Road Trip from Ghost Towns to Van Gogh to the Outback

Did you know, the Outback is only a day-trip away from Sydney or Melbourne?

Part one: Heading South.
In 2017, I unexpectedly found myself with ten days of freedom to fill; at the same time, there was a Vincent Van Gogh exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, so the logical idea seemed a road trip from the Blue Mountains to Melbourne.

I wasn’t keen on driving straight to Melbourne (via the freeway), so instead took the inland route, via Young (Cherry capital of Australia), Wagga Wagga and Glenrowan.

Theres only so much history and information you get about Australia from brochures and tourism websites. A lot of the most fascinating places, you simply stumble upon.

One of those treasures was Carcoar. A National Trust certified town, 50 kilometres out of Bathurst. Initially I drove past the sign which read Carcoarthe town that time forgot; a title that sounded too intriguing to miss. So I turned around and went back. 

What I found was a classic, Australian, one-street town, it’s not a ghost-town because the pub is still open, and there’s a couple of residents living there. But walking down the Main Street, footsteps crunching on gravel, it was easy to think I was the only person around.

Carcoar’s history includes gold mining, a bushranger hideout, and the site of Australia’s first bank robbery.

The next surprise was Cowra. I had little intention of stopping because I was on a mission to get to Young to eat a piece of cherry-pie but Cowra; a small town, in the middle of South Western NSW seemed an odd place for a Japanese Garden.

It was $15 to get into which seemed a bit pricey for a small town attraction, and I mentioned I was short on time, to which the sales girl offered “well for $20 more you can hire an electric golf-cart to drive yourself around.”

Drive my own golf-cart? Sold. Nothing beats a serene tranquil garden, with soft flowing water features, than tearing around the corners, and over speed humps, in an electric buggy. I could see jealous eyes, from other visitors wishing they had paid the upgrade. A few times I didn’t even need to get out of the cart to take a photo, so it was definately worthwhile. I knocked off the gardens in about 20 minutes compared to an hour and a half being the reccomended time to walk around. Though mid-winter is not the ideal time to visit a garden as cherry blossoms weren’t in bloom, but they did have some lovely daffodils.

This ensured I arrived in Young with 30 minutes spare before the bakery closed. Young being the cherry capital of Australia uses both it’s name and title in almost more punny ways than Bulls in New Zealand.

You have the Young Man Store (clothing), Young Eyes, Young Liquor Store, Pop Your Cherry Pudding Shop, okay so I made that last one up, but it wouldn’t look out of place. Even their town website and slogan; positively young sounded cheeky.

As for cherry pie? Delicately sweet, a little bit tart, warm and totally worth driving four hours for a piece of.

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Due to all my unintended stops, I arrived in Wagga Wagga late and exhausted so there was little time for sightseeing, which was lucky because there was also little to see. I really tried hard, to see something, but as I was leaving early, nothing was open. I did see an RAF fighter jet in a park, which was pretty cool, and the park was named after several famous Australian cricketers; so that’s something else that Wagga has.

Despite my disinterest in the freeway, in order to pick up time, I had to take the last bit to Melbourne on the F3, though I did a small detour to Glenrowan, famous for being the last stand of Ned Kelly, and his gang.

I had mixed feelings about Glenrowan. So much of Australia’s history has been wiped out, it’s odd the stories we cling to. The legend of Ned Kelly can be experienced through the visitor centre which has spent a ridiculous amount of money constructing an animatronic recreation of Ned Kelly’s last days. It’s weird, overpriced, scary at times and thats before you end up in the owners living room, full of Disney memorabilia including every single Disney movie on DVD and VHS.

There’s other museums, all claiming to be the official site, whilst flogging merchandise like t-shirts, stubbi holders and posters. However across the train line, is an empty block of land, which is the actual site of Ned Kelly’s last stand (there’s a memorial plaque) and adjacent to that is the train station.

It’s only a short two hour drive from Glenrowan to Melbourne which brings us to the end of part one.

Next up: Part two, Melbourne to the outback.

If you loved this post, then check out my post on Cape Palliser in New Zealand

If you love travel, then be sure to subscribe to my podcast, Travelosophy – Life lessons learnt from travel.

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