A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at https://www.travelwithirenke.blogspot.com
Published August 22nd 2019
When most people head to the Hunter Valley it is for the wineries around Pokolbin but there's far more to be enjoyed in this region and Kurri Kurri is a town worthy of an escape to for a day or two. Only 15mins NE of Cessnock and a wealth of sights will behold you.
Known as the town of murals, since The Murals Project was put in place, Kurri Kurri now claims the largest outdoor display of its kind in all of mainland Australia.
Lovers of art are in for a visual feast with over 50 magnificent murals that tell the story of the people, the events and the places that shaped the area's unique character, culture and heritage. The range of images from various artists depicts everything from the war to steam trains, mine workers to farm life, Santa in the Aussie bush, the town businesses, and the local pipe band. A plaque on each mural describes the story behind each image.
The good thing is most of the murals can be found on buildings along the main street of the town, Lang Street, and the interesting thing is an image of a kookaburra (the emblem of the town) can be found in each mural. Some of these birds are easy to find and some are more difficult. You can challenge yourself and your travelling companions to see who can spot them first.
A map of the murals can be obtained from the town's Visitor Information Centre at 199 Lang Street. You can do your own self-guided walk of the murals or book a mural tour with a fully trained local guide. The Centre also houses a gift shop (selling souvenirs, artwork and handmade items) and Angel's Cafe (open for breakfast, lunch, morning and afternoon teas).
The laughing symbol of the town is one of Australia's big things. The Big Kookaburra sits on a tree stump in Rotary Park, opposite the Visitor Centre, and is fascinating for its components. Its body has been constructed from car body panels and its eyes are aircraft landing lights.
The park also has a memorial acknowledging the contribution by local miners that were part of the tunnelling corps responsible for the large mine exploded under the German trenches near Ypres in Belgium in 1916. It was the greatest man-made explosion prior to the atomic era and was heard as far away as London.
A community wall in the park commemorates the history of families and organisations of Kurri Kurri via a collection of brass plaques, whilst a mosaic-tiled barbecue displays embedded images of flora and fauna. It's a great area to relax at, in the middle of the town, and take in your surroundings. Toilet facilities are available too with the block covered in colourful murals.
'Toilet Block' - the nicest one I've seen in a while
Other attractions to enjoy include Werakata National Park with its cycling and walking trails, the local speedway, aquatic centre and some noteworthy museums. A memorial museum named in honour of Sir Edgeworth David celebrates this man who was responsible for discovering the Greta coal seam, which in turn gave way to the establishment of the town in 1903. With over 5,000 items on display, you can view much of the town's history in military items, musical instruments and Aboriginal artefacts (to name but a few). It's on the corner of Deakin & Greta Streets.
The other museum is the Richmond Vale Railway Museum, located a few kilometres south of the town at 262 Leggett's Drive. It's in a bushland setting and is the only operating heritage railway north of the Hawkesbury. Open the first three Sundays of each month and every Sunday during school holidays, you can take as many steam train rides as you like (with entry at $16 for adults & $7.50 for children 5-15yrs). The return trip is only 20minutes, running between two disused coal mine sites (Richmond Main and Pelaw Main). Check out the historical displays and films in the two-storey mining museum too and enjoy a picnic or bite to eat in the canteen. When we were there, it just so happened that the Cranky Handle Rally event was on with displays of antique farming equipment, steam engines, classic and vintage cars. It's just one of many events they have on throughout the year.
Iconic hotels grace the town with historical links to a time when the coalmines nearby employed thousands of men and the pubs were the social, political and economic heart of the community. The Kurri Kurri Hotel is the grandest of them and occupies one of the most commanding sites in the town, opposite Rotary Park. Its architecture reflects the early 1900's in Australia and features four parlours, a main dining room and an upstairs dining room, a billiard room and 52 apartments. It has undergone some change since its construction to add more bedrooms and extend the verandah. Today it boasts a little slice of Italy in its Regal Italian Bistro offering the latest and most authentic cuisine for lunch and dinner, 6 days a week (closed Tuesdays). It's a great place in the centre of town with a mural behind it, of course.
Other historic hotels include the Empire Hotel, the Station Hotel and the Chelmsford Hotel. The latter holds Mulletfest in February each year (celebrating the mullet hairstyle).
Lots of food choices and shops abound. Steptoes is a lovely antique and secondhand furniture place that caught my eye with gorgeous murals adorning its building. Located at 105 Lang Street, there's lots of useful and decorative items for bedrooms, kitchens, dining rooms, lounge rooms and the like.
All in all, we went for the murals but found so much more. It's a great little country town only 2hrs from Sydney and easy to find too. Hop onto the M1 freeway and after about an hour and a half, you should see the exit sign to Cessnock. Take it and soon enough you'll see a sign to Kurri Kurri.
P.S. If you need your grape escape then you can easily combine Kurri Kurri with Pokolbin over a long weekend.
Great photos. I love street art and wish more towns encouraged same. We will now call in to Kurri Kurri when we visit the Hunter and Port Stephens in October/November. As for the kookaburra - I think it might be hidden down in the grass at the bottom left of the picture.