Mudgee is developing itself as a favourite destination of the central west New South Wales, The town holds amazing architecture thats steeped in history, from sandstone and neo-gothic churches, to ecclesiatical buildings and verandah posted pubs.
With fans of glamping being accomondated for with five-tent Sierra, however if you’re a rail enthusiast or if boutique is more your style Mudgee has got you covered.
From the Australian 13.08.2021
1 Mudgee, as in “MUJ-ee”, reads the candle wrapper. “Always was, always will be Wiradjuri land. A place of contentment, nestled in the hills, of food, wine, memories and friendship.” The candle is flickering away as I write, scenting the air with cleansing sage and cedarwood. I bought it at Loft Mudgee, a homewares store on Lewis St that sells terrific local art and acts as a front-of-house portal to Artisan on Lewis coffee bar, providore (look for jars of preserved lemons by Angela’s Edibles and “preloved vintage aprons” for $10 a pop) and courtyard cafe. Cue another purchase: a scene of Lake Windamere near Mudgee by Anjee du Terreau, who paints in watercolour and acrylics.
2 Standing diagonally across the intersection of Church and Market streets, as if facing off, are two late 19th-century churches. Catholic St Mary’s (sandstone and solemn, with a flared copper spire) and Anglican St John the Baptist (slightly younger but also neo-gothic) are exquisite examples of ecclesiastical architecture and sure signs of the prosperous days when Australia’s economy rode on primary industry. A stroll around the wide streets of Mudgee’s CBD (country business district, in this case) leads to solid civic buildings, veranda-posted pubs and landmarks such as the green-detailed art deco “moderne” Regent Theatre (recently sold; future use pending). It’s fun to take a heritage walking tour with Ned Dickson, who scooped Australia Day honours in 2020 as Mudgee’s young citizen of the year. The small-group excursion is $15 a person; meet by the World War 11 memorial clock tower roundabout at 10am Saturdays, but Ned advises to call and confirm: 0467 506 273. All that exercise results in a thirst so just as well Three Tails Brewery on Lewis St opens at noon on Saturdays. It has a fab rustic-chic fit-out and provides craft beers and light bites.
3 Mudgee’s Sculpture Trail is on mid-town Lawson Park’s western side, just past the Holyoake Bridge over the Cudgegong River. The 20 or so dynamic installations, a mix of techniques and materials, have been acquired by Mid-Western Regional Council’s cultural development committee. Look for Dave Walsh’s stainless steel and rosewood Heavy Load, featuring two figures straining to lift a bench; and Ingrid Morley’s couple engaged in Middle Aged Dance, inspired by a William Kentridge drawing. Alex Schieber’s rusted-steel Cube Stack captures a jagged array of blocks poised as if about to fall. Meantime, signs by the river herald the possibility of sightings of eastern long-necked turtles and platypus.
4 Eltons Bar + Bites on Market St occupies a late-19th century building, originally a stable for carriages and horses and later a pharmacy. Its arched entry with leadlight windows is original, and heritage photos show its place along a parade of similar facades with iron-lace balconies. There’s a mix of seating options and a festoon of long-drop filament lights. In warmer weather, pavement seating and a rear courtyard would be popular but patrons are snug inside on an icy winter’s evening. The original pharmacy wall has been retained above and around the bar, which is tiled below the counter in an on-trend Moroccan-inspired pattern. Expect six regional craft beers on tap and a menu of share plates, large and small, with the likes of arancini, empanadas and soft shell crab tacos. The sorbets are first-class and do not leave without a serve of Elton’s Mess, a scrumptious take on the Eton creamy smashed meringue original.
5 Also on Market St, wood-fired pizzas, including unusual toppings such as pulled pork or beef, lead the gastropub-style fare at Roth’s Wine Bar and Cellar, with tables by the fireplace in demand this time of year. The menu outlines the heritage of a former general store that sold “under the counter beverages to thirsty farmers who’d made the long journey into town for their monthly supplies”. Respectability dawned in 1923 when Roth’s became licensed but people are still parched in these parts judging by the joint’s popularity and its more than 100 labels by the glass or bottle to dine in or takeaway. Live music sessions out back in The Shed courtyard are a hit
6 Gilbert Family Wines, a company that traces its lineage back to South Australia’s Eden Valley since 1847, runs The Cellar by Gilbert, a modern spread on Ulan Rd at the town’s northern edge. There’s a stone-floored tasting hall, covered outdoor area and gardens. Go for a grazing board of salami, prosciutto, cheese, lavash, dukka, tapenade, olives and relishes (Thursday-Sunday; 11am-3pm). If you’re in luck, fifth-generation winemaker Simon Gilbert or son Will might be doing the rounds during 45-minute tutored tastings of cool-climate drops from Orange and the Eden Valley as well as Mudgee terroir. Don’t overlook the Gilbert Experimental small-batch range featuring alternative viticultural techniques, such as a superlative 2019 Skin Contact sauvignon blanc ($28). Fans of zinfandel and rose, this place is for you.
7 Mudgee Corner Store is a splendid breakfast venue, with eggs from Farmer Brown’s “pasture-raised happy hens”, and queues by the takeout servery that attest to the quality of the coffee. The breakfast-brunch menu includes the provenance of its sourdough, mushrooms, smoky bacon and beef, and shelves are lined with the best of neighbourhood suppliers so it’s a larder, too, and a source of good gifts and take-home items. Jules Fotheringham’s hand-poured soy-based Willie Wagtail candles come in little tins and feature scents such as French Pear and Kakadu Plum. Also fragrant are goat’s milk and olive oil soaps by Fiermlee Naturals. Then there are jars of The Farmhouse Larder’s chilli mint jelly, Hello Lovelies delicious fruit cordials and High Valley Cheese Co’s award-winning fetta (try the basil pesto variety).
8 Aside from information on the bountiful produce in this fertile reach of the state, the Mudgee region tourism website has a shopping-trail map covering recommended stores in the town centre plus links to those further afield. There’s also a handy downloadable pocket map to Mudgee and surrounds, with directions to the likes of Gulgong, Rylstone, Kandos and Capertee, plus Hill End, a designated historic site where buildings and relics of the village’s goldmining heyday of the 1870s have been preserved. From Rylstone (about 40 minutes by road), head to Ferntree Gully Reserve, a stunning tract of rainforest with a boardwalk loop.
9 For a big vine-and-dine day out, set a course to Lowe Family Winery Co, one of the state’s first certified organic and biodynamic vineyards; the vines are neither trellised nor irrigated on this multifaceted estate, where hour-long tastings can be booked (zinfandel, merlot and shiraz form the trinity of reds), and its Zin House restaurant, using vegetables, herbs and fruit from the surrounding orchard and permaculture gardens, is rightly lauded as the best place to dine in these parts. The furrowed and folded views of hills are sublime and there’s a cellar door and pantry (the Tinja tomato relish is to drive for) plus a mapped walking trail, with chooks, donkeys, a small dam and suggested picnic spots in store.
10 My stay at the five-tent Sierra Escape proves to be glamping of the first order. For lovers of trains, a quirky option is Ruwenzori Retreat north of Mudgee, overlooking the Great Dividing Range. where rail enthusiast and tour operator Scott McGregor offers accommodation in grand vintage carriages fitted with mod-cons and a convivial dining car. For boutique style, try Perry Street in the historic Mechanics Institute building, which features 13 serviced studios and suites.