A Comprehensive Guide to 14 of the Best Things to Do in Hay, NSW

Hey! Or rather, Hay, as the case might be, is a terrific place to visit for those who want to immerse themselves in the heart of the New South Wales Outback.

Boasting an intoxicating mix of rich history, stunning natural beauty and a unique blend of Australian culture, Hay is a destination that seduces most travellers. From wandering through historical sites and enjoying the serene beauty of the Outback to embracing the local culture and delighting in the region’s gastronomy, this rural haven promises an unforgettable adventure to all who visit it.

In this guide, we’ll showcase some of the best things to do in Hay, providing you with essential insights and recommendations to make the most of your time there. Whether you’re planning a road trip from Sydney, arriving via the iconic Indian Pacific train, or seeking to explore the lesser-known corners of New South Wales, let our guide serve as your compass in this remarkable town, where the spirit of the Outback awaits your arrival.

Getting to Hay

Getting to Hay

Getting to Hay, around 720 km southwest of Sydney, is an adventure in itself. Offering travellers a chance to witness the diverse landscapes of Australia via several convenient ways of travel.

For those who prefer a scenic road trip, the most common way to get to Hay is by car – the Sturt Highway (A20) will lead directly there.

Should you prefer a more iconic journey, the Indian Pacific train, operated by Great Southern Rail, stops in Hay on its cross-country route from Sydney to Perth.

Alternatively, you can access Hay by air, with the local airport primarily serving charter flights. The closest major airports are Wagga Wagga, about 160 kilometres away and Griffith, around 190 kilometres away.

No matter which mode of transportation you choose, the journey to Hay promises glimpses of Australia’s diverse landscapes and an introduction to the unique charm of this outback destination.

Things To See and Do in Hay

Once you get to Hay, you’ll be spoilt for choice at all the things you can see and do there. Here are just a handful of the many experiences awaiting you:

1. Visit the Hay Gaol Museum

Visit the Hay Gaol Museum

One of the town’s most prominent attractions is the Hay Gaol Museum.

Centrally located on Murray Street, this fascinating museum resides in the former Hay Gaol. It offers an intriguing glimpse into the town’s past, specifically its role as a World War II prisoner-of-war camp.

As you explore the museum’s corridors and cells, you’ll find thoughtfully curated exhibitions, each

weaving a compelling narrative of the inmates once confined within these walls. Through them, the Hay Gaol Museum provides a poignant and educational experience from personal accounts to authentic artefacts.

The museum is open every day of the week and is worth visiting to uncover stories that have shaped Hay’s history and development.

2. Discover Shear Outback

Discover Shear Outback

Discover Shear Outback is another captivating museum you should visit during your time in Hay.

Located at the Hay Plains Interpretive Centre on Sturt Highway, the museum celebrates the rich heritage of sheep farming in Australia, providing an immersive experience, that sheds light on the art of shearing and its profound impact on the nation’s history.

What sets Shear Outback apart is its commitment to authenticity; you can witness live shearing demonstrations, gain insights into the lives of shearers, and even try your hand at shearing a sheep if you’re feeling adventurous. The museum also boasts an extensive collection of artefacts, photographs, and interactive exhibits that showcase the evolution of shearing techniques and their role in shaping rural Australia.

3. Explore Bishops Lodge Historic House and Heritage Rose Garden

Nestled amidst lush gardens, a tour of Bishops Lodge Historic House and Heritage Rose Garden will take you on a delightful journey back in time.

This beautifully preserved historic house, constructed in 1888, provides a window into the lives of early settlers in Hay. It exudes old-world charm and invites visitors to wander through its elegant rooms, filled with period furnishings and memorabilia. Adjacent to the house, the Heritage Rose Garden is a fragrant oasis boasting a stunning array of rose varieties. It’s a tranquil spot where you can take a relaxing stroll, savour the scent of blooming roses, and perhaps enjoy a picnic amid the picturesque surroundings.

Overall, Bishops Lodge offers a serene escape from the bustle of modern life and provides an opportunity to appreciate the timeless beauty of history and nature intertwined in this remarkable corner of Hay.

4. Bird Watching at Booligal Wetlands

Bird Watching at Booligal Wetlands

For those who enjoy bird watching, a trip to the Booligal Wetlands provides an idyllic destination in which to do so.

This picturesque wetland, located along Booligal Road, is a seasonal habitat for an impressive range of bird species, making it an ideal spot for amateur and experienced birdwatchers.

As you explore the walking trails and boardwalks, you’ll have the chance to spot several avian wonders, including waterfowl, waders and migratory birds, within a serene environment of reflective waters and lush vegetation.

5. River Activities on the Murrumbidgee

River Activities on the Murrumbidgee

The Murrumbidgee River is the perfect destination if you enjoy spending time by the water. Flowing gracefully through the heart of Hay, the river presents an inviting playground for a range of aquatic activities.

Anglers can cast their lines into the river’s depths in pursuit of prized catches like Murray cod, golden perch, and catfish. The tranquil waters are ideal for kayaking, allowing you to paddle at your own pace while soaking in the serene beauty of the riverbanks.

For those seeking a leisurely experience, picnicking on the riverbanks or enjoying a lazy day of swimming and relaxation is equally rewarding.

6. Wander Around Hay’s Historic Buildings

Wander Around Hay’s Historic Buildings

Hay is renowned for its stunning historical buildings. These well-preserved architectural gems, best seen whilst strolling around town, each have their own fascinating tale to tell.

