Canowindra is a lovely little town located in the Central West region of New South Wales mid-way between Cowra and Orange. And no it is not pronounced Can-o-windra but rather Ca-noun-dra which is a Wiradjuri (local Aboriginal people) word meaning home. It is probably most well-known for it’s annual Hot Air Balloon Festival which is held in April each year and it’s Age Of Fishes Museum, but that is not all this quaint town has to offer.
Canowindra was first settled in about 1815 after the foundation of Bathurst. These early settlers were attracted by the fertile river plains of the Belubula River and the town quickly flourished. These days life is much quieter but many of the old buildings remain and are heritage listed.
Wandering down the main street the first thing you will notice is how wide it is and that it has a curve in it. This is the result of it following what would have originally been a bullock track. The main street boasts an assortment of small shops which are lovely to browse in, as well as a couple of pubs and a few coffee shops.
I can recommend the ‘Deli Lama’ as being a great spot to find something yummy for morning tea or lunch. Plus I love the name! A very clever play on words. The owner Tommy is a former Cowra local and has been in the food business for many years. If available try his New York Baked Cheesecake – it was to die for!
Another interesting shop if you are a reader is Virginia Cullane Books. They specialise in rare and out of print books and I could have spent hours in there browsing. As it was I saw about six books that I would have loved but settled on just one!
For the ladies I also found a gorgeous womens’ clothing shop called Saffi and although I didn’t buy anything the owner was lovely and very helpful as I continued on my quest to find a decent fitting pair of jeans!
Several of these shops only open later in the week and on weekends so make sure you time your visit right.
Almost on the outskirts of town you will find the Canowindra Trading Post – a fantastic two story treasure trove of new and old, including antiques, home wares, garden wares and jewellery. You could literally spend a couple of hours browsing through the numerous rooms and displays. Once you are done browsing (and buying) you can enjoy a coffee and something to eat in the back garden area.
If you’re in the mood to try a few wines just a short walk up the street from the Trading Post is ‘taste Canowindra’. You can try nearly all the wines that are produced in the local area at taste. In my opinion you can’t go past the Rosnay Organic Shiraz and the Swinging Bridge wines are pretty good too.
The highlight of any visit to Canowindra though is a visit to the Age of Fishes Museum. In 1955 Canowindra became the scene of one of the world’s greatest fossil deposit finds. What was discovered in subsequent years was more than 100 Devonian fossil fish that had been deposited there about 360 million years ago. That was 100 million years before the dinosaurs roamed out earth.
The Museum houses some fantastic examples of these fossilized fishes and is a great educational facility. The ‘Outdoor Timeline’ is particularly interesting as it what species inhabited the earth during the different periods. Picnic facilities are also available in the rear garden area.
If you are after accommodation in Canowindra there are quite a few options. The Canowindra Caravan Park is right on the banks of the Belubula River. It has powered and un-powered sites for very reasonable rates – about $20 a night. It is right next door to the local pool and just a short stroll to the main street.
There are also a few lovely B & B’s around. One in particular which caught my eye was Grantham House. A beautiful heritage style house that has been fully restored and offers 3 bedrooms, a private lounge area and a formal dining room. Another option is The Falls Retreat. Many years ago it was both a B & B and a spot to hold private functions and I actually enjoyed a number of Christmas and Christmas in July functions there. Now it is just a B & B but it was a gorgeous old house with beautiful big verandas and amazing views.