The Mudgee Region’s historic buildings are providing a beautiful backdrop to tourism

Gulgong Historic streetscapeThe Mudgee Region’s historic buildings are providing a beautiful backdrop to a range of new tourism businesses. De Russie Suites in the historic Mechanics Institute sets a new benchmark for contemporary luxury regional accommodation, while Down the Track Café in the heritage listed Kandos Railway Station breathes new life into a building left behind by progress.

A hand built mud-brick hut overlooking the vineyard is the perfect place for artists to draw inspiration at Rosby Artists Retreat workshops, while a range of new sellers are setting up stall at the fabulous Mudgee Farmers Markets in the grounds of St Mary’s Catholic Church, parts of which date back to 1857.

The Gulgong Pioneers Museum celebrates its 50th Birthday this year and is based in the Old Times Bakery.  The Museum is one of the best known folk museums in New South Wales and is spread over an acre in historic Gulgong. While the historic vehicles on display at the Museum are a reminder of less hurried times, visitors now enjoy even more options to get to Mudgee in just 40 minutes with Aeropelican announcing four additional flights each week from Sydney.

New Luxury Accommodation at de Russie Suites Mudgee
Newly opened and located one block from Mudgee CBD, de Russie Suites Mudgee offers 13 self contained accommodation choices including studio, spa studio, 1 bedroom, 2 & 3 bedroom interconnecting family suites and The Blue Room penthouse suite. Built within the historic 1862 Mechanics Institute, the property is a self-contained, totally non-smoking apartment suite hotel decorated in a modern style with a European influence. The suites all have luxurious king beds, flat screen TV, Austar, minibar, kitchen and some suites have a balcony, bath or spa. Complimentary light breakfast is included to start the day. Go to:

Down the Track Café
While the trains stopped running through Kandos in 2011, heritage listed Kandos Railway Station has recently been rebirthed as ‘Down the Track’, a café, wine bar, and now cinema. With a focus on Mudgee historic Buildingquality produce, including award-wining local wines, jams and chutneys, Down the Track offers friendly service, fantastic food and exquisite ice-creams from Norgen-Vaaz. Now visitors have the chance to enjoy these great delights, sat on the platform next to an open fire while enjoying movie greats on a big screen mounted ‘Across the Tracks’. The movies kick off in April and what better place to enjoy classics like Casablanca and Dr Zhivago with their unforgettable train station scenes. And if that slice of the past isn’t enough for you, take home gifts and memorabilia to remind you of your trip down the track. Go to:

Artist Retreat Workshops and Sculptures In The Garden at Rosby Wines
On the same property as Rosby Wines, with their beautiful rustic cellar-door hut, Rosby Guesthouse has opened its doors to offer Artist Retreats throughout the year. Held over two days they feature guest artists who share their secret skills in print-making, mixed media portrait drawing and more. Coming up is Printmaking with Miriam Cullen (26-27 May) and Mixed Media Portraiture with David Newman-White (3 -4 July) Visit on 13-14 October 2012 and witness the gardens of the property transformed into an outdoor gallery with the annual Sculptures In The Garden event. The Artist Retreats cost $220 for a two day course. Artists can access discount accommodation rates at the beautiful Rosby Guesthouse. Go to:

Gulgong Pioneers Museum 50th birthday
One of Australia’s best regional museums notches up its 50th birthday this year and there’s no better time to check out their impressive collections. There is a huge and intriguing range of historic vehicles, steam engines, gold mining artifacts, machines, clothing, needlework and display rooms showing the living and working conditions of Gulgong’s pioneers. The Museum is based in the historic Times Bakery and through gradual expansion now occupies almost two blocks of the town. It’s a truly impressive collection, which includes an entire building dedicated to vintage phonographs and recording machines. Further information is available from Gulgong Historical Society on (02) 6374-1513.

New Products at Mudgee Farmers Markets & Kids Cooking Classes
Mudgee Fine Foods monthly Farmers’ Market continues to surprise and delight visitors to the region providing fresh regional produce at its best, grower expertise and a fun, lively atmosphere. Recent additions to the markets include Edrom Olives, award winning free-range Farmer Brown Pastured Eggs and Kurrajong Country Meats.  Local chef’s host Kids Cooking Classes at each monthly market, with gourmet pizza king Adam Hockley from Roth’s Wine Bar sparking up the wood fired oven on 19th May. Kids will put all that Play-Doh practice into action as Chef Adam shows them how to make pizza and bread. The Markets are held on the third Saturday of every month (8.30am to 12.30pm) operating under strict Farmers Market guidelines with all produce created within an 100 mile radius of the Mudgee Region by the stallholders themselves. Cooking Classes start at 9.30am for kids aged 8-12. The Markets are held in the grounds of historic St Mary’s Catholic Church. Go to

Extra Aeropelican Flights
Aeropelican has added four extra flights per week from Sydney to Mudgee. The fastest way to get to the Region is a 40-minute flight which takes in spectacular vistas over the Blue Mountains. Wednesday and Friday will see the introduction of a mid-morning flight departing at 10.30am and Wednesday and Sundays will see complemented with a mid afternoon flight.

