Hill End is located about 85 km north of Bathurst via Sofala and has featured on our bucket list for some time. If you travel there note that the 4WD Bridle track is currently closed and in any case is unsuitable for caravans. Our GPS was determined to send us via the bridle track, luckily we had a paper map and recognised the error. There is also access from Mudgee to the North.
Gold was discovered in Hill End in 1852, but the main boom did not hit until the early 1870’s. The small village turned into a one of the largest inland towns in NSW with a population of about 8000. A famous find was the Holterman Nugget with a gold content of 3000 ounces – unless I made a mistake this would be worth $M3.6 US today!
After the boom the village slowly returned back to a small rural and mining community. Many of the excess buildings were recycled for other purposes, but quite a lot remained in use.
Hill End was one of the first declared Historic Site in 1967 and has been managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service ever since. Many of the surviving buildings have been preserved and/or restored.
The Royal Hotel is the only one of the district’s 52 pubs to survive and offers meals and accommodation. The hospital was restored and used as an administrative base and information centre until recently. Unfortunately we were unable to look inside this interesting old building. There are several churches and a large number of workman’s dwellings.
Throughout the village there are historical photos of the original buildings on the sites, taken by the photographer Beaufoy Merlin during the boom years. The photos were lost but luckily rediscovered in the 1950’s. One of the most famous photos was of the rich Hawkins Hill Mine perched on the side of a steep hill. The same view can still be had from Merlin’s lookout although the buildings are gone and the main feature is the extensive erosion caused by the many tunnels dug into the hillside.
There are two other lookouts, Bald Hill and Split Rock/Kissing Point and , both are worth a visit. Bald Hill looks out over the township and appeared to be home to a herd of goats.
When we arrived I wondered about the effort required to maintain the well kept short grass right around the site, even around many of the building remains. Dusk solved that mystery with the appearance of hundreds of Kangaroos! There were numerous large mobs around the village and were clearly used to people. I did notice that most seemed to be scratching incessantly and if you take a dog, keep it on the lead and make sure it has appropriate flea and tick protection.
There are also numerous mine and related relics. We visited Valentine’s Mine which was a large mine North of Hill End. The shafts went to about 50 m and the mine had issues with flooding which was apparently common in this area. A main shaft and remains of the battery remain accessible but much of the site is fenced off and being reclaimed by by the bush.
In the same area are the remains Quartz Roasting Pits and associated crushing battery, huts and dam. The ambitious development was built by the Colonial Gold Company with the assistance of Cornish miners. Unfortunately poor gold returns, inappropriate expenditure and general mismanagement caused the company to fold only about a year after the complex was completed. Machinery was sold off and the site abandoned.
Overall this was a great stop which we hope to return to. Allow several days here, we would have stayed longer but there was a music festival setting up and the campgrounds would have been overflowing so we decided to move on. There are tons of activities from tourist mines and gold panning/prospecting to 4WD tracks, bushwalking and simply wondering around the old buildings. We did manage to find gold for the first time, the detectors did not deliver any goods but panning in the creek in the prospecting area did yield gold flakes – unfortunately not enough to top up the retirement fund!
Hill End has a variety of accommodation options, we stayed at the Village Campground. There is also Glenora Campground about 1km out of town and accommodation at the pub.
Accommodation Rating – 3.5/5
|Location||In the middle of the historic village of Hill End|
|Facilities||Flush toilets and showers, washing machine, powered and unpowered sites|
|Dog Walks||Lots, but nearly always on the lead due to kangaroos in the village.|
|Local Services||Pub, food reportedly “average”. Small store with milk and bread but not much else. Info centre has multimedia displays.|
|Cost||Powered $12pp, unpowered $8pp, Washing machine $3, showers $1 per 3 minutes|
|Comment||Only a few unpowered sites for caravans, remember to take dollar coins for showers. The other campsite is roomier but not open all year and about a km out of town.
There is no Telstra phone signal in the village, full signal on the lookouts.