GO WEST AND AVOID
By Editor in Chief Dallas Sherringham
Sydneysiders traditionally hug the coast heading or south when they take a holiday, but this year you can give the bush a boost and see great towns just by heading west.
Now, if America has its Route 66, than the Great Western Hwy should be our national ‘great drive’.
The good thing about heading west is that you avoid the crowds and get out into the fresh air where the sky goes on forever and the locals are friendly.
After passing through Bathurst and doing the mandatory lap of Mt Panorama motor racing track with a stop at McPhillamy Park to see the view, the road passes through beautiful country before arriving at Orange.
Next stop is Wellington with its beautiful Cave complete with an 18 hole championship Golf Course. You can camp next door or stay at the motel.
You will discover some of the hidden gems of the Great Western Plains around the regional hub of Dubbo, about a five-hour drive northwest of Sydney. You’ll find everything from historic pubs to rodeos to Akubra-throwing contests.
Just out of town is the outstanding Western Plains Zoo where you will need to spend at least half a day. Make sure you take a camera with a telephoto lens.
From Dubbo, it’s to you to decide which way to head, but here are some ideas:
A laid-back country town on the banks of the Castlereagh River, Gilgandra, 45 minutes north east of Dubbo, is known for its many windmills; follow the Windmill Walk through town to spot them.
It’s also the birthplace of the 1915 Coo-ee March, in which men marched to Sydney to enlist to fight in World War I, calling “Coo-ee” to attract other volunteers in country towns along the way.
Get a nickname in Coonamble
Australians love a nickname and Coonamble, an hour and 45 minutes north of Dubbo, is considered the nation’s nickname capital. It has even turned itself into the Nickname Hall of Fame — look out for the billboards displayed around the town with unique stories of local residents.
Every June long weekend the town comes alive with the Coonamble Rodeo and Campdraft, which attracts more than 1000 cowboys and cowgirls.
The Macquarie River runs right through the centre of the town of Warren, with a number of great fishing spots within walking distance. The town is an 80-minute drive north-west of Dubbo and about two hours south of the Macquarie Marshes, a diverse wetland that supports 20,000 birds.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service runs tours of the wetland on the October long weekend.
Look out for galahs at Gulargambone
The name Gulargambone comes an Aboriginal word meaning lots of galah birds — look out for the corrugated iron galahs on the highway and around town. The town is just over an hour north of Dubbo. Stop in at the volunteer-run Two eight two eight café (named after the town’s postcode), which also sells locally made art and crafts, fresh produce and second-hand books.
Baradine, in the middle of the Pilliga forest, two hours north of Dubbo, began life as a timber town. Pilliga is now a conservation area known for its koalas. Follow the walking track through the Timallallie National Park to see Sculptures in the Scrub. Each work is a collaboration between the artist and an Aboriginal Elder or young person and tells a story of local history and culture.
Go west to Narromine
On the banks of the Macquarie River, the streets of Narromine, half an hour west of Dubbo, are dotted with heritage buildings, and the town has a rich aviation history dating back more than 100 years. Almost 3000 pilots were trained here during World War II — you can find out all about it at the Narromine Aviation Museum.
On the old Cobb & Co coach trail, Trangie, an hour’s drive west of Dubbo, is known for its authentic country pubs that date back to the early 1900s and the Big Billy (one of Australia’s ‘Big Things’) at the Goan water hole just outside town. The Wungunja Cultural Centre houses a large collection of Aboriginal artefacts and art, mostly from Central NSW, including two large carved burial trees.
At Tomingley, 40 minutes southwest of Dubbo, have a pub meal in the Cross Roads Hotel, meet alpacas and visit the gallery at Quentin Park Alpacas, and go bushwalking in Goobang National Park.
Venture beyond the Black Stump
Mendooran, on the Castlereagh River, 50 minutes northeast of Dubbo, dates back to the 1830s and is known as the Town of Murals for its colorful artworks that depict the history of the area. Horse racing has taken place here since 1856 — visit in September to catch the Mendooran Races.
At Dunedoo, an hour north-east of Dubbo, learn about the region’s past at the Dunedoo Historical Society and Museum and stop for a drink at the 1913-built Hotel Dunedoo.
Binnaway, 80 minutes northeast of Dubbo, was a bustling railway town in the 1920s; a railway signal tribute has been erected in the main street to honor its heritage.
The Australian phrase ‘beyond the black stump’ (meaning beyond civilisation) is believed to be tied to Coolah: the Black Stump Wine Saloon that marked the boundaries of the colony was on the outskirts of town in the 1850s.
A 90-minute drive northeast of Dubbo, this is the gateway to Coolah Tops National Park, known for its giant grass trees, towering eucalypts and stands of huge snow gums. Walking trails wind past waterfalls, there are remote campsites for starry nights and dedicated mountain bike trails.
Details: Destination NSW www.destinationnsw.com.a
Paddling through the stunning Macquarie Marshes
Classic Hotel in downtown Mendooran
Go Beyond the Black Stump at Coolah