Situated on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River , the famous town of Gundagai has long been a favourite stopping place for travellers along the Hume Highway. Today it is a sympathetic blend of fine historic architecture and modern commercial and residential development. Its expanse of fertile river flats remains to this day, with the central shopping precinct surrounded by a patchwork of pastures and croplands, constant reminders of Gundagai's role as a service centre for a rich agricultural industry. With its range of cafes, restaurants, sporting facilities, beautiful scenery, picturesque buildings and many things to see and do, Gundagai offers a tranquil yet fascinating holiday destination.
Fine views up and down the Murrumbidgee River valley attract artists of all kind, and the town's recreational facilities offer relaxing holiday options.
Gundagai is also the ideal centre from which to discover the beauty and recreational activities of the Riverina Highlands, taking in such towns as Tumut, Adelong, Batlow, Talbingo, Tumbarumba, Khancoban and Cabramurra.
One-day tours from Gundagai provide opportunity to visit orchards and vineyards, taking a firsthand look at gold mining heritage, huge timber plantations, historical huts, lakes and rivers and the Snowy Mountains Scheme, enjoy picturesque parks and gardens, Kosciuszko National Park, Mt Selwyn ski resort, Yarrangobilly Caves, waterfalls, trout farms, the Hume and Hovell walking track and more.
Gundagai is an excellent base for visits to other historic towns such as Junee, Cootamundra, Temora and Wagga Wagga.
It was 1824 that the overland explores Hamilton Hume and William Hovell, soon followed by the rivermen Charles Sturt and Thomas Mitchell, opened up the trail for pioneers. Fiver Mile Creek north of Gundagai became a popular camping spot for teamsters and their supply-laden bullock wagons.
The original Gundagai was surveyed on the wide alluvial flats north of the Murrumbidgee . In 1843 a post office was opened and there were four hotels, several stores, a blacksmith, a school twenty houses and numerous tents.
On the night of June 24, 1852, the flooded Murrumbidgee raged through the small township, drowning 79 of the 250 inhabitants and an unknown number of travellers, and destroying 71 buildings.
Many people were saved by local Wiradjuri Aborigines Yarri and Jacky, who spent the wild night in frail boats, ferrying men, women and children to safety from rooftops and trees.
Rebuilding took place on the slopes of Mount Parnassus , giving rise to the present town with its many fine heritage buildings.
Gundagai is rich in its association with colonial days. Woven into its historical tapestry are legends of the prospectors, and of bushrangers Ben Hall and Captain Moonlite, drawn by the lure of the miners' hard-won gold. Reminders of the gold fever which gripped the town in 1861 and again in 1894 may be seen in nearby abandoned goldmines and buildings.
Captain Moonlite - Bushranger
On January 20, 1880, just before he faced the hangman's noose at Sydney 's Darlinghurst gaol, Andrew George Scott - better known as Captain Moonlite - wrote: I want to rest in the grave of my friend. Gratify my last wish if you can. Do it in the cheapest manner possible. I have one hour to live.
It took 115 years to grant his last wish, but on January 13 1995 his remains were finally laid to rest in the Anglican section of North Gundagai cemetery, metres from the unmarked graves of his friends James Nesbitt and Augustus Wernicke.
Close by is the grave of constable Edward Mostyn Webb-Bowen, who, along with Nesbitt and Wernicke, was shot in the bushranging siege at Wantabadgery, between Gundagai and Wagga Wagga. Scott called him "brave Bowen".
The year was 1879. Scott, a former lay preacher, had received an early release for good behaviour after serving time for bank robbery. (Until death, he protested his innocence of this.) He had been forced to abort his controversial public lecture on prison reform, which was to have provided his income. The country was in the grip of devastating drought. Unemployment was high. With hundreds of other men, Scott and five young friends tramped the track from homestead to homestead, staying alive as best they could.
At Wantabadgery homestead, after twice being refused work, food or shelter despite three days of rain, they drew their weapons and thus began the siege which would go down in Riverina history.
This was the first known, and admitted, attempt at bushranging by these six novices, only two of whom could ride. Over three days 35 people were taken hostage.
The women, especially, were treated with respect, and all hostages were released unharmed before the final shootout with troopers took place.
Scott and his three surviving friends - Thomas Rogan, Frank Johns and Graham Bennett - were tried first at Gundagai and then in Sydney for shooting Constable Bowen.
The trial contained much conflicting evidence and was conducted in an atmosphere of public hysteria with over 2000 people crowding the courthouse.
All four were sentenced to death.
