If you’re looking for country swagger in spades, you’ve come to the right town. Set on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in the Riverina region, Hay is the kind of place where you’ll want to slow down. That may be to enjoy long outback sunsets over the Hay Plains, to linger in fascinating museums, or perhaps to take in the countryside along cycleways that weave through leafy fields and lead to inland beaches.
Get back to nature
Hay is at the centre of the Long Paddock driving route, making it a perfect stop on your journey from the Murray, through the Riverina and into the centre of NSW. When you arrive you’ll discover that the Hay Plains are pancake flat, creating a landscape that never fails to dazzle come sunset. Head to the Sunset Viewing Area, 16km north of Hay on the Cobb Highway, for uninterrupted 360-degree views and a kaleidoscope of colours as the last of the day disappears. Don’t forget your camera.
Being flat also makes Hay and its surrounds a delight to explore on two wheels. Hire free bicycles from the Hay Visitor Information Centre, grab a map and explore the town. Pedal along the Bidgee Riverside Trail, which is dotted with sculptures and information panels that tell the story of your surroundings. Worked up a sweat? Cycle down to Sandy Point Beach on the edge of the Murrumbidgee River for a cooling swim, a spot of fishing or a shady picnic.
History buffs will want to explore the moving Dunera Museum and learn about the thousands of German, Austrian, Italian and Japanese men who were interred there during World War II. Built in 1878, the Hay Gaol is now a fascinating museum filled with local artefacts. Charming Bishop’s Lodge Historic House is an early example of sustainable architecture, built in 1888 with iron and designed to withstand the summer heat.
With a name like Hay, it probably comes as no surprise that you’re in sheep country here. In fact, the town has been one of Australia’s major wool producing regions since the 1850s. And you can take a deep dive into this history at Shear Outback – The Australian Shearers Hall of Fame, where you can step into the world of the shearer, meet the colourful characters of the bush, watch a live sheep shearing demonstration and take a journey through the innovative technology of ‘getting the wool off’.
While many people visit Hay for its natural beauty and extraordinary heritage, many more linger for the town’s bounty of special events. You’ll find yourself whooping and yeeha-ing at the Hay Rodeo in March, the Hay Merino Sheep Show in June and the Booligal Sheep Races in Booligal, north of Hay, in April. Held in November, the annual Hay Races are the biggest country race meeting in NSW with a six-race program, Fashions on the Field and plenty of fun.
Hay Rodeo, Hay - Credit: Margie McClelland
The Sturt, Cobb and Mid Western highways converge on Hay, which is halfway between Sydney and Adelaide – it’s around seven hours’ drive from either city, 5.5 hours from Canberra and five from Melbourne. You can also fly into Griffith City Airport and rent a car for the 90-minute drive to Hay. Places to stay across Hay include cottages, motels and country pubs, as well as riverside caravan and camping sites, such as Wooloondool campground and Lachlan River campground.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the Traditional Owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.