Blayney is a town that at first glance might seem like many others across rural New South Wales, with its grand old buildings and the farmland and rolling countryside that surround it. But it doesn’t take long to realise that there’s far more to Blayney than meets the eye, as there’s a rich history and a vibrant charm to uncover within this quaint town and its picturesque neighbours.
Out in the heart of NSW’s Central West, Blayney sits nestled between the larger hubs of Orange, Bathurst and Cowra. It’s one of those little country towns that you might have driven through before, usually in a hurry on your way to somewhere else. I’m certainly guilty of that, having maybe stopped by once in the past to grab something from a bakery or cafe on my way through, but never had the chance to explore beyond the main street. Now that I’ve had that chance, I can say that Blayney is like a lot of the great little towns scattered across the country, towns that may seem like any other at first, but where stopping and staying a while can be a rewarding experience.
It’s about three and a half hours from Sydney, and half an hour from Orange and Bathurst, making the town a great base for exploring the larger area, or even a less-hectic accommodation option during large events like the Bathurst races. It sits high in the agriculturally dominated tablelands, making for chilly winters, pleasant summers and crisp clear skies throughout autumn and spring.
There’s a rich sense of history that shrouds the landscape out here, seeping from the very ground itself to spin a tale of colonial hardships, bush-ranging, fateful prospecting and generations of families working the land. Even deeper into that past, the area was watched over by the Wiradjuri people, the original custodians of the land, who occupied the largest geographic area of any Aboriginal group in NSW.
While its roots lie in the farming that still drives the town today, Blayney — along with the surrounding country — got caught up in the Gold Rush of the mid 1800s, and with it the town flourished. These days, there’s a number of museums, historic sites and heritage trails throughout the villages that delve into the region’s fascinating history.
Historic villages and colourful markets
From Blayney, there’s a network of winding roads through the scenic countryside, linking the neighbouring villages of Barry, Millthorpe, Carcoar, Lyndhurst, Mandurama and Neville, amongst others. From picturesque principalities to beautifully preserved hamlets, there’s a wealth of great old churches, historic buildings, cafes and small stores, friendly pubs and no small amount of the country charm endemic to places like this.
Carcoar, just south of Blayney, is especially noteworthy, standing as one of the oldest and once most significant towns west of the Blue Mountains. With a main street lined with buildings dating from 1845 to 1941, it’s often seen as one of the most intact historic villages in NSW, and has been the scene for several period films.
Fertile valleys and rolling hills surround the village, while the tranquil Belubula River flows by beside it. There’s some good fishing along this river, as well as in the nearby Carcoar Dam, which also boasts some beautiful scenery and opportunities for swimming and boating.
A lot of the charm and personality of these towns comes from the events they hold, from the shows, village fairs and farmer’s markets that bring the communities together on a regular basis. The Millthorpe Markets, while only held twice a year in April and December, are some of the best markets you’ll find in the country. There’s some 250 stalls selling gourmet local produce, artwork, clothing, jewellery, woodwork, fresh food and just about anything else you can think of, and the historic little village absolutely comes alive when they’re held.
Blayney and Villages Tourist Park
For a great base for exploring the area and everything it has to offer, Blayney and Villages Tourist Park is hard to beat. Their tagline “not your average caravan park” really does hold true. There’s plenty here to set it apart from the average rural van park, and it’s definitely more than just a place to spend a night passing through. As the name suggests, the park’s goal is to represent both Blayney and the slew of surrounding villages, and work with local businesses to create a memorable experience. A striking example of this are the steel works of art decorating the park, which were commissioned from local artists and depict significant local history.
Managers Graham and Denise are friendly and welcoming, as is the air of the park with its rustic, laid-back charm. It’s a wealth of greenery amidst the dry countryside, with great old trees, vibrant lawns, neat hedges and shady, private sites. Galahs, melodic blackbirds and families of wood ducks frequent the grounds, which are only a short walk to the main street of town, and the pubs, cafes and stores you’ll find there.
It’s pet friendly, and reasonably priced, which certainly can’t be said about a lot of parks these days, and there’s a slew of options for just about any kind of travelling set up; slabs, drive through and grassy powered sites, a sprawl of lawn for unpowered camping, sites for large rigs, and thirteen newly refurbished ensuite cabins, as well as on-site worker’s accommodation.
There’s a van wash, dump point and camp kitchen, but what sets it apart is its lovely communal BBQ area. It’s a concept I reckon more parks should be getting on to, a place that embraces and encourages the idea of meeting your fellow travellers and sharing a few stories. Wooden tables and a huge fire pit add to that rustic charm, and it sits surrounded by trees, lawns, a nearby playground and a dog off-leash area. It’s a great place to sit and have a drink at the end of a day exploring one of NSW’s forgotten relics.