Cootamundra is a small rural town located on the edge of the Riverina region of NSW. It is an easy two-hour drive north-west of Canberra and we reckon it’s the perfect spot to base yourself for a few days and explore all the region has to offer.
We were lucky enough to spend almost a month living and working in the town. We found it to be a friendly town, with plenty to see and do both in town or within an easy drive of the town.
BIRTHPLACE OF ‘THE DON’
Cootamundra is perhaps best known for being the birthplace of our very own cricket legend, Sir Donald Bradman. The cottage that he was born in on 27 August, 1908 is now a museum celebrating his life and cricketing feats. The cottage next door is also home to a display of cricket memorabilia.
Bradman’s Birthplace Museum is open daily and costs just $5.00 for entry. For the cricket buff it is a must see.
Also celebrating Cootamundra’s link to our cricketing history is the Captains Walk, which is located in Jubilee Park (right next door to the caravan park). Here you will find a life-sized bronze statue of ‘The Don’ in action. Also on display here are bronze busts of previous Australian cricket captains starting with David Gregory who was captain from 1877 to 1879.
COOTAMUNDRA HERITAGE CENTRE
The Cootamundra Heritage Centre is a fascinating step back in time. Housed in the former Railway Barracks, each of the 14 rooms focuses on a different part of Cootamundra’s history. You can learn more about the railway and rural heritage of Cootamundra as well as the area’s contribution during World War II. There is also a room dedicated to HMAS Cootamundra – the Bathurst-class corvette named after the town.
Entry to the Heritage Centre is by gold coin donation. The Heritage Centre is also the home of the Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre. Staffed by a team of volunteers, the Heritage Centre is open daily.
Next door is a lovely Craft Shop where you just might find something hand-made by a local.
FOR TRAIN BUFFS
Cootamundra has always been a busy railway town and the lovely railway station is still in use today. A Victorian Gothic design, the railway station was an important location during the late nineteenth century. Many trains pass through Cootamundra on an almost daily basis. The foot over bridge is a great way to view both the station building and any trains that are passing through.
An indication of just how important Cootamundra was as a railway town is the fact that there was a second railway station on the outskirts of town. West Cootamundra is no longer used, but the lovely railway buildings are still present.
AROUND THE AREA
Bethungra is a tiny village just 20 kilometres away from Cootamundra. It is perhaps best known for it’s rail spiral.This engineering feat from the 1940’s is a 360-degree loop that allows locomotives to climb the steep incline. It includes 2 tunnels and 33 metre deep cuttings. There are a couple of spots where you can get a clear view of the spiral. One is off the Olympic Hwy before you get to the village itself and the other is off the road that leads to the Bethungra Dam Reserve.
In Bethungra village itself you can’t help but admire the beautiful Bethungra Hotel or Hotel Shirley as it is more commonly known. The Hotel rose to prominance in 2018 when the owners decided to give the hotel away for $1.00. Catch was you had to pay $100 to apply for the opportunity. From what I can find out this was stopped by Fair Trading and the hotel was sold in the normal manner. On the day of my visit it looked very closed up but it would be amazing if it was to open again one day.
Another most do in Bethungra is a stop at The Olde School T-House. A great spot for morning tea or lunch and a chance to browse the very eclectic collection of old and new goods for sale.
Wallendbeen is a small village just a short 20 minute drive from Cootamundra. Markets are held in Wallendbeen on a regular basis and are usually well worth checking out. As is the historic Wallendbeen Hotel which is a great spot for a cold beer on a hot.
WHERE TO EAT IN COOTAMUNDRA
We found there were a couple of great spots to eat in Cootamundra. The local Services Club has a bistro which serves both Chinese and Australian meals. We ate here a couple of times and the meals were excellent and not overly expensive.
I also discovered a couple of nice coffee shops. Planted and Dusty Road were my favourites.
WHERE TO STAY
Cootamundra Caravan Park of course! Now you might think we are a little bit biased as we had the privilege of managing this awesome little park for a few days. But I can assure you it really is a lovely spot.
For starters, it has the cleanest amenities I have ever seen anywhere! There is also loads of room with good sized drive-thru sites down the middle, with smaller sites along the fence line. Come spring time there are plenty of shady trees to help keep you cool.
The other bonus is that the caravan park is just in the best spot. You can walk everywhere. Head out the back gate and you will only have a short walk to the Services Club, Woolworths and the main street. The local pool is nearby as well.
OTHER THINGS TO DO
Still looking for more to do? There are plenty of walking trails and mountain bike tracks around Cootamundra. It’s an easy day trip to Junee where you can check out the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory or Monti Christo – the most haunted house in Australia. Temora is also only a short drive away and has a great aviation museum. The small town of Harden-Murrumburrah is also worth a visit as is the tiny village of Binalong.
We really did love our time in Cootamundra and we think you will too. Such a great spot to spend a couple of days.