Nature and Heritage Trail

Sydney to Sydney (Loop)

Total Distance: 930km
11hr 30min

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Marvel at a series of scenic and historical wonders, while indulging in a feast of delicious goodies, along the Nature and Heritage Trail. Beginning in Sydney, this touring route heads through the famous Blue Mountains and explores the central west region before looping back to the New South Wales capital.

Highlights

  • Explore the gem-packed Blue Mountains
  • Take a lap of Bathurst’s Mount Panorama racing circuit
  • Unearth fascinating bushranger history in Forbes
  • Be dazzled at Taronga Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo
  • Unwind in the fabulous Mudgee Wine Region
Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

CSIRO Parkes telescope

CSIRO Parkes telescope

Bushland, near Mudgee

Bushland, near Mudgee

Sydney

Start

This touring route is layered with spectacular scenery and engrossing history and Sydney alone provides a huge dose of topical sights and experiences.

Historical attractions abound in Sydney and are reached with ease. A casual stroll around The Rocks precinct provides an instant feeling of being back in time – this area essentially marks the spot where modern Sydney was established.

Unearth indigenous Australian heritage at the Australian Museum or combine history and sparkling views with a visit to Fort Denison. Or be engrossed by Sydney attractions that form part of the World Heritage-listed Australian Convict Sites: Hyde Park Barracks, Government House, and Cockatoo Island.

Nature shines throughout Sydney and among its premier attractions is the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain, which doubles as a historical place of interest. Further afield, the likes of Royal National Park and Lane Cove National Park make for spectacular exploration.

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Sydney to Emu Plains (Penrith)

60km (0hr 50min)

Depart Sydney and head west through the suburbs before reaching Emu Plains. Emu Plains is just minutes from Penrith – across the Nepean River – and within this area there’s a wide selection of engrossing attractions.

Take in the natural beauty of the surrounds along the 8km-long Great River Walk, which follows the Hawkesbury-Nepean River and offers a beautiful backdrop of the Blue Mountains.

Be engrossed by a significant collection of fire-fighting equipment at the Museum of Fire or witness ever-changing art with a distinct Western Sydney flavour at the Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest. Don’t forget to photograph the glorious gothic-style St Stephens Anglican Church, which dates back to 1837.

Away from natural and historical finds are thrilling attractions that include Cables Wake Park; which has a great assortment of exciting water-based activities; and iFly Downunder, an enthralling indoor skydiving facility.

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Emu Plains (Penrith) to Bathurst

145km (2hr)

Spectacular scenery dominates this section of the route as it winds through the majestic Blue Mountains along the Great Western Highway. This World Heritage area features sprawling eucalypt forests and incredible sights.

Pass through several historical villages that include Wentworth Falls, found roughly 45 minutes into your journey. Check out grand old buildings and the glorious waterfall that gives the town its name.

Just past here is Leura, a picturesque village highly regarded for its pretty gardens. A standout example is the Everglades Gardens, which were created during the 1930s.

Press ahead to Katoomba, a major Blue Mountains hub that’s home to key attractions. Echo Point Lookout reveals sensational views of the iconic Three Sisters formation, or visit Scenic World Blue Mountains and journey along its cableway, railway, or skyway.

At neighbouring Blackheath, Govetts Leap Lookout gifts more gob-smacking views of the pleasant surrounds.

More quaint historical villages like Mount Victoria and Hartley are found further along the path before you reach the bigger regional centre of Lithgow. It has key attractions such as the State Mine Heritage Park and Railway Eskbank House and Museum.   

The end point of this leg is Bathurst, a thriving city with abundant historical and cultural wealth. The area that surrounds Bathurst is the birthplace of Australia’s first gold rush in 1851, so the city is a great base for delving into nearby old gold-rush towns. Or learn more about this golden past, and other local themes, at the Bathurst District Historical Society Museum.

Head much, much further back in time at the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum. The mind will boggle at the hefty, internationally renowned collection of fossils and minerals, many of which are rare.

The time-honoured Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercars event each October has long pulled a crowd. It is held at the Mount Panorama motor racing circuit and outside of event times you can take your own lap of this track (sticking to the speed limit, of course!). Learn more about this famous race and Australia’s rich motorsport history at the National Motor Racing Museum.

Or tour elegant Abercrombie House, which was built in the 1870s. This 50-room mansion features various displays and collections as well as impressive gardens.

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Bathurst to Forbes

175km (2hr 5min)

The next leg of this touring route continues to extend west, following the Mitchell Highway.
About 20 minutes into the journey you’ll come across the Goldfields Beekeeper's Inn at Vittoria where you can sample honey and see a live bee display.

Further along the route is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Lucknow, a once bustling gold-rush town with several relics that are a reminder of its heady days.

Just past here is Orange, a grand city with instant appeal and superb natural attractions. Colourful trees dominate the landscape and parks and gardens are dotted throughout this eye-catching spot.