The Mudgee Region is a 3.5hour drive from Sydney in Central NSW or a 40-minute flight with Aeropelican. A food and wine lover’s paradise, there is also a range of arts, culture, history, and nature and wilderness experiences to be enjoyed.

Beechworth Gaol Unlocked

Beechworth Gaol UnlockedIf you thought Beechworth was just about an untouched gold rush streetscape, fabulous local produce and boutique shops & accommodation then think again!

Beechworth Gaol Unlocked reveals Beechworth’s less well known history, one that’s rich with tales of great escapes, betrayal and even romance – all within the walls of the gaol.

The site has been used as a place of incarceration since 1855, continuing until the closure of HM Beechworth Prison in 2004.

The Gaol is now open to the public revealing a time capsule – allowing the buildings to tell their story.

Our costumed prison warder guides reveal the site’s colourful past through four different 60-90 minute walking tours as you…

Gaoler’s Tour

  • Take the place of remand prisoners for a welcome tour of the gaol
  • Get introduced to life in gaol in the 1860-70’s
  • Climb one of the four guard towers and take in views over the gaol & Beechworth
  • Visit Ned Kelly’s cell
  • Walk the condemned man’s walk & hear about the eight men who dropped to their death on the gallows

Kelly Tour

  • Visit Ned Kelly’s cell
  • Visit Ned’s mothers cell
  • Enter the Gaol kitchen
  • See secret exercise yards
  • Hear about Kelly family inmates
  • Meet Ned’s Executioneer

Night Time Turnkey’s Tour

  • Experience the Gaol by night if you dare!
  • Visit cells protected by the spirit of lost souls, encounter ghostly shadows, solitary confinement cells, the gallows which saw the demise of 8 men & autopsy tent as well as other well hidden parts of the gaol
  • Hear stories of the 4 executioneers who plied their trade here as you help our Gaoler lock down the Gaol for the night
  • Gain access to areas not seen on other tours

 Paranormal Tour

  • Hear the theory behind paranormal phenomena
  • Learn to operate the latest technology in tracking paranormal activity
  • Get a background briefing on the Gaol history and key historic figures
  • Tour the parts of the Gaol with a history of paranormal activity
  • Set up and operate the equipment to detect any paranormal activity
  • Gain access online to the results of the field activities during the tour Packages
Beechworth Gaol offers a number of school packages from one to four days inclusive of accommodation and a full itinerary of exciting but educational activities centered around crime and justice, the gold rush, Australian history and science.

Meeting, Conference & Function Venue
Beechworth Gaol offers a variety of areas suitable for all occasions. With a fully equipped business centre offering board and meeting rooms with audio visual facilities available to be packaged with catering and private tours.

Crime Scene Gift Shop
Australia’s only crime & justice themed gift shop perfect for that killer gift:

  • Books on true crime
  • Crime scene kits
  • Fingerprint kits
  • Murder mystery games
  • Together with a whole range of quirky crime & justice themed products that make fabulous gifts.

Beechworth Gaol VictoriaBeechworth Gaol Unlocked

Corner Ford & William Streets
Beechworth Victoria 3747
Tel: 1300 PRISON (1300 774 766)


Walks in the Blue Mountains

With more than one million hectares of some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, the Greater Blue Mountains has heritage walking trails to suit everyone from one hour rambles to challenging hikes lasting several days.

Hiking in the Blue Mountains, the deceptively-named Six Foot Track is actually a 45 kilometre-long walk following the route of the original 1884 horse track from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves.

It is tough walk, crossing mountain ranges and deep valleys – but the grand prize is the range of habitats you’ll encounter in this World Heritage-listed area, which has barely changed since the Jurassic era.

The walk passes through rainforests, eucalypt forests, sheer sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, underground caves and opens grazing country. The climb down Nellies Glen will most likely leave you with rubber knees, and the whole walk takes around three days to complete.

The Echo Point to Scenic World via the Giant Stairway walk is a must do for all visitors to the Blue Mountains if you’re just here for a day or so.

