By Nicky Way
The first time you walk through a cellar door, or watch coffee beans being roasted in front of your eyes, or drool as your rainbow-coloured macaroons are packed into a bespoke box ... you will discover the magic of Mudgee.
Just 270km northwest of Sydney, through the Blue Mountains and at the end of a long winding road, you will find the town long known by local indigenous people as "the nest among the hills".
These days, Mudgee attracts a lot of iPhone-wielding city slickers looking for a break. Sydneysiders escape to Mudgee for weekends, and why not? It’s an easy, scenic four-hour drive from the city, or you can fly Aeropelican in 50 minutes, or travel by train/bus via Lithgow in five hours.
Vineyards and orchards surround the town. In fact, there are dozens of cellar doors to discover. But wine isn't the only thing drawing people to the town. For many others, Mudgee means mining ... coal mining.
Three big miners operate in the area: Glencore with its Ulan Coal Mines Ltd; Yancoal with its Moolarben Coal Mine; and Peabody Energy its Wilpinjong operation (currently operated by Thiess).
Like NSW's bountiful Hunter Valley, you'll find wine and walnuts, cattle and cheese, olives and oranges being produced not too far from the coal mines.
Agriculture and tourism are the other main industries supporting the local economy and Mudgee's 9,800 residents (2011 ABS).
Famous Mudgee men include Scotty Cam from The Block and Channel 9 sports reporter Ken Sutcliffe. If you look carefully you might spot them at one of the many restaurants, cafes and pubs in town.
Most of the waterholes and eateries can be found in Market Street and Church Street, where you’ll also find monthly farmers' and church markets. Retail giants Coles, Woolworths, Target and Big W are here, together with a multitude of hairdressers, gift and clothing shops.
The jewel in the crown in terms of sporting facilities would have to be the Glen Willow Stadium that hosts a range of sports, from the city v country rugby league match to junior soccer on a Saturday morning and everything in between. There is a horseracing track, golf course, swimming pool, gyms (including one 24-hour gym and one with a ladies section and children’s crèche). There are lots of sports to get involved in too: rugby, league, soccer, triathlon, running, mountain biking, bush walking and yoga to name just a few.
Annual events in town include the Mudgee Wine and Food Festival, Small Farm Field Days, Go Grazing, Readers' Festival and the Running Festival to mention but a few. Add to these the dinners, weekend lunches and special events hosted by the many of the wineries each year and top it off with a different market almost every weekend and you'll never be at a loose end again!
If you’re a mining family looking for a new nest, Mudgee is a great option. Close enough that your partner can come home from the mines every night, but far enough away from the big smoke that you become part of a vibrant, eclectic community with lots of great opportunities and plenty of things going on.
Magic happens in Mudgee, but don’t take my word for it. Come and check it out for yourself!
"Mudgee is the small country town with the biggest heart. My family moved here from England six years ago and we have never looked back. There are many sporting activities on offer here and the facilities are excellent. Mudgee town centre is vibrant and in my opinion boasts some of the best cafés and restaurants in NSW plus monthly farmers’ markets and plenty of wine cellar doors to sample all the local produce. There is a great community spirit and people are friendly and welcoming. It’s hard imagining living anywhere else better!"
- Tracy Williams wife to residential miner Ian
"There's an old saying 'home is where the heart is' and one thing I can confirm is that Mudgee is in my heart. It is an amazing country town. I lived in many a town growing up and came to Mudgee 14 years ago. Now I know I will never leave. It has personality and pizzazz, to me you will not find a town like it. Mudgee has so much to offer! It's a friendly and family orientated town with many smiles and hellos as you walk down the street, you can never be bored between the local happenings at the markets, wineries, brewery and wine bars. The best coffee shops, pubs & restaurants this side of Sydney, with atmosphere and amazing food - local produce and wines used by many! Mudgee has great child care and schools to offer plus many sporting activities and events for the kids. Growing housing estates with beautiful established homes and new constructions. The mines of course are the drawcard for jobs - but you only have to visit Mudgee once and you will fall in love and realize the real drawcard is Mudgee itself. Don't miss out, no better place to be!"
- Brook Ellery, mining mum of three boys
Ever lived in Mudgee? Tell us what you think...