Over the years, Crookwell has become like a second home to me. Almost 20 years ago, when we were living in Sydney, my husband and I bought a farm near Crookwell. We were eager for a place we could call our own to breath fresh air, get away from the city, grow fine wool and pretend to be farmers. Back then, Crookwell fit the bill nicely. Even though things to do in Crookwell and the surrounding areas were limited, the slow pace suited us just fine.
Almost 20 years later, Crookwell is still a sleepy country town but it’s slowly waking up as retirees and young families are starting to discover the delights of country life.
Facts about Crookwell:
- The area is home to Australia’s first commercial grid wind farm with its large white windmills circling furiously to generate electricity.
- Australian poet Dame Mary Gilmore was born in 1865 in Roslyn, 16 km from Crookwell.
- Crookwell has several impressive private gardens (some are showcased during the Crookwell Garden Festival (see #6).
- Crookwell is a traditional sheep, cattle and potato farming area.
- Where is Crookwell?
- Crookwell’s Bushranger History
- 12 things to do in Crookwell
- 1- Go for a drive in the country
- 2- Look for wildlife
- 3- Photograph old stone ruins
- 4- Pan for gold
- 5- Search for Sapphires
- 6- Tour Crookwell’s Gardens
- 7- Go Trout Fishing
- 8- Cycle from Crookwell to Taralga
- 9- Go Geocaching
- 10- Explore Taralga
- 11- Shop At Local Markets
- 12- Go Winetasting at Kingsdale Wines
- Where to eat in Crookwell
Where is Crookwell?
Crookwell is on the Great Dividing Range, about 2.5 hours from Sydney through Goulburn, where the Big Sheep is an iconic landmark in Australia along the Hume Highway you’re not likely to miss!
Located in the Southern Tablelands, which is the birthplace of rural New South Wales and only an hour from Canberra, the pristine countryside of the Southern Tablelands is reminiscent of the downs of England.
Undulating emerald hills roll towards the horizon.
Not far away are the villages of Binda, Laggan, Grabben Gullen, Tuena and Bigga, where bushranger, gold mining history and wonderful stone buildings abound.
Stop in at the Crookwell Information Centre for maps, brochures and more information.
Crookwell’s Bushranger History
Crookwell is a rural town in New South Wales where bushrangers once roamed.
It used to take several days to reach Crookwell from Tuena in a rickety old coach that groaned at the seams.
If you were a traveller, bouncing in potholes, you would have been wondering whether you would ever reach your destination without being hijacked by the shadowy figures that roamed the district.
You might have been a gold fossicker in Tuena dreaming about your land grant. ₤300 would get you 1000 acres of land!
Of course, you would have years of hard work ahead of you clearing yellow box trees and mustering wild horses.
You would have built your home using readily available local ironbark trees, stone and straw to give you warmth in the freezing winter.
You would have also heard that Morris the Binda storekeeper – who was now penniless – had been robbed of 100 pounds and his store burnt down by Ben Hall and his gang.
This was a risk you too might face in New South Wales’ bushranger country.
For more things to do in NSW read:
12 things to do in Crookwell
1- Go for a drive in the country
Today, driving along one of the many country lanes in the area people are often overcome by the urge to stop the car and experience the glorious natural surroundings.
Get out of the warm car into the chilly wind and the smiling rays of the sun.
The dual effect of the sun’s warm rays and the brisk country air is invigorating.
Take several deep breaths; greedily savour the fresh crisp clean air.
The leaves flutter in the wind as they fall from the trees to cover the ground in a gold and red carpet.
Listen to the sounds of the wind rustling among the lemon-scented gums, birds calling out in a myriad of sweet tones and lost lambs bleating for their mothers.
Red-breasted rosellas fly alongside the car playfully unafraid, brilliant blue wings fluttering against the undulating landscape.
Autumn lambs dance gaily among the oats and the sheep scuttle away in flocks as the car passes the paddocks.
2- Look for wildlife
As dusk falls, the sky is washed in a palette of mauve and violet shades.
A kangaroo hops along the dirt road; it stops and blinks blinded for a moment by the car’s lights and then bounds away to the safety of the woods.
A whole family of smaller wallabies sits in a paddock watching the show.
Further along the road, back on the bitumen, swerve to miss a wombat its low round body swaggering across the road in a slow lazy gait.
It’s an appropriate description of the area today, slow and relaxed.
There are 107 known species of birds in the area such as swallows, crimson and eastern rosellas, willie wagtails, variations of robins, song larks, thornbills and more types of ducks than you’ve ever heard of.
Wildlife such as kangaroo, wallaby, wombat and echidnas can be seen at dusk in their natural habitat.
At night, the sky is so clear and pollution-free that the stars form a bright sparkling blanket against the nights’ canopy.
One of the best views in the area is north of Laggan where there is a lookout over the Fullerton Valley which provides a grand vista across the grazing countryside.
It is situated about 12 km north on the Peelwood Rd, just before the Fullerton turnoff.
3- Photograph old stone ruins
The old stone ruins that dot the landscape are intriguing to explore.
The straw floors are now compressed into hardened slabs from years of wear, old chimneys still stand with piles of crumbling stone lying in rubble around it and ruins of entire villages are now part of single farming properties.
The current owners would either leave the ruins as they were to form part of the landscape or spend their weekends restoring many of the old buildings to a liveable standard.
Drive along the road to Binda, where several stone buildings built in the 1800s are still standing including the Anglican Rectory, Store and Post Office, Old Mill and Funny Hill Sheep station.
The Binda picnic races are held in true picnic style in March each year at Funny Hill and have been running since 1848.
