I took Kalyra for a daddy and daughter weekend getaway to Bathurst NSW, and what a pleasant surprise that trip was.
No longer do I think of Bathurst as just a town for motor racing or going to University, but possibly the perfect country getaway with kids, or even just for couples!
Once you escape the madness of Sydney’s traffic, it’s an easy three hour drive and your reward is a vibrant and charming city centre (we caught the last of the autumn colours) and a surrounding region of gorgeous natural landscapes.
To be honest, two days wasn’t enough but we certainly got a real taste of the highlights, and when we revisit regional NSW again I’d like to explore this town and surrounding area at a slower pace.
When you first arrive in Bathurst, I recommend you drop into the Visitors Centre. We always do this when we visit a new town as the folks behind the desk can offer some great insider tips on things to see and do, and you can buy something locally made.
In case you didn’t know, in 2015 Bathurst is celebrating its Bicentenary as Australia’s oldest inland settlement with a huge line up of ongoing events and attractions.
There’s a lot going on currently, with future events throughout the upcoming winter school holidays planned. Below is a list of activities to tick off your list on your trip to Bathurst.
Things to do in Bathurst
1. Abercrombie House Night Tour
Possibly our favourite activity from our weekend getaway was the Abercrombie House night tour.
Kalyra and I had a ball exploring this 52 room heritage mansion by torchlight whilst Chris Morgan, the owner, told us fascinating stories of his childhood growing up at Abercrombie.
Chris was just six years old when his parents took ownership of the property, and to start the tour he sat us down in the very living room his own parents gathered his brother and sister and sat them down some 40 years ago on their first night in Abercrombie by the fire and baked fresh bread.
We didn’t sit by the fire this night, but by candlelight as Chris told us ghost stories and how he grew up playing games of hide and seek and explored the downstairs on his bicycle. Yes, this house is that big.
Since the Morgan family moved in they have been renovating and restoring the house, and are now sharing their stories and the fascinating history of this Scottish styled mansion.
Built in the 1870s by Bathurst pioneers the Stewart family, Abercrombie has 52 rooms, 29 fireplaces, 7 staircases, and a grand ballroom. Easily the biggest home we have toured in Australia.
We climbed staircases, visited the grand ballroom, the chapel and walked amongst skinned foxes. A nice touch at the end was hot chocolate and cookies out on the terrace prepared by Chris’s lovely wife, I went back for thirds!
Loved the history and atmosphere of this place, and I’d like to return to Abercrombie in the daytime and take a self-guided walk through the house, gardens and explore the five outer buildings.
Public tours: adults $15, concession $10, child under 14 $5, family of four $35.
2. Australian Fossil & Mineral Museum
I must admit, we’re not typically museum people and it has to be something special to grab my attention and keep me interested, but the display at the Australian Fossil & Mineral Museum impressed me, a lot.
This collection of 2000 rare fossils and minerals from around the world is the result of one man’s passion, Warren Somerville, and includes crystals from over 100 Australian mine sites, plus diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds.
Kalyra was in awe of the full-size T-rex dinosaur skeleton, and check out the size of the egg.
Also impressive is the location, the collection is housed in the original 1876 Public School building which underwent a restoration.
Admission: $12 Adult, $8 Concession, $6 Child, $28 Family
3. Drive the Mount Panorama Motor Racing Circuit
Start. Your. Engine…
Ok, you can’t come to Bathurst without doing a lap of the famous 6.2 kilometre Mount Panorama racing circuit, and no you don’t need a V8 Ford or Holden to take on the mountain!
Whilst I’m not a huge motor racing fan, I’m a sports fan and have watched enough Bathurst 1000s over the years to understand this is one of the true iconic Aussie sporting events and I always appreciate the skills and courage needed to reach the top of any sport.
So it was fun to get behind the wheel and pretend for a moment to be like the late great Peter Brock, the King of the Mountain, who won this race a record nine times.
I was amazed at how steep and windy the circuit actually is as you climb up the mountain, which offers nice views of the Bathurst plains.
Whilst you’ll feel the urge to put the foot down along Conrod Straight (the V8 Supercars touch 300km/h on this stretch) it’s a public road and regular road rules apply, including 2 way traffic and a 60km/hr speed limit.
Kalyra and I took a few sneaky pics on pit straight, make sure there is no oncoming traffic, and felt what it would be like to start on pole position.
After getting a taste of Mount Panorama, I’m definitely interested in sitting trackside one October and getting amongst the festivities of the Great Race!
4. Visit the National Motor Racing Museum
Racing fans will appreciate the National Motor Racing Museum situated alongside the racing circuit.
We started our visit with a short 20 minute movie reliving the history of Mount Panorama and the Bathurst 1000, then wandered about the museum admiring some of the famous cars that have been victorious here, including Brocky’s 1984 Holden Commodore VK, and learned about the history, personalities and achievements of Australian Motor Sports.
Brocky fans will appreciate the Peter Brock tribute section, and out the front there’s a gift shop to grab some memorabilia to take home with you.
Cost: Adult $12.50, Child $5.50 (under 5 is free), Family Pass $30.50
5. Annies Ice-Cream Parlour
Judging by the lineup out the door, and by how many people on our Facebook page recommended this place, Annies Ice cream Parlour is an institution in Bathurst.
I felt like I was back in a diner in America when I stepped inside with the funky decor, a jukebox and posters of Elvis on the wall.
As far as the ice cream goes, many folks suggested we try the locally named Sofala Gold variety, or bridle track. Kalyra was having none of it, she went for a scoop of blueberry + cookies & cream. Dad, well he needed some warming up so went for a hot chocolate which came with a bonus freckle.
What flavour you having?
