Like any city or town, there’s a few different Bathursts. The most obvious, popular one would have to be the car racing Mt Panorama Bathurst. Then there’s the university subculture world. I gravitate to the “Newtown” end of Bathurst: Keppel St where the art gallery BRAG is, often stopping off at Al Dente for a sandwich or The Hub to sit out on the grapevine covered terrace.
But the more time you spend there, another layer of the town reveals itself. One of unusual architectural parts: Florentine domes, extravagant Victorian flourishes and intricate wooden fretwork. In the two hundred years since it has been established some accomplished and adventurous architects and builders have passed through.
Surrounded by the gracious public gardens that includes ponds, a Fernery and a Begonia House, the Courthouse is the jewel in the crown setting the tone of the town with its Renaissance influenced symmetry. Located in one of the wings is a charming old style museum, including a gorgeous collection of birds eggs housed in substantial glass cases. If you make your way upstairs you get walls of the original paintwork and access out onto the balcony to look over the street.
It’s lovely just to walk around this part of town. On a sunny day a picnic of sandwiches under the trees is calming. I try to pop into the Fossil and Mineral Museum, on nearby Hawick St, really one of my favourite museums in the world.
The same Victorian architect who designed the Courthouse also designed the Bathurst Gaol. It is fascinating to learn more about James Barnet: he designed 169 post offices, 130 courthouses, 155 police stations, 110 gaols and 20 lighthouses. His major works include the GPO, Customs House, Callan Park, the Mortuary Station at Central.
Another major Bathurst highlight is the late Victorian Carpenter Gothic style at the Show Grounds. An American style that’s also know as Rural Gothic, it’s not often seen in Australia. One other wonderful example is the historic home Meroogal.
But it’s not just the public buildings. Exploring the back streets can reveal some unique gems… houses that could be the central set in a movie or TV show.