Long weekends away to towns that are within a reasonable distance of our home is one of the reasons Mr. ETT and I have decided to invest. We want to buy “future” us the opportunity to do this as the whim takes us, without having to juggle our time or fill in pieces of paper asking permission to take leave from work. Our most recent trip was to Mudgee, in the Central West of NSW. Mudgee is best known for its wineries, however this weekend was about Mr. ETT meeting up with a number of other motorbike riders from around Australia. This is what I did in Mudgee without visiting wineries.
Wentworth Falls Lake
I left on Friday morning to drive up through the Blue Mountains on the way to Mudgee. Mr. ETT and I love the Blue Mountains for the bush settings, cool weather, tourist attractions and still-quaint villages that are fun to poke around in. I decided to stop at Wentworth Falls Lake for a break. Wenty Lake seems a bit of an anomaly, being a lake in the middle of the mountains, however it turns out that it was originally built before 1900 to supply water for the steam trains that use to run over the mountains.
It is a lovely place to sit in relative peace and quiet. There are always happy people enjoying the space, walking alone or with their dogs, or watching the ducks. There are two play areas for the kids as well. Unfortunately due to the misty rain, I wasn’t able to do the walk along the lake, so I simply admired the environment and talked to the ducks, before heading off again.
After stopping at the lake, I drove straight through to Rylstone, where some of the riders were meeting for lunch. We stopped at the Globe Hotel, and sat outside in the pretty beer garden, serenaded by two magpies sitting in the tree right above our heads.
After lunch I went for a quick walk to look at the old architecture in Rylstone.
I came across what I thought was a familiar shape – yes, it was an installation commemorating the Bicentennial of Australia in 1988. I remember being a teenager back in 1988, and the Bicentennial celebrations were everywhere. Mum and dad even took us to Queensland to visit World Expo ’88, which was an amazing experience. I have really vivid memories of that. Now it has been reduced to a dusty installation in the corner of a tiny town, it seems a little melancholy.
The drive to Mudgee from Rylstone isn’t far, and you pass a few wineries coming into town (very tempting to just duck in)! We settled into the Soldier’s Motel, then walked down to join a friend for a wine at the Cobb & Co’s Wineglass Courtyard. It’s a quiet, tucked away courtyard surrounded by the boutique accommodation upstairs. I had a glass of Cab Sav Merlot, which was absolutely delicious. For dinner, a larger group was meeting at Kelly’s Irish Pub. Being tired and hungry, we ordered early. Turns out that was lucky for us, because although it was St Patrick’s Day in an Irish Pub, it seems our numbers were a bit overwhelming, and later orders ended up all over the place! It appears that St. Paddy’s day isn’t a big thing in Mudgee, or else we left too early before the young whipper-snappers came out.
The Solider’s Motel is small, neat and pretty to look at, with pale faux sandstone walls, a green Colorbond roof and decorative scrollwork on the balcony. The room includes a small fridge/freezer, along with a kettle and microwave. The non-alcoholic mini-bar is reasonably priced (for a mini-bar). No, we don’t ever buy things from mini-bars, but it still annoys me when the prices are exorbitant! The rooms are air-conditioned. The hotel offers a guest BBQ area (perfect for all the local meat you can pick up at the Farmers Market), along with a small pool. We didn’t take advantage of either of these offerings this time.
The only small negative is the part of the parking lot consists of roadbase. It looks like fresh, clean, new roadbase, however it is very noisy whenever cars pull in or out to park. Luckily it is only a small motel so isn’t too disruptive. Even located at the back of the Mudgee RSL Club, it was quiet, and the location in town makes it very easy to walk everywhere.
Mudgee Farmers Market
On Saturday morning I walked to the Farmers Market in the grounds of St Mary’s church. I love handmade and hand grown local goods, and this is something I am willing to pay a premium for. There was a huge variety of foodstuffs, from coffee to kombucha, fresh bread and pastries, olives and nuts, oils and cheeses, sauces, jams and vinegars. There was also wine and spirits from some of the local vineyards, along with fresh grown organic fruits and vegetables.
We forgot to bring an Esky, so much of the food I wanted to buy, I couldn’t. (I need to add Esky to the list of things to remember that I keep inside my suitcase!) Instead, I picked up a loaf of Sourdough bread, and in a bit of an impulse buy, some lemon myrtle liqueur and limoncello from the Baker Williams Distillery. We were lucky enough to visit the cellar door in 2012, just after they opened, and picked up some of their incredible coffee liqueur and butterscotch schnapps. I’ll say that again – incredible.
Mudgee Railway Station
After the Farmer’s Markets, the motorbike group decided to meet in front of the old Mudgee Railway Station for a group photograph with their bikes.
There is an Arts and Crafts cooperative housed in the old train station, full of handmade goods. I purchased a top that had immediately caught my eye as I entered. As I said, I like handmade goods. Etsy is really my favourite place online (although I don’t visit any more, because I’m too tempted to spend money). If I identify that I need something, I will try to look at Etsy first. At the Station, I looked at a time capsule marker (remember when time capsules were all the rage?), however later realised that I forgot to wander out the back of the railway this time.
