Niagara Cafe, Gundagai - feels like being in the shoes of my grandparents
Updated: Dec 31, 2022
Recently my husband and I had an overnight road trip to Wagga Wagga in regional New South Wales, Australia, about 460km southwest of Sydney. It rained the whole way there and the trip itself was very uneventful. Wagga Wagga is a large inland city that over the years many Kytherians have settled in and ran very successful businesses. Some Kytherians names that have been found there over the last 100 years are Harantzas, Kalligeros, Paspalas, Pavlakis, Petrohilos, Protopsaltis, Stathis and Tambakis, with several of them buried in the cemeteries there. Some of these tombstones can be found in our resources section on our website.
The next morning, we woke early, went for an early morning walk, although freezing, and headed out of Wagga Wagga early.
On the way home we stopped at a town called Gundagai for breakfast. Gundagai is a one-hour drive from Wagga wagga on the way back to Sydney.
This was the highlight of our two days away.
I had previously read a fair bit about the opening of the Niagara Café in Gundagai and how the current owners had restored it to its previous glory, but I had not experienced it. It was the perfect breakfast location.
The cafe has a wonderful sign out the front explaining the history of the café and it’s wonderful Kytherian beginnings and ownership.
Driving into Gundagai main street you can’t help but see the café. The wonderful signs out the front made it stand out from the other shops around it.
The current owners have done a wonderful job restoring this café. The front doors make it obvious to everybody that inside is going to be something special.
The detail inside is wonderful. It is obvious from the old photos of the café that line the walls that the restoration is in theme and layout to the old café. The booths, table and chairs, mirrors, lights and even air-conditioning ducts look like they were taken straight from 1938.
The milk bar itself is the highlight of the café. It must have been amazing when it was first built. The colour of the lights behind the bar and the mirrors across the front make it standout and give it a real presence in the room.
I ordered a typical café breakfast (with a milkshake of course) and was very impressed when the plate arrived, and I saw the logo of the café on the plate. Again, wonderful attention to detail and history.
The whole time I was in the café I could not help but think that this would have been a very similar café to what both of my grandfathers would have owned and operated in Gloucester and Grafton. I kept picturing them behind the bar serving customers, cooking in the kitchen or clearing and wiping down tables. It was actually a fairly surreal half hour or so for me.
If you are ever near Gundagai I strongly recommend you stop by. If nothing else, sit and have a milkshake and soak in the atmosphere. Why not imagine you are in the country town or your father, grandfather or great-grandfather, eating food cooked by him off a plate with his café’s logo on it? While eating, picture your mother, grandmother or great-grandmother making a milkshake behind the bar to give to one of her regular customers. Being in this café is probably the closest you will get to being there all those decades ago.
For our international readers, the names Wagga Wagga and Gundagai are indigenous Australian names. Wagga Wagga means “many Crows” and Gundagai derives its name from the native language term “going upstream”. Gundagai had a flood in 1852 that washed the original town away.