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10 Best Things to Do in Goulburn, NSW

The drive from Sydney to Melbourne can be done in around nine hours, but where's the fun in that? Characterful country cities and towns along the route demand a closer look, and historic Goulburn is no exception. Spend a day or two ticking off these ten great things to do.
Ten of the best things to do in Goulburn
Belmore Park, Goulburn. Image: Shutterstock

Goulburn, Australia’s first inland city, rode to prosperity on the sheep’s back.

Now vineyards and Victoriana are among the premier attractions of this well-established destination in New South Wales’ Southern Tablelands. Handily situated on the Hume Highway between Sydney and Canberra, yet close to the spectacular Bungonia National Park, Goulburn treats visitors to a smorgasboard of art, adventure, history and hospitality.

Here are ten of the best things to do in Goulburn.

Ten of the best things to do in Goulburn
Goulburn Historic Waterworks Museum. Image: Goulburn Mulwaree Council

1. Snap a selfie with The Big Merino

The region’s wool-growing heritage stands tall in the form of The Big Merino. Built in 1985 and fifteen metres in height, the steel-and-concrete sculpture of local stud ram ‘Rambo’ is among the biggest of Australia’s ‘Big Things’, and one of only a handful that visitors can enter. Climb the stairs to the lookout for a ram’s-eye view of the region, visit the permanent exhibition on the history of wool production in Australia, and browse the gift shop for superfine merino and possum merino clothing, sheepskin accessories, and lanolin products.

Ten of the best things to do in Goulburn
Ten of the best things to do in Goulburn: The Big Merino. Image: Destination NSW

2. Explore the cafe culture

If it’s time for breakfast, brunch or lunch, lucky you. Just steps from the big fellow is Grit Cafe — one of Goulburn’s best venues for breakfast, snacks and light lunches. Don’t let the simple décor fool you; this is the place to come for flavoursome coffee and delicious, freshly baked treats. Over in the heart of town, The Paragon is a Greek café that’s been part of Goulburn life for more than 80 years. Known for its huge portions and old-style diner vibe, this local institution specialises in traditional favourites such as burgers and milkshakes. Nearby Greengrocer offers all-day breakfast and lunch (wood-fired pizzas are a specialty), with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients.

3. Meander through Goulburn’s historic heart

Goulburn’s original Market Square, dating from 1833, has transitioned over the years into beautiful Belmore Park. This green oasis has a charming, old-fashioned feel, thanks to its rose gardens, glasshouse and Victorian-era bandstand. Opposite the park on Montague Street is the magnificent Court House, built in Italianate-style in 1880. For a full tour of the city’s profusion of nineteenth-century architecture, download the Visitor Information Centre’s self-guided heritage walk brochure and map.

Ten of the best things to do in Goulburn
Ten of the best things to do in Goulburn: Do a heritage walk. Image: Alamy

4. Admire the cathedrals

Of special mention are the city’s not one, but two magnificent nineteenth-century cathedrals. The Anglican St Saviour’s Cathedral in Bourke Street is the masterpiece of renowned Australian architect Edmund Blackett, who also designed Sydney University. St Saviour’s is widely regarded as Australia’s most beautiful Gothic-style church and is much celebrated for its richly decorated interior. Just around the corner in Verner Street is the Catholic Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. Another outstanding example of Australian Gothic architecture, this edifice is remarkable for its unusual green stone façade and restrained, light-filled interior.

5. See art indoors and out

Goulburn Regional Art Gallery showcases contemporary Australian art and hosts a dynamic program of cutting-edge exhibitions. Since 1982, the Gallery’s public art initiative has also brought creativity to the streets: so far there are nearly 40 murals, sculptures and installations dotted around the city — many of them reflecting life in Goulburn, past and present. Those looking to buy an artistic memento of their visit should drop by Gallery on Track. Browse paintings and handicrafts by local artists and makers, or give rein to your own creativity at one of their many art classes and workshops.

Ten of the best things to do in Goulburn
Image: Goulburn Regional Art Gallery

6. Visit a winery

With the emergence of cool-climate winemaking in southern New South Wales, Goulburn has a new agricultural product that may one day rival the longstanding dominance of wool. As the industry expands, more and more wineries and cellar doors are popping up. Just ten minutes’ drive north of the city, Kingsdale Wines provides a relaxed cellar-door experience focusing on sauvignon, semillon and shiraz varietals. Tiny Yarralaw Springs, 30 minutes south (near Quialigo), serves home-grown olives alongside its boutique chenin blancs and cabernets. Take the Federal Highway south to Lerida Estate, which does a delicious three-course lunch or grazing plate. Accompany your meal with a tasting of the Estate’s signature riesling, pinot noir and shiraz vintages.

Ten of the best things to do in Goulburn
Ten of the best things to do in Goulburn. Image: Kingsdale Wines

7. Step into a Steampunk fantasy

Goulburn’s Historic Waterworks Museum has a collection of original steam-powered machines, housed in a fine Victorian building by the Wollondilly River. Turn up any time to enjoy the picturesque grounds and view the amazing 19th century contraptions, or see them come to life on special ‘steaming dates’ (check the website for details). The annual Steampunk Victoriana Fair is an opportunity to dress in period garb, explore the steampunk subculture aesthetic, and participate in loads of creative time-travelling activities.

8. Have a wilderness adventure

It’s a 40-minute drive from Goulburn to Bungonia National Park, where a network of rugged walking tracks punctuated by spectacular lookouts awaits. Because of its steep and broken topography, the park offers adventurers plenty of challenges. Hikers preparing for serious treks like the Kokoda Track train for endurance in this canyon-filled terrain, while the limestone landscape creates brilliant opportunities for those experienced in abseiling, rock climbing and caving. Visitors who prefer more moderate exercise can walk the paved path to Adams Lookout for an awe-inspiring view of Bungonia Slot Canyon and Bungonia Creek Gorge.

Ten of the best things to do in Goulburn
Bungonia National Park. Image: Goulburn Mulwaree Council

9. Shop differently

Independent homewares, fashion and gift shops dominate Auburn Street — Goulburn’s main shopping thoroughfare. Visit Your Home Matters, Goulburn Soap World or Something Special to browse for gorgeous products you probably won’t find elsewhere. That will definitely be the case at Argyle Emporium on Sloane Street (housed in the old police station). Their huge collection of second-hand books, vinyl records, posters and comics privileges the eclectic, quirky, and hard-to-find.

10. Eat at Goulburn’s oldest pub

The Hibernian Hotel is a classic Aussie pub boasting a whopping 170-year tradition of country hospitality. Enjoy the unpretentious retro setting, raffles, happy hour, pool table and juke box. Live performances on Friday and Saturday nights also offer the chance to experience Goulburn’s vibrant local music scene. But the big surprise is the quality of the food served at the Hibernian’s Bistro 1850. Simple, great tasting meals, plenty of blackboard specials, and an incredibly good value $15 lunch menu make this one of the city’s best dining options.

For further inspiration, visit www.goulburnaustralia.com.au

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Goulburn? 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 Escape (News Limited), Mindful Puzzles, Vacations and Travel, and Mindfood. 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.

 

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