If you are a fishing enthusiast but have never fished the Devonian Billabong near Canowindra in the Central West of New South Wales, you have missed a great opportunity. You could have snapped up a nice bothriolepis or a couple of remigolepis. But you are, unfortunately, around 360 million years too late. Damn!
The Age of Fishes Museum in Canowindra tells us that “long before the Dinosaurs the mighty rivers of the Central West teemed with bizarre ancient fish: fish with armoured shells, fish with lungs and huge predators with jaws like a crocodile.” The evidence of these creatures from the Devonian Period of the distant past is captured in amazing detail in the fossils found in the Canowindra area and is available for all to witness in a comprehensive and fascinating display in the Age of Fishes Museum. The museum, also offering live aquarium displays, an education centre and gift shop, is open seven days a week including most public holidays. Beware of the huge dinosaur on guard duty at the front door.
If fishing is not your forte, why not take to the skies in a hot air balloon? As host of the 2011, 2013 and 2014 Australian National Ballooning Championship and the staging of the annual Canowindra International Balloon Challenge, Canowindra has earned the right to the title of “Australia’s Ballooning Capital”.
There is nothing more spectacular than the rising sun lighting up a sky crowded with huge, brightly coloured balloons drifting in silent harmony on the early morning breeze.
The next challenge is scheduled for April 18-25, 2017, and will attract balloonists from all over Australia and top pilots from the USA, Japan and many other countries.
But why wait for April? You can stage your own balloon challenge at any time. The favourable atmospheric wind conditions in the area allow ballooning all year round, and the experienced people at Balloon Joy Flights or Aussie Balloon Treks can get you airborne at your leisure. The sport is popular, so bookings are required:
On Saturday, 4 March 2017, the main street of Canowindra will become a huge dining area when the town hosts the 2017 ‘100 Mile Dinner’. Adhering to the 100 Mile concept, all produce served at the dinner will be sourced from within a 100 mile radius of the town.
In the past, this unique, open air event has attracted large crowds. Booking details are yet to be finalised, but keep an eye on canowindra@home.
There is a smorgasbord of hotel, motel and B & B accommodation options, and the Canowindra Caravan Park, a short walk from the main street and overlooking the Belebula River, offers powered and unpowered sites from $22 per night.
Free camping is available at the Canowindra Rest Area, 2 kilometres west of town beside the river, and at nearby Gooloogong (30 kilometres west) at the Maisie Thompson Campground (donations appreciated) and at Gooloogong West on the Lachlan River (no facilities). It may also be worth a look at the Nangar bush camping area on the Back Nangar Road about 12 kilometres west of town, and definitely worth a look is the Terrara Creek camping and picnic area in the Nangar National Park. It offers free camping with toilets and BBQ areas. Entry is off Nangar Road, 30 kilometres west of Canowindra. Turn onto the Mount Pleasant Road and then onto Puzzle Flat Lane and the Terrara Creek Firetrail. The camp site is 10 kilometres in.
See also: Wuruma Dam Free Camping
From the camping area, the Mount Nangar walking track, 6 kilometres return, will lead you to the Mount Nangar lookout with expansive views across farmland. The Mount Murga track, slightly more challenging at 8 kilometres return, winds up the side of Mount Murga and along the ridge line to the plateau and lookout. At the right time of year, keep watch for the flowering orchids along the track and the wattle and goodenia at the summit.
If food, flying or fish are on your menu, or a brisk hike to work up an appetite suits your style, Canowindra is the place for you to spend some time.