Between Mount Victoria and Lithgow on the highway that descends from the heights of the Blue Mountains, Hartley is a charming, frozen-in-time village that comes straight from the colonial era. Linger awhile, or stay the night, Hartley’s historic buildings have survived in remarkably original condition, and every creaking door has a story to tell.
One of the historic highlights of Hartley Vale is the Comet Inn, one of a dozen pubs at the time when this was a thriving mining village. Built in about 1879, this two-storey inn is now a handsome guesthouse with a licensed restaurant, decorated throughout in a full-blown Victorian style.
This area was once notorious for bushrangers and cattle thieves and if they could speak, the walls of Hartley Courthouse would tell some terrifying tales. Today, under the management of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Greek Revival style courthouse is open for guided tours daily except Mondays.
The 8km walk between Mount York and Hartley Vale is one of the state’s classic bushwalking trails. From Mount York, accessible by road from Mount Victoria township, the track partially follows the original route of the road cut from the heights of the Blue Mountains down to the western plains, with many historic reminders along the way as well as sensational scenery.
The River Walk begins near Corney's Garage and follows the rocky slopes of the hillside as it drops towards the Lett River, passing the remains of Rowson’s Hut before returning to the village. The walk incorporates a 200 metre boardwalk constructed largely from recycled materials. Unchanged from colonial times, the river gulley is still home to a platypus colony.
St John the Evangelist Anglican Church was designed by William Blackett, the colonial architect responsible for a number of gothic-style sandstone churches in and around Sydney. This church is reputed to be where the poet Andrew Barton “Banjo” Patterson, author of Waltzing Matilda and The Man From Snowy River, was christened.