While my journey was recently steered abroad, the roads for me will always lead back to my hometown in the Central West of NSW and can I tell you, this fact has certainly changed the course of introductions for me in the past 18 months. Formalities now head along the trajectory of “Hey, nice to meet you”, “Oh you must be Aussie” (I blame my bogan accent for such abhorrently quick pickups), “Are you from Sydney or Melbourne?” Well friends, I’m here to divulge two pieces of information:
1. Australia has one or two more destinations than just Sydney and Melbourne (have ya heard of Perth?)
2. Where I grew up involves neither.
For 21 years, I was lucky enough to call the small town of Forbes my home along with around 9000 others. Proximity wise, it’s almost smack bang in the centre of what is classified as the Central West of NSW and you can blame it on now living worlds away, but I really do feel so utterly blessed I got to grow up somewhere like it. They say there’s no place like home, but honestly, there is no place like Forbes.
From birth and the 21 years following, Forbes provided me with the tools I needed to set out into the world of adulting. Thinking back to these next four years at University, the term ‘adulting’ as potentially a little optimistic, but nonetheless, I attribute my upbringing in Forbes and the close knit community vibes that come with growing up in a small town, to gaining a degree, some life-long friends and my liver in-tact to tell the tale.
My reasoning for this blog today isn’t to impart my life story onto you. It’s me drawing upon my 21 years in Forbes and the fact that no matter where I am in the world, it’ll always be home, as grounds to provide you with the Forbes edition of Incy’s guide to the Central West.
To make this simple (because that’s how things should be), I’m going to dissect my guide into three equally important parts: to do, to see and to eat. First up...
Do. Shop. Same thing. One of my favourite weekend past times was to explore the boutiques that line the main streets of Forbes.
Was I lucky enough to have a mum that owned my favourite store in town? Yes.
Am I going to tell you why I loved it so much? You better bloody believe it.
Call it a plug, but Little Extras Lifestyle is genuinely my favourite shop OF. ALL. TIME. and not being able to browse the shelves and steal the lollies from behind the counter (yeah sorry Mum, that was me) makes my soul and wardrobe ache in equal parts. Once a pub of yesteryear, the store boasts a sun filled space, full of character and charm. Be it this, it’s prime location in the centre of town, or the array of clothing, bags, shoes, jewellery and everything in between, it’s never short of a local or out-of-towner (as we like to call them) perusing the range and having a chat (also, this is a good time to note that having a natter is a big thing in Forbes. You may not know Fred who just ran into Barb down the street who oddly enough just caught up with Barry’s cousin Deb for a cuppa, but I promise you’ll be made to feel right at home wherever you go and that friends, is something you just don’t get in the big smoke)
Anyway, digressing from that little segue, a few other shops I 1000% recommend popping into are:
- Chapter Two Boutique for all your designer fashion pieces
- Made of Fridays for the cutest homewares and knick-knacks you didn’t know you needed
- And Painted Daisies for more homeware goods because you can never have enough
The beauty of small towns is that these stores are all within about a 50m radius of each other – more energy for walking the shelves rather than the streets, I say.
Because you only covered about the size of a football pitch on your shopping travels, my second ‘to do’ is a pretty picturesque way to get your daily step count up. Winding it’s way through the town is what is known as Lake Forbes and surrounding that, a path of around 4.5km. This path provides many locals with their morning walking track and many out-of-towners (there it is again) a way to enjoy the sights and scenes of Forbes. If you’re privy to a bike ride (or really wanting to get that step count up), this path connects to an extended track that ventures its way past the local show ground, out to the ski dam and back again.
In recent years, the lake has undergone some serious beautification, which has further cemented it’s spot as the main hub of the town. The addition of solar lights, some landscaping and a fountain at either end now mean there’s more to enjoy, day or night.
THE LACHLAN RIVER
Being navigationally challenged myself, I wouldn’t expect many to know that where Forbes sits on the map is largely bordered by the Lachlan River which just happens to bring me to another favourite past time of mine. I get an overwhelming sense of nostalgia when I think back to BBQ’s on the river. It’s scenic, it’s adventurous, it’s the perfect outing with friends or family and that’s why it’s made the cut into this very reputable guide.
The good ol’ lake could come into play again in the ‘to see’ category, but considering we’ve covered it, I’ll spare the extra reading and jump straight into some other cracking scenes Forbes has to offer.
