Experience the fabulous sense of community in this quaint country town
There is something about small country towns. Maybe it’s the fresh, crisp air, or the beautiful countryside views, or the fact you feel like you’re experiencing almost another culture where strangers smile and say hello when you walk down the street and everyone has a sense of contentment with this slower pace of life.
When the town of Dungog got together and invited HUNTERhunter to come and discover Dungog, we were looking forward to all of those things. But I think what blew us away the most was the fabulous sense of community. Here in this quaint town was a group of locals who have banded together through thick and thin - record-breaking floods that were up to the roofs of some properties, then the long droughts and terrible fires around the country, COVID, and then more floods.
But you wouldn’t even know it. There is such a strong sense of community spirit here - they love this town, they love their fellow Dungonians - they are proud of this beautiful place and they are happy. And a visit there will see you fall in love too.
Dungog is just 1hr 15mins north of Newcastle, 55mins from Newcastle airport or 2hrs 30mins from Sydney City and the drive here is all part of the experience. We recommend taking the Clarence Town Road route to take in the beautiful rolling farmland and mountains in the background.
We spent a couple of days discovering what to do and where to stay in Dungog - and here is what we found.
Play - What to do in Dungog
For a little regional town in NSW, there is still plenty to keep you busy.
Hit the Shops
This is the perfect way to acquaint yourself with Dungog. Take a stroll along Dowling Street and beyond and you will find many beautiful shops such as the kids toy and clothing stores Sassafras and Billie & Grace, gift and homeware stores such as The Magpie, At Yia Yia’s and Country Elegance Gardens & Gifts, women’s clothing at Chic and Antique and slow living and creativity shop Hive and Gobbler. For more details and some snapshots of what to expect, check out our guide to shopping in Dungog.
Explore the History of the Town with a Blue Plaque Walk
Along your walk down the main street you might notice blue plaques on some buildings, these are part of a self-guided walk that give readers a summary of the history of the buildings they appear on. The historic architecture of the old local homes and buildings is noticeable as soon as you arrive, and absolutely stunning!
Either take these in as you go or set out to find as many as possible. A few notable ones include 211 Dowling Street which is one of the oldest buildings in Dungog and the original Dungog Inn which now hosts the two beautiful stores Chic and Antique and Hive and Gobbler, the beautiful original bank building which is now being transferred into a private residence and some of the original churches such as St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at 60 Dowling Street.
Catch a Flick at one of the Oldest Cinemas - James Theatre
The James Theatre is another of the buildings featured on the blue plaque town walk and the oldest purpose-built original cinema still operating in Australia. The multi-purpose facility screens both mainstream and arthouse movies, a wide range of musical performances, and occasional festivals. They recently hosted the Australian Chamber Orchestra for an exclusive event - not too shabby little Dungog!
It’s a quaint little Theatre with Spanish-influenced architecture, unique to the region. With the interior boasting the traditional old green leather seats inside - it’s a great way to experience a bygone era whilst in Dungog.
The James Theatre program is organised entirely by volunteers, through Friends of the James Theatre, which screens movies on weekends, during school holidays, and whenever they can find something worth showing. With COVID restrictions, regular movies went to the last weekend of each month, but the program is building up again, with details on the website or Facebook page.
Where: 6 Brown Street
More Info: click here
If you’re after a bit more action, one of the major attractions to the Dungog Region is the Dungog Common, which is home to world-class mountain biking trails set on over 650 acres reserved for communal recreational use and environmental protection.
It’s an amazing space with a mix of purpose-built mountain biking trails, horse-riding trails, bushwalking and trail running courses, and a purpose-built mountain bike ‘Fun Track’ that’ll keep aspiring BMX and mountain bikers entertained for hours.
Many visitors bring their own bikes or there are a few bikes you can hire in Dungog from Speedy Cycles.
The Dungog Common is free to access and the bike trails are managed by Ride Dungog, a local volunteer group that is passionate about building community connections, encouraging wellbeing, and getting outdoors to take full advantage of the beautiful environment. Be sure to drop a donation for the upkeep of the Common via the card facilities at the start of the track or drop into the Tin Shed Brewery who have a donation tin.
Keep Active - Tennis Courts, Swimming Pool, Playground, and Skate Park
If keeping active on a weekend away is where it’s at for you, Dungog also has tennis courts located on Lord Street with lights for evening games. Casual visitors can even book the courts to enjoy!
Open from October 1 - March 31, the Dungog public swimming pool has a 6 lane pool and a slide for the older kids. Located on Chapman Street, Dungog - they also run morning aqua exercise classes for $15 a session.
