How to Spend a Cosy Autumn Weekend in the Bathurst Region
With bars in old schoolhouses, thriving art communities and plenty of fine, fine wine, this rural pocket of NSW is anything but boring.
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If golden leaves and blustery weather make you want a weekend away in the countryside, then pack a bag, jump in the car and make a beeline for Bathurst. Sure, it may be known to many Australians for its car races at Mount Panorama, but there's a whole lot more to this town than endurance motorsports. Not only is the Bathurst region home to wineries and cellar doors galore, but it also has a burgeoning foodie scene, up-and-coming art spaces and outdoor adventures aplenty. Not to mention it's only about a three-hour drive from the big smoke.
Don't know where to start? To help you put together a top-notch itinerary, we've teamed up with Bathurst Region Tourism in celebration of its much-loved Autumn Colours festival. So, whether you're after rolling green hills, heartwarming feasts, cultural trails or just sitting by crackling fires this autumn, you'll find it all in the rural NSW pocket of Bathurst.
If you're arriving early, your first port of call should be The Hub. Located in the centre of Bathurst, the aptly named cafe serves up locally roasted coffee and hearty breakfast and lunch options. It also runs regular events showcasing live music and entertainment, making it a hive of activity. And that's not all for Bathurst's bean scene, with shipping container cafe Doppio Espresso, located in the Tremain's Mill cultural precinct, also high on the list. Keen to go a little further for your cup of joe? The General Store at Hill End Historic Site is a perfect pit stop for a coffee and a bite to eat. After you refuel, you can pick up some local produce and learn more about the former gold mining town that's now home to a thriving artist community.
Back in Bathurst, head to Vine & Tap for lunch or dinner in its leafy courtyard (just be sure to nab a spot under a heater). Inspired by Italian spuntini (snacks), the dishes are designed to be shared. And, as you're on holiday, you'll no doubt want to order yourself some vino from the lengthy list of local and European drops. Feel like a good ol' pub feed? Book a table at The George Hotel. Helmed by Executive Head Chef Matthew Hayden, the kitchen serves up sophisticated gastropub grub like steak, battered fish and lamb rump. Another go-to spot is American-style diner Dogwood BX, which promises a slice of small-town US atmosphere and hospitality out in regional NSW. Food-wise, you'll be tucking in to deep-fried pickles, jambalaya, burgers and brisket.
No matter where you dine, you'll want to save some room for dessert at the old-fashioned Annie's Ice Cream Parlour, which serves up ice cream (obviously) that's made fresh on-site every day.
Thanks to its high altitude and unique terroir due to the rolling granite hills, the Bathurst region is known for some pretty top-notch vino. So, unsurprisingly, it's a great place to visit and channel your inner sommelier. At 800 metres above sea level, the family-run Rock Forest Vineyard specialises in chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and shiraz varietals, made with minimal intervention. For tastings, drop by the cellar door on the first Sunday of the month between 10am–2pm. Over at Vale Creek Wines, located on the outskirts of the town, you'll find only Italian grape varieties such as sangiovese, vermentino and dolcetto, with the cellar door open most weekends. If you'd prefer to drink your wine then sleep among the vines, make tracks to Winburndale and book a night in one of its on-site cottages. Want even more wine? Beginning as a side hustle in 2001, Renzaglia Wines is headed up by the award-winning (and former Winburndale viticulturist) Mark Renzaglia, who moved to Bathurst from Illinois in the 1980s. Since then, the winery has been producing critically acclaimed drops, which you can try at the cellar door by appointment only.
But it's not wine all the time in the Bathurst region. For beer lovers, 1859 Brewing Company at The Beekeeper's Inn, located midway between Bathurst and Orange, is where you'll want to be. It's an English-style alehouse that produces small-batch, seasonal craft brews. While you can't nurse a cold one inside the brewery, you can at the Inn — as well as purchase takeaways. Back in town, you'll find go-to watering hole Church Bar in the old digs of the Anglican Church School House. Despite the autumn chill, you'll want to sit in the stunning beer garden as you sip cocktails and tuck in to woodfired pizzas. Another local institution is The Victoria, where you can get amongst the local nightlife scene. Self-described as a 'food, beverage, arts, music and events hub', the pub is a melting pot of fun. Plus, it's got a cracking pool table.
No doubt after all that wining and dining, you'll want to do some moving. Bathurst's Autumn Colours festival celebrates the area's rich history with activities ranging from guided walks and cultural trails to high teas, workshops, performances and behind-the-scenes night tours. For a more comprehensive look at the area's heritage, head on a 4WD excursion with local Wiradyuri elders who educate, promote, build and preserve the cultural significance of the Wiradyuri people. If you're still after more culture kicks, the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery runs three to four exhibitions at any one time, with shows changing up to every ten weeks. So, you're sure to find something that catches your eye — plus, it's free to enter.
For the more wine-inclined, Simmo's Off-Road Winery Tours will show you the ins and outs of the Bathurst wine region, as only someone who's lived in the region for over quarter of a century can. Simmo can tailor his tours to any location preferences, drink desires and group sizes, too. And, since wine accompanies food, why not head down to Bathurst Farmers Market to pick up some goodies? Held at the historic Bathurst Showground on the fourth Saturday of the month (January–November), the market offers up all the local produce you could dream of — think sweet treats, fresh fruit and veg, meats and flowers.
If you want Bathurst as your base, it's hard to do much better than The Mill Apartments. Located just 100 metres from the railway station, the boutique apartments are situated in a 19th century flour mill. It's ideal for couples, with five equally quaint studios available. Bathurst obviously knows how to repurpose its historic attractions, because you're also able to stay at the Old Milltown Police Station, which is now a popular bed and breakfast. Here, there are three ensuite rooms to choose from or, if you're travelling in a larger party, the entire house is available to rent with additional facilities.
Big groups who prefer somewhere further away will love Hosies. The seven-bedroom, two-storey 1870s building is situated in Hill End, making it ideal for picturesque views, as well as brining you close to a plethora of walking tracks. Or if it's the high life you're after, the luxurious Wilga Station is a must. Just 12 minutes' drive from Bathurst, the 260-acre working sheep farm offers two idyllic options: the secluded Farmer's Hut, which is sleeps two adults and is completely off-grid, and The Shearer's Hall, a beautiful retreat that can meet the needs of up to ten people.
Choose your autumn adventure at Bathurst Region Tourism.
Top image: Bathurst Region Tourism
Published on April 19, 2021 by Joe Rivers