Forbes is a remarkably elegant and substantial inland town. Famous for its connections with the bushranger, Ben Hall (he was killed and buried near the town), today it is an important rural service centre noted for its fine parks and gardens and its large and gracious public buildings.
Forbes offers a great range of attractions so you can do as much or as little as you like. Get your motor running at McFeeters Motor Museum, take in our stunning scenery as you explore and discover Lake Forbes and the Lachlan River, and experience a glimpse of life on the land as you check out the Central West Livestock Exchange.There are also a range of experiences you can take part of during your stay in Forbes, visit http://www.finditinforbes.com.au to find out more!
An elegant rural service centre famed for its connections with the bushranger Ben Hall, Forbes sits amid farmland on the Lachlan River.
Forbes is one of New South Wales’ primary producing areas – and regarded as one of the richest.
With its gold rush past, history comes alive for you in Forbes. Beautiful heritage buildings from the late 1800s still retaining their original appearance and notorious bushranger artefacts, graves and locations. Bushranger exploits in the area have become part of the folklore.
Tour the town on foot and admire some fine examples of 19th-century architecture and visit Ben Hall’s grave. Browse through the vintage cars in McFeeter’s Motor Museum, which also has a cafe and a cellar door for tasting local wines. Lake Forbes is a natural lagoon with 8.9 km of walking and cycle tracks, abundant birdlife, shady picnic areas and playgrounds for the kids.
Elsewhere in the area, go birdwatching in the Gum Swamp and Bird Hide, a wetland sanctuary just 4 km from Forbes that’s home to more than 150 bird species. At Jemalong Weir, 24 km from Forbes, go bushwalking, canoeing and have a picnic or BBQ lunch.
The population in the Forbes district boomed when gold was discovered in 1861. The fledgling diggings township was named Forbes, it is thought after Sir Francis Forbes, the first Chief Justice of New South Wales.
The gold rush brought an influx of some 30,000 people creating a massive tent city and leading to the development of the substantial hotels, churches, civic and other buildings which you can still see in Forbes today.
As gold rush fever hit, some turned to a life of crime, including the infamous Ben Hall and the Gardiner Gang; noted amongst Australia’s most famous bushrangers.
If it wasn’t for Ned Kelly, Ben Hall would definitely be the most famous of all the bushrangers – he was serious, deadly and efficient. He arrived in the Forbes area when he was twelve. He bought a station near the Weddin Mountains in 1860. He was tried for armed robbery in 1862 (the record of the trial is still held in the Forbes Court House) but acquitted.
It is easy to romanticise Hall but, in fairness, when he returned from his trial he found that his house had been burned down, his cattle had been killed and his wife had run off with a former policeman. It is hardly surprising that he saw this confluence of events as a police vendetta and probably took up bushranging as an act of revenge. It is this portrayal as a revenging outlaw that has helped to turn him into a romantic figure.
Later in 1862 Frank Gardiner’s gang, of which Hall had become a member, pulled off the largest Australian gold robbery near Eugowra when they successfully robbed a gold escort of 84.56 kg of gold and £3,700 in cash. Hall was arrested but released when gang member, Dan Charters, refused to implicate his best friend. Hall moved across towards Goulburn where he robbed people on the Sydney to Melbourne road with relative impunity.
He was eventually killed in a hail of gunfire about 25 km to the north-west of Forbes on May 5, 1865. The location where Ben Hall was shot is just a clump of trees in a very flat paddock and is worth visiting as it has large interpretive panels, which has been installed by the Forbes Historical Society.
You can visit the graves of Ben Hall, Catharine Ada Foster (better known as Kate Kelly – legendary sister of bushranger Ned) and other local legends at Forbes General Cemetary.