With millennial burnout a reality, a weekend escape is fast becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity. Our nine to five is creeping into our five to nine but our annual leave remains the same, which means we’re in need of a bite-sized weekend getaway, to maximise our much-needed rest and recovery. Enter Bathurst. The underrated regional gem that’s just a short drive from our beloved Emerald City.
Sure, if you grew up along the East Coast of New South Wales, you might hazily remember panning for gold on a primary school excursion but fast-forward to 2019 and a visit to Bathurst is less about gold nuggets and more about golden hour. From sifting through thrift shops and devouring delicious eats to caving and cosy accommodation, there’s plenty of things to see, eat, drink and do. Here, thanks to Bathurst Region Tourism, we’re uncovering why this under-the-radar regional escape is well worth the drive from Sydney—and no, the Bathurst 1000 does not make the list.
Soak Up Delicious Eats And Tasty Vino
Not too dissimilar to its regional counterparts, like Orange or the Blue Mountains, Bathurst’s culinary and bar scene is seriously stepping up, and while it’s peppered with ornate pubs, there’s a plethora of cafes, restaurants and cellar doors to choose from.
If you’re looking to kick-start your escape with a hearty and delicious brekkie or brunch, you can’t go past The Hub. A favourite among the locals for its casual courtyard blanketed in vines, The Hub is a revered, no-frills establishment dedicated to serving up locally roasted coffee, quality ingredients and fresh produce. Dishing out a mix of classics with a contemporary twist, like a benny bagel, corn fritters and buddha bowls, the menu offers something for everyone. We recommend trying the crunchy sweet potato rosti served with poached eggs, mushroom, chorizo and sriracha hollandaise atop olive and rosemary sourdough. You won’t regret it.
A pit stop for wine tastings at Vale Creek Cellar Door is a delicious way to ease yourself into the afternoon, but if kicking back with a gourmet pizza and listening to live music with a grand church backdrop sounds like a vibe then Church Bar is certainly one for your weekend hit list. Nestled in the stunning, leafy back courtyard of the town’s old Anglican School Church House, on the notorious Ribbon Gang Lane, Church Bar is a welcoming, laid-back pizza restaurant with a slew of thirst-quenching cocktail jugs perfect for sharing. But if you’re in the mood for Mexican, El Guapo Cantina’s kaleidoscopic courtyard is a surefire way to spend a balmy evening. With $5 tacos and $12 margaritas, you honestly can’t go wrong.
Although the sleepy town of Bathurst is dotted with casual dining destinations, it’s certainly not exempt from a gourmet restaurant owned by an award-winning bartender cementing itself along the main drag. Inspired by an American town by the same moniker, Dogwood BX is a North Carolina-style eatery that’s turning heads for all the right reasons. Bringing mouth-watering, crispy Southern-style fried chicken and sticky BBQ pulled pork to Keppel Street, the menu is everything you’d expect from a well-established Southern diner and more. Ribs, steaks, wings and tins—Dogwood DX is a relaxed yet lively diner serving up a seriously tasty smorgasbord of protein, craft beer and fruity cocktails. Our advice? Come hungry and try a few share-dishes because the menu is way too good to try just one.
To top it all off, just over half an hour north you’ll find Painted Horse Café, a tiny but mighty cafe that’s putting the small two-street town of Sofala on the map. Run by partners Kate Geale and chef Nicole McIlwaine, the small cafe could easily pass as a workman’s shed with its rusty roof and tool-heavy decor, but don’t let that deter you, the menu could rival the city’s best. And because they’re pumping out tasty dishes like crab linguine and fresh prawn and papaya salad, word has definitely got out, so be sure to book ahead if you want to check out this spirited gem.
Escape The Grind And Get Outdoors
Enjoy a slow start to the weekend by exploring the local Farmer’s Markets. Sample some delicious local cheese, baked treats and stock up on vibrant seasonal fruit and veg for your jam-packed itinerary ahead. Bathurst is renowned for its caves and National Parks, so you’re going to want to keep your energy levels high.
A trip to Bathurst wouldn’t be complete without checking out the unique and awe-inspiring Abercrombie Caves. An unexpected natural delight brimming with stalagmites and stalactites, the caves can be explored with a guide or you can fly solo and soak it up in your own time. We recommend heading there early so you can relish the eerie silence and stillness on your own and capture uninterrupted snaps of the natural splendour.
If you prefer to keep your head above the ground, there are plenty of bushwalks, vineyards and gardens to navigate. Mayfield Gardens, which is only a short 35-minute drive from the heart of Bathurst is an idyllic destination inspired by the most picturesque European gardens. No matter how green your thumb is, Mayfield Garden will floor even the most heinous plant killers. Made up of two main garden areas, Mayfield and Hawkins’ Family Garden, the grounds are so picturesque you’ll feel like you’re walking through one of Claude Monet’s paintings. Laden with French Lavender and beautiful blooms, the gardens are blissfully aromatic. There's even a cascading waterfall you can walk behind and a giant geometric English Box Hedge Labyrinth to wander through.
Get Your Culture Fix
If slowly perusing a gallery and soaking up a mix of contemporary art and eclectic local crafts sounds up your alley then spending a morning or afternoon gallery hopping around Bathurst will serve you well.
A must-see: Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (BRAG). An alluring melting pot of modern, traditional and experimental artworks, the gallery boasts an intriguing lineup of nationally-revered artists. Staging approximately 25 exhibitions per year, the gallery has housed the likes of John Olsen, Jean Bellette and James Gleeson.
A short walk from Brag is the Tablelands Cooperative Gallery. Tucked away on George Street, the charming gallery is a not-for-profit, artist-run cooperative showcasing the creative talents of its members living in the Tablelands region. Although it’s small, a visit to the gallery is a great way to support the community and the perfect place to pick up a keepsake to treasure.
If you venture to Bathurst on the first weekend of the month and you’re really looking to immerse yourself in art, the Bathurst Arts Trail is a great way to get out and soak up the incredible work from local artists. Offering free entry to local galleries and studios, the trail is jam-packed with stunning works, all you have to do is download the trail map and get walking.
Relish A Cosy Night’s Stay
Rich in heritage and old-world charm, Bathurst boasts a number of luxury and affordable terraces, manors and cottages but our pick of the bunch would be spending a cosy night’s stay at Alfred On Keppel. A beautifully restored, light-filled terrace in the heart of Bathurst, the three-bedroom heritage home oozes sophistication and character. It practically ticks every box with from its ‘Gram-worthy decor to plush, fluffy robes. And if you book in winter and it starts snowing, it's absolutely magic.
If you’re eager to live it up like a local for a weekend, Airbnb, of course, is a reliable hub of endearing and welcoming homes but an another cosy—and affordable—option is the newly renovated rooms at the Royal Hotel in Sofala. Nestled above the legendary pub, these adorable and quaint rooms are an ode to Australia's incredible native wildlife and will only set you back around $70 a night.
If you don’t mind a slight drive when you’re turning in for the night, The Guesthouse at Hill End will make a visit to the region all the more special. Set on a private two-acre property, the luxury country cottage is perfect for a romantic getaway or a weekend away with your mates. Grab a spot around the crackling fireplace and whip out the boardgames—it's so cosy you'll want to wish you extend your stay.
Feeling a little burnt out and in need of a weekend escape, be sure to consider Bathurst when you start shortlisting.
Editor's note: This article is proudly sponsored by Bathurst Region Tourism and endorsed by Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.