The pleasant city of BATHURST, elegantly situated on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range 210km west of Sydney, is Australia's oldest inland settlement. Its beautifully preserved nineteenth-century architecture, antique shops, lively arts scene and good cafés make it a pleasant overnight stop. It was the discovery of gold nearby at Lewis Ponds Creek at Ophir in 1851, and on the Turon River later the same year, which changed the life of the town and the colony forever. Soon rich fields of alluvial gold were discovered in every direction and Bathurst prospered and grew. In 1885 Bathurst was proclaimed a city, and by the late 1890s it was even proposing itself as the site for the capital of the new Commonwealth of Australia.
Although there's still the odd speck of gold to be found in the surrounding area, modern Bathurst has reverted to its role as capital of one of the richest fruit- and grain-growing districts in Australia. The presence of the Charles Sturt University, one of Australia's leading institutes, gives the city an academic feel and adds to its liveliness. Over the second weekend in October, rev-heads turn up for the big annual motor-racing meetings – centred on the famous Bathurst 1000 endurance race – at the Mount Panorama Racing Circuit. If V8 supercars do it for you, this is the place to be.