I had been wanting to visit New Norcia for years. What could be more fascinating than a Benedictine Monastery out in the middle of nowhere in the harsh Aussie bushland. The randomness of it boggles me and the fact that so many West Australians are unaware of this little pearler is astounding.
Plan ahead for this trip and give yourself most of the day to really experience all it's got to offer. There is a lot.
There were a lot of people roaming around on the day we went. Plenty of tourists, tour groups and locals like ourselves. There were also a whole lot of people with families, kids and very young children which didn't make our little ones knick-knack-paddy-wacks seem so embarrassing.
The museum and art gallery will take up a fair bit of time and this is where we began. I'm a sucker for anything history or art related and both delivered beyond my expectations.
As for the art you are definitely spoilt for choice. There is a European Gallery, the Australian Contemporary Gallery which also holds a bi-annual exhibition and the Raphael Room. Forget about being arty farty about it all, this is super cool. It's dark and musty and houses a cartoon from the great man's workshop itself (!!!!!).
The fact that you can actually view something from the 16th century without traveling to Rome, where the tapestry inspired by Raphael's cartoon hangs in the Vatican, is incredible. In little ole WA. Remarkable!
These beautiful and unique works of art are so far from any mainstream gallery it really makes the experience such a treat.
The museum itself is also truly noteworthy. The collection is extensive and the St Joseph's Aboriginal Girls' Exhibition is an eye opening and emotional experience.
I must admit I would never have thought the Gardner Botanical Exhibition would be of great interest to me. However the history of the area and people that have lived and been in our state was intriguing and the accompanying sketches and photographs were lovely to look through.
It's good to remember these are old buildings and we took our "all-terrain" pram vehicle at the time. There are a few spots where the only access up or down is via stairs, but there is still a lot to see if you don't feel like making your husband assist you in carrying the pram up a hundred year old flight of stairs. He was rewarded with a well deserved beverage.
We had a lovely meal out on the deck of the New Norcia hotel. Our food and drink were tasty and the service was good. It's the sort of place you could quite happily sit on a lazy afternoon and simply watch the clouds and take in the remote quietness of it all.
The hotel is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a carvery available for Sunday lunch and homemade pizzas cooked in the actual wood fired ovens of the New Norcia Bakery.
After our meal we decided to take a walk around the area and soon realised we needed more time. We managed to see the Work centre and the Abbey Church which were both impressive. We wandered past the glorious outskirts of the Monastery and took a little peak at the guest house and then took a moments rest at the open space and watched the wildlife put on a show.
When we return again I would definitely consider staying overnight and there are certainly plenty of options for the weary traveller. For a really unique experience accommodation is available at the Monastery Guesthouse for a donation of $80 or more. Alternatively there is the New Norcia Hotel, St Ildephonsus Cottage, St Gertrude's College for large groups or plenty of powered caravan and camping spots with showers and toilets.
Well, I don't know about becoming a monk, but I certainly want to visit New Norcia now. I have always been curious about going but didn't realise there was more than just the monastery (and the bakery, of course).
Are any of the accommodation options kid friendly?
Hello, You didn't mention the tours!! I have been on a New Norcia tour 3 times, when we have had guests, and learned new facts each time. The general public cannot get into all the buildings to see the amazing architecture and hear the history of the monastery, unless on the organised tour.