6. Barcoos Barn Farm Stay
Just a 10 minute drive from Bathurst gets you too the Barcoos Barn Farm Stay where you have the option of staying overnight in self-contained or bed & breakfast accommodation, or you can simply do what we did and participate in an hour long farm visit.
Elaine, the friendly owner, took us around and Kalyra enjoyed spoon feeding the chickens, ducks and pigs, collecting the eggs and bottle feeding the cute baby lamb – you can also milk a jersey cow.
But she can’t decide what was her highlight, the pony sulky ride or jumping up behind the wheel for her first ever tractor ride with farmer Ken – yep, she steered the whole way.
This was a fun way to experience a real working farm. I’m sure kids of all ages, especially city kids, would appreciate reconnecting with nature and a behind the scenes look at farm life.
And the afternoon drive out from Bathurst was scenic, you can’t beat an open country road and autumn leaves.
7. Adventure Playground
What seven year old doesn’t enjoy an hour of playground time? And what parent doesn’t like to let their kids run loose and burn off some excess energy?!
Kalyra tells me the Adventure Playground was a hit, and wanted to stay here all afternoon. She’s always up for the challenge of a maze and wherever there’s a flying fox she’s on it.
Located within Victoria Park, on the corner of Durham and Hope Street, the playground is based around a dinosaur theme and there’s plenty of swings, a sand pit, climbing frame, rock wall, slides and picnic tables and BBQ’s
8. Church Bar + Woodfired Pizza
We love ourselves a good pizza and the Church Bar + Woodfired Pizza certainly delivered and was a top spot for a little daddy & daughter dinner date.
Located in Ribbon Gang Lane, Church Bar is housed in the old Anglican Church School House. It’s an impressive location, charming yet casual and family friendly. We sat inside but the leafy courtyard would be a winner on a sunny day or nice evening, even if just for drinks.
But come here and try one of their pizzas.
The Italian wood-fired pizza oven turns out some of the best pizzas I’ve had in a long time. I went for the Panorama: slow cooked lamb shanks with baby spinach, sweet potato, feta and rosemary. And the lamb was cooked to perfection.
Whilst Kayra got through most of her Mitre: Ham, salami and peperoni with a smokey BBQ sauce.
We didn’t have time for dessert as we had to rush off for the Abercrombie night tour but it also sounded and looked delish! To get a great deal, visit on a Tuesday night.
9. The Hub Cafe
The Hub Cafe seems appropriately named as it’s a place the locals love to congregate, apparently brunch at the Hub on Sunday’s is the thing to do in Bathurst.
We had lunch here just after arriving in town and not being used to the cooler temperatures coming from the Gold Coast it was a nice and cozy atmosphere inside around the open fire.
On a sunny day I could imagine the lovely courtyard being popular and probably the best option with younger kids.
The coffee was good and with 5 menu items on the kids menu at around $7 I thought was decent value. I went for the healthy haloumi salad option. There’s jazz nights and takeaway available.
10. Bathurst Regional Art Gallery
The Bathurst Regional Art Gallery was the first purpose built regional gallery in NSW and if mum or dad, or one of your teens is into their art, it has eight exhibiting spaces showcasing work by Lloyd Reece and Brett Whiteley, amongst others.
The exhibitions changeover every six to ten weeks and for a list of upcoming exhibits click here.
Of more interest to Kalyra though was the kiddies section in the library next door which provided for some much needed down time, for both of us.
11. Webb & Co
This modern restaurant and bar is probably more suited to teens than younger children, but the Webb & Co was definitely a nice dining experience with some live acoustic tunes being played from the elevated stage.
This is another historic building, built in 1863, and the owners have done a great job transforming a former department store into a classy bar.
We had tapas style food and a mixture of prawns, wings, meatballs, and mushrooms, washed down with a craft beer.
And I got a great tip from a local, grab yourself a bottle of the Winburndale Shiraz which has won numerous awards, and they weren’t wrong.
12. The Crago Mill Emporium and Heritage Centre
This is an interesting building, and keeping with the heritage theme the Crago Mill is over 100 years old and was previously a flour mill.
You can come here for breakfast, brunch, lunch and award winning organic coffee (roasted in Young), and Kalyra was kept happy with a hot chocolate and scones and cream.
Glenn and his wife make homemade gourmet sausage rolls, quiches, muffins and popular french vanilla slices, plus numerous other cakes and slices.
Once you’ve had a bite to eat you can wonder the numerous independent shops housed within, or do a bit of wine tasting at the cellar door. I took home a bottle of Cabernet Malbec Merlot.
13. Bathurst Winter Festival
Why not grab the kids and jump in your car these upcoming June / July school holidays and hit up the Illuminate Bathurst Winter Festival?! Don’t forget your beanie and your skates for the outdoor ice-skating rink in Kings Parade in the historic town precinct (from 4-12 July).
You can also munch on a few Perthville pantry sausages and watch the heritage buildings magically lit up – the Illuminate Bathurst Winter Festival is sure to warm you up and highlight how Bathurst is becoming a hotspot for families.
14. Sleep track-side at Rydges
We chose the famous Mount Panorama Race Track as our Bathurst accommodation, right on Conrod Straight at the RYDGES Mount Panorama Bathurst.
It was very cool driving onto the track to access the hotel, and standing on our balcony I could envision the V8’s roaring past and no doubt would be a prime viewing spot during the race in October.
Regardless of when you visit, it’s an easy drive into town, just up the road form the Uni and a handy central base for the whole Bathurst region.
Whilst Kalyra enjoyed a hot chocolate in bed AND a movie (don’t tell sister Savannah) I thought what better way to get amongst the Bicentennial celebrations in Bathurst than with a bottle of “Bathurst Bicentenary Cabernet Sauvignon” overlooking the track from our balcony.
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