Travel

Travel back in time to historic Carcoar

Image: Michael Adams

The classic gold rush village of Carcoar in Central West NSW boasts restored heritage buildings erected between 1840 and 1890, fine restaurants, shopping and will soon host Channel 7's Sunrise host Edwina Bartholomew and her husband Neil Varcoe's renovated Victoria Hotel. Forgotten Australia podcaster Michael Adams explains what's on offer in Carcoar.

Time travel into Carcoar, near Blayney and Bathurst in NSW

While a lot of Australian destinations promote their heritage attractions, Carcoar in Central West NSW proudly bills itself as a time travel experience – or as close as you can get to it. The sign on the side of the Mid-Western Highway proclaims it as ‘the town that time forgot’ – and after making the turn off, the little village doesn’t disappoint.

Nestled in a valley by the burbling Belabula River, Carcoar’s main street is lined with 19th century architecture. What makes it truly striking, though, is that very little was built here subsequently. Looking up Belabula Street from the river, or down from the hill on which stands St Paul’s Anglican Church, is to see the town largely as it looked more than a century ago. But that doesn’t mean day trippers or weekend visitors have to endure colonial discomfort because Carcoar offers fine dining, boutique shopping and charming accommodation.

 

For history buffs, the first stop has to be the Court House, a graceful Italianate design with a clocktower that was the work of colonial architect James Barnet, who was the man behind Sydney’s GPO, Customs House at Circular Quay and the poor doomed Garden Palace.

Inside this example of his work there’s the original high-ceilinged court room, which is in pristine condition, complete with the magistrate’s bench, jury seating and the dock in which accused people – including 1893 axe murderer Bertie Glasson – stood as their cases were heard.

Inside the courthouse, where axe murderer Bertie Glasson was sentenced. Image: Michael Adams.

Around the court room’s walls, and in an anteroom, you’ll find captivating displays, where Carcoar’s history is explained, from its original Indigenous custodians to infamous visitors like bushranger Ben Hall.

Members of the Carcoar & District Historical Society are on hand to answer any questions and help bring the olden days alive. There are numerous other historical attractions in Carcoar, from the ancient farm machinery housed in and around the convict-erected Stokes Stable Museum to beautifully preserved vintage advertising adorning buildings along Naylor Street.

Elsewhere on Belabula Street there are plenty of other colonial buildings. The Post and Telegraph Office dates to 1879 and is still in operation if you want to send someone a postcard. But you can also stay here, with 6 luxurious spa bedrooms available on a nightly basis and the restaurant offering a ten-course degustation menu. A one-night spa room and dinner package is $600.

The Rustic Flamingo is worth a pitstop. Image: Michael Adams.

For coffee and shopping, check out the terrace stores of The Carcoar Collective. Originally built in 1875-76, the building was originally a warehouse. Now it’s home to vintage store The Rustic Flamingo, where owner Kim Lees is as colourful and charming as her awesome range of bygone beauties that include good quality 1980s vinyl from just $15.

Next door you’ll find another welcoming shopkeeper in Belinda Satterthwaite, whose tomolly store is a soothing enclave of gorgeous hand-picked homewares and other goodies (the confectionary is to die for).

Belinda also operates another wonderful Carcoar accommodation option in Hargans Cottage, which sits beside the river and was home to local mechanic Tremayne Hargans in the early 1900s. There’s a minimum 2-night stay but that might not be enough once you settle in.

Antica Australis is the best restaurant in town.

For a truly top-notch fine dining lunch or dinner, you can’t go past Antica Australis - though be sure to book well in advance because Paolo and Kelly Picarazzo’s 25-seater is ranked by the SMH Good Food Guide as one of the most interesting Italian restaurants in Australia.

Antica is BYO. Its set menu is $120 and changes every 4-6 weeks depending on the season and the produce. Fusing food and history, Kelly and Paolo will talk you through each dish’s provenance – and tell tales of old Carcoar.

For a more casual dining option, step into the Royal Hotel. The first pub of this name was built on this site in 1849, but was demolished in the 1920s to make way for its successor – which then burned down in 1941. Third time lucky, this Royal Hotel has a great rustic vibe. A burger and beer by the fire is a treat in winter while a cold beer in summer is perfect for gazing out on sleepy Carcoar. The Royal also offers 10 rooms suitable for singles, couples and families

Carcoar’s profile is only set to grow. The former Victoria Hotel – just a stroll across the river, in Naylor Street – is to reopen next year, restored to its former glory by TV star Edwina Bartholomew, who bought the property recently with her husband Neil Varcoe, himself a boy from the Central West.

Neil Varcoe told Citro the town is perfect for those who yearn for less complicated times. "The village is certified by the National Trust, and almost every building is heritage-listed," he said.

"Carcoar is blessed with intact heritage buildings and a breathtaking landscape."

Carcoar will also be featured in Rebel Wilson’s directorial debut The Deb, which commences filming in the town in October, and is set to be in cinemas in 2024.

 Comedian Rebel Wilson is directing her first movie in Carcoar right now.

But while it’s Rebel’s debut behind the camera, it’s not the first time Carcoar has been a screen star. The town is a prized location for filmmakers seeking authentic country flavour, showcased most recently in Stan’s miniseries Ten Pound Poms and before that in the miniseries adaptation of Bryce Courtney’s novel Jessica.

But you’d expect nothing less from “the town that time forgot”.

Citro travel tips

Carcoar is a 3.5 hour drive from Sydney and is 40 minutes from Bathurst, Cowra and Orange.

Image: Michael Adams

The nearest airport to Carcoar is in Orange.

Trains go to Carcoar, but you will do better if you have a car to get around.

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