a string of robberies and raids in the state.
Just over an hour from Parkes lies Cowra, where you can really let your hair down and indulge yourself. Here, you can taste test the region – from local wines at cellar doors, to fresh produce at the Cowra Farmers’ Market.