It was Australia’s first inland city and it exudes some Victorian grandeur. Bernard O’Shea pulls off the highway into Goulburn, feeling peckish and, ultimately, monumentally sheepish.
If you’re driving down the Hume Highway from Sydney to Canberra or beyond to Melbourne, there’s a good chance you will stop at Goulburn. I mean, who can go 200 kilometres without a good coffee, food and a toilet break? Not I!
At one point travellers had no choice but to enter the city, as the highway ran through it, but in the early 1990s a bypass was built. Nevertheless, Goulburn makes a more convivial stop than the petrol station diners and fast food outlets clumped along the highway, and is worth the short detour. It was proclaimed Australia’s first inland city in 1863 and as a result its historic buildings are grander than what you might expect from a city with a population of around 25,000.
My favourite building is the courthouse (pictured at top), one of the most impressive in rural Australia. Designed by the long-serving NSW Colonial Architect James Barnet, whose contribution to city landscapes across the state was enormous, it was built in Italianate style in 1887. Today the grounds might look peaceful with their flowerbeds, but at one point the gallows were there.
Opposite the courthouse is Belmore Park, a pleasant spot to unwind or stretch the legs. It is laid out in an “English Geometric style” – with a number of monuments, statues and and ornaments in the centre, and ash, elm and oak trees lining its perimeter.
Among the attractions is the Band Rotunda, built in 1899 in the “flamboyant High Victorian style” (Victorians could be flamboyant, who knew?). It was recently refurbished to make its modern iteration a bit more true to the original.
In the centre of the park are a memorial and a fountain in honour of a former Mayor and Member of Parliament, and some splendid trees.
On the Montague Street side of the park is the Glasshouse and, more importantly perhaps for visitors, the public toilets, but we’re not going to show you a photo of those!
Time for food. Our favourite place in Goulburn at the moment is The Roses Cafe, on Montague Street right opposite the park. Always beautifully decorated with flowers, its atmosphere sure beats that of a highway pit-stop diner.
Even a simple homemade mini sausage roll comes very nicely presented… (I can’t believe I ordered the mini, I normally go the whole roll!)
At the bottom end of the park is a Boer War Memorial, a children’s playground and, across Sloane Street, the Goulburn Visitor Information Centre. The city has other attractions, of course, but there is one you can’t miss as you head out south to rejoin the highway: it’s The Big Merino on Hume Street.
What a fine beast! Why is he here (it’s definitely a he – take a look at the stupendous rear anatomy if you dare, it’s one of our most viewed images on Facebook). Well, Goulburn is known as the fine wool capital of the world, that’s why. TTW
Bernard O’Shea travelled at his own expense. More at visitnsw.com. Photos © Bernard O’Shea.