If you fancy stretching the legs climb to the top of Mount Canobolas, or for a relaxing picnic spot try Lake Canobolas. The many cellar doors of the cool-climate Orange Wine Region are enticing, and prominent varieties here include shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, and chardonnay. Or take the Orange heritage trail to admire the city’s many historical attractions.

Further along the route is Eugowra, a small town with an interesting past. Its claim to fame (or infamy) is being the location of Australia’s largest gold robbery. Learn more about the town’s absorbing history at the Eugowra Museum and Bushranger Centre.

From here it’s on to Forbes, the end destination of this leg. Similar to Eugowra, bushranger history is prominent at Forbes. The two biggest names in these parts were Ben Hall and Frank Gardiner and their exploits are sure to captivate. Delve into this theme at the Forbes Railway Arts & Visitor Information Centre or Forbes Historical Museum or visit Ben Hall’s grave.

Or follow the Forbes Heritage Trail to view and learn about a series of striking buildings, led by the impressive town hall. For history of a different kind, check out a diverse collection of vehicles at McFeeters Motor Museum.

Forbes’ natural attractions are alluring. The Gum Swamp and Bird Hide attracts more than 150 bird species and offers superb viewing opportunities. Or walk, cycle, or picnic at glorious Lake Forbes, which includes a water park that is sure to grab the attention of younger ones.

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Forbes to Dubbo

155km (1hr 45min)

Continue along the Newell Highway, this time heading in a north-easterly direction.

Less than 30 minutes into the journey the town of Parkes should emerge. Here, the Henry Parkes Centre is bursting with historical and cultural attractions. The centre houses the Henry Parkes Museum, the Parkes Motor Museum, the Antique Machinery Collection, and the King's Castle Elvis Exhibit, which displays an engrossing collection of items relating to this music legend.

Roughly 20km north of the town centre is the CSIRO Parkes telescope, referred to as ‘The Dish’. Stop here for more than just a happy snap – this icon features an Astronomy and Space Science Exhibition, a 3D theatre, and more.

Press ahead and reach Peak Hill, another magnetising gold town to be found along this touring route. Enjoy the Peak Hill Open Cut Experience where you can view massive old open cut mines from the various viewing areas.

Further along the Newell Highway, just north of Tomingley, is an access point to Goobang National Park. This gem teems with native wildlife and offers sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.

Back on the main path, the end point of this leg soon emerges. Dubbo is a bustling city with some of the most enthralling attractions to be found along this touring route.

Start at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, a magnificent open-range facility with plenty to keep you occupied. As well as being able to view a vast assortment of native and exotic wildlife in safari-like surrounds, the zoo offers unforgettable up-close encounters, shows, keeper talks, and more.

Old Dubbo Gaol is another top-shelf attraction that brings the past to life through its fantastic displays and gripping yarns. For spine-tingling encounters, spend time in complete darkness in the solitary confinement cell or join a night tour.

Relax in peaceful surrounds and admire the diverse plant life found within Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden. Among the sights is a fantastic Japanese Garden.

Or visit the Western Plains Cultural Centre, which is home to such attractions as the regional gallery and museum.

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Dubbo to Mudgee

125km (1hr 30min)

This stretch of the touring route heads in an easterly direction along Cobbora Road.

A slight diversion to the former gold-rush town of Gulgong will impress. This historical location is packed with charm and full of surprises. More than 100 National Trust-listed buildings provide a glimpse into the town’s prosperous past, among them the iconic Prince of Wales Opera House. Continue to look back with a wander through the Gulgong Pioneers Museum or retrace the extraordinary life of a famous poet at the Henry Lawson Centre.

From here, it’s a short drive to the scenic town of Mudgee. This relaxing destination is earning more and more attention, and it’s easy to understand why. A backdrop of mountains, rolling hills, and vineyards cloak the surrounding landscape and several first-rate attractions jostle for attention.

The Colonial Inn Museum allows visitors a fascinating look at the past. For most history, grab a walking map and view the many heritage buildings that have earned high praise by the National Trust.

The Mudgee Observatory is an impressive facility that provides superb conditions for gazing at the night sky, although daytime viewing sessions are available too.

Exploring the Mudgee Wine Region won’t disappoint. Choose from dozens of cellar doors that produce a wide variety of wines, with robust reds leading the way. For those who prefer an ale, the Mudgee Brewing Company has a solid selection of tasty beers to try. Or stop by the Mudgee Honey Haven, which buzzes with activity and has a huge range of honey varieties to sample.

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Mudgee to Sydney

270km (3hr 20min)

On the final leg of this journey, consider taking the longer route that veers towards a couple of enchanting villages. Neighbouring Rylstone and Kandos both feature striking heritage buildings in picturesque surrounds.

When you reach Lithgow, it’s suggested that you take a different path back to Sydney. Wind your way along Chifley Road, and then Bells Line of Road, and after roughly 30 minutes Blue Mountains Botanic Garden should present itself. This tranquil cool-climate garden has a whopping selection of native and exotic plant species, as well as abundant wildlife and bird life, and sparkles year round.

From here, make your way back to your starting point, Sydney, and enjoy further exploration of this world-class city.

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