The walk starts at the popular lookout and passes one of Australia’s most famous landmarks, The Three Sisters.

After descending into the valley and along the bottom of the cliffs you can catch the scenic railway back up the hill. Be warned, this is not for those with a fear of heights.

For a complete list of all the walks in the Blue Mountian region: download a copy of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Region Bushwalking guide.

Convict Sydney Exhibition

Explore the fascinating history of the World Heritage listed Hyde Park Barracks where thousands of convicts lived between 1819 and 1848.

Learn about the daily lives of convicts and how they built the colony, try on some leg-irons, lie in a convict hammock, wander the streets of 1820s Sydney on our giant map. Bring your kids for dress-ups and our convicts Kids Trail.

Convict Sydney

Exhibition on now
Hyde Park Barracks Museum

Queens Square, Macquarie St, Sydney
Open daily 9.30am – 5pm
T 02 8239 2311

Image: Photography @ Penelope Clay

Bendigo – A city built on gold

In the heart of Victoria, Bendigo is the place to immerse yourself in gold rush heritage, local pottery, arts and surrounding wine country.

It’s only a 90-minute drive from Melbourne so the area is easy to include on a self-drive itinerary, staying for a couple of days or more to see behind the scenes.

Gold made Bendigo seriously rich! It was the seventh richest gold field in the world, producing more than nine billion dollars worth of gold between1850 and 1900, with more gold found here than anywhere else.

If thoughts of gold rush days conjure images of tents and shanty towns, you’ll be more than surprised to arrive in this grand 19th century city with wide streets, stately sandstone buildings dating from the Victorian era, wide streets and beautiful gardens.

Drop into the Bendigo Visitor Centre on Pall Mall and you’ll be standing inside the old post office, a very grand building built in the ‘Second Empire’ architectural style and listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

The Hotel ShamrockThe Alexandra Fountain is also a significant landmark, made from 20 tonnes of granite and adorned with carved nymphs, dolphins and fanciful unicorns.

Bendigo’s imposing Hotel Shamrock has hosted the crème de la crème of the Bendigo social scene since 1845 and today you can stay in style, appreciating the Victorian setting with all the contemporary luxuries. 

Chinese heritage
There’s another surprising side to Bendigo, its Chinese legacy seen in examples such as the Joss House Temple, the Golden Dragon Museum and the Chinese Gardens.

The original homelands of the Jaara Aboriginal people, Bendigo was completely turned on its head when it became the epicentre of the gold rush of the 1850s attracting, among others, thousands of Chinese prospectors. The Chinese population alone in 1857 was said to be 26,000.

Chinese Gardens in BendigoThe Bendigo Chinese community is still thriving today and the Golden Dragon Museum is a cultural centre for Chinese arts and crafts. The permanent display features dramatic Sun Loong, the longest imperial dragon in the world, more than 100 metres long.

Bendigo’s colourful red timber Joss House, the Chinese house of Prayer, is the only surviving building of its kind in regional Victoria. 

The Yin Yuan Classical Chinese Gardens, based on the Imperial Palace in Beijing, were completed in 1996 in a joint venture between the local community, state and federal governments and the people of the City of Baoding, Hebei Province, China.

Golden days
Where did the wealth come from? At first from alluvial river banks but later from the quartz reefs on which Bendigo sits, reached by shafts up to 1,000 metres deep.

You can travel beneath the surface today at The Central Deborah Gold Mine on a Mine Experience tour, taking the 61-metre elevator trip down to follow a 400-metre circuit. For an even more hands-on experience, take the Underground Adventure tour to 85 metres, dressing in boots, overalls, miner’s hat and lamp to climb ladders, work a mine drill and search for gold yourself.

vintage tram in BendigoBack on the surface, take a scenic tour on Bendigo’s Vintage ‘Talking’ Trams with their one commentary which you can hop on and off to take a closer look at attractions or stop for a coffee break or lunch.

The tram system dates back to 1890 and the ‘Talking’ Tram Tour was developed In 1972 growing from just four to over 40 and you can see more being at the tram depot.

Trams are such a feature here that you can even dine on board one! Bendigo ninesevensix is a converted 1952 Melbourne tram combining tours with a four-course menu.

There are also self-drive and walking tours in the area with maps and guides as well as Podtours and films showcasing Bendigo, Castlemaine and the Maldon region with MP3 players for hire at Visitor Information Centres.

Arts and culture
The Bendigo region is particularly rich in art, attracting a wide range of artists working in mediums including pottery, paint, glass, metal and printmaking so there are many galleries and studios to visit all around Bendigo, Heathcote, Maldon and Castlemaine.

