Situated in the centre of NSW, the Lachlan Shire is full of unique bush experiences
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY KARYN FANOUS
The western sky painted with streaks of burnt orange is reflected perfectly in the mirrored surface of Gum Bend Lake. Our first day in the Lachlan Shire draws to a close with this stunning, dynamic, natural work of art. We discovered that art has a strong presence throughout the shire. There’s the striking art of the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people, an outdoor art gallery featuring ute sculptures, an elaborately decorated farm chapel, a giant rabbit trap sculpture atop a pub, colourful butterflies made from stone, and much more!
The Lachlan Shire is one of NSW’s largest and covers part of the traditional land of the Wiradjuri people. The shire includes the towns of Condobolin, Lake Cargelligo, and Tottenham, along with several smaller villages.
The shire is promoted as “Your Ultimate Bush Experience”. The mighty Lachlan River flows through the region, providing fabulous fishing, bird watching and camping opportunities. Those keen to wet their fishing lines can expect to catch Murray cod, golden and silver perch, catfish and redfin. No matter what time of year you visit, there is bound to be a special event on. The shire boats everything from an agricultural show and ball, to picnic races, camp drafts, tractor pulling, and a pipe band tattoo!
The first European to visit the area was Surveyor George Evans in 1815, who gave the Lachlan River its name in honour of Governor Lachlan Macquarie.
By 1844, squatters had arrived and ‘Condoublin’ was established. In 1878, Cobb & Co won the tender to deliver the mail from Forbes to Condobolin. A series of ten plaques mark the locations of the changing stations and inns along the Cobb & Co mail and passenger route from Forbes through Condobolin to Hillston.
The original Royal Hotel in Condobolin was used by Cobb & Co as a changing station and to stable their horses, but was destroyed by fire in 1883. The second hotel was opened in 1886 and was a Cobb & Co booking agent. It was said to be the west’s biggest hotel at that time, but was destroyed by a severe storm in 1928. The third Royal Hotel was built in 1939. See if you can find the plaque on a gatepost next to the current hotel!
Farming in the Lachlan Shire increased dramatically once the Wyangala Dam was constructed in 1935. The district is now known for its crops, sheep and beef produce.
Affectionately called ‘Condo’ by the locals, Condobolin is the largest town in the area and is nestled on the banks of the Lachlan River.
The town features interesting historical buildings dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, which you can see for yourself on a self-guided walking tour. A particularly striking building is the current Court House, dating from 1882. The original Court House, built in 1869, was a small wooden building that also served as a church, goal and meeting hall. Prior to this, court proceedings were conducted in a tent!
An impressive feature of Condo is the Wiradjuri Study Centre, built out of compressed earth bricks in a circular formation to replicate sitting around a campfire. The centre’s purpose is to foster Aboriginal culture, education, employment and wellbeing, and includes an excellent range of facilities for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Run by the Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation, it’s an inspiring example of Aboriginal people creating a better quality of life for their community.
The goanna, the totem of the Wiradjuri, features in the centre’s artwork. There are local indigenous art and crafts available to view and purchase, including traditional baskets made out of reeds from the Lachlan River. Tours occur daily, providing a fascinating insight into the centre.
Quite a claim to fame for Condo is its previous resident and musical artist, Shannon Noll. The runner-up in the first series of Australian Idol in 2003, Noll is now a very successful singer.
At Condobolin’s Riverview Caravan Park we met Kathy and Dave Morrison from Hazelbrook, NSW. They have had their current caravan for two and a half years, having upgraded from a camper trailer, and are members of the Hazelbrook Caravan Club. Kathy and Dave enjoy the Lachlan River, fishing, and the peace and quiet at Condo. They particularly like being able to fish right at the caravan park and the easy walk into town. Being keen birdwatchers, the Morrisons were thrilled by the abundance of birds around their campsite!
