Goulburn is a historic city with a legacy of imposing cathedrals and grand buildings. Goulburn is a city that has long hidden beneath its reputation as an agricultural centre for fine merino wool and a truck stop for travellers driving along the Hume Highway. Here are some things to do in Goulburn.
Peel off the layers and you will find a grand regional city with handsome historic buildings and magnificent cathedrals built in a potpourri of eclectic architectural styles.
Majestic Victorian Italianate halls sit side-by-side with Art Deco buildings. Edwardian, Classic Revival and Spanish Mission styles dot the town, while rows of Victorian terraces lurk in the side streets.
Located in the Southern Tablelands, at the confluence of the Wollondilly and Mulwaree Rivers, Goulburn Plains was first discovered by explorer Hamilton Hume in 1818.
The first occupants were free settlers who were enticed to the area – which was named in honour of the under-secretary of state for the colonies, Henry Goulburn – by land grants.
By 1841 Goulburn had grown into a centre for sheep farming, with a courthouse, police barracks, churches, hospital, post office and a population of around 1200.
In 1863, the British government proclaimed Goulburn as Australia’s first inland city and from the architectural legacy left by the British, it’s evident that Goulburn was once destined to become one of Australia’s great cities.
The best way to experience Goulburn is with a self-guided heritage walking tour.
Things to do in Goulburn
Start at Grafton Street, the original village from which the city grew around. Early settler cottages stand alongside buildings of more recent architecture.
Spend a couple of hours strolling down Grafton Street reading the plaques on some of these historic cottages. From governor to butcher, these plaques reveal intriguing tales about the original settlers.
A good place to stop for lunch is Goulburn’s oldest bakery, Bryant’s Bakery in Auburn Street. Alfresco café-goers sip cappuccinos and tuck into Bryant’s famous pies while admiring the view of the towering Victorian Italianate post office building across the road.
The post office sits snugly next to Goulburn’s original red brick classic-revival Town Hall.
Further down the main street, Danny’s, the bistro at the Goulburn Workers Club has been cleverly renovated to imitate a wool store.
Step back into the 1940’s at the Paragon Café, a classic eatery that serves hearty country sized meals. One of the best times of the year to visit Goulburn is during the Australian Blues Festival held each February, when blues bands from all over the country bring this historic city to life.
Further along the street, on the top of the AMP building stands an intricate sculpture of the Goddess of Peace and Plenty. This grand insurance building, with its heavy cedar doors, sits on the site where George Adams once ran his butcher shop. George Adams later went on to become the founder of the Tattersall lottery sweeps.
Walk through history
The Goulburn Court House was designed by colonial architect James Barnett, one of the most respected architects of the day. It was in this very courthouse where Australian law was passed making it illegal to harbour bushrangers. Barnett was also the designer of Sydney’s General Post Office.
St Peter and St Paul’s Cathedral has an attractive bluestone façade while the sandstone building of St Saviour’s Anglican Cathedral towers above the city. In the evenings, the cathedrals are floodlit to create an impressive outline against Goulburn’s clear starry sky.
Visitors to St Saviour’s are usually astounded to discover such a breathtakingly grand piece of architecture located in a regional centre of approximately 21,000 residents. High archways are supported by enormous sandstone pillars, while Kauri beams adorn its ceiling.
Stunning 19th century stained glass windows with vibrant colours depict tales from the Bible. The building was designed by one of the leading experts in English Decorated Gothic Architecture, architect Edmund Thomas Blacket who also designed St Mary’s and St Andrew’s Cathedrals in Sydney, as well as the main buildings of the University of Sydney.
An imposing Fosters & Andrew’s organ, which was shipped to Australia in 1884, continues to fill its main hall with uplifting music. Operas, international choir performances and orchestral performances are held regularly in the cathedral.
Other interesting buildings in Goulburn include the 1930’s Rococo-style Elmslea Chambers (an Art Deco building with a quirky tiled façade of birds, flowers, leaves and sheep’s heads carvings), the Sisters of Mercy Convent which looks like it’s straight out of a movie set, and the Goulburn Brewery (where the television series The Potato Factory was filmed).
Overlooking the city is the Rocky Hill War Memorial, a 20-metre floodlit tower with a sweeping aircraft beacon.
The memorial base is inscribed with the names of 2,500 Goulburnites who served in World War I, while the caretaker’s cottage has been converted into a museum.
Another interesting relic of the past is the Goulburn Historic Waterworks. Set on the banks of the Wollondilly River, its pump house and working steam engines are unique features.
A thirty minutes drive north-west of Goulburn are the undulating hills of the Southern Tablelands. The central town of Crookwell is surrounded by the villages of Binda, Laggan, Grabben Gullen, Tuena and Bigga.
Wildlife such as kangaroos, wallabies and wombats can be found roaming around the country lanes at dusk while old stone ruins dot the landscape.
For things to do in Sydney, NSW, see
Discover New South Wales
Where to stay
Mandelson’s of Goulborn is a historic boutique B&B (160 Sloane Street, Goulburn, tel: (02) 4821 0707).Trappers Motor Inn (2 Lockyer Street, Goulburn, tel:(02) 48 225 445).
Danny’s at the Goulburn Workers Club (236-238 Auburn Street and McKell Place, Goulburn, tel: (02) 4821 3355).
The Paragon Café (174 Auburn St, Goulburn, tel: (02) 4821 3566).
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