Go West: Winter in Central New South Wales

NSW Central West

June in Australia is when winter starts to settle in; when the sun drops by five o’clock and the temperatures do the same. Cold weather and I have never gotten along. Still, I readily agreed to start this camping trip in June, and to head west instead of north.

Winter on the coast of New South Wales is one thing; winter inland is a different beast altogether. The days can still be nice and sunny, but with darkness comes the bone-chilling cold.

Jared would argue that it wasn’t quite ‘bone-chilling’ – this from a man who continues to wear shorts and thongs during the day (“they’re my driving shorts”) while I wear every layer I’ve packed.

Despite being at odds with the weather, it was a choice I made and I choice I would make again. Would I rather be cold and exploring on my own time than sort-of-warm at work but forced to stay in the office for 8 hours? Yes, I would.

And so we explored.

Central New South Wales is dotted with designated ‘heritage’ towns that sprung up during the 19th-century gold rush and still retain their historical character. I can’t keep track of them all but Gulgong was the standout. It’s associated with the poet Henry Lawson, though he wasn’t born there and only lived in the town for 12 months as a boy.

Henry Lawson's birthplace
Move over, Henry Lawson, there’s a new face in town.

After detouring to Utes in the Paddock we spent the night in a free campground on the banks of a man-made lake. The stars burst out at night, a teaser of the skies to come as we make our way around Australia.

Gum Bend Lake
Sunset at Condobolin’s Gum Bend Lake

In the morning we packed up and set off for Mudgee. My obsession with Mudgee was a mystery to everyone, myself included. It’s a country town that’s made a name for itself as a weekend wine country getaway for the city slickers of Sydney. We camped at the showground for $15 a night, shared a beer sampler at the Mudgee Brewing Co., met Jared’s cousin for dinner at the pub, and stopped at Farmer’s Daughter Wines on the way out of town. That was it – an obsession sated.

Flirtation Hil
Views of Mudgee from Flirtation Hill.
Mudgee Brewing Co.
Selection of beers at the Mudgee Brewing Company.

Our return to the coast took us through a friend’s family farm at Rockedgiel, Australia’s country-music capital of Tamworth, and a campground in the lonely little town of Bendemeer. The cold was constant, but we got to see some beautiful countryside.

Country NSW
The prettiest farm in NSW.
Birdbath NSW
Creeping on the rosellas as they had their morning bath.
Golden Guitar
Behold the Golden Guitar of Tamworth.
Bendemeer campground
Jared attempts to charm the unimpressed llamas of Bendemeer.

A winding drive through the Cottan-Bimbang National Park spat us out at Port Macquarie, where we had the luxury of staying in a friend’s apartment for three nights. The warmth seeped into my body and I unwound my scarf, removed my fleece, and put my thongs on to walk to the beach.

It was glorious.

Port Macquarie beach
Port Macquarie’s Town Beach.
Port Mac breakwall
One of my favorites from the painted rockwall of Port Macquarie.

Revived, we returned to Newcastle to overhaul our tent situation; within 48 hours we’d sold the rooftop tent on gumtree, put the surfboards on the roof, and hooked up the camper trailer.

We headed north, hugging the coast, ready for a slower, longer, warmer Round 2.

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