Australia’s first inland settlement, the regional New South Wales city of Bathurst was founded in the early 1800s.
But it’s the gold rush boom and a world-renowned race track that has really put Bathurst on the map.
While most people tend to visit Bathurst for the sporting events that frequent the city, there is plenty more to discover either as a weekend away or by simply adding a couple of days to your existing plans.
The Best Things To Do In Bathurst?
Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum
I bet you didn’t know that Bathurst is home to a full Tyrannosaurs Rex skeleton. Well, It is.
Located inside the original Bathurst Public School buildings in the centre of the city, the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum is a hidden gem (pardon the pun) that not many visitors to the region may be aware of.
Home to the Somerville Collection of fossils and minerals, the personal work of Warren Somerville AM, the museum has a stunning collection of some of the world’s rarest crystals and fossils from around the world.
The collection of rocks and minerals on display is extremely impressive. Also, paying tribute to the gold rush that sparked Bathurst’s initial growth.
While the collection of fossils rivals that of what you might expect to see in a larger museum in one of Australia’s capital cities.
National Motor Racing Museum
For most people, Bathurst is synonymous with motorsport. So it makes a lot of sense that the city is also home to the National Motor Racing Museum.
Conveniently located at the bottom of the iconic Mount Panorama race track, a drawcard for a lot of people to the city, either for the races or just to drive themselves (yes, you can drive Mount Panorama, but we’ll get to that shortly), the National Motor Racing Museum is a celebration of Australia’s motorsport history.
For a long time, the museum featured a very static display of the same cars and bikes. However, in recent years the museum has put in a massive effort to make sure that there is always something new to discover each time you visit.
As such, there are often fresh displays for each of the four major motorsport events that take place at Mount Panorama each year, including recent race-winning cars.
If you have even the remotest interest, a visit to the National Motor Racing Museum should be at the very top of your list when you visit Bathurst, even if you’ve been to the museum before.
While you are there, make sure you get a photo taken with the iconic statue of Peter Brock, proclaimed King of the Mountain for his unrivalled 9 Bathurst 1000 victories.
Let’s be honest, Mount Panorama is probably best known as the iconic race track from the Bathurst 1000 or Bathurst 12 Hour. But there are actually a few reasons to visit it next time you are in Bathurst.
As I touched on briefly before, most of the year, the track around Mount Panorama is actually a public road, and you can drive around it. The road was originally built as a scenic drive in 1938.
Obviously, there is a speed limit in place, and it is very heavily enforced by the local police, but you can simply just drive around it and see for yourself why it is both such a stunning venue and also such a tricky track to race on. Trust me; there are sections of the track where even the speed limit feels a little too fast.
In addition to being a public road, it’s also a very popular, albeit strenuous, walking track with the addition of the Mount Panorama Circuit Boardwalk that was opened in 2020.
The 1.7km walkway takes you over the top of the mountain from Griffins Bend to the Bathurst Light Car Club, near the exit of Forrest’s Elbow (for those familiar with the layout of the circuit). With a special lookout platform at the top (also known as Brock’s Skyline) offering uninterrupted views out over the city. One of the reasons they called it Mount Panorama.
Don’t worry if the walk sounds like it might be a bit too much for you (I get it, it’s pretty steep in some sections); you can simply drive to the top and park. There is a public park known as John Hinxmans Vista that includes a barbeque area and even some seating that you might not be aware of if you’ve only ever attended Mount Panorama during a race meeting.
Here are a couple of fun facts about Mount Panorama.
- There is a vineyard inside the circuit – Mount Panorama Wines
- Mount Panorama used to be home to a small zoo/wildlife park. The remnants of which you can still see if you know where to look.
A reconstruction of an 1800s goldfield village from Australia’s first gold rush. Bathurst Goldfields offers a historical insight into the region.
While Bathurst Goldfields is mostly set up for school excursions and other functions, this colonial Australian experience does open to the public with a limited schedule during the school holidays. You can actually find it at Forrest Elbow as your drive around the Mount Panorama circuit.
Even though access is limited, it is one of the few places where you can genuinely pan for real gold (which you get to keep), just as the early pioneers did that led to the establishment of the Bathurst that we know today. There is also a number of time period-specific experiences that are great for kids to learn a little about history while still having fun.
