Cowra is a small rural town located in the Central West region of N.S.W. It is a little over a four hour drive west of Sydney, so it is a great spot for a weekend getaway. Situated on the banks of the Lachlan River, Cowra is in the heart of Wiradjuri country. The area was first settled by Europeans in 1831. No doubt they recognized what a prime location it was for agricultural ventures such as cropping and grazing.
OUR HOME TOWN
We are proud to call Cowra ‘home’. Brenden was born and raised here and it is the place that I have lived the longest in. We love coming back here and seeing the changes that have occurred. Cowra has an interesting history and there is a lot to see and do around the town that relates to those historical events.
PRISONER OF WAR CAMP REMAINS
Cowra is probably best known for the escape of almost 380 Japanese Prisoners of War from the Cowra POW camp in the early hours of August 5th, 1944. A thousand prisoners launched an attack on the guards armed with crude weapons. 107 prisoners were injured, 231 prisoners died and 4 Australian soldiers were killed. The remaining escapees were re-captured over the course of the following week.
From this incident, a long standing friendship has developed between Cowra and Japan. Memorials have been established to commemorate the loss of both the Japanese and Australian lives.
Some remains of POW camp buildings can still be seen in the paddocks at the sight of the camp. A number of information boards tell the story of ‘The Breakout’ from both the Australian and Japanese perspectives. In recent years, picnic tables, more trees and a walking track have been added to the area.
Many cherry blossom trees have been planted along the roadsides leading into the camp – another symbol of the friendship that now exists between the two countries.
Perhaps the most interesting remains at the sight is what was originally thought to be an old stone church. As the camp was stripped of all it’s equipment when it was closed in 1946, it was not known that the building was in fact the Garrison Electrical Switch Room. It was built by Italian POW’s. It was built from whatever materials the Italians were able to ‘scrounge’ together.
COWRA JAPAN WAR CEMETARY
The Japanese POW’s were all buried in Cowra. Japanese who had died prior to the breakout were already buried in marked graves in the general area of the Cowra Cemetary. In 1960 the Japanese government decided to bring the rest of it’s ‘war dead’ from other parts of Australia and bury them in Cowra. The Cowra-Japan War Cemetery was formed from that decision. Situated next to the town cemetery on Doncaster Drive, it is a fitting memorial to those who lost their lives during the Breakout.
COWRA VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE
If you want to learn more about the events that occurred in Cowra during World War II then I highly recommend stopping in at the Cowra Visitor Information Centre. There you can view a 9 minute hologram that tells the story of the breakout from a local perspective. It’s a great way for everyone to learn about this event.
Whilst there you can also take a wander through the Rose Gardens, grab a coffee and something to eat at the always popular Rose Gardens Coffee Shop or let the kids stretch there legs at the playground next door. There is loads of parking for caravans on both the Boorowa Road and the Young Road.
LOW LEVEL BRIDGE
Just across the Boorowa Road from the Visitor Info Centre is access to the old ‘Low Level Bridge’ which crosses over the Lachlan River. This often becomes flooded during times of heavy rain. A new concrete bridge was opened in 1986 and the concrete pylons have been covered in some fabulous murals that celebrate the local indigenous culture of the Wiradjuri people.
There is also a dog exercise area there and it’s a great spot to cool off on a hot day as well. A walking track now runs south along the edge of the Lachlan River for those who want to get some exercise with a view!
When in Cowra a visit to the beautiful Japanese Gardens is an absolute must! A monument to peace that was first opened in 1979, the gardens stretch out over 5 acres of manicured lawns. Traditional Japanese tea houses, koi ponds and rocky outcrops are all part of these beautiful gardens.
They are a beautifully tranquil spot to visit and each season brings out different colours. From the crimson reds of Autumn to the vivid green of spring and summer. There is also an Art Gallery on site, a gift shop and a lovely coffee shop where you can enjoy lunch, morning or afternoon tea.
Right next door to the Japanese Gardens you will find a lovely park, picnic and BBQ area and the lookout known locally as ‘Billy Goat Hill’. This lookout affords spectacular views of the town and surrounding countryside, especially just before sunset.
WHERE TO STAY
Although we usually stay with family whilst in Cowra, if you are visiting I can recommend the Cowra Van Park. Located just at the bottom of the main street, it is within walking distance of shops, pubs, clubs and the local swimming pool. The grounds are beautifully maintained with plenty of green grass and trees. There are several cabins, as well as powered and un-powered sites available and many of the cabins are currently being refurbished.
We have also stayed at the Cowra Showgrounds which is a low cost alternative at just $20 a night or $100 for a week. There are several sites with power and water, a new camp kitchen and clean and tidy amenities.
Another great spot where you can enjoy some fishing, is Wyangala Dam. With a range of facilities within the park, it’s an awesome spot to stay.
SHOPPING AND DINING
For a small country town, there are some great shops. Bushmans Boot’s and All have a great selection of country style clothing. If you’re after some new shoes, check out Shoes 4 You. If it’s a gift you’re looking for I can recommend Re’lish Home Living at the top of the main street. For places to eat try the Breakout Brasserie (their Carrot Cake is the best) or the Imperial Hotel.
OTHER THINGS TO DO
The area surrounding Cowra also provides the visitor to the area with lots to do. Take a drive over to the small town of Grenfell to see the recently painted Silos there. A visit to Young – the Cherry Capital of Australia is also a great day out. If you are into history then the tiny village of Carcoar is a must as well. If you are a keen fisherman or into water sports then put Wyangala Dam on your list as well.
A visit to the small town of Canowindra will have you learning about the amazing dinosaur fossils found there a number of years ago. For a special treat, time your visit to the area with a long weekend so as you can visit the famous Iandra Castle. You won’t believe your eyes when you see it.