The Hume Highway makes its way through the southern tablelands of New South Wales and into in the Yass Valley. Here you’ll discover a myriad of things to see and do in and around the beautiful town of Yass.
1. Hamilton Hume
Hamilton Hume was the first Australian-born explorer whose most important journey was reaching Corio Bay on Port Phillip Bay with Captain William Hovell in 1824. Having camped on the banks of Yass River during this trek, he was impressed with the possibilities of the area.
In 1839 Hamilton and his wife Elizabeth purchased Cooma Cottage and the surrounding 100 acres. The original bungalow was built by brothers Henry and Cornelius O’Brien in 1835. Over the years Hamilton extended the cottage extensively, turning it into what you see today. Now managed by the National Trust, Cooma Cottage is open Friday to Sunday 10am – 4pm for a small fee.
The spectacular and historical Hume & Hovell Walking trail begins at Cooma Cottage and covers over 440km on its way to Albury following sections of the original trail forged by Hume & Hovell.
Hume was laid to rest in 1873 at the Yass Cemetery, just follow the signs and you’ll find it easily. I was warned to look out for snakes and swooping magpies on my visit. I didn’t see any snakes and avoided being swooped by offering some tender morsels to the magpies on my arrival. Feed them and they’ll love you.
2. Yass Railway Museum
The beautiful Yass Station was built in 1891 and is now a museum with a large range of memorabilia on display. The station itself is unique as it was constructed at ground level to accommodate a tramway (meaning it has no raised platform).
Prior to this, the railway line only reached as far as North Yass to avoid crossing the Yass River. It wasn’t until 1892 that the tramway was completed, ferrying travellers to the Yass township for the first time on 20th April of the same year.
The museum is open from 10am – 4pm Sundays and public holidays for a small fee. The 1307 steam locomotive is the star of the show and was engaged on the Yass tramway in 1910. It went on to become one of the longest-serving locomotives on the NSW railway, operating for 94 years.
3. Bushrangers, bangers & Banjo
The village of Binalong is surprisingly full of history and Pioneer Park is the best place to find out all about it. Here you’ll find a bust of one of Australia’s best-loved writers, Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson. His family moved to Illalong in 1871, seven kilometres out of Binalong. Banjo and his cousin rode their ponies to the Binalong Primary School each day until they left for school in Sydney in 1875.
A colourful wall mural on the wall of The Old Produce Store depicting how bushranger Johnny Gilbert, once a member of Ben Hall’s gang, was shot and killed in Binalong. In 1864 Gilbert mortally wounded a policeman when bailing up the Jugiong mail coach and so was declared an outlaw. He was hiding in a hut at Binalong when four policemen called upon him to surrender. He was shot and killed as he tried to escape across a paddock and is buried in the nearby Police Paddock.
Binalong is also home to the famous Binalong Butchery. Here Mick Dal Santo wraps his old-style sausages (even more famous) in butchers’ paper and newspaper before tying it up with string and passing it through a wire gauze window. How many remember the days when this was common practice?
4. Murrumbateman Food & Wine
The nearby township of Murrumbateman is the epicentre of an award-winning cool climate wine region, as well as superb local produce and stunning landscapes. With over 20 wineries scattered about, it’s hard to choose which ones to visit. The drive into Long Rail Gully Wines is breathtaking with views across the vines, cattle lying in the shade of a gum tree. The ultra-modern cellar door at Shaw Wines is amazing too.
Wins Creek Meadery occupies the historic Travellers Inn on Barton Highway in Murrumbateman and they produce a small range of handcrafted meads using honey from their own bees. For a little bit of indulgence, head out to Robyn Rowe Chocolates. Robyn makes award-winning chocolates available from the farm gate shop open Thursday to Monday 10am – 5pm.
A great way to experience the best of the region is during the Murrumbateman Moving Feast Festival over the October Long Weekend. You can enjoy a tasting plate of regional foods paired with wine tastings at several of Murrumbateman’s wineries and on Monday, the music events kick-off.
5. Careys Caves
Located just north of Wee Jasper, Careys Caves are well worth taking the time to explore. From Yass, just follow the signs to Wee Jasper via Tourist Route 7 and take your time. This 63km scenic drive offers some of the magical views of the Brindabella Ranges and the Murrumbidgee Valley as you wind your way down to the beautiful Taemas Bridge that crosses the Murrumbidgee River. In good years, you’ll also enjoy panoramic views of the Burrinjuck Dam waters.
Climbing back up into the range, take notice of the ancient volcanic geological features that dominate the landscape. Having crossed the Goodradigbee River at Wee Jasper, follow the sign and drive 6km to Carey’s Cave. This astounding limestone cave system can only be enjoyed by joining one of the most unique tours you’ll find. With seven chambers full of crystal formations the hardest part is not hitting your head climbing down the 30 steps to the cave floor.
- 12 pm and 1.30 pm on Monday and Friday
- 12 pm, 1.30 pm and 3 pm on weekends
- During the ACT school holidays, they also operate tours on Wednesdays.
Where to stay
Located on the shores of Lake Burrinjuck, Good Hope Resort has several powered and unpowered sites and cabin options to suit every budget. Popular with boating and other water sports, the current drought has reduced the water levels to around 34% at present. A new boat ramp has just been installed to allow access to boats even at these low levels.
It’s a great place to base yourself and explore the region, only 15 minutes from Yass and just off the road to Wee Jasper. The views of the Brindabella Ranges are spectacular on the road in and from the lake flats of the Murrumbidgee River.