· Bushwalking up Giant’s Leap for marvellous views of the valley
· Fishing in the Goulburn River
· Tranquillity, peace and quiet that you’ll struggle to find elsewhere
When explorer Allan Cunningham passed through the Upper Hunter Valley, NSW, in 1825, he found an idyllic location in which to take a break from his arduous journey. Successive travellers, in search of paradise in an unfamiliar land, passed along a similar route and frequently camped near the junction of the Goulburn River and Halls Creek. And it was there, many years ago, that the village of Sandy Hollow dawdled into existence.
Today, Sandy Hollow, which is 40km west of Muswellbrook, is a quiet spot where there’s as much activity as you’d find at a swimwear shop in a nudist colony – but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. There’s a post office, a service station, and the Tourist Hotel, which is a popular watering hole, but the town’s star attraction is the modern cafe and art gallery. Here, you can tuck into good food on the shaded patio with views of the Bylong Valley and the surrounding ranges, or dine in the cafe that’s crammed with colourful and unusual works of art.
If bushwalking is your cup of tea, you can wander up to the summit of the Giant’s Leap, a forested hill that towers above the village. You can try your luck at fishing in the nearby Goulburn River and, if you’ve got time to spare, you can head a little further afield on a self-drive tour that, in around 150km, will reveal the best that the region has to offer.
The meandering route winds past horse studs, wineries, and farmlands, to the settlement of Baerami where the focus of interest is the historic remains of the oil shale mining industry, and through the spectacular Wollemi and Goulburn River national parks where the landscape is dominated by dark forests and rugged sandstone cliffs.
If all you want to do, however, is sit back and take it easy, make a beeline for the Sandy Hollow Tourist Park. With colourful floral gardens, a large swimming pool, and attractive motel units at its entrance, this inviting park, which is on the Golden Highway, is hard to miss.
Sites for caravans are located at the rear of the park, well away from any hint of traffic and unquestionably the best place to be. It also has the benefit of being surrounded by native woodlands, and the many species of birds that call the area home and that flutter among the park’s shading trees bring a touch of the bush to the sheltered environment of this Top Tourist Park.
There’s ample room for the largest of rigs and the powered sites, which are all on grass, are close to the main amenities block that, although it’s built on high ground, can easily be accessed by visitors with reduced mobility.
The extensive campers’ kitchen is the focus of activity for those who want to toss a few snags on the barbie and meet other travellers. The fully enclosed area has all the modern appliances you’ll need to demonstrate a few culinary skills. And if, like me, you like to bake some spuds in the hot coals of a campfire, there’s a spot beside the kitchen, under an old and sprawling tree, where you can do just that in a quiet bushland setting.
Life seems to dawdle by in slow motion at Sandy Hollow, and if you’re hoping to escape from the rat race of a modern day existence, this dozing village could be the peaceful retreat that you’re looking for.
· The NSW village of Sandy Hollow is on the Golden Highway, 40km west of Muswellbrook, and 283km north-west of Sydney.
· Sandy Hollow Tourist Park, a Top Tourist Park, is located at number 1618 on the highway that, at Sandy Hollow, is known as the Merriwa Road.
· All sites are on grass and, though there are no drive-through sites, there is ample room for large rigs.
· There is a children’s playground, a trampoline, and a large swimming pool. A covered barbecue area is located near the powered sites, and there is a large fully enclosed campers’ kitchen where the equipment includes barbecue facilities, a TV, a fridge/freezer, a microwave and a stove. There is also an area where travellers can have a campfire. Internet access is available, as are gas refills and DVDs for hire.
· Pets are permitted but must be kept on a leash at all times.
· Takeaway meals are available from the service station that is adjacent to the caravan park. There is also a pub, a post office, and a café/art gallery
· For more information about Sandy Hollow Tourist Park, phone (02) 6547 4575 or visit the website www.sandyhollow.com.au.
Originally published in Caravan World #509, December 2012.