ill End, a picturesque historic town that sits almost smack bang between Bathurst and Mudgee, is probably more suited to a long weekend getaway than the favoured weekender spot two hours away. It’s four hours west of the city, up and over the mountains and deep in the Central West region.
Hill End and surrounds is gold rush country and holds some 160 years of rich Australian history. It’s a place where dreams were realised and others were lost, and a place that was, for one glistening moment, the centre of the world. A romantic past of booming tent cities and unfathomable wealth hangs over Hill End like the pink-breasted galahs that hover the tree-lined main street each morning.
Unlike many gold rush towns that thrived then withered, Hill End seems to have embraced its past with an almost dignified calm. There is an authenticity that seems to be less about tourism and more about respect (there are no twee shops here).
Graceful yet dishevelled buildings dot the streetscape and old photographs stand where homes or shopfronts once were, hinting at a bustling past.
The landscape is dramatic and vast and there are a number of excellent lookout points to take in the whole vista. Overgrown native vegetation carpets a soft and curvy topography - you can see why the area has become a haven for painters and artists, becoming not only the backdrop to their work, but also a home. Famous past residents include Donald Friend, Russell Drysdale, Margaret Olley and John Olsen.
Hosies Hill End B&B
This beautiful homestead bed and breakfast sleeps up to 12 with its four large bedrooms and spacious family room. Four-poster beds dressed in white linen and antique furniture will give you a feel for what life was like back in the 19th century (with the exception of the electric blankets). Just light the fire, pour a pinot and relax. A full country breakfast will be waiting for you in the morning.
Rent a cottage
Hill End has a scattering of old worker’s cottages that have been carefully restored – many through the state government’s Conservation Lease Program. Some of them operate as weekenders and you can rent them through: stayz.com.au
La Paloma Pottery
Lino Alvarez and Kim Deacon have been making pottery since the 80s, first from their workshop in Newtown and now at their beautiful pottery at Hill End. La Paloma supplies plates and presentation ware to some of Sydney’s best restaurants (Porteno, Bodega and Osteria Balla included). Visiting the pottery is a true delight, meandering around the sprawling garden and rustic workshop. If it’s winter, and you’re lucky, Alvarez will make you a killer espresso.
Hill End Press
Antiquarian printmaking enthusiasts, husband and wife Bill Mosely and Genevieve Carroll create typefaces and letterpress prints at their unique Hill End Press. The two artists, whose passion for letterpress was realised when they purchased an old clanking press, custom design exclusive forms of printmaking such as invitations, poetry and photogravure.
Hill End is regarded as almost a sacred site for Australian art. Ask the locals to point you in the direction of some of the resident artists’ workshops and studios, such as that of revered landscape painter Luke Sciberras. Hill End is also home to the Artists in Residence program, where a rotation of artists occupy two of the town’s cottages.
The Jean Bellette Gallery at the Hill End Visitor Centre is also worth a visit.
For standard pub meals such as steaks, schnitzels and country town Chinese, the lovely old Royal is your place. Before the bistro opens, have a drink in the public bar.
Serving up fresh, local produce on the weekends this cafe is located beneath the bed and breakfast upstairs. Dinner reservations are by appointment only.
The General Store
Basic supplies if you want to cook at your cottage. They also do a small selection of take-away food.