Bustling Bathurst is the gateway to the Central West of New South Wales, and makes an ideal base for exploring the wider region. But equally, there's plenty to see and do on the town's doorstep. Here are ten top experiences to tick off.
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 New South Wales 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 (the Bathurst Winter Festival in July is an annual highlight), and being a higher education hub keeps the city’s median age (and energy!) young.
Here are ten of the best things to do in Bathurst.
1. Step back in time in the town centre
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. While strolling the streets of Bathurst, 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.
2. Strike it lucky in Hill End
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 north-west of Bathurst to the historic town of Hill End. You can explore an original underground gold mine at Bald Hill tourist mine, or gaze at the extraordinary collection of early photographs on display at the Great Western Store (chronicling life on the goldfields).
3. Follow in the footsteps of a former PM
Back in Bathurst’s city centre, history buffs will also want to visit the home of post-war Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley. It’s been lovingly preserved and contains original furnishings and personal items. It reveals the Labor politician’s modest background and opens a window on life in the 1940s.
4. Visit Abercrombie House
A contrasting set of historic digs is located on the outskirts of town. Abercrombie House was constructed in the 1870s and is one of Australia’s most impressive stately homes. The baronial-style mansion offers a range of guided and self-guided tours that take visitors 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.
5. See an art exhibition
Culture vultures should head for the brilliant Bathurst Regional Art Gallery. It’s a leading regional arts facility with an impressive permanent collection of Australian paintings. The gallery also hosts an exciting program of temporary exhibitions — often built around quirky themes or concepts.
The Hub is the best place to tune into Bathurst’s contemporary arts scene (while also enjoying great coffee and food!). The venue hosts intimate musical performances, open mic nights and changing exhibitions by local artists.
6. Walk with dinosaurs
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 opalised fossils.
7. Delve into the local dining scene
Bathurst is developing into a food and wine destination to rival New South Wales’ established Central West foodie hubs of Orange and Mudgee. One of the highlights is Cobblestone Lane, which serves up fine modern Australian fare in an elegant setting. Also try Church Bar and Wood Fired Pizza — renowned for its delicious meals and funky feel.
The Hub is a consistent crowd-pleaser for breakfasts and lunches, while Mayfield Café and Produce Store is well worth the 30-minute drive for its fresh-is-best approach to casual dining. 80% of the food served is grown onsite (with the ingredients for the vegan salad travelling only 35 metres from garden to plate!).
For more farm-fresh produce and a true country-town feeling, visit the Bathurst Farmer’s Market. It’s held at the showground on the fourth Saturday of every month.
8. Go grape grazing
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 specialises in Italian wine varieties (think sangiovese and lagrein, rather than cabernet and merlot) and offers cellar-door tastings on Saturdays and Sundays.
9. Stop and smell the flowers at Mayfield Gardens
Stunning Mayfield Gardens provides leisure activities for visitors of all ages within a single, highly scenic location. On this beautiful 40-hectare site 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.
10. Drive the Mount Panorama racing circuit
You can’t leave Bathurst without visiting its most famous attraction — the Mount Panorama racing circuit. Each October motor racing fans 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 kilometres per hour!) and marvel at how anyone could negotiate the twists and turns at more than three times that speed!
It’s also worth checking out the National Motor Racing Museum (located alongside the track), which showcases the history of the Bathurst 1000 and other forms of motorised racing in Australia. ‘King of the Mountain’ Peter Brock’s collection of trophies and sashes are on display.
For non-revheads, Mount Panorama is still worth a visit because the views from the top are, well, panoramic.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Bathurst? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
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 and The Australian. 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 Roslyn to travel extensively in Europe and North America, which she continues to do.