When I was a young school student living in a small country town I travelled to the big smoke of Sydney to do work experience with the legendary broadcaster Andrew Olle. I knew I wanted to be a journalist when I grew up, and spending time watching Andrew and his colleagues at work at 702 was an inspiration.
Towards the end of my work experience I asked him which university I should try to get into, and he didn’t hesitate for a second before telling me I had to go to Bathurst. For the next couple of years I was obsessed with the goal of getting into Charles Sturt University’s Communications Course, and was beyond thrilled when I was given the green light.
Although it was no longer called Mitchell College, the students who went to CSU still became part of what is affectionately called the Mitchell Mafia. It was here I made some incredible friends who I still love to this day. I also loved my Bathurst years but I’ll admit I didn’t really see it as a holiday destination.
Then I was invited back by the Amazing Bathurst group and realised I really shouldn’t have left it so long between visits.
Amazing Bathurst is made up of a group of businesses that have come together to promote the new Bathurst. And while some things (the country charm, fresh crisp air, and friendly locals) remain the same as in my uni days, some things have definitely changed.
Once a bit of a wasteland except for a single cafe and some op shops that we used to visit, Bathurst’s Keppel Street has come into its own.
The cafe we once loved, Zieglers, has now become The Hub, a bustling cafe which has won the best breakfast in Australia award according to the Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards. Next door you’ll find the Classical Herbalist, where you can pick up natural remedies and treat yourself to a massage.
Nearby you have Legall Patisserie Café, which is so good it has people driving out of their way to pick up some treats (and after tasting some of their wares I can see why). And just down the road you can take a yoga lesson with Jan Green at Prana Yoga or get a new ‘do at her husband’s hairdresser, Wavelength, at the front of the studio.
One place I really should have visited when I was at uni but didn’t is Abercrombie House.
As the oldest inland settlement in Australia, Bathurst has a lot of history, and Abercrombie House was built by Bathurst pioneers, the Stewart family back in 1870.
The old Tudor Gothic mansion covers 210 square metres and has 52 rooms, seven staircases (including a rather unusual looking one), 29 fireplaces and a ballroom with extraordinarily high ceilings decorated with gold leaf.
The owner Christopher Morgan lives there with his family, but you can tour the home, including the rooms that his children now live in. I’m not sure how I would have coped with strangers going through my room, but his son sure makes an impression with a skeleton in the middle of his.
When I arrived they were having High Tea on a Sunday afternoon, and they also hold jazz nights and other events at the home.
Another extraordinary old home is now a boutique hotel called Bishops Court Estate, which is one of the places I was lucky enough to stay during my return to Bathurst.
Bishops Court is run by a woman named Christine Le Fevre, who is a force of nature and one of the driving forces behind Amazing Bathurst.
Originally built as the residence for the Anglican Bishop back in 1870, it then became home for a series of other bishops before it was sold into private ownership in 1961.
Found next door to the beautiful old school St Stanislaus’ college (or Stannies as it’s known) Bishops Court is nice and secluded. It’s not until you’ve entered the drive way that you have any real idea that it’s there.
There are only seven rooms to stay in, and they’re all beautiful. As is the gorgeous chapel attached to the home, where Christine throws dinner parties and where brides can often be found hosting very stylish and intimate wedding receptions.
I loved the design touches throughout Bishops Court and it wasn’t until I was picking Christine’s brains later that I discovered her background is in interior design and that she’s worked on some of Australia’s top hotels. She’s certainly used that talent well on her own property here in Bathurst.
Christine is also a winner in the kitchen and teaches cooking classes. I made my first ravioli in her kitchen which we then shared with other guests. And she also works with other local businesses to tailor make a special break for you, including bringing some of them to Bishops Court so you can indulge in things like a pedicure by the open fire without having to leave the house.
Thanks to Christine I also had the chance to meet some other great locals. We went out to see coffee being roasted at Fish River Roasters and met Peter Harrison who not only makes award winning coffee but is also a radio announcer at the local station 2BS. We paid a visit to another award winning business, the Stone Pine Distillery which is bringing home medals for their gin, and paid a visit to Vale Creek Wines as they were bottling up their latest vintage in the back of a special semi trailer that goes from vineyard to vineyard.
Christine also introduced me to Cath McDowell, the woman behind the Classical Herbalist which provides herbal treatments not only for humans but also for animals. Her remedies are very popular amongst the equestrian set in particular but she helps all sorts of four legged friends. She also has some lovely apartments that she rents out as boutique accommodation called La Maison.
I spent a couple of nights at La Maison on George street, and I have to say if university was anything like that I may never have left this special spot in the country.
Bathurst, I’d forgotten how much I love you. I promise not to leave it so long between visits. You keep being amazing and I’ll see you again soon.
Amanda Woods stayed as a guest of Amazing Bathurst but all thoughts and opinions remain her own.
Amanda would also like to thank Hertz for the rental car she took on her Bathurst road trip.
And if you’re heading to Bathurst from Sydney, don’t forget to make a stop at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains.