Bathurst is Australia’s oldest inland urban centre and a surprise package for the first-time visitor.
You may know it as the home of the annual Bathurst 1000 motor race, but this small city in country NSW has so much to offer as a weekend or short break destination at any time of the year.
Located three hours’ drive west of Sydney, Bathurst’s historic town centre provides a charming backdrop for a wide range of cultural activities. Four clearly defined seasons make things interesting year-round in terms of food and festivals, and being a higher education hub keeps the city’s median age (and energy!) young.
Enjoy this Bathurst travel guide.
Need to know
Base yourself: City centre – or look for a country B&B or farmstay
Average hotel price per room/per night: $120 AUD
You can’t go wrong with: Locally sourced meat and produce, local gin, mulled cider
Best breakfasts: Keppel Street, George Street
Great coffee: Keppel Street
Top spots for a beverage: George Street, inner-city laneways
Must-dos: Historic town centre, Mount Panorama, Mayfield Gardens
Best times to visit
Bathurst is a great spot to visit at any time of the year. In the summer months temperatures hover between 20 and 30, while the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are extremely pleasant – and you’ll get to enjoy the stunning changing of the seasons.
Don’t discount the region’s cold and crisp winter. Rug up in July and enjoy a seasonal celebration at the Bathurst Winter Festival.
The Bathurst area is rich in historical associations, from the heritage architecture of the town centre to the relics of gold-mining days in the surrounding region.
Bathurst has one of the best-preserved historic townscapes in Australia. Strolling these streets you’ll see a huge range of colonial, Victorian and Federation style buildings. The most eye-catching are the magnificent Railway Station and imposing Courthouse, but you’ll also see many beautifully maintained shop façades and private homes. Notice the art deco streetlamps, installed in the 1920s, which lend a Parisian air to this regional Australian city.
Gold discoveries in the Bathurst area in early 1851 prompted thousands to converge on the region and try their luck in the search for untold riches. To gain a sense of what life was like in the gold rush days, drive an hour northwest of Bathurst to the historic town of Hill End where you can explore an original underground gold mine at Bald Hill tourist mine, or gaze at the extraordinary collection of early photographs chronicling life on the goldfields, at the Great Western Store.
In Bathurst’s city centre, the home of post-war Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley has been lovingly preserved. It shows the Labor politician’s modest background and opens a window on life in the 1940s.
On the outskirts of town Abercrombie House is one of Australia’s most impressive stately homes. The 1870s baronial-style mansion offers a range of guided and self-guided tours that take the visitor back in time to an age of gracious living. There are high teas on selected Sundays, jazz nights in the opulent ballroom, and an antiques fair every November.
There are plenty of ways to connect with Bathurst’s vibrant cultural scene.
Your first stop should be the brilliant Bathurst Regional Art Gallery. It’s a leading regional art gallery with an impressive permanent collection of Australian paintings and an exciting program of temporary exhibitions, often built around quirky themes or concepts.
The Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum is a wonderful Bathurst surprise. Housed in the gothic-style 1876 Public School Building is a world-class collection of gems, crystals, minerals and fossils. There’s even a complete T-Rex skeleton! Look out for the uniquely Australian opalized fossils.
The Hub is the best place to tune into Bathurst’s contemporary arts scene while enjoying great coffee and food. The venue hosts intimate musical performances, open mic nights and changing exhibitions by local artists.
Bathurst is developing into a food and wine destination to rival New South Wales’ established central-west foodie hubs of Orange and Mudgee.
For a classic dining experience you can’t go past Cobblestone Lane, with its fine modern Australian fare and elegant setting. The Church Bar and Wood Fired Pizza serves up easy and delicious meals and drinks in a funky heritage setting.
The Hub is a consistent crowd-pleaser for breakfasts and lunches, while just out of town at Mayfield Café and Produce, 80% of the food served is grown onsite – with the ingredients for the vegan salad travelling only 35 metres from garden to plate!
Having been one of the first places where grapes were grown in Australia, the Bathurst region is now reviving its lapsed wine-making traditions. Vale Creek vineyard specializes in Italian wine varieties (think Sangiovese and Lagrein, not Cabernet and Merlot) and offers cellar-door tastings on Saturdays and Sundays.
While Bathurst isn’t a shopping destination in the usual sense, the historic precinct around Keppel Street has plenty of interesting boutiques and homewares stores amid its cafés and galleries.
King’s Antiques in George Street is a treasure trove of English-sourced objets d’art, collectibles and antique furniture.
For farm-fresh produce and a true country-town feeling, visit the Bathurst Farmers’ Market. It’s held at the showground on the fourth Saturday of every month. Crafters will also enjoy the unusual retro fabrics and decorations at The Home Patch.
Stunning Mayfield Gardens provides leisure activities for visitors of all ages within a single, highly scenic location.
On this beautiful 40-hectare site – just a half hour drive from Bathurst – you can immerse yourself in spectacular themed gardens, graze outdoor food and drink stations, and enjoy live music and theatre performances. There are art, gardening and cooking workshops, yoga retreats, and a busy program of special events and seasonal festivals. Mayfield Gardens has been designed to take full advantage of the Bathurst region’s cool climate, and is the ideal place for city-dwellers to reconnect with the changing seasons.
You can’t leave Bathurst without visiting its most famous attraction – the Mount Panorama racing circuit. Each October motor racing fans from around the world descend on the city to watch the Bathurst 1000 race take place on the uniquely steep and winding track. At other times of the year you can drive the circuit yourself (keeping to the legal speed limit of 60 kph!) and marvel at how anyone could negotiate these twists and turns at more than three times that speed!
For non-revheads, Mount Panorama is still worth a visit because the views from here are, well, panoramic.
For further information, please visit Bathurst Tourism.
Do you have any tips to add to our Bathurst travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please send us a message.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Roslyn Jolly is a freelance travel writer whose work has appeared in Luxury Travel, Get Up & Go, The Sunday Telegraph (Escape) and The Australian (Travel & Indulgence). In her former career as an English Literature academic, she studied and taught the work of great travel writers, such as Henry James, Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson, and became fascinated by the history of travel and tourism. Two years at school in Wales and three years at university in England allowed her to travel extensively in Europe and North America, which she continues to do. On a trip to Borneo in 2015, her eyes were opened to the wonders of Asia. Her most amazing travel experience so far was looking into the eyes of a Bornean gibbon spotted in the rainforest canopy in Brunei. Dream destinations for the future include Antarctica, Mongolia, Bhutan, Namibia, Iceland and Greece – and seeing more of Australia’s north and west.
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