Bathurst Rail Museum
One of the more recent additions for visitors to the city is the Bathurst Rail Museum, having opened in February 2020.
Setup within the historic Railway Institute building in Bathurst, right next to Bathurst’s railway station, the museum is a tribute to the train services that helped spark the development of regional New South Wales.
In addition to the historical artifacts, the museum also houses a tennis court-sized scale model railway that is based upon the 1950s/60s-era Bathurst-Tarana line.
There is also a special section for kids that includes the world’s largest permanent toy railway set.
Fun Fact: Did you know that former Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley was not only born in Bathurst but also worked a number of different roles in the rail service, including driving trains along the Main Western Railway Line before moving into politics?
Built in the style of a Scottish baronial mansion, Abercrombie House is a unique heritage icon of Bathurst.
Originally constructed by Bathurst pioneers, the Stewart family in the 1870s on a land allotment gifted to William Stewart after serving as Lieutenant Governor General of New South Wales.
While still technically a family residence, Abercrombie House, as it is now known, and its surrounding grounds have spent the last 50 years open to the public (albeit for a small fee). Inside you’ll find a wide and varied collection of artifacts, some dating back to the house’s original construction, while most of the collection is slightly more modern.
Abercrombie House is also popular for its number of events, particularly high teas, that it hosts throughout the year.
Fun Fact: The gates at Abercrombie House are actually significantly older than the house, having been originally constructed at Toxteth Park in the Sydney suburb of Glebe. They were subsequently moved to the Bathurst property, and there is a full story behind the move. All of which you can discover more about when you get there.
While the nearby Jenolan Caves might get a lot of attention from tourists, Abercrombie Caves actually has the unique distinction of having the largest natural arch in the southern hemisphere. Which also happens to be the cave’s main attraction, The Archway.
Located about an hour’s drive south of Bathurst, Abercrombie Caves and its surrounding conservation area is home to a number of walking trails. But the star attractions are Grove Creek Falls and the several cave tours run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
In addition to being a unique natural wonder of the region, the caves have a storied history that includes bushrangers and gold mining. Well worth discovering more about while you explore the region.
Where is Bathurst
Bathurst is located in the Central Tablelands region of New South Wales, roughly a 3-hour drive (200 kilometres) west of Sydney along the Great Western Highway past the Blue Mountains.
In fact, Bathurst is actually the final stop for the Great Western Highway before it splits off into the Mitchell Highway and Mid Western Highway, which interlink much of central New South Wales.
Best Places To Stay In Bathurst
This is the only place anywhere in the world I can truly claim this, but I have stayed at every single hotel that currently exists in Bathurst. For context, I visit Bathurst at least five times a year and have done for over a decade.
When I do this section for other places I visit, the recommendations are based on my experience, but there could be other options. For this post, I can comprehensively tell you that these are the best options around Bathurst.
Rydges Mount Panorama Bathurst – Easily the most luxurious accommodation option that Bathurst has to offer, the Rydges sits adjacent to the iconic race track. While it books out years in advance for the racing events at Mount Panorama, it’s a very good option if your travels don’t coincide with a major sporting event.
Littomore Hotels and Suites – There has been a push in Bathurst in recent years for hotels to refurbish their rooms to make them more appealing to visitors to the region. Littomore was one of the first to do this and took this one step further by both completely refurbishing its hotel rooms as well as building an entirely new section of suites and apartments. Making the rooms some of the most modern and comfortable in Bathurst.
NRMA Bathurst Panorama Holiday Park – Just outside of Bathurst (near the airport), this is a good option if you are travelling with a young family and prefer holiday park-style stays. NRMA Bathurst Panorama Holiday Park features both campground and cabin options, but it is the onsite activities, including a heated pool, games room, playground and mini golf, that will be a hit for families. This was formerly a Big 4 property.
If you are looking for a shorter, cheaper stay, then the Country Lodge Motor Inn and Bathurst Motor Inn are also good options. These are all undergoing renovations at the moment, so the rooms are improving. For a quick overnight stay, the onsite restaurant and bar at the Panorama Bathurst make it an excellent choice after a long day in the car.
The Best Time Of Year To Visit Bathurst
Based on my personal experience, there isn’t a particular time that is better to visit Bathurst. In the summer, it does get quite hot, and it does get very cold in the winter. Sometimes (but very rarely), it even snows in higher elevations.