The Hay Post Office, an iconic sandstone construction, embodies the town’s importance as a communication centre in the late 19th century. While the Court House, with its majestic facade, reminisces the era of law and order in the Outback. At the same time, the War Memorial, with its solemn and grand presence, pays tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

A self-guided walking tour allows you to appreciate the intricate details of these historic buildings while immersing yourself in the town’s distinct character. As you explore them, you will develop a deeper understanding of Hay’s contribution to shaping Australia’s formative history.

7. Attend the Hay Rodeo

Attend the Hay Rodeo

If you happen to visit Hay in November, don’t miss the annual Hay Rodeo. It’s a thrilling and quintessentially Australian experience that brings together the spirit of the Outback.

During it, spectators witness a showcase of traditional rodeo sports. From daring bull riding to heart-pounding barrel racing, the Hay Rodeo offers a captivating spectacle of skill, courage and cowboy culture. It’s a family-friendly event where the community gathers to celebrate their rich rural tradition.i

With plenty of food stalls and fun games to entertain the kids, it is an event not to be missed. The energy of the rodeo arena is infectious!

8. Discover the History of Hay’s Pubs

Hay boasts a collection of well-preserved historic pubs that provide a fascinating insight into the town’s social and cultural heritage. These charming establishments serve as places to enjoy a refreshing drink and as living relics of the past.

From the iconic Royal Hotel, with its ornate architecture, to the historic Bishops Lodge Hotel, where thirsty travellers have sought respite for over a century, each pub carries a piece of Hay’s history

within its walls – whether that be in the rustic charm of its timber beams, the lure of old photographs or the friendly banter of locals.

Take the time to savour a few cold beers and enjoy a hearty meal while immersing yourself in the authentic atmosphere of the Australian Outback pub.

9. Stargazing in the Outback

One of the best things to do at night in Hay is star-gazing. The remote location and minimal light pollution create ideal conditions for taking in the breathtaking beauty of the southern hemisphere’s night sky.

On a clear night, far away from urban centers, you can lay on a blanket on the ground and witness a brilliant canvas of stars, constellations and the Milky Way stretching as far as the eye can see.

Overall, it’s a serene and contemplative experience that is made all the more special if you have a telescope or a the StarTracker app on your mobile phone.

10. Explore the Lachlan River Rail Trail

Explore the Lachlan River Rail Trail

If you enjoy leisurely bike rides, traversing the Lachlan River Rail Trail is a terrific way to spend an afternoon.

This scenic trail follows the path of a disused railway line. It winds alongside the picturesque Lachlan River, providing stunning vistas of the riverbanks, abundant wildlife and the surrounding countryside.

With a relatively flat terrain, it’s suitable for cyclists of all levels, making it an excellent family activity or a leisurely solo ride. Along the way, you may encounter historical remnants of the railway era, adding a touch of nostalgia to your adventure.

11. Attend the Hay Races

Attend the Hay Races

Horse racing fans should visit Hay in November – when the biggest and best country race meeting takes place in New South Wales.

The highlight of Hay’s social calendar, this event draws crowds from all over Australia. It is a thrilling spectacle that offers them the chance to witness the power and grace of these magnificent animals as they thunder down the track, with jockeys vying for victory.

Beyond the racing action, you’ll find an array of entertainment, including food stalls, live music, and activities for the whole family. Overall, it’s a day when the community comes together to celebrate their passion for horses and the enduring tradition of Australian country racing.

12. Go Fishing at the Long Paddock

The Long Paddock is an iconic Australian term for the stock route that runs through Hay. It is also renowned for being an excellent place for fishing.

Nestled within Hay’s pristine landscapes, this area boasts abundant natural beauty and serene

waterways. The meandering rivers and waterholes are home to freshwater fish, with Murray cod and golden perch being the prized catches.

As you cast your line into the clear waters, surrounded by the tranquillity of the Outback, you’ll find a sense of peace and connection to nature that is truly rejuvenating. Just ensure you have the appropriate fishing licenses and equipment before doing so.

13. Take a Scenic Flight

Take a Scenic Flight

For a unique perspective of the Outback, consider taking a scenic flight over Hay and the surrounding countryside. It’s a fantastic way to appreciate the vastness and beauty of this remote region.

As you soar high above the vast, sweeping landscapes, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the iconic Hay Plains, meandering rivers and rugged terrain that defines this remote region.

Scenic flights offer an unparalleled opportunity to appreciate the sheer scale and grandeur of the Outback’s natural wonders, including the captivating Murray River and its meandering tributaries.

As well as providing you with a fantastic opportunity to take incredible photos, a scenic flight over Hay and the Outback is a memory-making journey that will remain with you long after your feet touch the ground.

14. Learn About Indigenous Culture

Learn About Indigenous Culture

During your visit to Hay, you should take the opportunity to learn about the area’s Indigenous culture.

The Wiradjuri people, the land’s traditional custodians, have a profound connection to the region, and their culture and history are an integral part of Hay’s identity. Local tours and experiences allow you to engage with Indigenous knowledge holders who share their traditions, art and stories. You can also participate in cultural tours, bushwalks and workshops that provide insights into traditional practices, dreamtime stories and the significance of the land.

Overall, these activities allow you to appreciate the deep spiritual connection Indigenous Australians have with the environment and gain a profound respect for their enduring cultural legacy.