Visiting Bathurst and exploring the region is like striking gold, on so many levels.
To watch in awe as a V8 Supercar hurtles down Conrod Straight on Mount Panorama at speeds approaching 300 kilometres an hour is definitely one reason to visit Bathurst. The other is to experience the places, the faces, the history and more of this amazing city. For some, visiting Bathurst is somewhat akin to a religious pilgrimage. For decades, fans of motor racing have made the trek to the Mountain every October to witness what many believe to be the greatest road race in the world. It all started on 16 April 1938 when over 20,000 spectators gathered at what is now the Mount Panorama racing circuit to see the first ever car race at the Mountain. Today, over 60,000 spectators crowd the mountain every October to witness what has become known as ‘the great race’. Then they are back again in February for the Bathurst 12 Hour Race, with Ford and Holden replaced by the European marquis of motor racing; Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Ferrari and Porsche.
But Mount Panorama Bathurst is much more than a motor racing venue. Wahluu, as the mountain is known in the local Wiradjuri dialect, has been there since the beginning of time. Meaning ‘to watch over’, for thousands of years Wahluu has stood proudly as an icon of this rich region, watching over the growth and prosperity of this amazing inland city and its people.
While Mount Panorama may be a focal point of the city and of the greater Bathurst Region, there is lots more to see and do in and around Australia’s oldest inland city. First impressions of the Bathurst region is just how beautiful the fields and pastures of the ‘treeless plains’ of the Central Tablelands are. Heading due west on the Great Western Highway from Lithgow at the base of the Great Dividing Range, we get our first glimpse of the iconic Mount Panorama about 20 kilometres from Bathurst. This city of 42,000 residents is situated approximately 200 kilometres from Sydney via the Great Western Highway over the Blue Mountains. It is largely a duel highway all the way, so it is an easy 3-hour drive, even towing a caravan. We approach the outskirts of the city, the road lined with poplar trees, past the Bathurst Showgrounds to the impressive Bathurst Visitor and Information Centre. This is a great place to stop for a cup of coffee and all the essential local knowledge on the area.
The Gold Panner bids you welcome to Bathurst.
Accommodation in Bathurst is both diverse and excellent. Being a major tourist centre, there are dozens of hotels, motels, guesthouses and B&Bs, as well as a number of caravan parks and camping grounds. Bidding you welcome as you enter Bathurst is the Gold Panner Motor Inn on the Sydney Road at Kelso. Set high up and away from the traffic, the Gold Panner celebrates the rich heritage of a city whose origins can be traced back to the gold rush days on the mid 19thcentury. Visitors enjoy spectacular panoramic views across to the city of Bathurst and to Mount Panorama. The Gold Panner is ideally located just 10 minutes from the CBD and 10 minutes from Bathurst Airport. For caravanners, the NRMA Bathurst Panorama Holiday Park is a great place to set up camp, offering a choice of accommodation types and just 4 kilometres from the centre of the city. The Bathurst Showground also has camping facilities and is well located on the Sydney Road as you enter the CBD. You can literally walk to the centre of the city. To view the many accommodation options in Bathurst, go to: www.visitnsw.com.country-nsw
As is typical in most large Australian country towns, there is a pub on every corner. Many of the original hotels have undergone significant renovations in recent years and offer an excellent standard of accommodation, combined with the friendly atmosphere of the downstairs bar and restaurant. One of our favourites is the Jack Duggans, or ‘the Duggans’ as locals call it. Situated on fashionable George Street, the Duggans is a true Irish establishment featuring live entertainment, a beer garden and traditional pub grub. In fact, the restaurant is ranked 9 of 113 restaurants in Bathurst. You can book accommodation online at: www.jackduggans.com.au
Gold plated – food, that is!
Almost every region of the world is represented in the cross-section of restaurants and eateries. Reflecting their significant present on the gold fields of the Bathurst region, Chinese restaurants are very popular in Bathurst. But there is much, much more. Tamarin Indian Restaurant, Bishop’s Court Estate, Church Bar & Woodfire Pizza, Cobblestone Lane, Legall Patisserie & Café, Pantano’s Bar & Grill, Restaurant 9inety 2wo, The Hub Expresso Bar and Eatery, Vanilla Bean Café & Restaurant, Webb & Co, The Bistro @ Panthers…the list goes on. The place to celebrate all things motorsport is the Chicane Bar & Grill at Rydges, trackside on Conrod Straight at Mount Panorama.
And talking about trackside, no visit to Bathurst is complete without a visit to the National Motor Racing Museum at the entrance to the Mount Panorama circuit. The museum celebrates the history, personalities and achievements of Australian Motor Sports – speedway, solar, drag, rallying, open wheelers, sports cars, bikes and of course, the touring cars. Spend some time exploring the huge collection of vehicles on display, watch the videos, relive some of the Mountain’s greatest moments then take a leisurely drive around the 6.213 kilometres of the world’s most demanding road-racing circuit. But watch your speed. For 51 weeks of the year, this is a public road and the usual road rules and speed limits apply. So rather than 300 kilometres an hour down Conrod Straight, the speed advisory signs indicate just 60 kilometres an hour. Regardless of your speed, a lap of the Mountain is a memorable experience. You’ll watch the great race on TV with a whole new respect for those V8 Supercar drivers.
