Although its economy has largely been driven by the proximity of coal mines and power stations, the country NSW town of Muswellbrook sits in some stunningly attractive country and holds plenty of appeal for grey nomads.
Located about 130 kilometres north west of Newcastle on the New England Highway, the shire of Muswellbrook is home to celebrated horse studs, wonderful wineries, rich cattle grazing country, and a truly fascinating history.
The first European to explore the area was Chief Constable John Howe in 1819, and the area was settled soon afterwards, with the township gazetted in 1833. Today, Muswellbrook itself boasts a population of around 13,000 and boasts a wide range of services and shops, and some impressive historic buildings.
The best way for visitors to get to grips with it all is to take the 4.5-kilometre Muswellbrook Heritage Walk which takes in dozens of points of interest. These include the railway station built in 1869; St Alban’s Church, designed by famous English architect Gilbert Scott; and the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre, built in 1871.
Also of note are St James’ Catholic Church, the sandstone Loxton House, the two-storey Eatons Hotel, the Royal Hotel, and the Edinglassie heritage-listed farm and homestead.
Most visitors also enjoy a stroll to see the dog statue erected in 2001 to recognise ‘the contribution to Australian rural life by the Australian cattle dog and the development of the Blue Heeler in the ‘Upper Hunter.’
And a little to the north of town lies a well-thought-out monument to those who fought and died in the Vietnam War. Muswellbrook shire is home to some of Australia’s biggest thoroughbred studs producing champion horses that race around the world, as well as some notable wineries including the celebrated Two Rivers Wines.
For grey nomads looking to visit some cellar doors and sample a few fantastic Upper Hunter wines, this is the perfect place to be.
And it’s not just wine, either.
The area is developing a strong reputation for food and local produce. Hunter Belle Cheese offers gourmet cheeses made by hand from the milk of local Swiss Brown cows, and nearby Pukara Estate grows delicious olives that are turned into olive oil, vinegar, condiments and skincare products.
Not surprisingly, there are some great places to stay in the area.
In Muswellbrook itself, there is the Riverside Cabin & Caravan Park, and there’s also camping at the showgrounds.
There’s a free overnight stop down the road in Aberdeen, and – 15 minutes out of Muswellbrook – is the spacious Lake Liddell Recreation Park which offers budget-friendly spots by the water.
Muswellbrook then has plenty to offer grey nomads and will probably be keener than ever to attract more visitors as the years roll by. The local economy is likely to have to make some readjustments as the long-term trend away from coal continues.
Earlier this year, the nearby Liddell Power Station was entirely decommissioned, although the Bayswater plant still operates. And plans are already well under way to bypass Muswellbrook, and – like many other communities in the same boat have done – it may decide that launching initiatives to encourage more tourists to stop – and to stay – will be an important strategy going forward.
Scrubba is offering GN members multiple chances to pick up one of its award-winning miniature Scrubba Wash Bags, a modern take on the old-fashioned washboard. Prizes include two ScrubbaWash and Dry Kits, a Scrubba Stealth Pack, and a Scrubba wash bag MINI.