Bendigo Art Gallery’s collections span the 1850s to the present day and the collection of 20th century paintings, sculpture, prints and drawings showcases significant Australian artists and sculptors such as Walter Withers, Rupert Bunny, Grace Cossington-Smith, Arthur Boyd, Fred Williams, John Olsen and Margaret Preston.

The historic Bendigo Pottery is set vast old beehive kilns and today there’s a museum and domestic pottery for sale, fired in the old kilns. See a demonstration or try your hand at throwing a pot, guided by a potter.

Stay, wine, dine, shop
For accommodation in Bendigo there’s the Hotel Shamrock and a range of B&Bs, boutique suites and apartments. Fountain View suites are housed in a magnificent old building and the City Warehouse Apartment is pure New York style. Allawah Bendigo offer a range of apartments in historical locations and Spa Eleven has accommodation, day spa and a café.

Expect fine contemporary cuisine at Whirrakee Restaurant in the old Royal Bank building and head to Wine Bank on View, a bar and wine store for a range of dining options. Inspired by the gastrobars and pubs of Europe, Dispensary Enoteca has all-day dining in its hidden laneway location.

Like Melbourne, Bendigo has a network of laneways so go exploring to find boutiques selling things like lifestyle gifts, fashion, accessories, jewellery and glassware. Visit Myer in Bendigo for a taste of retail history as this Australian shopping chain began here in1899 when Sidney Myer and his brother arrived from Russia and set up shop.

The wine and food trail
Grapes came with the gold and the area’s first vineyards planted in 1856 and now the area produces Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay to name just a few. Heathcote may indeed be a new seam of liquid gold for its distinctive, award-winning Shiraz, being compared favourably with the best of Australia.

Balgownie Estate at Maiden Gully was the first vineyard planted in the Bendigo district for more than 80 years marking the beginning of a new era for the central goldfields vineyards;  Sandhurst Ridge has produced award-winning wines since their first vintage Shiraz in 1995; the Bress vineyard is managed biodynamically has a cider press and restaurant open October to May, utilising seasonal produce grown on the premises.

The Cellar & Store at Heathcote showcases current release wines of the regions and you can taste wine and shop for indulgent treats and Flynn’s Wines & Heathcotean Bistro opens at weekends with a seasonal dinner menu.

The Emeu Inn at Heathcote is 150 years old and offers B&B, a wine centre and restaurant with a regional focus with dishes such as a rustic hare terrine with peach paste and even emu on the menu. If you’d like to stay in the vineyards, Redesdale Estate Winery has two self-contained cottages and The Redesdale offers a slow food dining experience using produce from local suppliers.

At Tooberac Hotel & Brewery taste three beers made on the premises – a pale ale called Stonemasons, a stout, labelled Blacksmiths and an amber brew called Woodcutters. 

All good reasons why you’ll love this destination. You might even say it’s good as gold!

Railway heritage of the Flinders Ranges

The history of the railways in the Flinders Ranges is an important part of Australia’s rich cultural heritage. Key railway communities include Quorn, Port Augusta and Peterborough, each with a unique culture of their own.

Peterborough Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre The community of Peterborough was among the hardest hit when the new standard gauge line linking Broken Hill and Port Pirie opened in early 1970. For the first time trains by-passed Peterborough and the population dwindled.

Peterborough Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre SASince its reopening in November 2009, the revamped Peterborough Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. 

Steamtown Peterborough have opened a sound and light show in its old locomotive workshops showcasing its historic collection and telling the story of Peterborough’s role in the railways networks linking the east and west and north and south of Australia.

The route through Peterborough from the east also includes a string of high-quality heritage sites including the town of Burra; while to the north, the Orroroo Carrieton district has recently produced ‘Stones and Rail’, an audio guide providing an entertaining and in-depth history of the area.

Further north, the town of Blinman is developing a sound and light experience in its old copper mine. From there visitors can take in the ruins of the once significant towns of Beltana and Farina, which has recently been restored by work by groups of volunteers and travellers.

The Greater Blue Mountains celebrates a decade of World Heritage

November 2010 marks the 10th Anniversary of the inscription of the Greater Blue Mountains on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Hanging Rock in the Blue Mountains NSWTens of thousands of years of caring for the country by Aboriginal communities; the efforts of bushwalkers to save the Blue Gum Forest in the 1930’s; Myles Dunphy’s vision for a Greater Blue Mountains Park; contemporary campaigns of the Colong Foundation and other conservation groups, all lead to the inscription of the Greater Blue Mountains on the World Heritage list in November 2000 for its outstanding universal natural values.