On appeal, the sentences of Williams and Bennett were reduced to hard labour for life, but Scott and Rogan were hanged and buried in Sydney 's Rookwood cemetery in unmarked graves.
Fish, boating, golfing, bowls, cycling, swimming, football, tennis and squash are just some of the activities which can be enjoyed in Gundagai.FishingThe Murrumbidgee attracts fishers from many places. Its junction with the Tumut River is a favourtie fishing spot. Cold water from the Snowy Scheme dams supplies plentiful trout to the Murrumbidgee at Gundagai, together with Murray cod, yellowbelly and bream.Other excellent fishing streams in the Riverina Highlands include the Goobragandra and Adjungbilly, and anglers also enjoy good catches from Blowering, Jounama, Talbingo and Burrinjuck Dams. A boat ramp is located 3kms along the Nangus Road
The Bidgee Banks golf course nestles between the gums on the banks of the
and two creeks that meander across the river flat. The 18-hole grass green course, 5409m in length, has a par of 70 and was officially opened in 1995. Golfers are provided with unique blend of challenging and innocent holes. In most cases distance is generally not a premium during the round. However, the design and natural features of the course will test the ability of all golfers.
Tennis & Squash
Three outdoor tennis courts, synthetic grass, with night lights, are available all year round.
The Club has two bowling greens which have hosted state events.
Gundagai Olympic Pool opens from 1 November to end of March and is located next door to the tourist park.
A paved, shared off-road cycle track links North and
South Gundagai. It runs through picturesque sheltered parkland along the side of MorleysCreek, the golf course and across the historic PrinceAlfredBridgeover the MurrumbidgeeRiver. The track is great for a cycling break with the kids or a walk to unwind after a hard day on the road.
A pleasant 2km stroll viewing many historic points of interest starts and finishes at the Gundagai Visitor Information Centre. Here you may also wish to purchase the excellent book Gundagai – A track winding back, by Cliff Butcher, which will enrich your visit with a wealth of historical information and images.
• See Rusconi’s Marble Masterpiece, the Gemstone Collection and historic photographs at the centre.
• Proceed up Sheridan St on the north side past Carberry Park, named after a very popular citizen and Shire President for 29 years.
• Turn left up Kitchener St (named Wilhelm St until WWI) to view the former Literary Institute at No16, classified by the National Trust and now a private residence. The ground floor was built in 1870 and the upper storey added in 1910.
• Returning to Sheridan St, see the Gundagai Theatre, erected in 1928 by Gundagai Masonic Lodge, with the Temple at the rear. Freemasonry commenced in Gundagai in 1866.
• The Family Hotel was built in 1858. The original sign beside the bar door proclaims ‘Fry’s Hotel’, agents at the time for Cobb & Co coaches.
• The National Australia Bank building was formerly the Commercial Banking Co of Sydney. The branch opened in 1877 and this building was erected in 1880.
• No199 was built in 1876. Now a private residence.
• The Gabriel Gallery, on the first floor of Butcher Roberts Mitre 10, exhibits hundreds of photographs of C19th and early C20th Gundagai.
• Crossing Byron St, view the old slate walls around the historic former gaol. Not open to the public.
• The majestic Gundagai Court House, built in 1859, also houses the Boer War monument.
• The Green Dog Gallery occupies the C19th Tracey’s Hall, renamed the Gundabidgee Theatre in the early C20th, which was run as a cinema from1919 until the late 1920s, and also housed dances and boxing matches.
• The Blueheeler Guesthouse was begun in 1853 and has been variously the Crown Inn, Tracey’s Club House Hotel and the Gresham Hotel. Note the original sandstock bricks of the front wall.
• On the corner of Homer St, St Patrick’s Catholic Church opened in 1885.
• Up Homer St behind St Patrick’s Hall, Lanigan Abbey Estate occupies the former St Stanislaus School, erected in 1898, and the 1888 convent which housed
the Sisters of Mercy who taught there. The Estate is named after Dr Lanigan, first Bishop of Goulburn.
• Back in Sheridan St, Cracker’s Pizza occupies the shop built in 1903 by hotelier Aristide Cauvarel.
• The Rural Lands Protection Board building, now remodelled, is where Frank Rusconi began his marble masterpiece. Note local slate used at the entrance.
• At the end of this block stands the Cenotaph, designed and built by Frank Rusconi
• Behind it is Rusconi Place, dedicated to Frank Rusconi for his contributions to the town’s heritage.
• Follow the sign down to the longest timber Railway Station in NSW, restored to its original 1886 glory.
