Wild and wonderful Wollombi

From rugged natural beauty to inspiring creatives and culinary delights, Wollombi has it all.

Some of Australia’s finest rainforest scenery, colourful convict history, lovingly preserved heritage buildings, a vibrant arts scene, warm country hospitality and award-winning wineries: all that and more can be found in and around the historic village of Wollombi.

Chances are that you will make your way to Wollombi on Tourist Drive 33, which encompasses parts of the Convict Trail, or Great North Road, built by convicts from 1826 to 1836. 240 kilometres long, it is recognised as one of the 19th century’s greatest engineering feats in Australia and connects Sydney with the Hunter Valley and Newcastle. While the original road surface is mostly buried under bitumen, take your time to admire stone retaining walls, culverts, and bridges as the road winds its way through sandstone gorges and across high ridges.

Wollombi itself was established in the 1830s as the administrative centre for the district, at a junction of the Great North Road. Make sure to visit the former courthouse, now the Endeavour Museum, and pick up a map for the Wollombi Village Walk. An easy 1km walk, it starts at St. John’s Anglican Church and meanders past a variety of historic buildings and sites, including the Wollombi Cemetery, consecrated in 1849 by Bishop Tyrrell, and the final resting place for many of the district’s early European settlers.
Up and down the main street, plenty of quaint little shops offer fresh produce, olive oils, cheeses, and preserves, but also custom-made furniture or homewares. On the holiday Mondays of the long weekends in June and October, Wollombi Market Day draws more than 100 stalls offering plants and produce, crafts and clothes, tools and bric-a-brac.

Befitting a town that has hosted a major arts event like Sculpture in the Vineyards for almost two decades, several art galleries will also vie for your attention. At Yengo Gallery, admire the works of aboriginal artists many of them living in remote areas of Australia. Run by community volunteers, 90% of all sales are passed back to the artists. Pop into Roadside Gallery and take in the eclectic and inspiring works of seven very different local creatives. From metal sculptures and basketry to leather creations and functional fabric art, be prepared to be blown away. The Wollombi Valley Arts Council is a not-for-profit organisation run solely by volunteers and regularly holds exhibitions in the Old Fire Shed Gallery at the Wollombi Cultural Centre.

Read more in the Winter issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Cornelia Schulze