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A landscape image of Goulburn, NSW, on a sunny day. Is Goulburn worth visiting?

Australia is a vast land filled with incredible destinations, and nestled within it is the often-overlooked gem of Goulburn. Goulburn is a city in New South Wales, with a rich history, culture and natural beauty, making it a must-visit place.

History of Goulburn

Goulburn’s history is deeply intertwined with its Indigenous heritage. Before European settlement, the area now known as Goulburn was inhabited by various Indigenous Australian groups, including the Gandangara people. These Indigenous communities had a rich cultural and spiritual connection to the land, with traditions and stories passed down through generations.

European explorers and settlers began arriving in the region in the early 19th century. In 1818, surveyor Meehan explored the area and noted its potential for agriculture and settlement. The expansion of European settlement had a significant impact on the Indigenous populations, leading to displacement and disruptions in their traditional ways of life.

Goulburn’s colonisation marked a turning point in its history. The city was officially founded in 1833 by Henry Goulburn, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and it was named in his honour. The fertile land and access to the Wollondilly River made it an attractive location for early settlers, and the town quickly grew as a vital agricultural and administrative centre.

A black and white portrait of Henry Goulburn.
Henry Goulburn: Wikipedia

One of the most iconic features of Goulburn’s colonial history is its architecture. The city boasts a remarkable collection of heritage-listed buildings, which include the impressive St. Saviour’s Cathedral and the historic Court House.

As Goulburn developed, it became an important hub for the surrounding agricultural regions. Its strategic location along major transport routes, including the Hume Highway, played a pivotal role in its growth. The city also served as a centre for education and government services, further solidifying its significance in the region.

Landmarks in Goulburn – Places to Visit

So what’s Goulburn famous for, and what makes it so historic?

Goulburn holds the distinction of being among the earliest inland settlements in New South Wales and the very first inland city in Australia. Here are some popular places to visit:

  1. St. Saviour’s Cathedral: This iconic Anglican cathedral is a masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture. It’s not only a place of worship but also a significant cultural and historical site in Goulburn. The cathedral’s stunning stained glass windows and intricate stonework are worth exploring.

  2. Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre: For those interested in the history of rail transport, this heritage centre houses an extensive collection of vintage locomotives and carriages, offering insights into the role of railways in Goulburn’s development.

  3. The Big Merino: The ‘Big Merino,’ a colossal sheep sculpture standing 15 metres tall, is an iconic symbol of the city’s wool industry. Inside this quirky structure, you can explore a gift shop, educational displays and learn about Australia’s wool heritage. Don’t forget to snap a memorable photo with this giant sheep!

  4. Goulburn Waterworks: This historic site showcases the evolution of water supply and sewage systems in the region. You can explore the Victorian-era pumphouse and learn about the city’s early engineering feats.

  5. Goulburn Regional Art Gallery: If you appreciate art, this gallery features a range of contemporary and traditional artworks. It often hosts exhibitions by local and national artists, making it a hub for artistic expression.

  6. Goulburn Court House: The Court House is a stunning sandstone building with a rich history. It’s not only an architectural gem but also serves as a reminder of Goulburn’s role in the judicial system.

  7. Rocky Hill War Memorial and Museum: Perched atop Rocky Hill, this war memorial offers panoramic views of Goulburn and houses a museum with exhibits related to Australia’s military history.

  8. Belmore Park: This park is not just a green oasis in the heart of Goulburn but also a cultural gathering place. It hosts various events and festivals, making it a vibrant centre of community life.

  9. Saint Clair Villa Museum: A beautifully restored Victorian-era villa, this museum offers insights into life during the 19th century. It’s a step back in time to experience the opulence and charm of the Victorian era.

  10. Lieder Theatre Company: Goulburn has a thriving performing arts scene, and the Lieder Theatre Company is at the forefront of it. Check their schedule for live theatre performances and cultural events.

