Ask any Aussie to put together a list of quintessential country towns and chances are Gundagai in the New South Wales Riverina will be on it, thanks largely to legendary Australian singer-songwriter Jack O’ Hagan. He penned Along The Road to Gundagai back in the early 1920s (itself, preceded by a poem of a similar name by Banjo Paterson), which found its way into Australian folklore. While the road to Gundagai is now a four-lane freeway, the blue gums still grow, the Murrumbidgee River still flows, and the town has lost none of its rural charm. Gundagai is a destination that history buffs in particular, will love. Heritage bridges, gripping tales of pioneering heroism and a trove of heritage architecture are all waiting to be discovered.
Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Gundagai. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.
Grab breakfast to go from the Gundagai Bakery
It wouldn’t be a visit to an Aussie country town without sampling the wares of the local bakery for breakfast and at 150+ years old, Gundagai Bakery has had plenty of time to get things just right. Situated right in the heart of the town centre, it boasts some award winning baked treats (and has the trophies and certificates to prove it!). Our bet is you’ll end up here more than once.
Take in the view from Mount Parnassus
Mount Parnassus features in Greek mythology as the home of the nine muses. Gundagai’s version lacks the mythical proportions, but will certainly inspire you with sweeping views across the town and surrounding region. The drive from town to the lookout will only take a couple of minutes (you could even walk it from the bakery in 15-or-so minutes if you need to burn some rogue calories). Gundagai is famous for its structurally remarkable heritage bridges that span the Murrumbidgee floodplains, and the lookout will give you a chance to compare the old and new. To your left, the heritage Prince Alfred Bridge and railway viaduct stretch out across the flat landscape; to your right, traffic streams along the modern Hume Highway viaduct which crosses the Murrumbidgee on the Sheahan Bridge (one of the longest bridges in New South Wales).
Drop by the Gundagai Visitor Information Centre
Head back into town and make your way to the Gundagai Visitor Information Centre to collect some intel on what’s on around town. Tomorrow you’ll be seeing the famous Dog on the Tuckerbox sculpture; here at the centre you can see another work by sculptor Frank Rusconi, and this lavish labour of love is well worth the $5 entry fee. Rusconi’s Marble Masterpiece is made of more than 20,000 hand cut and polished pieces of marble and borrows various elements from classical architectural styles, rolling them all up into one epic edifice. Is it a church? Is it a palace? No-one’s too sure, but full marks for effort. It took some 28 years to complete!
Take a heritage walking tour around town
Gundagai is packed with heritage buildings, and you’ll get to tick many of them off on the two-kilometre self-guided walking tour that’s been put together by the fine folk at the Visitor Information Centre. Grab an old-school map or download the Cya on the Road app and sign in to hear recorded segments on more than 20 significant landmarks, including the Old Post Office, theatre, columned Court House, Old Gaol and no-longer-in-use Railway Station (which dates back to 1886). You’ll also get an up-close look at those heritage bridges. This activity can easily fill an entire afternoon, particularly if you choose to stop at some of the attractions. There are various spots to enjoy a light lunch and restorative latte along the way. Bring a good hat and sunscreen as there isn’t a lot of shade in certain areas.
Visit the Gundagai Historical Museum
Located just over half-way along the walk, the Gundagai Historical Museum is worth an extended visit. Gundagai was established in 1840, but moved to higher ground in 1852 following a devastating flood (you will have seen The Great Rescue of 1852 monument earlier on the walk). The discovery of gold, and later a flourishing agricultural industry, helped build the town. The museum will give you more of that backstory. It closes at 3pm, so don’t get there too late.
Enjoy dinner and a drink at one of Gundagai’s classic country pubs
Gundagai has some great country pubs, so take your pick for dinner and drinks. The Criterion Hotel serves up an array of tasty pizza options on their deck overlooking the main street, while the Family Hotel up the road does generously sized pub classics, including steaks, parmies, and a killer roast of the day. The Gundagai District Service Club (opposite the Visitor Information Centre) is also a good option, and offers a contemporary setting and well-priced meals.
Wake up with The Coffee Pedaler
Get the wheels in motion for the day at The Coffee Pedaler on Sheridan Street. It offers an array of house-made-and-baked treats for breakfast, and great coffee to boot. The cafe occupies what was originally a bank, and old meets new in the fitout.
Meet the Dog on the Tucker Box
The iconic Dog on the Tucker Box monument, also crafted by Rusconi, cast in Sydney, and erected in 1932, is probably responsible for enticing the lion’s share of visitors off the Hume Highway. The monument, located about eight kilometres’ drive north of Gundagai, is thought to be based on a 19th century poem about bullock drays and celebrates the unwavering dedication of man’s best friend (in this case, tenaciously guarding the bullock driver’s tucker to the bitter end). Jack O’ Hagan also turned this tale into a hit tune: Where the Dog Sits On The Tuckerbox (5 Miles from Gundagai). Snap a selfie and browse in the visitor centre for a souvenir of your visit.
Follow a section of the Southern Gold Trail
While you’re out and about, take the opportunity to follow a stretch of the Southern Gold Trail, which extends from Yass to Kiandra. Gold was discovered in the region early in the New South Wales rush, which lasted roughly from the 1850s to the 1880s. Gold settlements rose and fell, but some survived and later thrived as provincial hubs. Head south from Gundagai along the Hume and turn off at Tumblong to reach Adelong. The state heritage-listed Adelong Falls Gold Mill Ruins are an atmospheric remnant from the era. The mill continued to process ore up until 1914. Cruise on to the town of Tumut, which sits in the north-west foothills of the Snowy Mountains and is home to yet more exquisite period architecture, a community museum and heritage railway precinct. If time is on your side, you can head south from there past Blowering Dam to Kiandra. If not, circle back to Gundagai.
See what’s playing at The Sheridan Room
The aforementioned Old Post Office houses The Sheridan Room – a gorgeous event space that hosts a diverse calendar of live public events, cabaret, concerts, and dinner theatre. There are also high teas with live music on Sundays. It’s worth checking out what’s on prior to your visit and pre-booking tickets to your choice of event. You’ll rub shoulders with locals and get a unique insight into the social fabric of the community.
Need a place to stay?
The Comfort Inn Sovereign Gundagai is located on the edge of the town centre, within walking distance of several historic points of interest. Enjoy comfortable accommodation, with free parking and Wi-Fi.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.
Cover image courtesy of Destination NSW