The Central West region in New South Wales is the area west of the Blue Mountains and includes Young in the south, Dunedoo in the north and Parkes in the West. It’s a wet region that’s high in elevation and hilly, making it great for vineyards, vegetable growing and sheep grazing. While we were in the area, we went on the Rhino Adventure, looking for as many painted rhinos as we could find.
After having spent so much time up north in the tropics, we were still adjusting to the wintery weather of the south. When we visited the NSW Central West Region in mid-July, the combination of increased altitude and the ‘big freeze’ weather phenomenon that came through during our visit made our nights very cold. It even snowed when we were in Orange.
Proclaimed a town in May 1815, Bathurst grew into a city by 1885, is the oldest inland settlement in Australia and just celebrated its 200th anniversary. It’s also known as Gold Country, as it was the site of the first gold rush in Australia. It was established to be the administrative centre of the western plains, but these days, it’s mostly known for motorsport. Mount Panorama is the venue for many racing events including the Bathurst 1000, which attracts tens of thousands of people each year. There’s also a National Motor Racing Museum beside the circuit.
The Big Gold Panner
Located outside a hotel with the same name, the Big Gold Panner was erected in 1979 and kneels over 5 metres tall.
About 22km outside of Bathurst is a café and farm shop that offers honey tasting, cakes and coffee, candles, antiques and collectables. There’s an adjacent brewery, the 1859 Brewery, and the café offers tasting paddles for $2.50.
Orange is known as the Colour City not only because of its name, but because of the colours on show during Autumn. It was established in 1846, is the birthplace of Banjo Patterson and has a beautiful collection of historic buildings.
We spent two days in Orange and got to experience a beautiful sunny day, followed by a snow white day. We went for a stroll through the Botanical Gardens and climbed to Pinnacle Lookout before checking out some local wineries.
In town, the Word of Mouth cellar door is a convenient stop for an enjoyable tasting session. For us, the 2013 Petit Manseng was the winner – it was sweet and fruity with a ginger spice. Brangayne was another great winery that gets its name from the story of Tristan and Isolde. While their pinot grigio was lovely, the 2013 Isolde Reserve Chardonnay was smooth and fruity with a morish malolactic bloom in the mouth.
Badlands Brewery is just out of town to the north west and gets its name from the Aussie outback. We enjoyed tasting their beers, with a few that we had never heard of, like the U-Boat Märzen, which was floral and sweet with yeasty flavours and a bitter hops finish. We particularly liked the Gloaming Cherry Baltic Porter, a smoky beer with dark cherry and bitter chocolate flavours.
On our way to Parkes, we stopped by Borenore Caves Reserve and explored the Arch Cave, which turned out to be quite an adventure. There was plenty of light left in the day so we stopped in at Orange Mountain Wines for our final tasting session of the day. They had a great selection of white and red wines, but we really enjoyed their ice wine style sweeties, Mountain Ice Viognier and Rose.
Once called Bushman’s, Parkes was renamed in 1873 in honour of Sir Henry Parkes, the premier of NSW and ‘Father of Federation’. There’s a big statue of him located in the centre of town.
Parkes is also known for its annual Elvis Festival and one of the museums at the Information Centre has the biggest Elvis collection in Australia. Parkes also has a festival that caters for ABBA lovers.
About 25km north of Parkes is the CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope – or The Dish. It’s been operational since 1961 and is an important tool in the field of astronomical science. Admission to the Discovery Centre is free, and there’s also a café on site. Unfortunately, it was closed when we got there, but we still had a look around.
Within the garden at the front of the Discovery Centre is Newton’s Apple Tree, a direct descendent of the apple tree that inspired Newton’s Law of Gravitation. Also in the garden are the Whispering Dishes – if you’re in the area, you’d be silly to miss the opportunity to play with these fascinating demonstrators of how the Dish works.
Utes in the Paddock is a kooky art project just over 70km west of Parkes. About 20 old Holden utes have been turned into pieces of art that represent Aussie icons and various Australiana. It’s a great display that is well worth the drive.
We didn’t spend a great deal of time in Dubbo because we were busy meeting the animals at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, but we did make some time to find some painted rhinos before skipping town.
If you’re looking for a nice place to camp for the night, check out Ponto Falls Reserve. It’s off the road, alongside the Macquarie River, and the toilet facilities are new and clean.
Mudgee was a pleasant surprise. It’s a small town that has earned the reputation of being a great food and wine area. The Farmers Market was on the day we visited and we were able to taste all the delicious locally made foods, such as cheeses and olives, fermented foods, deli meats, wine and spirits.
There is even a brewery in town – Mudgee Brewing Co. – that has a great range of beer. We met the brewer, Gary, who walked us through a few of his beers and revealed that the origin of the camel in the logo comes from the saying, “a man’s not a camel”. There was a beer named the Camel’s Beard Black Sour, which had a sour cherry smell, fresh fruity taste, with clean and mild roasted malt finish.
On our way to the Troopy Winter Ramble at Glen Davis, we stopped at Broombee Organic Wines for a quick wine tasting session. The owner, Barrie Corner, was quite the character, and our two favourite wines were the Cabernet Blush and 2005 Muscat liqueur, which had that morish nutty aftertaste.