• Back to Sheridan St, see Araluen, the corner house on the south side opposite the Cenotaph, where Frank Rusconi completed his masterpiece and displayed it for many years. Now a bed-and-breakfast.
• The Prince Alfred Bridge and Railway Bridge can be seen from a short walkway that allows viewing access to the first timber spans of the former.
• Turning down Sheridan Lane, walk past the old flour mill, constructed in 1849 and the only major building left in the flood area after the disaster of 1852.
From here you can either take up the tour at the Gundagai Museum, below, or take an additional 2km round trip across the river to South Gundagai.
• At the junction of Sheridan Lane and Homer St, turn left across Yarri Bridge. Continue on Middleton Drive past its bend to the left; walk onto the golf course to
the Rose Inn Cairn which commemorates the public house constructed by Thomas Lindley in 1852.
• Continue on Middleton Drive to the open section of the Prince Alfred Bridge, where remains of the old Gundagai Pumping Station can be seen.
• Over Prince Alfred Bridge, right into Tumut St and left into Mount St to the Star Hotel, site of a mural of rural life by Gundagai artist Louise Klein.
• Back across the bridge and up Middleton Drive and Homer St to the Gundagai Historic Museum.
• The Gundagai Post Office was built in 1879. Gundagai had the last official ‘pony express’ to deliver mail, a service which ceased in 1984.
•Walking down Sheridan Street’s south side, see murals illustrating the original dog on the tuckerbox bush ballad on the walls of the Gundagai Pharmacy.
• Next door is the decorative entrance to Surrey, a private home built in 1884 by Billie Payne, a Cobb & Co coach driver and later hotelier and businessman.
• Behind the counter of Smart’s Butchery at No 120 you can see a series of paintings by Bernie Spratt depicting animal husbandry from paddock to shop.
• The Yellow Shop occupies a building which housed the Bank of New South Wales from1864–82.
• The Niagara Café was made famous by the visit of Prime Minister John Curtin in 1942. The present shop was rebuilt after the original was gutted by fire in 1975.
• On the corner of Sheridan and Byron Sts the Criterion Hotel houses murals of bushranger holdups and imagined scenes of the 1852 flood.
• The history of the Gundagai Bakery, believed to be Australia’s oldest working bakery, is told on its wall.
• Opposite the Visitor Centre, the Services Club dining room was erected in 1870 as a flour mill. The thick walls built of local slate (now obscured by subsequent extensions) can be seen in the historical photographs displayed in the foyer.
The world-famous Dog is located five miles (8km) north of Gundagai, just of the Hume Highway, at Five Mile Creek. It celebrates one of the best-known themes of Australian folklore: mateship between man and dog.
In pioneering days a dog accompanied each wagon and guarded the bullocky's possessions. Verses about a dog and a tuckerbox by and unknown bush poet circulated well over a century ago, but the later poem which became famous around the world was the work of poet and traveller Jack Moses in the early 1900's.
Gundagai has long been immortalised by such verses as
The Dog on the Tuckerbox, Along the Road to Gundagai, My Mable Waits for Me and When a Boy from Alabama meets a Girl from Gundagai.
Near the monument can be seen the remains of the old Five Mile pub where bullockies, and diggers on their way to the next gold strike, gathered to drink.
The famous dog on the tuckerbox was sculptured by the late Frank Rusconi, but it certainly is'nt the most impressive example of the work of this execptionally skilled artisan on exhibition in the Gundagai district. In fact one attraction not to be missed at Gundagai is a unique cathedral-in-miniature containing 20,948 individual pieces of marble, every piece cut, turned and polished by hand.
Rusconi's Marble Masterpiece took the late Frank Rusconi (who died in 1964) 28 years of his spare time to build in order to showcase the diversity and beauty of New South Wales marble.
Another Rusconi master piece on disply at Gundagai is his replica of the alter of Saint Maries Cathedral in Paris.
Rusconi and three other men constructed the original altar whilst he was working in Switzerland.
On returning to Australia he constructed the replica from marble collected from different parts of Australia.
The longest wooden bridge structure ever built in Australia spans the mighty Murrumbidgee River at Gundagai.
This is the Prince Alfred Bridge, built in 1866. The bridge was formally opened in October, 1867, although not completed until 1869. The opening drew people from all over the region. North and South Gundagai had always been at loggerheads, but when brought together by the bridge such a scene was created that it took all the local police as well as visiting constabulary and the military to settle the disturbance.
