Updated: Oct 30
Have you even heard of Dungog? I had, but it has taken me a long time to actually visit the town, and I am glad I did! Now here's a heads up for you, this NSW village in the Hunter Valley is becoming fashionable, so if you want to visit, get in before everyone else does!
Dungog is famous for its impressive mountain bike trail, attracting enthusiastic cyclists to Dungog Common - a piece of crown land on the outskirts of town. It caters for professional and amateur riders as well as bushwalkers and these visitors are helping the town to flourish. The Dungog Common comprises 650 acres and is traditionally home to the Gringai people.
The Common is a place for people to explore and get back to nature. So grab your hiking gear and head to Dungog Common.
Find more : Ride Dungog
Dungog is a scenic town, with beautiful heritage buildings and surrounded by hills. I could imagine only a few years ago it may have been an uneventful place. Not anymore! The town is the perfect place to stay as you explore the Barrington Tops
Philippa Graham, who is on the committee of Sculpture on the Farm at Fosterton introduced me to a number of the local businesses.
After my visit to Fosterton, I headed out towards the Dungog Village with a detour around the outskirts of town to take in the views.
THE DEAD DOG CAFE
First stop was to visit Stephen Orr and his team at The Dead Dog Cafe. I was warmly welcomed and Steve gave me a peek around the cafe before we sat down and had a chat about his vision for Dungog. Having lived in the area for 12 years, he has noted a vast change.
Steve wants his customers to step into a space where they feel welcome, and from what I can see, this is apparent. His mission is to serve healthy vegetarian and vegan food, quickly with the proviso it must be made with love, have colour and of course, taste sensational. I had a vegetarian toastie and scoffed it down rather quickly because it tasted so good.
As well, coffee must be done to Barista standards and I can attest this has been achieved! The Dead Dog is about to install an old-fashioned coffee machine that works with a handle and is silent!
The food is prepared by Steve using local produce, some supplied by local farmers and town folk, and shopping is done at the IGA. The Dead Dog is all about the community and creating a space for the large amount of mountain bike riders who come to ride at Dungog Common.
The vibe at the cafe is fabulous including quirky artwork selected by Steve and some of his own (cows on the wall, you will see when you visit). There is a library for guests to relax and read a book and a small area at the back filled with locally produced spreads and chutneys as well as incense and other items.
I love the sink with soap, water and paper towels, that is in the cafe so guests can actually wash their hands rather than use that dreadful hand sanitiser we have all been conditioned to use.
The Dead Dog Cafe is open from 6.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m
172 Dowling Street
HIDDEN VALLEY CLOTHING
If it is the country look you like then this is the store for you. Stocking famous brands including Thomas Cook, Akubra and Wrangler to name a few. There's a lot to discover in this store, and I bought myself a cool t-shirt. Hidden Valley Clothing stocks womens, mens, childrens, footwear including cowboy boots and homewares. It's a family owned business with a friendly team; Maree, Brianna and Keisha.
If you can't get to Dungog you can always purchase country clothing online.
143 Dowling Street
WILLOW AND IRIS
This delightful florist and gift shop is owned by Alison Eyb who has a passion for floristry. And who wouldn't, what a wonderful job. Again, I couldn't resist spending some time (and money) here in this delightful store. I purchased a coffee cup created by one of the locals.
Alison stocks various local artisan gifts and you will find all sorts of wonderful (and some quirky) finds here in the store.
154 Dowling Street
I caught up with Liz, owner of The Magpie. Something we have in common is a love of Magpies! This fabulous store that sells eclectic giftwares and pre-loved treasures and clothing. The Magpie is one of those places that you will find something unique! Liz is keen on sourcing ethically made products including jewellery, clothing, shoes, soaps, bags, baskets, books, toiletries and kitchenware. Plus some stylish Magpie collectables!
220 Dowling Street
Tracy, the owner of Settlers Arms, made some time for me out of her busy day. The former Mayor, and currently on the Local Council, Tracy is dynamo with the amount of work she does. The Settlers Arms offers style and comfort. Rolling hills surround this fabulous country hotel and provides access Barrington Tops National Park listed as world heritage. Visit the website for hours and bookings are essential due to the COVID menace.
I asked Tracy if there were any ghosts in this historical building, and wasn't surprised when she said 'well actually'. I have a thing about sensing ghosts I must say and I had already noted something! A friendly ghost, Mrs Walsh, was the publican in the 1980s and apparently she still likes to hang out at the Settlers Arms and has a fondness of playing with keys! I would have loved to have said the 1880s but that would be a massive exaggeration!
Settlers Arms offers accommodation, dining and bar.
Settlers Arms was established in 1848. Originally located in Dowling Street, it was relocated to the present site in the 1853. Most of the bricks used were made by convicts. The ‘new’ part of the building, that is located closest to Lord Street, dates back to 1891. In 1901, Settlers Arms became The Courthouse Hotel and was known as such up until 2005 when it once again became, Settlers Arms.
45 Brown Street
WESTWOOD DUNGOG PROVIDORES
I knew as soon as I stepped foot inside the Westwood Dungog Providores I would be spending more money! Yep, I stepped out with 4 pieces of smoked trout! I actually don't eat meat but I do eat fish and I love cheese! The Dungog Providores offers various local grass-fed beef, free-range pork and chicken and other specialities. Westwood Dungog Providores can also supply you with their own free-range smoked bacon and pork ribs.
Award-winning cheeses from Little Creek are available. The range includes flavoured cheddars, feta, labna and haloumi.
Definitely put the shop on your 'to visit' list.
261 Dowling Street
HIVE AND GOBBLER
Hive and Gobbler was an eye-opener for me. I felt like I was stepping back into a time when weaving and knitting was part of daily living. I used to love knitting and I have never seen such a variety of beautiful craft products as showcased in this quaint store. Sustainability and support for buy-from-the-bush businesses and producers is a major focus for owners, Brownen and Michael.
I had a tour with Jade, who is one of the employees at Hive and Gobbler, and I have to say I'm beginning to want to pick up those knitting needles again! Check out the website for online ordering and if you are in the area, there are various courses to help you learn how to be creative.
211 Dowling Street
DUNGOG BY DESIGN
Dungog by Design is a collective of makers living and creating in the Shire. I had a chat with Liz and Gerdi, who gave me a rundown on what Dungog by Design is all about. Here you will find many beautiful handmade items including jewellery, photography, painting, sculpture, textiles and much more. This gallery is the perfect place to shop for that unique gift for someone or to treat yourself to something special. One stipulation, makers, must reside in the Dungog Shire.
224 Dowling Street, Dungog NSW
Dark Liquor, operated by Matt Dark, has an excellent selection of wines, beers and spirits. It is an intriguing bottle shop with a great deal of car racing and rugby memorabilia.
2/119 Dowling Street
Tinshed Brewery is a locally owned and operated brew pub in the heart of town offering craft beer, terrific food and a relaxed atmosphere with dining outdoors overlooking Dowling Street and views of the surrounding hills.
The craft beers are all brewed onsite in the microbrewery using both Australian and European ingredients. The menu is created using local produce and a selection of local wines is also available.
109 Dowling Street
James Theatre is the oldest purpose-built cinema still operating in Australia and the building is magnificent. The theatre is a multi-purpose facility hosting films, live performances, dance and film classes. The venue is available for private functions, weddings, educational purposes and events. Visit the website to check out what's on.
6 Brown Street
There is much more to Dungog than I have shared here, I ran out of time so I have a great excuse to go back and discover more of the shops, cafes, and restaurants as well as spending some time in the Dungog Common.