Cowra is a surprising town with a unique story. In August 1944 more than 1000 Japanese prisoners attempted to break out of a prisoner-of-war camp here (231 of them died, along with four Australians). Since the war Cowra has aligned itself with Japan and the causes of reconciliation and world peace.
The small town of Canowindra (the name means 'home' or 'camping place' in the local indigenous language) is the perfect laid-back weekender. It's 32km north of Cowra and has a heritage-listed main street where a surprising number of art galleries and old wares shops make for a leisurely meander.
This gorgeous time-warped town (www.gulgong.net) once featured alongside author Henry Lawson on the $10 note. Today the narrow, rambling streets, classified by the National Trust, are not so done-up that they have lost their charm. The town also has a Henry Lawson Heritage Festival during the June long weekend, with concerts at the Opera House and other festivities.
The region north of Bathurst is good driving territory with beautiful scenery, parks and reserves and a handful of quaint little towns. Follow the signs towards Lithgow from Bathurst city centre, then take the turn-off for Sofala. An easy drive through increasingly rolling country dips down into a valley 43km northeast of Bathurst.