This gem of a town, in the Queanbeyan Region of New South Wales, has emerged as a popular commuter hub, with new housing estates rising among the historic old buildings that date back to 19th-century settlement days.
But, despite the march of progress, Bungendore has so far managed to hold on to its considerable small-town charms.
This is a town of wide-open spaces set against a backdrop of hills and mountains. The winters are cold, but the autumns are a delight, with the town’s poplar trees turning burnt sienna.
The main street has some impressive old buildings, but was marked down by our researchers for “lacking cohesion”.
The town received a high score for accessibility, however, as Bungendore is not only close to Canberra and Queanbeyan (26km to the south-west), but is also on the Canberra-Sydney rail line.
Josephine Gregoire, manager of local French restaurant Le Tres Bon, will often take the three-hour train to Sydney for the day, or sometimes the weekend, with her daughters.
“It is so close to everything, you have the beach 90 minutes away, the snowfields are up the road, there are great wineries in the region,” says Mrs Gregoire.
With (close to) full employment and an occupancy rate of 93 per cent, Bungendore is no ghost town.
It is not as cheap as other treechange towns — a large family home on a big block will set you back just under $600,000 — but remains more affordable than Sydney or Melbourne.
Bungendore received an above-average score for food and culture, as it offers a healthy smattering of high-quality cafes, regional wineries and Italian and French restaurants.
The Wood Works Gallery is undisputedly the jewel in the town’s arts crown. It features works by prominent Blake and Wynne prize-winning artists, as well as some of the finest wood art, sculpture, ceramics and furniture in regional Australia. It attracts some 120,000 visitors a year.
Locals are also extremely proud of the Food Lovers’ Market, which features deli small goods, quality cheeses, a gelato bar, and fresh breads (including organic Italian and Turkish breads). The historic Lake George Hotel, first licensed in 1838, is a great place to bend an elbow.
What the locals say
Gregory Nye moved to the area 40 years ago because he could see the potential even then. “It is not one of those dying country towns without any services,” he says. “As an example, we have a medical practice with six doctors, a psychologist and a podiatrist.”
Mr Nye runs the Bungendore Motel and says proximity to Canberra is one of the town’s chief attractions. “Within 35 minutes you can be standing in the National Gallery of Australia,” he says. “It is a very underrated town.”
Mrs Gregoire thinks the town would be a good fit for empty-nesters, as there is a vibrant local community but the pace of life is still relaxed.
“There are quite a few artists and writers here so it would be a great place for someone to join that community hub,” she says.
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