Separated from the coastal region of New South Wales by the Great Dividing Range (particularly the Blue Mountains), the weather can often be quite different from Sydney.
The one thing I will mention is that Bathurst does get extremely busy during motorsport events. So if you aren’t visiting the city specifically for the races at those times, probably best to either avoid or reschedule your trip.
Here is the rough timing of those major motorsport events. If you’d like to know more about travelling to Bathurst specifically to attend a race at Mount Panorama, check out this post.
- Bathurst 12 Hour – First weekend of February
- Bathurst 6 Hour – Easter Long Weekend
- Bathurst 1000 – Second weekend of October
- Bathurst International – Early November
Getting To and From Bathurst
Bathurst is a well-connected city. As I previously touched on, the Great Western Highway links Bathurst to Sydney through the Blue Mountains. In addition, there is a train line and airport which also service the region.
Flight services are often limited and seasonal, with one of Australia’s regional airlines linking Bathurst with Sydney will small commuter-style aircraft. At the time of writing this post, it is FlyPelican that services Bathurst, but other airlines – especially Rex have also operated services from time to time.
Flying into Bathurst is probably only worthwhile if travelling from interstate and linking flights in Sydney.
NSW TrainLink also connects Sydney to Bathurst with several daily services. A handful of regional train services will take you directly between the two, while several more train services connect with coach services in Lithgow for the rest of the journey.
The train and combined train and coach services will take between 3.5 and 4.5 hours typically to complete the trip.
That said, the vast majority of people visiting Bathurst will typically drive. It’s only a 3-hour drive, and it’ll give you a chance to see some of the sights of the Blue Mountains along the way.
Just note that the Great Western Highway does get very busy on long weekends with all the tourist traffic from everyone else also taking advantage of the time off. They are in the process of upgrading the road, but there are bottlenecks along the way.
How To Get Around Bathurst
Once you are in Bathurst, getting around is quite easy. As a small regional city, a lot of what it has to offer is within walking distance of everything else.
Bathurst streets (at least in the central part of the city) are laid out in a really easy-to-navigate grid. But the vast majority of the attractions in the city are all within a couple of blocks of each other.
Obviously, if you have driven the Bathurst, driving around the city is also really straightforward. As an added bonus, there is street parking almost everywhere, and it’s all free.
The advantage of driving is it does open up more places to explore around Bathurst. Especially if you want to go to the top of Mount Panorama or out to Abercrombie House.
There are also a handful of taxis that service Bathurst if you need them, but other ride-sharing services like Uber are very limited.
Where To Find Food In Bathurst/What To Do In The Evenings?
If you are looking for somewhere to eat, Bathurst is home to some really nice cafes and restaurants. There is a very good array of options, no matter what you are looking for.
No matter what you are looking for, you’ll be able to find something to suit you. With simple takeaways, bars and bistros, and five-star dining, there are plenty of options.
Here are a couple of my personal recommendations.
The Hub – This is my go-to for cafe breakfast and coffee in Bathurst. They do a great feed, and they are also open for lunch.
B Town BBQ – Above the Oxford Hotel, this is my personal go-to dinner destination each time I’m in Bathurst. If American-style BBQ is your thing, then B Town is a must, but even if it isn’t, their range of options is really good if you are travelling as part of a large group.
El Guapo Cantina – If you are looking for Mexican, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more authentic experience than El Guapo.
Church Bar – If a relaxed night in a beer garden, eating woodfired pizzas sounds like more your speed. The Church Bar is definitely the ticket.
Reckless Brewing Co – Building their reputation on their range of locally crafted beers, they also offer a pretty decent menu as well.
Rose Garden Chinese – You won’t find this one on Google Maps, but if you are looking for Chinese food, this is hands down the best option in Bathurst. Either dine-in or takeaway. You’ll find it on the corner of Church and George Streets.
Alternatively, if you are looking for a more simple bar and bistro style option – either Jack Duggans Irish Pub or the bistro at the Panorama Hotel also offers decent food.
If you’d like more information to help plan your trip to and around Australia… Check out the rest of my blog posts.
And if you have a travel-related question you would like me to answer, head on over to my contact page to get in touch and let me know.