And whilst the kids can get involved in the tennis and pool activities, if you’re looking for what to do with the kids in Dungog, there are a couple of simple playgrounds sprinkled throughout the Dungog town. Our choice was Coronation Park which had the better facilities, shaded by trees, and a skate park just across the road.
Have Yourself a Pretty Picnic
Speaking of parks, when you’re in a regional town, there is nothing better than getting out in the fresh air and taking in the beautiful scenery - this country town is no exception.
We recommend taking the time to head to a park, or the likes, for a picnic. There are a few beautiful spots for a picnic but we set up just off Stroud Hill Road before you head over Dungog Bridge. There are a few picnic tables, public toilets, and a bbq in the park but for us, it was being riverside and having a view of the traditional white timber bridge.
Megs Kitchen sorted us out with a picnic pack and we grabbed a bottle of Hunter Valley wine from the local Dungog IGA bottle shop and settled in for an afternoon picnic.
Get Creative at a Small Workshop
In a town where the pace is pleasingly slower, it’s only fitting that there be activities that are also akin to the same vibe. Hive and Gobbler run a variety of workshops that are focused on mindful creativity and slow living such as weaving, macrame, bread making, and art and sip. Check out what’s on and plan your activities whilst in Dungog.
Where: Hive and Gobbler | 211 Dowling Street
More Info: click here
Stay - Accommodation in Dungog
The Royal Hotel Dungog recently reopened in January with a country-style guest house as the first stage of redevelopment after the new owners Howard and Andrew purchased the hotel with the hopes to bring it back to life.
The Royal Hotel has had a long history, with the first pub on site in 1850 and the current building opening in 1939. There are still remnants of the by-gone era with elaborately patterned wallpaper in the hall, old signage to the Saloon and Dining Room, and the beautiful old tiles and fireplaces throughout the building.
Although still a work in progress, with more plans to continue restoring this hotel, the work that the team has done to date to renovate the upstairs accommodation is evident, with a charming combination of style and modern conveniences. All the rooms have brand new beds and fresh new linen, polished floorboards in the room, air conditioning, smart TVs, and wifi, all on top of fresh coats of paint and block-out blinds.
The comfortable accommodation with an in-room basin and quaint dark wooden wardrobes are reminiscent of the style of room I’ve stayed in France and London.
The rooms have shared separate ladies' and gentlemen's bathrooms with multiple toilets and showers and even a bath for the little ones, and those in-room basins are handy if you want to freshen up in the privacy of your own room. The guest bathrooms are kept spotlessly clean and have been stylishly updated to offer maximum guest privacy and amenity.
There are also shared kitchen, dining, and lounge facilities, which have all been newly renovated and add to the country house atmosphere. It was really enjoyable to chill in the lounge and meet other guests as they dropped in, but most of the time we had the room to ourselves.
A simple continental breakfast is available in the kitchen however with Meg’s Kitchen in the downstairs bar, we couldn’t go past that option on a weekday.
The Royal Hotel Dungog is perfect for groups of friends, families, and riders who are visiting Dungog and want to be amongst the township and close to all it has to offer. And if you are in town for a biking weekend (powered or non-powered) - the guys have sufficient storage for the bikes in the shed on the property, no worrying about where you are going to store them.
Where: 80 Dowling Street
More Info: click here
On our second night we decided to stay further out of town to really experience the country surroundings. 20mins out of Dungog is Carawirry Forest Escape. With multiple cabins on-site we chose The Cottage - the retreat’s newest addition.
As you arrive here the tranquility of the surroundings is breathtaking. On a clearing in the middle of this forest sits a 2 bedroom log cabin suitable for up to 6 people. It has all the mod cons of regular accommodation - full kitchen, coffee machine, wifi, smart TV, aircon, laundry but if you choose to switch off from the world you can in this secluded retreat - with no mobile reception.
There are two wood fires that are perfect for those cooler evenings - an indoor one and an outdoor fire pit area which is great to sit around and take in the ambiance.
The other star of this accommodation is the outdoor bath - a signature inclusion in all the Carawirry accommodation options. It’s another way to immerse yourself in this environment. And don’t worry it is very private, so you can enjoy your moment of “public nudity” without fear of being seen by other cabins - just watch for those spying kangaroos!
There are walking tracks in the surrounding bush that take you to the small river or waterfall or enjoy a countryside drive into Dungog. Either way, the serenity is real out here.
Where: 73 Cabbage Tree Road
More Info: click here
There are other accommodation options around Dungog including a motel, two other hotels, and a number of AirBnb options.