About 10km south of Forbes, you will find the ‘amazing’ sign, and it is quite literally what the name suggests. Bountiful with budding artists and creatively minded locals, the Amazing sign was designed and fabricated by local volunteers (quick shout out to dad and his handiwork on that first ‘a’) and is part of what’s known as the Sculpture Down the Lachlan Culture Trail. From the centre of town to the outskirts, you will find an array of sculptures nestled within the township and the nature that surrounds it. With new sculptures being added to the mix since I moved abroad, I know this will certainly be on my to-see list when I get home, but I highly recommend you checking it out on my behalf in the interim.
On the topic of trails, another notable one is the Heritage Trail – a self-guided walk showing off the town’s rich heritage and the remarkably maintained charm of buildings from a bygone era.
Along this walk you’ll visit Victoria park, another of Forbes’ bragging rights and another fabulous spot for a picnic, coffee or catch up.
For keen photographers, the Forbes Wetlands which sits 4km south of the township is a sanctuary for rich birdlife and the perfect chance to snap some shots of some rare and endangered species.
THE SKI DAM
Whether you’re an avid water skier or not, the ski dam (or the Lake Forbes Aquatic Centre if we’re getting technical) is a family friendly destination. I mentioned earlier the extended lake track that circles the ski dam, but if you’re ready to cool off and kick back, this is the perfect spot to almost forget that Forbes is 5 hours from the nearest beach. (You’ve gotta give credit where credit’s due though, because we certainly have a real crack at making the most of the waterways we were given)
Not one to hero a criminal (but kinda, a little bit), a fun fact about Forbes is that it’s the burial spot of the infamous Ben Hall – a budding bushranger from the mid 1800’s. Some may call it morbid, others may commend us on making the best of a bad situation, but one of the town’s highlights is Ben Halls grave which sits snuggly in the middle of the local cemetery. If you’re really invested and up for a road trip, a plaque marks the spot about 30km out of town where Ben Hall’s illustrious life came to an end via gunshot at the ripe age of 27.
Apologies about finishing that last segment there. I hope it didn’t spoil your appetite because the third and final piece to the trilogy is my to-eat recommendations.
A newer addition to the culinary delights Forbes has on offer is Sweet Three by the Lake, or the Waffle Van for those playing at home. As the name suggests, this local hot spot is set in one of the most beautiful spots along Lake Forbes and is an upcycled caravan that pumps out the most delicious Belgian Waffles (hence, waffle van), one of a kind shakes and all the yummy things you could expect from any bricks and mortar cafe. Despite the temporary intentions of a caravan, this now permanent structure is surrounded by draping willow trees as old as time and rings true to the fact that all things taste better on bean bags and blankets and surrounded by water (don’t bother fact checking, this is 1000% accurate)
LAKESIDE TAKE AWAY
Another business proving that things taste better by the water is Lakeside Takeaway which is located within perfect proximity of your ultimate picnic destination a.k.a the lake. I’m sure by now you’re cottoning on to the trend that is Lake Forbes but can I please just remind you about the whole 5 hours from the closest beach thing before you lake shame us. Lunch or summertime dinners, fish and chips from Lakeside and family or friends gathered by the lake, it really doesn’t get much better.
As with all small towns, it wouldn’t be complete without a local bakery, a handful of hotels to choose between when you are craving that occasional pub feed and a few cute, quaint cafes. I should also mention that we have a Thai restaurant – I know, this is big stuff for a small town – and for an evening meal this is hands down my #1 recommendation. With only one Thai restaurant in town and a smaller CBD than most, I’ll refer you to a quick Google search to lead you there.
AND THAT, FRIENDS, IS A WRAP!
Generally when someone announces ‘that’s a wrap’ on the back of a food segment, you’d assume it’d be a nice salad one, a spot of meat maybe, but on this very occasion you’d be mistaken. I am officially wrapping up the Forbes edition of Incy’s Guide to the Central West and can I just say THANK YOU for giving me the opportunity to feel like I was back home for a hot little minute. I hope it was as fun for you as it was for me but more than that, I hope it gave you a taste and an urge to head out to the Central West and enjoy all the wonderful things it has to offer. If you do make the trip, make sure you say hey for me.
Drone shots via: Craig Dwyer
Other images sourced from: