From prestigious bygone buildings that were captured on Australia’s first $10 note to immersive museums and the oldest-operating theatre in the Southern Hemisphere, Gulgong – home to the famous Australian poet Henry Lawson – is a national treasure just waiting to be discovered.
Picture a country town nestled into the rolling hills of country New South Wales, where curved streets are lined with heritage buildings complete with iron-lace verandahs, and friendly locals greet you with warm smiles. What looks like a classic countryside town from a distance is so much more. Nestled into Mudgee Region’s rolling hills, 300 km from Sydney, sits a national treasure. Welcome to Gulgong, the region’s famous 19th-century gold-mining town, where the local passion is just as profound as its history.
Gulgong’s charm lies in its rich heritage, and you’ll feel it unequivocally along Mayne Street, the beating heart of the town. As you wander through the picturesque streets, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time, with many buildings the remnants of the late 1800s gold rush era. Have a coffee at the cosy Butcher Shop Cafe, step inside an 1870s heritage building to shop for souvenirs and knick-knacks at Stacks Down Under, immerse yourself in the creative world at The Gallery Gulgong for local craft, unique gifts, and souvenirs or pick up gorgeous garments at the town’s fashion boutique, Wear it Outt.
While the essence of the town’s history is captured along its streetscape, there’s no better place to learn about the region’s pioneering gold fields than at Red Hill. It was here where Tom Saunders first discovered Gulgong’s gold in 1870 — the catalyst for creating what we know as Gulgong today. What once were gold fields filled with workers who toiled, is now where you’ll find Gulgong’s Gold Rush Experience. Walk around the original commissioned tile mural that was established in 1988 to portray the gold leads of Gulgong. Now the information centre, you can learn about its history through audio stories and displays depicting life on the fields, before delving deeper (quite literally) and taking a peek inside the original mine shaft.
Housed within two iconic State Heritage-listed buildings on Mayne Street is the Gulgong Holtermann Museum, which, through digital images, reveals early life in Gulgong during the gold rush era. Stop by to flick through fascinating old photographs illustrating life for families, workers and travellers around the town in the late 1800s. Kids will love getting stuck into the museum’s interactive puzzles, offering the parental holy grail: education and entertainment.
Sydney’s Opera House may boast glistening white sails, but Gulgong’s Prince of Wales Opera House, built in 1871, takes the crown as the oldest-operating theatre in the Southern Hemisphere – a proud truth for the local residents. Often described as the fabric of Gulgong, seats to performances by the Gulgong Amateur Musical and Dramatical Society sell out at a rate of knots. Keep your eyes peeled for tickets to experience it. Expect melodic sound acoustics, a bustling atmosphere and a night out that feels like another era.
In the words of Famous Gulgong poet Henry Lawson, ‘Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer.’ Get to know Gulgong’s character in its charming 1800s pubs. While each haunt has its own unique charm, there’s one thing they all have in common, and that’s their love of great beer and good times. Spend your evening at the Prince of Wales for a roaring fire, quirky decor and live music; have a yarn with the locals on the Commerical Travellers House’s iconic filigree balcony; or soak in the sunshine from the Centennial Hotel’s (or ‘The Cenny’ as it’s affectionately referred to by the locals) dog-friendly garden. The Cenny proudly holds the crown as the oldest operating hotel in Gulgong and its presence on Australia’s first $10 note has fashioned this establishment into the history books.
History meets romance on the outskirts of Gulgong. The Owl Head Lodge is a luxury countryside homestead where blazing sunsets, sweeping vineyard views and the peaceful melody of birds go hand-in-hand. The lodge offers a range of private cottages and studios fitted with old-world exposed timber beams and glass walls that look out to the horizon. Owl Head Lodge offers the serenity of Mudgee’s countryside within an easy drive from its accessible attractions.
Gulgong invites everyone to stay. Mudgee Region’s warm hospitality is always on offer at the humble Gulgong Goldfields Motor Inn, in the form of a big smile and friendly advice from the owner Colin. The inn offers large rooms at an affordable price, with kitchenettes stocked with bread, jams and teas. Not far away sits the Gulgong Tourist Park, where powered sites and large cabins are peppered among the trees. Pitch a tent or settle into your home away from home in a family or couples cabin. Both a walking distance from the town centre, the rich history of Gulgong is at your fingertips.
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