Historic Hill End NSW

Historic Hill End: No Food at the Inn

“Are you looking for food?” asks Avam as we walk past his bar at Hill End’s Royal Hotel to the bistro. “My cook hasn’t turned up and there are no meals tonight” he adds.

What’s for dinner?

Besides a bag of crisps and a couple of chocolates, we have no food. Embarrassed, Avam offers to see what he can find in the kitchen so we can make a sandwich “at no charge”.

Inside the Royal Hotel in Hill End
Avam busy in his bar.

He lays out a loaf of sliced white bread, butter, tomatoes, hummus and individually wrapped sliced cheese on a table in the dining room and points us to the urn for tea or coffee.

While a bland sandwich wasn’t the meal we hoped for, we don’t go hungry.

Where we stayed

We’re in Hill End, an historic mining town an hour’s drive from Mudgee and Bathurst. The town is managed by NSW National Parks and we’re staying in one of their accommodation options, the Post Office Stables.

Accommodation at Hill End
The Post Office Stables

A small bluestone building with brick corners painted to look like sandstone, the décor has been carefully designed. In the kitchen, the old fire oven protected by a Perspex barrier, hints at harder times. A section of clear flooring cut into the wooden floorboards reveals original stone flooring.

A tight spiral staircase leads from the compact living area to the bedroom and toilet. The bathroom is outside.

Cottage in Hill End
A house of Stone
Cottages built from various materials survive in Hill End
A House of Tin

We visit during the US election. With neither WiFi nor phone signal (Optus works but Telstra doesn’t), my husband remains glued to the television. I set off to explore beginning with the Heritage Centre. 

Wandering the Streets of Hill End

Located in a restored 1950s rural fire shed, the photographic displays and screen projections provide visitors with a self-guided walk through life during the gold rush days. I pick up a visitor guide and set off to discover more.

Old Buildings in Hill End
The Old Great Western Store
Simple Hill End Homes
Another Cottage

Not following any particular route, I wind back and forth along streets with deep stone gutters crossed by little wooden bridges. Galahs take fright on my approach. A crimson rosella balances precariously on a wire fence while magpies caw in the trees.

Original Cottages

Small original cottages in varying stages of disrepair stand behind rickety fences. Rusting cowbells hang from garden gates. Black and white photographs illustrate what homes and businesses once stood where, providing an insight into Hill End in the mid to late 1800s.

Timber Home
Great View from that Verandah

A man sweeps a metal detector from side to side over a section of his lawn. He stops, crouches down and carefully extracts something from the ground. Rubbing it gently with his thumbs, he inspects it and puts it in his back pocket.

In a nearby paddock kangaroos stand to attention, following my progress with their eyes.

Rusted Old Car

Many artists including Margaret Olley, John Olsen, Jeffrey Smart and Brett Whitely spent time in Hill End, attracted by the landscape, simple homes and history. Haefligers and Murrays cottages are homes for artists in residence, a partnership program between NSW National parks and the Bathurst Regional Gallery.

Outside Hill End

Not everything of interest around Hill End is within walking distance and I drag my husband from the television for an exploratory drive. A field of lilac surrounds an old small caravan. Two kangaroos face each other, balanced on their hind legs their muscles straining with the effort. They begin to spar, grabbing at each other with strong spindly forearms, heads thrown back.

From Merlin’s lookout the old mine workings on Hawkins Hill are just visible. I wish I’d brought binoculars.

A field of Patterson's Curse
Surrounded by Purple

At Golden Gully, I walk along the creek bed fascinated by the columns of soft sandstone towering overhead. Rocks and trees balance precariously. Hand dug tunnels lead off into darkness.

Cemetery Near Hill End
Wander Tambaroora Cemetery

Tambaroora Cemetery reveals more about the harsh conditions. One headstone reads “Alexander McIvor who was accidentally killed on Kraeman’s Claim in 1872”. He was 34. Kenneth Charles Miller died more recently (2007). He apparently “chased the golden goddess till the bitch wore him out”.

We wander around the Cornish Roasting Pits and the Valentine Mine, and then drive to History Hill Museum. The private museum is usually only open on weekends, but owner Malcolm Drinkwater says “if the gate is open, we’re open”.

Museum near HIll End
History Hill
So much to see at History Hill near Hill end
One of the hundreds of displays

Sporting a long white beard and broad brimmed felt hat, Drinkwater enjoys chatting to visitors and regaling stories of his life growing up in the area. The museum displays an almost overwhelming collection of mining and other artefacts accumulated over more than 30 years.     

It’s been a big day, we’re hungry and head to the pub for dinner. That’s when we find out the cook hasn’t turned up.

Royal Hotel
Beautiful old Hotel

Enjoyed discovering Hill End? Then perhaps you’ll enjoy reading about nearby Sofala here and Mudgee beyond the good food and wine here.


  1. Have been to Hill End twice. Once with younger children and more recently with our retirement group when we were taken on a tour of the town by a local in costume. We ended in her home. This was in 2013. I wonder if things have taken a turn for the worse because of COVID. It’s certainly a fascinating place just for the town buildings!

    I tried to insert a photo, but it’s not set up to receive images. I’ll try sending one to your email.

    1. Author

      How lovely, Valerie to do a tour with a local – in costume to add to the experience. Unfortunately no such tour was on offer when we visited. Thanks for the photo.

  2. if you like history & old places , [ sofala ] and great food opposite the royal hotel ,cafa is open every day expect tuesdays . sofala the oldest survining gold town in australia . the hotel also won the air b&b in nsw best pub . ron

    1. Author

      Thanks for the tip Ron. We did have a pleasant late lunch one day at the cafe over the road from the pub and spent some time in Sofala too.

  3. Hill End sounds fascinating. Iv always wanted to visit the area. Hopefully the pub owner has sorted out his chef issues!

    1. Author

      It is, Erica. And I’m sure he has. We actually did eat there one night. But it’s a funny story to tell when the pub has no food.

  4. Best place to camp, National Parks Hill End Camping ground, Camped there in 2020 between Covid restrictions, great amenities anda lovely peaceful spot just down the road from the historic village, dinner and a beer at the pub that night, and a home made pie at the bakery for lunch the next day, HILL END has a lot to offer, it its amazing, also down the road is the historic town of Sofala, that is also an eye opener, I thoroughly recommend a visit to Hill End.

    1. Author

      Thanks for the recommendations, Cheryl. The young men who shared our hastily put together meal were camping in the same campground you mention.

  5. Oh this is such a good story Joanne, well done! Very appealing, adding to the list.

  6. Looks alike a place worth the visit if, like me, you are into nostalgia. Great post, Jo.

  7. Looks like a lovely place to visit to imagine how it was during the gold rush.
    Gorgeous photos Jo, love the rickety fences, tin rooves, abandoned old car and caravan in field of lilac.

  8. Thanks Joanne. On your recommendation, we went to Hill End for the weekend. We stayed at the Royal Hill End Pub which was a real classic and had a lovely stay. Dinner and breakfast were fine and pub standard. The museum we discovered was ‘open’ at 6pm Saturday. By standing at a certain spot the doors automatically opened to an excellent exhibition displaying the town of 1870’s. The historic village and walking trails were a delight to explore.
    Many thanks.

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