Conveniently located between Sydney and Bathurst beyond the Blue Mountains, the settlement of Hartley was once an important staging post for horse-drawn carriages heading west to the goldfields. The original village, dating to the 1830s, is now a perfectly-preserved vestige of the colonial past, with 17 buildings telling the story of life and hardships in regional Australia.
Now managed by NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, Hartley Historic Site can be explored on a self-guided tour, visiting the cells of its magnificant Greek Revival Courthouse and the gothic St Bernard’s Church. Stop at the Visitor Centre housed in the former Farmers Inn to pick up brochures and admire contemporary Aboriginal artworks in the Kew Y Ahn Gallery; then, wander up the hill to Talisman Gallery to try your hand at blacksmithing art.
Hartley Village is also the jumping off point for several easy walks. 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.
Meanwhile, the scenic 8km route between Mount York and Hartley Vale is one of the state’s classic bushwalking trails. From Mount York, accessible by road from Mount Victoria, Berghofer’s Pass follows the original road from the Blue Mountains to the Western Plains, with many historic reminders along the way.
The hamlet of Little Hartley is increasingly known as a garden centre, with some spectacular private gardens such as Wild Meadows and Highfield Gardens open seasonally. Enjoy a leisurely long lunch at the atmospheric Ambermere Rose on the highway; or relax over a gourmet woodfired pizza at Alchemy. Afterwards, give the kids the ultimate sugar rush at The Lolly Bug, home to more than 1,500 sweets and confections.
Getting there and where to stay
Two of the original cottages in Hartley Village, St Bernard’s Presbytery and Old Trahlee have been restored and are now available for atmospheric overnight stays. There are also several cottage and farm stays in the area, including the Woolshed Cabins in neighbouring Kanimbla Valley.