There is a lot more to Bathurst than meets the eye.
Being Australia’s first inland city, Bathurst is the location of many of Australia’s finest examples of early colonial architecture, a legacy of Australia’s gold rush era. Gold was first discovered in Australia in 1823 between Rydal and Bathurst and by the 1850s, the settlement had expanded to become a prosperous town and a showcase of much of the finest architecture of the day. Bathurst Courthouse is one of Australia’s best examples of Victorian public architecture while Abercrombie House on the outskirts of town must surely be one of the finest examples of grand Victorian architecture anywhere in Australia. Built in 1827 for lieutenant Governor William Stewart, Abercrombie House has been painstakingly restored to its original glory by the Morgan Family and is open to the public throughout the year with a program of guided tours and high teas. Check tour times online at: www.abercrombiehouse.com.au
Today, Bathurst is a thriving business centre, pastoral centre and a centre for some of the finest food and wines available anywhere in Australia. A visit to the Bathurst Farmers’ Markets on a Saturday morning will confirm this. There are many wineries in the region producing what are referred to as ‘cool climate wines’. One of the best known is Winburndale Wines. Located at Glanmire on the Sydney-side of Bathurst, the winery was established by Mike and Helen Burleigh on the slopes of the hills of Winbourn-Dale, on what was to become known in the golden days of 1864 as the Fontana Reef. Winburndale as it is known today, still enjoys its fair share of gold as a multi-gold medal winner at local, state and national wine shows. Discover this great winery at: www.winburndalewines.com.au
No visit to Bathurst is complete without a visit to the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum. Home of the Somerville Collection, the museum is housed in a group of 1874 heritage public school buildings in the heart of Bathurst’s CBD. The lifetime work of Warren Somerville, the museum displays spectacular examples of minerals from around the world as well as a life-size skeleton of T-Rex and dinosaur eggs. Visit the museum and check opening times at: www.somervillecollection.com.au
Bathurst is also an education centre with a number of excellent private and public schools. It is also a university city. A major campus of Charles Sturt University is located here, right at the base of Mount Panorama. During race week, you can actually hear the sounds of the V8s echoing around the university’s lecture halls as they roar around the track in the lead-up to the great race on the Sunday. CSU is New South Wales’ largest regional university with campuses across the state as well as in Sydney. Hence, Bathurst is also referred to as a ‘university town’, the close proximity of the campus to Bathurst’s CBD ensuring a close relationship between the university, its staff and students and the city.
Bathurst truely is a beautiful city; a city of magnificent trees and wonderful parks – historic parks, grassy parks, sporting parks, water parks and of course, caravan parks.
A city for all seasons
There is no one good time to visit Bathurst. The activities of the region are so diverse as to make visiting a pleasure at any time of the year. However, as the city sits nearly 1000 metres above sea level, the seasons do have an impact. Summers a hot and dry and winters are cold. Autumn and Spring are beautiful with milder temperatures and the trees displaying the most amazing spectrum of colours as they shed their leaves for winter, or bloom for the approaching summer. Possibly the best way to decide when to visit Bathurst is to check out the city and region’s calendar of events and activities. October is of course, motor racing time, but there is a multitude of activities happening every week of every month of the year. You’ll find the Bathurst Events Calendar at: www.bathurstregion.com.au/events
For we caravanners, Bathurst is gold; great camping, great food and wine and great places to see and explore. If you are travelling Australia and specifically the Central West of New South Wales, make sure Bathurst is a destination. Visiting and exploring this rich region really is like striking gold.
Dinah and I love Bathurst. So much so that we relocated our family to Bathurst from Sydney in 1994. Our three sons, Christopher, James and George grew up on ‘Micklegate’, our Angus cattle property just outside Bathurst. This city is not only a great place to visit, it is a great place to raise a family. We lived in Bathurst until 2011 when Dinah and I moved to the Sunshine Coast. Our eldest son Christopher lives and works in Bathurst with his wife Nikki and our grandsons Finlay and Felix, giving us every reason to ‘go home’ to Bathurst regularly. For, although we have moved north, we still consider ourselves proud Bathurstians!
Tips for the Trip
It gets hot in summer and cold in winter. And sometimes the seasons don’t go according to plan. So, check ahead and bring appropriate clothing.
Do your homework. There is so much to see and do here, you might like to plan a draft itinerary. Be aware that the holiday periods do get busy and the week of the great race in October sees the city nearly triple in size, meaning that all accommodation will be in high demand. So, if you are planning to be in Bathurst during race weeks in October or February, best to book well ahead.
Main picture: Race day sunset from the very top of the legendary Most Panorama Motor Racing Circuit in Bathurst
- A giant ‘Gold Panner’ welcome to Bathurst
- The historic Bathurst Courthouse
- Magnificent Machattie Park is the centrepiece of the city
- Taking a tour of Abercrombie House
- Does it get any more ‘Bathurst’ than this?
- Introducing the monstrous Mr Rex
- The ‘Duggans’ on George Street
- The legendary ‘Lost & Found’ range from Winburndale Wines
- ‘Micklegate’, our home in Bathurst for almost 20 years