After walking back to the Motel (it’s easy to walk around Mudgee), I took myself out for a drive to Frog Rock. It’s a suburb, and a winery. It’s also a rock. That looks like a frog. The problem is the location – on the side of a 100km/hour road, with no real address. I drove out – and was driving and driving. Eventually, I realised I must have missed it, so pulled over and turned to the Internet to try and figure out where it was. I had gone too far, so then went on a scenic 30km round trip through the back of Frog Rock (the suburb) before making my way back. I drove straight past it again! This time I had a glimpse, though, so managed to turn around and finally made it onto the dirt verge that the About Australia website somewhat over-enthusiastically calls a “carpark”.
Was it worth it? Yes, for the adventure. When you know where you are going, it’s only 15 minutes out of Mudgee. If you’d like to see it yourself, my Emergency+ app told me it was at Latitude -32.46653/Longitude 149.68735. Without access to coordinates, you need to pass Hadabob Road leaving Mudgee, and look for a dirt verge on the left around a slight curve. If you reach Frog Rock Road, you’ve gone too far and need to turn back.
After Frog Rock, I topped up with petrol and drove out to see the Windamere Dam, about 20 minutes out of Mudgee.
You can park, and walk on the dam wall. The scale is too large to properly depict in the photographs I took. Standing so far above the surface of the lake, it is not just difficult, but impossible to imagine the amount of water needed to raise the levels. And yet, there are telltale stripes on the concrete pylon that tell stories of how high the water has risen in the past.
Further down, there is a picnic area next to what appears to be an outlet. A powerful jet of water was rushing out of a release port. Again, what initially seemed to be a small amount of water was actually rather more staggering closer up. The power of the flow has even influenced the moss growing on the concrete culvert.
Artisan on Lewis Cafe
On Sunday morning, we arose for brunch at Artisan on Lewis café, which doubles as a small gallery and craft shop. We sat out the back in the garden, surrounded by plants, sculptures and cheeky little sparrows, admiring the dogs who had also come out for Sunday brunch with their people. Places that allow animals draw us to them – it generally leads to a convivial atmosphere. I enjoyed a dish of Moroccan Eggs, while Mr. ETT indulged in a Feta and Spinach Omelette. The café prides itself on regional and seasonal food – and what a choice they have from the Mudgee region!
On the way home, I came upon a brown sign in the highway that stated “Wishing Well”. In Australia, brown signs with white writing indicate tourist attractions, so I decided to pull in for a look.
I have no real idea where it is – somewhere between Cherry Tree Hill and Running Stream (how cool are those place names?!). There was a wide path that led along the side of the highway down into the trees … for about 30 metres. The path suddenly became very difficult to see – just a faint depression through the bush. I began following it as best I could, and it seemed to be leading down into a gully. Everything was wet and slippery, and I was certainly not dressed for bushwalking, so I was a bit hesitant. After a couple of minutes I could hear the running of a small waterfall, so assumed that it wasn’t very far, and kept going.
I wound my way between the trees and over leaf litter, until I reached a very overgrown stream. I could still hear the water falling – but I couldn’t see it. Nor could I see the stream. Or any sign of a wishing well. It was probably there, but with thoughts of slipping down and disappearing in the bush beside a highway where likely few people ever stop, I decided that caution was the better part of valour, congratulated myself for trying, and made my way back. Since I’ve been home I’ve done some Googling, and it appears that I would have seen this.
Next, I made another quick decision to pull off on the side of the road to stop at Pearson’s Lookout. This enables you to look out over the widest valley in the world, the Capertee Valley. (Based on depth, the Grand Canyon still wins). I have visited the Capertee Valley previously, and will be again towards the end of the year. Look out for a future post!
Hartley Historic Village
Finally, I stopped at Hartley. NPWS has recently refreshed this tiny, neglected historic town to turn it into a tourist attraction, and it has certainly changed. There is now a river boardwalk that took me to an old residence that has mostly disintegrated. The interesting thing is that it appears the remains of the verandah, or possibly one of the rooms, actually extended out over the river (or was on the edge of the cliff above the river, and erosion has played its part). There was also the fairly sizeable skeleton of an animal. Because it is fenced off, I was unable to get any closer, but I’m guessing it may have been a goanna? Or perhaps a large fish from the river? Anyone with skeleton identification skills is more than welcome to wade in here.
I had a quick look at the Shamrock Inn, however unfortunately didn’t have time to visit all the other buildings on site this time. Definitely worth a stop in for a look if you are heading up that way. It appears that there is at least one café now present as well, so you can really take your time in some beautiful, peaceful surroundings.
Mudgee Without Visiting Wineries
So – that was it. A trip to Mudgee is possible without wineries. I’m sure there was a lot more I could have done, but that’s the beauty of Mudgee if you live in Sydney – it’s only 3 1/2 hours away. (I also totally recommend going for the wineries and olive orchards if that is your thing, too. We find Mudgee to be far less commercial and touristy than the Hunter Valley – and a bit more reasonably priced.)
Have you been to Mudgee? What were your highlights?