The St James church in Binda is built in Gothic Revival early English Style and constructed of bluestone and quartzite with dressed sandstone sills.
For a look inside the church, the key can be found at the Binda Store. It is a quaint and friendly country practice common throughout the area.
4- Pan for gold
People still come to the area to fossick for gold and sapphires in the sparkling streams as a fun thing to do on a weekend.
At Tuena, gold panning equipment is available for hire from Parson’s General store and fossicking guides can be arranged through the local pub or just go down and try your luck in Tuena Creek.
While tourism is not aggressively promoted throughout the area, it is surprising to find visitors from as far away as Canada and Japan have managed to find out about the Southern Tablelands through word-of-mouth and tried their luck at fossicking in this quiet peaceful area.
5- Search for Sapphires
Grabben Gullen is the place to go to look for sapphires and other semi-
There’s a public area for fossicking at Wheeo beneath the bridge on the aptly named Sapphire Road!
Give it a go, you never know what you might find!
6- Tour Crookwell’s Gardens
With its cool bracing climate, gardens in the area are spectacular.
Fabulous displays of bulbs in spring, and glorious colour changes in the trees during autumn light the whole district ablaze with colour.
The area has some magnificent gardens and the best time to see them is during the Crookwell Garden Festival (November), when the region’s lovely cool climate gardens are open to the public and there’s also the Garden Lovers’ Market on Saturday.
Crookwell’s rich soil and climate provide a fertile environment for a variety of flowering and fruiting plants. If you can’t make it to the Crookwell Garden Festival, some gardens are open during the year.
Markdale’s famous garden was designed in 1947 by Edna Walling and is an impressive two-hectare estate garden with stone walls, lawns and a lovely lake.
The best time to visit is in spring to see flowering shrubs and the garden has impressive silver birch, poplars and crab apple trees.
Markdale (call to make an appointment) is at 462 Mulgowrie Rd, Crooked Corner, Binda.
7- Go Trout Fishing
At the enormous Pejar dam, fishermen stand by the banks with their fishing rod cast in the blue calm water.
Many of the other clear cold rivers and streams are great for trout fishing as local fishing clubs restock rivers with brown and rainbow trout fingerlings each year.
Trout fishing season is from October to June when fishing is allowed in rivers and streams but you can fish in Pejar Dam all year round.
8- Cycle from Crookwell to Taralga
The ride from Crookwell to Taralga is 42.7km and is a great way to see the countryside but make sure to pack enough water and food as there aren’t any food stops along the way.
It’s an authentic way to connect with the land and to
Check out this website for more information.
9- Go Geocaching
Go on an outdoor treasure hunt around Crookwell.
Using your GPS-enabled device, have fun navigating to the GPS coordinates in search of the geocaches hidden around the region.
Last time we looked, there were geocaches in lots of places you wouldn’t necessarily think to explore, such as Stephenson’s Mill, the Anglican Church and the Crookwell Showgrounds.
10- Explore Taralga
Taralga was settled in the 1820s by John Macarthur.
Taralga Historical Museum runs guided walking tours of the town, which include a visit to the Historical Museum, Colonial Cottage, slab dairy, shearing and blacksmith buildings.
Stop at Taralga Gifts & Goodies for gifts made by local craftspeople and Taralga Saddlery & Stables Giftware.
11- Shop At Local Markets
Wandering around a local market is a great way to meet and chat with friendly locals.
The area’s markets have a laidback relaxed vibe and a good place to shop for a gift to take home.
1st Saturday of the month
Crookwell Community Market from 9 am to noon at the Uniting Church in Goulburn Street.
Taralga Lions Market from 9 am to 2 pm at the Taralga Memorial Hall in Orchard Street.
3rd Saturday of the month
Laggan Village Markets from 9 am to 1 pm at Laggan Memorial Hall on Peelwood Road has indoor stalls and outdoor tents selling an assortment of local crafts, decorations, cakes and jams.
12- Go Winetasting at Kingsdale Wines
The region is ideal for growing cool-climate grapes. Kingsdale has award-winning wines and produces Shiraz, Merlot, Malbec, Semillon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
A good time to go is during the harvest season (March and April) to watch the pickers hand-picking grapes.
Kingsdale Wines is on the Crookwell Road not far out of Goulburn.
Where to eat in Crookwell
1- The Argyle Inn (80 Orchid Street, Taralga) is the oldest trading hotel in Taralga built in 1875. A recent contemporary restoration of the building highlights its Victorian charm, high ceilings and a double fireplace.
2- Laggan Pantry (1 Peelwood Rd, Laggan) is a modern Australian restaurant with a warm country atmosphere and a creative menu. Two courses ($52), three courses ($65). It’s a popular place for a long lunch and gets booked out on weekends and public holidays.
3- Crown Theatre Café (132 Goulburn St Crookwell) has a Greek menu, with a quieter restaurant section in the front with walls decorated with black and white historical photos from the region, and an indoor playground in the back section for families.
4- Crookwell RSL (160 Goulburn St Crookwell) has a country-style bistro and is a good spot for breakfast.
5- Criterion Hotel Bistro (72 Goulburn St Crookwell) has a country kitchen that dishes up hearty meals such as chicken parmigiana and ribs.
6- Crookwell Hotel Bistro (101 Goulburn Street Crookwell) also has a bistro and the pub is a spot where local tradies hangout.
7- Catherine’s Café Bakery and Deli (87 Goulburn St Crookwell) is the local hotspot for coffee, breakfast and lunch.
8- Pauls Café (102 Goulburn St Crookwell) is a traditional milk bar-style eatery that serves up a variety of fast food.