NSW Police Academy

Goulburn is home to one of Australia’s most renowned law enforcement institutions, the New South Wales Police Academy. Located on the outskirts of the city, this academy serves as the training ground for aspiring police officers from across the state. The facility offers comprehensive training programs, equipping recruits with the knowledge, skills and ethical foundation necessary for a career in law enforcement. It boasts excellent facilities, including classrooms, practical training areas and fitness centres, ensuring that students receive a good education.

Officers trained at the NSW Goulburn Police Academy stand attentively in their uniforms.
Goulburn Police Academy graduates. Image by Southern Highland News.

Exploring the Outdoors

Goulburn offers a diverse range of outdoor activities for nature enthusiasts and adventurers. You can explore the lush natural beauty of the region by hiking and cycling in the numerous parks and trails, such as Belmore Park and Bungonia National Park, or visit the spectacular Wombeyan Caves just an hour’s drive from Goulburn. Fishing and picnicking by the serene waters of the Wollondilly River are popular choices. For those seeking more adrenaline-pumping experiences, Goulburn provides opportunities for horseback riding, rock climbing and even hot air ballooning.

Dining in Goulburn

No travel experience is complete without savouring local cuisine. Goulburn offers a range of dining options, from cosy cafes to fine dining establishments. Be sure to try local specialties, particularly the lamb dishes, as Goulburn is known for its quality lamb production.

You can also savour exquisite wines produced in its refreshing cool climate. You have the opportunity to taste exceptional selections at Kingsdale Wines and Yarralaw Springs Wines. Alternatively, if you venture south, you’ll discover highly-praised shiraz at renowned wineries like Lerida Estate in Lake George and Collector Wines located in the charming historic village of Collector.

Whether you’re a food enthusiast or simply in search of a satisfying meal, Goulburn has a culinary experience to remember.Top of Form

How to Get to Goulburn from Sydney

Goulburn is easily accessible by road from Sydney. The most common route is to take the Hume Highway (M31) south from Sydney. The distance is approximately 195 kilometres, and the drive takes around 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on traffic conditions. It’s a well-maintained highway, and you’ll pass through picturesque countryside along the way.

If you prefer a scenic train journey, you can take the Southern Highlands Line from Sydney Central Station. The train ride provides a relaxing way to reach Goulburn while enjoying the beautiful landscapes of the Southern Highlands. The journey typically takes around 2.5 to 3 hours, and Goulburn has its own railway station, making it a convenient choice for travellers.

How to Get to Goulburn from Canberra

Travelling from Canberra to Goulburn by car is a straightforward journey. Begin your trip by heading north on Northbourne Avenue (A23) from Canberra’s city centre, and then merge onto the Federal Highway (M23). Continue along the Federal Highway for approximately 80 kilometres, which usually takes about an hour of driving time. This route will lead you directly to Goulburn.

For those seeking a more relaxed and scenic journey, the train offers a pleasant way to reach Goulburn from Canberra. You can catch a train from either Canberra Railway Station (Kingston) or Queanbeyan Railway Station, both situated near the city centre. The train route, known as the Southern Highlands Line, takes you through beautiful landscapes. The duration of the train journey varies but typically ranges from 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on the specific service and stops. Your destination is Goulburn Railway Station.

Ensure you double check the directions before setting off, as roads and rail lines can change!

What to do in Goulburn

Goulburn is a city that captivates with its rich history, diverse culture and abundant natural beauty. Its historic architecture, from the iconic St. Saviour’s Cathedral to the Court House, provides a glimpse into the past, while its cultural sites and events showcase a vibrant and thriving present. Goulburn’s strategic location between Sydney and Canberra makes it easily accessible, whether you choose to drive along the Hume Highway or opt for a scenic train journey. The city’s outdoor offerings, such as hiking, cycling and exploring parks, invite you to immerse yourself in its lush landscapes. Goulburn is definitely a place worth visiting.