Food, Art + Culture of Walcha

Early on in our travels through the NEHC, I got talking to some lovely ladies in Tenterfield curious about what we were doing.

I told them about some of the places we were visiting, with Walcha being the furthest south we had roamed. Now, one of the ladies in the group was from Walcha, and she quickly corrected me on my pronunciation. I was saying Wal-cha, but in fact, it is pronounce Wal-ka. So, I quickly remedied the situation and for the rest of our trip pronounced it as Wal-ka.

Well, I can safely say, after now visiting this gorgeous little New England High Country town, we need to change how we say the name. Heck, we might even need a referendum. We need to start pronouncing it Wal-cha. “Why’s that?” I hear you ask. Well there is just far too much cul-cha in Wal-cha for it not to be! It starts even before you arrive into the town, with massive artworks adorning the roadside on all approaches.

First stop when we hit town, after doing a quick drive through to get a lay of the land, was the Visitor Information Centre. Always a great place to start, especially when there’s someone like Lisa there to look after you and answer every question, no matter how mundane. We got the low-down on the town’s sights and delights, grabbed a couple of brochures and a map and quick-sticks, we were off to explore.

A short walk from the visitor centre had us at the Walcha Gallery of Art.  The art gallery is housed in a beautiful old brick and timber building on Derby Street. Owner Carly also operates the Walcha Guesthouse, located above the gallery. Inside you will find an excellent range of different styles of art, ranging from still-life, sculpture and the more abstract. Everything is for sale, with an emphasis on local artist’s works adorning the walls of the gallery. Featured exhibitions also change quite regularly, so it pays to pop in whenever you are in town. Jewellery from local artisans is also available for purchase.

Our bellies were starting to rumble so we were off to find the Walcha Royal Café. On our walk there, via the bridge over the picturesque Apsley River, you will encounter more of the Walcha art and culture scene. But more on that later. The Walcha Royal Café was once the Walcha Royal Hotel, but for the last 12 years owner Toni has been serving up some of the best coffee and cakes in the area, seven days a week. The café is decorated with motoring memorabilia and 60s inspired furnishings. Choose to enjoy your home-made treats inside the cosy café, out on the verandah or in the gardens underneath the willow tree, surrounded by metal works of art. Being a glorious sunny winter’s day, we chose the latter. Open from 7am, breakfast and lunch is also available, as is accommodation in the nine rooms upstairs or the self-contained cottage out the back. As a bonus, the cottage is also dog friendly.

While sitting down enjoying our morning tea, and planning our next move, my wife mentioned that she had noticed a sign at the visitor info centre advertising free Loan-a-Bikes. As we were about to embark on checking out the Walcha Open Air Gallery, which comprises over 55 pieces of art scattered around the town, I thought that this would be an excellent way to check them out (and burn off a bit of my choc mousse chocolate mud cake!). So, it was back to see Lisa at the info centre, fill out a quick form, take a photocopy of my licence, grab the bikes and helmets and get going. Armed with our map, we headed down Fitzroy Street, stopping to check out the many verandah posts that have been carved by local and visiting artists, taking a left turn at the river and following the levee bank past several sculptures before arriving at my favourite, “The Whale.” Standing at 5.5m tall, this piece catches your eye from a long way away, and is definitely not what you would expect to see in a small country town over 150kms from the coast! We rode around for hours, admiring the many sculptures, murals and mosaics before heading back to the info centre and dropping the bikes off.

Morning tea was well and truly burnt off by now, so it was time to find somewhere for lunch. Now, we’ve spent a bit of time in country towns before, so we know that you really can’t beat a country pub for lunch. The Commercial Hotel got our nod of approval, and we knew we were on to a winner when we walked through the doors to a massive open fire in the public bar. We grabbed a table in the bistro and our steak sandwich and chicken burger were served up barely before I had time to sample my icy cold beer. Built in 1864, the hotel has had many renovations, but that country pub charm remains.

After lunch, we got back in the car to venture just that little bit further out of town then what our legs were willing to take us earlier on the bikes. The welcome sculptures on the main roads in to town are some of the largest and most impressive.

After spending a day experiencing the food, art and culture of Walcha, I think you’ll join with me in wanting to change how we pronounce the name of this wonderful little town too.

Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the New England High Country region and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders – past, present and emerging – and acknowledge the important role Indigenous Peoples continue to play within the New England High Country community.