Just 3km west of town you’ll find the picturesque Gum Bend Lake. This manmade shallow lake is an ideal location for water sports and bird watching. Picnic tables, barbecues, toilets, showers and a playground are all provided in this lovely large, shady rest area. Free camping is permitted, although contributions to the donation box are appreciated. Set by the lake among shady trees, this is a fabulous camping spot. The sunsets here are legendary, making happy hour a real treat!
In the south west of the shire, this natural lake is the largest in inland NSW. Aboriginal artefacts, shell middens and an ochre quarry record the presence of Aboriginal people here for thousands of years. The Wiradjuri Aboriginal people call the lake ‘Cudjallagong’, meaning ‘lake’. ‘Cargelligo’ is a variation of this ancient name.
The lake is a great for water sports, fishing (licence required) and camping. There is a walking and bicycle track around the lake with interpretive and heritage signs. Part of the lake is a bird sanctuary with several bird watching locations and two bird hides. You may be fortunate to see a great crested grebe, black-winged stilts, great egrets, spoonbills, pelicans and black swans. A bird guide is available at the Tourist Information Centre on Foster St.
Not far to the east of the lake is Tullibigeal. This little town, known locally as “Tulli”, began as a Cobb & Co changing station. Here you’ll find Cockies Shed Lavender Farm where lavender products are available by appointment.
“Christ the King” farm chapel sits majestically at the base of Mt Bolo on a private farm, 20km from Tulli. The outside of this unique circular chapel is decorated with three beautiful mosaics. Its domed roof is adorned on the interior with a fresco depicting Christ the King and the universe, inspired by Saint Nicholas von Flue of Switzerland. The acoustics inside the chapel are astounding. It is a surprisingly elaborate chapel in the middle of the bush, and is a perfect place for quiet reflection. It is possible to visit the chapel: just enquire at the Condobolin Visitor Information Centre for directions and the farm manager’s telephone number.
On Friday afternoons, the Tullibigeal Craft Corner operates out of the RSL Memorial House, selling homemade cakes, jams, and arts and crafts made by the talented locals.
UTES IN THE PADDOCK
Heading east of Condobolin, travel along the Henry Parkes Way for 30km and turn right into Mulgutherie Lane, near Ootha. After 3km you’ll come across an amazing outdoor gallery in a farm paddock of Burrawang West Station. Fifteen utes are the basis for sculptures and art works depicting life in the country, with some utes being turned into an emu, a guitar, and a rum bottle!
We were delighted by the eclectic mix of sculptures. The first Holden Ute, a 1952 FX, has been transformed into a “Ute of Arms” by Brad Brown and Scott Edwards, mirroring the Australian Coat of Arms with a kangaroo and emu symbolising the progressive and pioneering spirit of Australians.
A 1964 EH ute is the canvas for “TribeUte” by Lewis Burns, an artwork which tells the story of the local Wiradjuri people. The U-shapes represent people sitting by campfires, rivers and waterholes, while the hands are symbols of ancestral spirits. A road tracks behind rivers and waterholes indicating the importance of nature to Aboriginal culture, over man-made structures.
ALBERT AND TOTTENHAM
North of Ootha, via the Bogan Way, Albert is a little village famous for The Rabbit Trap Hotel, complete with a giant sculpture of a rabbit trap on its roof! Here you can enjoy a cold drink and a hearty country meal. Exemplifying country hospitality, a free cuppa is provided for drivers. There are plenty of camping spots with amenities available.
The Bogan Way provides a scenic rural drive as an alternative to travelling along the highways, and links the Newell Highway in the south to the Mitchell Highway in the north. You could also take a side trip to visit the popular pub at Fifield.
Further north on the Bogan Way, the town of Tottenham is the closest town to the geographical centre of NSW, which is marked by a cairn 42km to the west. It is a friendly little town, proud of its pretty streets and gardens.
A trip to the Lachlan Shire is a fabulous bush experience. You’ll enjoy a range of historic, cultural, artistic and bush experiences, along with the splendid waterways, natural beauty and country hospitality – all in the centre of NSW.