Weekender's guide to Goulburn, NSW

May 18, 2019 / By Ailsa Kemp

Distance from Sydney: 2 hours' drive
Population: Approximately 23,000
Known for: The Big Merino, historic architecture, country atmosphere and arts.
Information Centre: Sloane Street, Goulburn
Traditional owners The Gundangara people
Photo credit - Goulburn Regional Art Gallery A detail of Ricky Emmerton’s ‘Kuu Watharranti Mpulamaralhi (Rain-making at Devoncourt)’. 

Goulburn is a charming rural city that is only a short 2-hour drive from Sydney. Traditionally the plains around Goulburn and the Wollondilly River provided native game and fish for a number of the traditional aboriginal peoples including Mulwaree, Tarlo, Burra Burra, Wollondilly, Wiradjuri, Gundungurra, Dharrook, Tharawal, Lachlan, Pajong, Parramarragoo, Cookmal and Gnunawal. The Goulburn region was known as a meeting place for all these and was a corroboree site of the Gandangara people.

In 1863 Goulburn was declared Australia's first inland city.  With a rich history of agriculture, cathedrals, short-lived gold rush and the development of the rail system, Goulburn was once a very wealthy city during the 19th century. Many of its original buildings and grand homes still exist today in the centre of town, illustrating this time period. The main street is a perfect blend of modern and heritage architecture, making it an absolute must to stroll down. 

Even today, Goulburn is internationally recognised for producing some of the best wool in the world. What better way to celebrate this than build a 15-metre tall concrete merino? Now a large attraction in its own right, and a popular addition to the big list of things in Australia, the Big Merino is found on the southern exit to the city, heading towards Canberra. You can walk into the construction and learn all about Australia's 200-year wool history. 

Those interested in architecture and churches will have to spend a few hours exploring Goulburn cathedrals. Within walking distance of each other, each building is a superb example of Gothic style architecture with stained glass windows and tall steeples. St Saviour's Cathedral bell tower is one of the most beautiful in Australia and Saints Peter and Paul's Old Cathedral is the only greenstone cathedral in the world. For people interested in anything steam, cog or machine related, you will have to make time to visit the Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre and the Historic Waterworks. Both display a fascinating history and are still largely in operation.  

Bungonia National Park is a short drive from Goulburn but is well worth it if you want some fresh country air. It's known as an outdoor adventure playground offering rock climbing, caving and abseiling. For those who want a little less adrenaline, take a hike through the park and discover some breathtaking lookouts, or just take an easy stroll through the woodland. 

By now, you would've worked up quite the appetite. Goulburn's restaurants offer a variety of choices including traditional country cooking and gourmet cuisines. Many of the restaurants use local produce and you can pick up some of these for yourself at the farmer's markets every month. 

There are many other markets that pop up and are worth visiting since many artists have made Goulburn a bustling hub of arts, crafts and performances. Visit the Goulburn.Art Regional Gallery that regularly mixes up exhibitions to show off local talent or just wander through the streets - there are many public sculptures to discover.

If you want to spend the weekend, Goulburn has a variety of inviting accommodation options. Stay in town and enjoy heritage homesteads or go a little further out and embrace the country lifestyle with farm stays and guesthouses. 

We think you should know: The Weekender's travel guides are independently written by real travellers. We do not receive any money from, or have a sponsorship arrangement with, any of the entities listed in, or referred to in this article.

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