As the first town to be listed on the NSW State Heritage register, it’s common knowledge that Braidwood has colonial roots that date back to the first European settlement of the region and long before that, a rich Indigenous history.
What I didn’t know before spending a weekend in Braidwood though, is that along Wallace Street, behind unassuming shopfronts and façades, are some of the region’s best eats and art.
Whether you spend a handful of hours here on the way to the coast, or come for a charming overnight stay, you’ll sample the best Braidwood has to offer with this food and art trail.
A vibrant arts community
Before you head out, arm yourself with Provisions; a beloved deli and crêperie that’ll transport you straight to Bretagne (or Brittany), France. Their galettes are true to traditional French recipes and made with Australian buckwheat flour – they’re light enough to enjoy not one, but two crêpe courses. Start with the classic tartiflette – a Savoy specialty of bacon, raclette cheese, caramelised onions and potatoes – and a glass of cider (it’s never too early). For an extra pep in the step, polish off a simple yet delicious butter, sugar and lemon crêpe.
Now you’re ready to hit the streets. Start with the Braidwood Regional Arts Group, a not-for-profit organisation of over 300 artists, writers, performers and supporters. There are regular art exhibitions and markets where members showcase and sell their work, so you’re sure to find something handmade and bespoke. Look out for workshops too, like monthly life drawing sessions.
A 3-minute walk will take you to fYREGALLERY, where the belief is that “the arts can break new ground”, sparking new connections. This fine art gallery holds biannual exhibitions and when I visited in April, Ian Henderson’s ‘Eyecatcher’ exhibition of watercolours, drawings and collages was on. His abstract expressionist landscapes were a delight, with intriguing little winding paths and textured collaged squares.
Braidwood’s own secret garden
Rest the eyes and work the appetite with morning tea at Vanilla at Altenburg. This café is tucked away in the garden behind Studio Altenburg, a gallery and shop in the 1888 Commercial Bank building. Before you go in, look across the street to spot another one of Braidwood’s four Heritage-listed buildings, with its Victorian and Federation-style architecture.
At Vanilla, the beautiful garden makes for a relaxing morning, especially if you nab yourself a sunlit nook with a view of Mount Gillamatong. This private spot is perfect for some reading and writing too, if you’re so inclined!
The food is plentiful, wholesome and flavoursome, the coffee is faultless and the array of just-out-of-the-oven goodies is irresistable. Vanessa, who owns and runs Vanilla, recommended the chai masala carrot cake and it did not disappoint.
Before you leave, take in the mural by local artist, Mark Sullivan – and, this is an odd suggestion, but check out the bathroom too where the painting and collages on the wall add another layer of thoughtful detail.
To find art for your home
Then, explore the work of more local artists at Studio Altenburg. I was fortunate enough to see the atmospheric paintings of Glenda Fell Jones, an artist from the nearby Araluen Valley. Her works celebrate the region’s landscapes in rich detail, deepening my appreciation of Braidwood.
The building and gallery space themselves are art. The grand marble fireplaces are an original feature and the imposing façade of the building reflects the prosperity of the gold mining era. Walking through, the openness gave the works room to breathe, as well as space for me to truly grasp the history of the building (and the town).
Studio Altenburg’s shop has been carefully stocked with distinctive homewares as well as art supplies to awaken your inner artist. In other towns, the shops might be filled with generic, mass-produced goods but not in Braidwood!
Browse more homewares and textiles at Sandalwood Homewares, just 150 metres away. The collection here is handpicked from trips to Southeast Asia and beyond, with many one-of-a-kind, ornate pieces of clothing, jewellery and furniture.
Braidwood’s incredible past and living history
A 4-minute walk away in another Heritage-listed building is Braidwood Museum. This 1840s building was the first hotel in town and the brickwork is amazing, accentuated by the green posts, railings and doors.
The Museum is volunteer-run, with a huge collection of artefacts and historical records. There’s a register of infectious diseases (fascinating given the pandemic) and every edition of ‘The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal’, published from 1859 to 1958 and apparently quite progressive for its time.
What’s special about this Museum is how close you can get to such significant artefacts. This transforms the experience from passively viewing a display of inanimate objects to immersing yourself in living history. This is further enhanced by conversations with John Stahel, local and volunteer, who is full of stories, knowledge and passion.
The front of the Museum is dedicated to the Indigenous history of Braidwood. From John, I learned we are unveiling more and more about this. ‘Monkittee’ is one of the street names in town and it may have been derived from the Munkata Aboriginal community.
Lunch in an 1860s cottage
All that learning calls for a well-deserved lunch at Troopers Rest. This restaurant is housed in another Heritage-listed building and impressed me with its balance of renovation and restoration, celebration of local art and delicious food.
This 1860s cottage has been elegantly preserved with restored original flooring and brick fireplaces, and even a glass pane in the dining room that showcases the original lath and plaster walls.
Inside, contemporary images from a Canberran photographer hang next to ink drawings by local artist and teacher, Michael Flakelar. These intricate drawings throw back to Braidwood’s gold mining era, colonial history and Indigenous roots.
The menu changes regularly but what remains consistent is the use of quality ingredients in a modern Australian style, generous servings and warm, inclusive service. Pull up a chair outside and watch the street traffic go by.
To get back to where you started and walk off lunch, stroll back up the other side of Wallace Street, or take Elrington Street to pass some significant buildings such as 31, 33 and 35 Elrington Street which are restored 1850s houses and St Andrew’s Anglican Church, built of local granite and featuring some of the first gargoyles used in ecclesiastical buildings in New South Wales. After having just scratched the surface of the food and art scene in Braidwood, you’ll be itching to plan your next trip!