Heritage-listed towns to visit this winter

Looking for a cosy escape as the cold weather sets in? Check out these regional NSW heritage towns for a dose of both history and adventure.

Regional NSW boasts an abundance of remarkable villages that reflect the growth and development of Australia. Farming, mining, and transportation have all contributed to a vast collection of eclectic, historical villages throughout the state. While some have grown into larger towns and cities, many remain charmingly untouched, with their heritage character still on full display. Here are a few of our favourite gems in the NSW countryside.

Braidwood
Braidwood town centre. Image: Destination NSW.

Braidwood

Braidwood is arguably NSW’s quintessential heritage village, with almost all of the precinct listed on the State Heritage Register. Braidwood was established by Europeans in the early 19th century, after an explorative survey of the Shoalhaven River Basin area.  The area was known in the local Aboriginal language as Wigwigly, meaning plenty of fur, referring to the abundance of resources in the district. It is for this reason that the land was settled, as it was identified as ample and fertile farming ground.

Land grants were made available to settlers in the 1820s, and a number of prominent farms were established, including ‘Braidwood Farm’ (now known as Mona Farm), ‘Strathallan’ and ‘Bedervale’. By the mid-1800s, a township had been established to support this booming farming industry. The streetscapes of this town remain largely untouched, with the State Heritage listing for the place identifying that “Braidwood is a very good surviving example of a colonial Georgian town plan with its simple grid still largely intact.”

Today, Braidwood hosts a wealth of tourist destinations, including numerous bakeries and restaurants, boutiques and antiques, and ample accommodation in the region. Read more about Braidwood on the Visit NSW website. While you’re in town, you can make an appointment to check out the historic homestead Bedervale, which retains an incredible collection of 19th century homewares owned by the National Trust (NSW).

Braidwood
The historic streets of Braidwood. Image: Visit Queanbeyan-Palerang Council.

Sofala

The village of Sofala, located on Wiradjuri Country, sprung into existence upon the discovery of gold along the Turon river in 1851. Within months, a flock of thousands had descended upon the river in pursuit of wealth, and a tent city erected around the banks. Soon, the town quickly boomed to an immense population of 10,000. The popularity was, however, short-lived, and as soon as the gold supply receded, so did the inhabitants. Many of the buildings in the village that remain are from this period of development during the mid-late nineteenth century, and the whole space is encompassed by a conservation area on the National Trust Register.

Sofala
Gold panning in Sofala. Image: Destination NSW.

The village was visited and depicted in the paintings of prominent artists Russel Drysdale and Donald Friend in 1947. It would later be painted by Brett Whitely in 1958. The National Trust listed the 150+ year-old timber Sofala Gold Commissioner’s House in 2022.

Today, the village consists of four mains streets and about 40 buildings nestled along the bends of the river. The Royal Hotel remains open for lunch and dinner, and there are a number of free camping sites around the town. You can still even try to find your own gold by panning the river. Read more about what you can do in Sofala on the Bathurst Regional Council website. You can also visit the National Trust property Miss Traill’s House on your way there.

National Trust (NSW) destination Miss Traill’s House in Bathurst.

Morpeth

Morpeth is a small town on the banks of the Hunter River, located just to the east of historic Maitland. Its Aboriginal name is ‘Illalaung,’ meaning green hills, and it remains set in the idyllic countryside to date. The town was established as an agricultural and industrial hub in the early 19th century, as a river port town essential to the wharf trade of the Hunter Region. Queens Wharf, opened on the western edge of Morpeth in 1833, was frequented by the lumbering industry, farmers, and merchants wishing to ship and trade their goods further afield.

Morpeth
The Hunter River, Morpeth. Image: Newy Digital; Maitland City Council.

This was a time when the best travel routes throughout NSW were often via the waterways, being the fastest and most reliable method. Indeed, water travel was the main connection between the burgeoning industrial settlements of the Newcastle and Sydney regions. However, the establishment of the Great Northern Railway in 1857 saw the decline of port trade, and by the end of the decade, Morpeth had shrunk in industry and population. Luckily for us, this meant a large proportion of the village was maintained in its historic state, providing an incredible historic setting to visit.

Nestled amongst its historic streets are a plethora of eateries, which can be visited on the way to the gallery, museum, antique stores or a heritage walking tour. Read more about Morpeth here and while you’re in the area, check out the National Trust’s nearby properties Miss Porters House and Grossman and Brough Houses.

Morpeth
Morpeth Museum. Image: Destination NSW.

Berrima

Located in the Southern Highlands of NSW, the name Berrima is an Aboriginal word for ‘Southward’ or ‘Black Swan’. The Wingecarribee area was originally discovered by Europeans in the late 1790s, and then further explored by Hamilton Hume in the 1810s. The town was developed in the 1830s as an administrative centre for southern NSW and prospered as an important pit stop along the Old Hume Highway.

Berrima
The historic town of Berrima. Image: Destination NSW.

Similarly to Morpeth, the introduction of the railway disrupted the necessity of this township, as transportation of both people and industry moved away from the place in the mid 1800s. This led to a decrease in the population of the town, with no new development for years, and many of the older buildings accidentally preserved in place. The town now flourishes as a tourist destination, and its once under-appreciated heritage is now a selling point.

Berrima features a number of prominent heritage buildings, including the courthouse, post office, various pubs and of course the 1835 gaol built by convict labour. The National Trust-owned Harpers Mansion, which sits on the hill overlooking the town, was built circa 1929 and is one of the oldest buildings in the region. The National Trust also recently completed an update of our heritage register report for Berrima Public school, which was originally listed by us in 1974.

Harper's Mansion
While in Berrima, visit National Trust (NSW) destination Harper’s Mansion.

Find out more

The National Trust (NSW) has been campaigning to protect NSW’s built, cultural and natural heritage for over 75 years. Find out more about our advocacy work.

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