Bargo is about 100 kilometres south west of Sydney. At the southern end of the Wollondilly region, it is also a main residential town surrounded by farmlands.
Before the coming of the white man, it was home to a small number of aboriginal peoples and also a corridor for their migrations between the highlands and the coast. Part of the area is now under the control of the Tharawal Land Council.
First explored by Europeans in 1798, who discovered their first koalas, lyre birds and wombats here, the area was covered in a dense scrub and called by the Europeans the 'Bargo Brush'.
The 'Bargo Brush' - remnant at Wirrimbirra Sanctuary
In fact in the earliest days the whole region south of the Cataract River at Appin was called 'the Bargo', the name also being used to cover the area to the west as far as Buxton when the original railway went through in the 1860s.
Settlement at Bargo dates from as early as 1820 when the Great South Road from Stonequarry (Picton) to Bong Bong (Highlands) and Argyle (Goulburn) passed through; the first inn was built ('The Woolpack', just north of the present town). Several land grants were made in 1822, but the soil being poor, the settlers did not flourish.
The road through Bargo was of poor quality and often impassable in bad weather, and the thick Brush was a favourite haunt for escaped convicts and bushrangers, making a journey through Bargo hazardous and notorious. (The last remaining stand of this thick scrub can be seen at Wirrimbirra Sanctuary today.)
The railway line south bypassed Bargo to the west in the 1860s, and although land was released for sale in the village in the 1880s, it wasn't until the Main Deviation of the railway through Tahmoor and Bargo to Mittagong in 1919 that Bargo really began to develop.
During the Motoring Age (1930s to 60s) Bargo was one of the main towns on the Hume Highway, the vast amounts of traffic passing through helping to stimulate local business, and the town became the retail and service centre for smaller villages and the farms nearby.
Shopping Centre - Bargo
This prosperity was short-lived, however. When the Freeway bypassed it to the east in the 70s Bargo went into rapid decline, and the town today appears a ghost of its former self.
Now the locals shop in larger towns just a few minutes away - which explains the modest nature of today's main street.
On passing through it is easy to regard Bargo as yet another sleepy country village.
The modest retail area on the old highway, and the remains of the original village (on the other side of the railway, near the hotel) give this impression.
Better to look at the shiny new railway station in between - this gives a real clue to the modern Bargo.
In fact Bargo vies with Tahmoor and Picton for the title of largest town in the Wollondilly.
Being closer to the freeway (and hence just over an hour from the city), Bargo has become an outer dormitory suburb with its residents commuting to the Macarthur Area and the city itself by car or by rail.
Including the nearby village of Yanderra, over 4,000 people live here, precisely because they enjoy the quiet country life and clear air the area provides.
For the visitor Bargo does not offer sophisticated boutiques and cafes.
What it does offer is some of the most spectacular natural countryside outside of Sydney - lookouts, bushwalking, picnic areas, flora and fauna sanctuaries, and quiet country roads to explore.
All just over an hour from most of Sydney, just minutes off the freeway, and just minutes from many other exciting places to visit in the southern area of the Wollondilly.
So next time you see the 'Bargo' turnoff on the freeway - take it, and spend a bit of time exploring this beautiful area.
Avon Dam (1927)