Located on the Hay Plains – long held to be one of the flattest places in earth – the town of Hay in western NSW is a fascinating place for grey nomads to stop.

It sits at the junction of the Sturt Highway and Cobb Highway on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River about 270 kilometres west of Wagga Wagga.

A service centre for the surrounding area, Hay boasts a rich agricultural tradition, and a population of around 2,500. The explorer Charles Sturt passed the future townsite on his boat in 1829, and stock on their way from New South Wales to South Australia started passing through here a few years later.

A ford across the river known as Lang’s Crossing was soon established … and a settlement grew.

In the 1850s, Hay developed into a major sheep and wool centre, and that tradition has continued ever since.

One of the first ports of call for many visitors to the town is Shear Outback – Australian Shearer’s Hall of Fame, which showcases the stories, artefacts, technology and culture of the Australian shearing industry.

There are several other excellent museums in the town. These include Bishop’s Lodge, a house built of corrugated iron and timber in 1888 for the first Anglican bishop of the Riverina; the Dunera Museum which is a Prisoner of War and Internment Camp Interpretative Centre located in two restored train carriages at the old Hay Railway Station; the Hay Gaol, which was built in 1878 and now houses historic artefacts ranging from antique windmills to Australia’s oldest known bark canoe; and the Hay War Memorial High School Museum, which was built as a school in 1923 to commemorate those who served in World War I.

Hay boasts epic water tower art. PIC: Destination NSW

Another way to get to grips with Hay’s history, of course, is simply to wander around. There is a Heritage Trail which guides visitors past some of the most notable historic buildings, including; the Post Office, which was built in 1881; St Paul’s Anglican Church, built in 1885; and the Court House, built in 1892.

Another must-visit is the Hay Water Tower art and its enormous paintings of five veterans, representing all those who have served from the area.

To get a sense of the amazing landscape around Hay, a trip to the Sunset Viewing Area, 16 kilometres north along the Cobb Highway is highly recommended. It offers 360-degree uninterrupted views … and the sunsets are truly spectacular.

The camping options in the area are equally fantastic. As well as several excellent van parks, there’s free camping at Sandy Point Beach on the Murrumbidgee River; and there’s also camping at the showgrounds; at the Gun Club; and at the Hay Services Club.

Hay is a friendly, attractive town with a unique story to tell … and one that should feature on any Big Lap itinerary.

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