The bridge formed part of the Hume Highway until replaced by the new Sheaham Bridge 110 years later. The bridge, together with the adjucent historic railway bridge, built in 1901 and opened in 1903, has been classified by the National Trust as a structure whose preservation is essential to Australias heritage. The railway line closed in 1986. The two bridges provide a special fascination for visitors to Gundagai.
A photographic collection of great significance os hosed in the Gabriel Gallery, Gundagai, featuring the work of an internationally famous photographer, Dr Charles Louis Gabriel, a distinguished resident of the town from 1887 until his death in 1927. Another resident, accountant and business Cliff Butcher, who established the gallery, found some thousand 4 inch glass negatives many years after Dr Garbriel died, and donated 450 to the National Library. There is also part of dr Gabries library, his personal letters and other memorabilia.
Items relating to poets associated with Gundagai - Henry Lawson, Banjo Patterson, Jim Grahame and Jack Moses - are also displayed, together with memorabilia on songwriter Jack Ohagan, who wrote Along the Road to Gundai.
Some of Henry Lawsons possessions, such as his walking stick, restored chair, and dictionary, together with his letters to Grace McManus who cared for him in 1920 at Coolac just north of Gundagai, are treasured gallery exhibits.
But the photographs remain the focus. These are piece of art which depict history; freezing time in life in a small country town at the turn of the country. Gundagai is immutably caught in his snapshots; its streets, houses and shops are fixed permanently in photographic emulsion, its people turn to his lens their slightly self-conscious faces, found working or promenading or gossping, all intrigued with the novelty of themselves in pictures.
Gabriels own interests provide a closer focus. A new hospital, the nurses he worked with, the people who were his friends, and the interior of their houses are all recorded.
Between these scenes, and various public events, are photos taken as the doctor drove around in his smart sulky, a witness to funerals, marriages, floods and elections, the coming of trains and circuses. His eye and camera give a very special and irreplaceable record of Australian provincial life two and tree generations ago.
Following Mr Butchers gift to the National Library, president of the Gundagai Histrical Society, Mr O.I. Bell, also made a donationa of plates which had come into his possession. From the Butcher and Bell collections the library published "Gundagai Days" featuring some 56 photos, and went on to release the more permanent publication "Gundagai Album", which used 120 photographs and was edited by Peter Quartermaine, lecturer in Australian Arts and Letters, University of Exeter. The ABC has also made a 30 minute documentary on the photos, titles A Track Winding Back.
The Gabriel Gallery is located on the first floor of Butcher Roberts Store next to the Westpac Bank in Sheridan St, and is open 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 12 noon Saturday. Admission is free.
Gundagais fame in Australian legend, verse and song readily lends itself to the spirit of Dad and Dave. Opposite the Dog on the Tuckerbox is the Snake Gully tourist complex, which enshrines in copper Steele Rudds four most loveable characters - Dad and Dave, Mum and Mabel, symbolising the indominatable characters and spirit of our pioneers.
Superbly crafted by sculptor Aurel Ragus from beaten copper over steel frames, the statues stand on a pedestal in the park outside the complex, and evoke the character of the type of people they so truly represent. They have become a major attraction in their own right.
Dave is the typical Australian country lad, akin to Banjo Pattersons Middletons Rouseabout or John OBriens Jim; those who know the bush have met Dad at many a stock sale, and seen Dave hitting the turps in many a country pub. Mum and Mabel typifying the country woman of a past generation, those great hands in the kitchen who could handle any crisis about the farm work without the aid of thier men-folk.
Few Australians have not heard of the characters created by Steele Rudd in his tales of life down on the farm, subsequently made into a series of successful Australian films during the pre-war era, with Bert Bailey immortalising the image of Dad. Later, as a radio serial, Dad and his family became identified with Gundagai when the characters of "Our Selection" were introduced and farewelled to a huge listening audience each day by Jack OHagans "Road to Gundagai. The series still runs on some Australia radio stations.
Visit the historic Road to Gundagai Railway Station building, the longest timber station building in NSW, now restored to its original 1886 glory days. See the many features of the precint including the unique slate roofed goods shed, reno-vated timber faced platform and the rare interlocking signals system.
Open 7 days. Admission free. Located at east end of Gundagais main street.
A visit to the Gundagai Historical Museum is a giant leap back in time, with a most interesting and varied collection of machinery, wagons, equipment, a T-model Ford, photographs, clothing, household items and other knick-knacks associated with Gundagai life a century or more ago.
The Museum is located in Homer St, at the rear of the Gundagai Post Office. It is open by appointment. Phone (02) 6944 1797, 6944 1304 or 69441435, 6944 1972. Entrance fee is adults $3, pensioners $2, children $1, family concession $7.
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