The natural assets of this National Landscape are the core of what attracts visitors to the region, with the tourism industry working in harmony with major stakeholders including NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, Indigenous groups, conservation groups and the wider residential community to achieve sustainable outcomes.

The area represents an extraordinary story of natural antiquity, diversity, beauty and human attachment. This vast and beautiful area of upland reserves exemplifies the links between wild places and human aspirations,’ said Joan Domicelj, Chair of the Advisory Committee for the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

In celebration of the anniversary, the World Heritage Exhibition Centre is now permanently open at Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens.

The legendary ‘Birdman of Atherton’

The legendary ‘Birdman of Atherton’ has flown the coop to join the flock at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.

Mark ‘The Birdman’ Culleton is bringing his passion for wildlife to O’Reilly’s this Christmas with the famous ‘Birds of Prey’ show, along with his feathered friends including an amazing array of owls, falcons and eagles.

The intimate wildlife experience lets guests get up close and personal with these awesome aerial predators as they fly free in a stunning display of natural aerobatics, before returning safely back to perch on Mark’s arm.

The interactive presentation also allows guests to be part of the show alongside other animal stars, including crocodiles and a Spotted-tailed Quoll, an elusive local of Lamington National Park.

The legendary 'Birdman of Atherton' Educational and entertaining, the show inspires young and old about our natural world as they learn about the everyday and unusual behaviours of the animals, and the local environments in which they live.

It is an experience the whole family can enjoy.

Mark has been in the zoo/tourism industry for 20 years and has worked with many species, including dolphins, sea lions, crocodiles and birds from all over the world. Following years of presenting shows in England and Spain, he returned to Australia in 1997 to develop shows for zoos, including the first free-flight bird show in Queensland. In 2005, he created his own unique presentation, the famous Atherton Birds of Prey Show, for which Mark’s larrikin character made him as famous as his winged friends.

The Birds of Prey Show is part of O’Reilly’s Discovery Program, an interpretive activities program that aims at sharing the wonders of Lamington National Park with guests.

The 30 minute presentation will start in time for the Christmas school holidays and will run daily.

Conference and incentive groups also have the opportunity to meet resident ‘locals’ with a mobile presentation experience. Morning or afternoon tea, or pre-dinner drinks are served with a difference as Mark introduces delegates to juvenile crocodiles, eagles and other Australian wildlife during their break-out sessions.

O’Reilly’s is in the Gold Coast Hinterland, only 2 hours drive from Brisbane or 1 ½ hours from the Gold Coast.

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat Queensland

O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat

Booderee: World class conservation of Cultural Heritage

Australia’s own Booderee National Park on the South Coast NSW took out a global responsible tourism award in London on 10 November 2010.

Booderee won the ‘best conservation of cultural heritage’ category at the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2010, competing against tourism organisations from across the world.

Environment Minister Tony Burke congratulated the park on this tremendous achievement.

Spectacular Views Booderee National ParkBooderee National Park is a 6,000 hectare living cultural centre on the stunning south coast of New South Wales.

“The park is world-renowned for its diving, exceptionally clear water and diverse marine life but its most important asset is the way the park shares Koori culture with visitors.

“Booderee offers Aboriginal-led walks looking at traditional use of local plants such as bush tucker and medicines, and school holiday activities that help people see the park’s beautiful beaches and bushland through Koori eyes.

“This award celebrates the park’s ability to deliver a distinctively South Coast Indigenous experience, as well as offering excellent camping, bushwalking, bird watching, swimming, surfing and fishing.

South Coast Aboriginal Heritage Tourism“Booderee contains the only Aboriginal-owned botanic gardens in Australia and perhaps even the world. On a trip to Booderee Botanic Gardens, visitors can explore hundreds of native plants from the local area and find out about their significance to Koori people.

“It is not only the park that benefits from an award like this. This is a chance for all Australians to tell the world what a great country we have, with so many beautiful places like Booderee for people to visit.

“Responsible tourism is the future of the industry and Booderee National Park is a superb example, combining beautiful scenery, fascinating cultural history and a range of great holiday activities.”

Booderee is proof that a partnership between government and a marginalised community can work to protect cultural heritage through long-term conservation goals. The Park’s Botanic Gardens is the only Aboriginal-owned botanic garden in existence.

The judges of the global responsible tourism award recognised the partnership for preserving the privacy of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community within the sanctuary zone, and using tourism to the National Park for securing their livelihoods.

With 430,000 visitors a year bringing in 1.2 million Australian Dollars and with 80% of the workers Indigenous and living within the park, the future plan for the community to take over sole management of the park alone is very real.”