First published on 20 Feb 2012. Updated on 5 Jun 2012.
Formerly a fairly sleepy town where a good espresso was hard to find, the last five years have seen a cultural revolution in Dungog with the establishment of the Dungog Film Festival. Now in its fifth year, the festival is on in 2012 in May and brings all manner of filmmakers, actors, and writers to town for a weekend devoted to Australian films. Major motion pictures are screened at the heritage Dungog Cinema and there are short films, script readings, workshops and Q&As. Wine from Hunter Valley vineyards flows freely at the pop-up bars and venues scattered about town.
Outside the festival, there is plenty of fun still to be had. Time your trip right and you may just catch a genuine country fair, or even better, the Dungog Rodeo, held in March each year. Chapman St, Dungog 2420. (02 4995 3234). Kit yourself out in some blue jeans and RM Williams, grab a dagwood dog and settle in for a day of bull riding, cattle wrangling and steer wrestling.
Get into the great outoors and head for the hills. The Barrington Tops National Park has countless bushwalks and hikes, or if you prefer quadrapedial transport, you can explore the forest on horseback. Barrington Country Retreat, 1941 Chichester Dam Rd, Bandon Grove 2420. (02 4995 9269). To really get the blood pumping the Barrington Outdoor Adventure Centre can organise white-water kayaking and downhill mountain biking adventures throughout the plateau. 126 Thunderbolts Way, Gloucester 2422. (02 6558 2093).
Local produce is one of the best things about visiting the region. At the Camelot Lavender Farm you can fill your lungs with nature’s air freshener and fill your pockets with bath and body products and lavender-flavoured snacks. You can also picnic with some llamas if that’s your idea of a good time. 1312 Dungog Rd, Wallarobba 2420. (02 4995 6166). At the Bunna Bunoo Olive Grove you can tour the plantation and from Fri-Sun 10am-5pm they throw open the doors of the shop so stock up on oils, brined olives, jams, spreads and preserves. 237 Fishers Hill Rd, Vacy 2421. (02 4938 8086). At Johnson's Farmgate you can buy fruit, veges, eggs, and honey straight from the surrounding fields, as well as pickles, cheeses and small goods from local farms. 772 Glen William Rd, Glen William 2321. (02 4996 5595).
There are two pubs in Dungog: the Royal Hotel (80 Dowling St, Dungog 2420; 02 4992 3070 ) and theBank Hotel (270 Dowling St, Dungog 2420; 02 4992 1701), and both will set you up with a cold schooner and a counter meal.
For some more upmarket drinks your best bet is to head to one of the neighbourhood vineyards. Camyr Allyn Winery in nearby East Gresford has an open cellar every day except Tuesdays 10am-5pm where you can get your hands on a locally produced verdelhos, merlots and even a sparkling shiraz. 65 Allyn River Rd, East Gresford 2311. (02 4938 9576). For more on sparkling shiraz see Bars pXX.
Buried in the Barrington Tops National Park, the Carawirry Cabins and Wildlife Refuge has two rustic wooden cabins right in the heart of the forest. 73 Cabbage Tree Rd, Main Creek 2420. (02 49921859). $295-$1,630. Dusodie Holiday Farm lets you enjoy farm life without the hard work and early mornings. Like something out of a James Herriot novel, the hobby farm comes complete with horses, cows, ducks, chooks and goats. 1707 Chichester Dam Rd, Dungog 2420. (02 4995 9226). $40pp. The historic Bandon Grove Schoolhouse was built in 1882 and can sleep up to 20 people. 1232 Chichester Dam Rd, Bandon Grove 2420. (0412 284852). Or, for accommodation right in the heart of things, you can head to the Bank Hotel in the centre of town ($80-$185). For something a little out of the ordinary, at Carriageway you can hole up in a converted red rattler ($95) for a weekend and become one with our historic railways. A little train spotting of an afternoon and then dinner in the Rattler’s Restaurant and your locomotive-themed weekend is complete. 4426 Clarence Town Rd, Dungog 2420. (02 4992 1388).
Dungog is three hours north of Sydney by car. Take the F3 freeway to Maitland and then turn onto the New England Highway. Go through Morpeth and Clarence Town and then follow signs to Dungog.
Alternatively, Dungog can be reached easily by rail on the Newcastle and Central Coast line. The trip takes approximately four and a half hours and requires at least one change.