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Dalgety, New South Wales

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by Postcards from Shayne (subscribe)
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Published September 10th 2014
Almost the site of the nation's capital
On a recent trip to the NSW snowfields near Jindabyne we visited the historic town of Dalgety. Never heard of it? Well Dalgety is the only town left on the banks of the Snowy River in NSW and surprisingly was once the first choice for our nation's capital.

On a grey and wintry day, when it was too wet to go skiing, we drove from Jindabyne to the historic town of Dalgety. The drive from Jindabyne is short (approx. 25 mins) and scenic - through picturesque valleys and farmland dotted with horse breeders and stud farms. The bridge across the famous snowy river dates from 1888 and is suitably rustic - timber and steel - and adds a great deal of character to this remote town.

historic dalgety bridge
Bridge over the Snowy River


Before Canberra was chosen as Australia's capital, Dalgety was the first choice due to its climate, location and security advantages. It was thought that the new capital must have a cooler climate (to avoid public servants becoming ill or falling asleep in the tropical heat). The site could not be on the coast because of the threat of an attack from the sea. They were also looking for a site with no major urban development or industry. Dalgety certainly ticked all of these boxes and was confirmed by parliament in 1904 as first choice for the capital. But as the choice was debated in ensuing years it was decided that Dalgety was too far from Sydney resulting in Canberra being chosen as the capital in 1908.

snowy river dalgety
Snowy River


The big drawcard for us on our visit was the platypus viewing as listed on the Dalgety Historic Walk Map. We parked at the pub and walked down to the picnic area past the Dalgety Memorial Hall. At 2pm it was probably too early in the day for the platypus to be out and the Snowy River was quite murky from the recent rain so we didn't see any platypus on this day. We continued our walk up Campbell Street, past Dalgety House (c. 1860) and the historic cottages.

dalgety church
Catholic Church Dalgety


We turned up Barnes St and walked up to Cooma Street, with the ominous Catholic Church (c. 1878) overlooking us from the top of the hill. Up on Cooma Street you can see Dalgety Public School and further away the sandstone of the old Court House and Police Station (c.1880). We continued around the block and came back down Hamilton Street. There is more information about the bridge and the showground on the corner of Campbell and Brierly streets.

After we had finished our walk we had hoped to stay for a drink at the pub but it didn't appear to be opening anytime soon. Although there wasn't a great deal happening in town on this Tuesday afternoon, it was a good place to stretch the legs and learn some history. The kids were chuffed because they got to meet Thistle, the pet sheep, in a resident's front yard.
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