Visitor Survey

Results of the visitor survey

The MDPA is constantly looking to understand (and improve) what Merriwa has to offer without changing the underlying fabric of what makes us unique. We surveyed 103 people through a combination of on-the-spot interviews and online survey.

The results shows that Merriwa is both a “quick stopover” (where food and drinks are the focus) and also a “destination” (where Battery Rock, a campdraft, the Merriwa Show, the Pony Club, and the railway station were cited as some of the reasons for visiting).

On a positive note, those surveyed like the “town appeal” and the “friendliness” of Merriwa. Some 78% of the respondents had positive things to say about the parking and amenities (with responses ranging from excellent through to fine). The parks and playgrounds were thought to be good for those stopping for a break (particularly those travelling with children) and the water refill station was well received. Other positive aspects of Merriwa included the fuel prices and “Merriwa being handy to the coast”. This last comment suggests Merriwa could be promoted as the last stop before (or the first stop after) the coast. Respondents thought we had a “great main street” but there was a danger presented by the trucks rolling through. 

While some of those surveyed said the “caravan access” was good, a number of other respondents thought the caravan park was too small and not easily accessible. The same mixed messages were given about amenities with some wanting more amenities in the main street while others thought the amenities were sufficient.

Areas for improvement included the need for “more seats, more interesting eateries, improved access to the Silo murals, more things to see and do, more accommodation for large groups, a longer river walk, more history about the area and for the shops to be open longer. 

Some thought that Merriwa was “busy”, that it needed “more signage to welcome visitors”.

Of the respondents surveyed, only 12 were visiting Merriwa for the first time. With 13 respondents being locals, this means 81 respondents were repeat visitors. The frequency of visits is shown below.

  • Monthly 19
  • 2 monthly 19
  • 6 monthly 21
  • Yearly 8
  • 2 years + 14
  • First time 12
  • Live here 13

A Little Background

During January and February 2021, the Merriwa District Progress Association conducted a survey
of more than one hundred visitors to Merriwa to gauge their opinion of the town and to
identify any changes that could be made to improve its tourism appeal and local amenity.
The survey was the brain child of MDPA member, Chris Mitchell, and exposed some surprising results as to how our township is viewed.

Sixty six pedestrians were interviewed outside the Merriwa Bakery and a further 37 participants completed the survey on-line (via Survey Monkey using a QR code) (n=103). Of those surveyed, 13% were from Merriwa and the remainder were travelling through, touring, visiting family or in Merriwa for some “other” reason.

With some 45% of those indicating they were “passing through” it is worth nothing that this indicates a significant opportunity to encourage people to stay a little longer (rather than simply pass through).

Of those surveyed, 14 respondents were towing caravans and two had campervans. The remainder were travelling by car or motorbike.

Approximately 60% of those surveyed were travelling through town, with only about 10% staying overnight. They stopped at the toilets, visited the silo art and the Welcoming Centre, and shopped at the cafés and bakery. Overall, those surveyed felt very welcome in Merriwa and found it a very friendly town. Around 70% travelled in cars, another 15% with caravans, and around 10% on motorbikes. Most found parking quite easy, but a few thought the roads required maintenance.
Surprisingly, only 25% of those surveyed were travelling with children on board. 

Unsurprisingly, many were travelling between the greater Newcastle area or the mid-north
coast and central New South Wales.

Download a pdf of the survey results.

What people had seen/done

When asked “what they had seen or done in Merriwa”, the results were categorised and grouped into similar or related themes. When viewed in this way it becomes evident that Merriwa is, first and foremost, a major refreshment stopover with almost half the respondents saying they had been to a cafe, purhcased food or been to the bakery.

Tourist destinations that were visited were the silos (14 respondents), The Welcoming Centre (11 respondents) and the town walk (8 respondents).

Some 30 respondents said they had had previously done – or were doing – “Other” things such as visiting Battery Rock, going to the butchers, attending a campdraft, going to Cassilis or Dubbo, visiting family, attended the Merriwa Show or a Pony Club meeting, went to the railway station, stopped in at the IGA, were headed to Scone or going toThe Drip). This further establishes Merriwa as both a pass-through town for travellers and also a destination.

What people liked/disliked

When asked what they liked or disliked about Merriwa, the three most frequent answers regarding what respondents liked were “town appeal” (26 respondents), “friendliness” (20 respondents), and the bakery (10 respondents). These are two elements fundamental to promoting a town and it appears Merriwa is seen to have them without any real attempt to develop these assets.

People also liked the caravan access, fuel prices, and Merriwa being “handy to the coast”. This suggests we could pitch Merriwa as the last stop before (or the first stop after) the coast. Developing tag lines that reflect this connection may help with tourism development “Merriwa … close enough and just far enough away” or “Connecting surf and turf”.

Just as telling were those things the respondents disliked. This included the caravan park being “not easily accessible”, shops being closed due to covid, the need for “more seats” and “no seat in garden bed on street”.

Respondents also thought there were not enough “interesting eateries”, that Merriwa was “busy”, that it needed “more signage to welcome visitors”.

Some said they disliked ‘nothing’ about Merriwa.

Respondents who answered online said they disliked that the “river walking trail was too short”, that “shops close too early on the weekends” and that there were “inadequate public facilities”.

Respondents also disliked reverse parking, the potholes around the service station, that there was not much to see or do, the limited accommodation for larger groups. 

Respondents said they wanted more information about the history, the pool open more often, a bigger caravan park off the highway and improved access to silos and town mural.

The main street was thought to be dangerous with kids and fast trucks.

Respondents were asked about parking and amenities. Of all the respondents, 78 said the parking and amenities were either excellent, great, very good, good, easy, okay or fine.

Some other comments included lack of amenities in the main street, that the toilets needed a good clean, that toilets needed updating and were undersized for the holiday traffic.

Some found parking hard to find saying it “could be better”, was “crap” or that there was “not enough” of it.

camping and dump point facility

Only three of the respondents had stayed in the caravan park. Five others proposed to do so in the future. Others had used the free camping behind the RSL Club. Comments regarding the caravan park included that it was too open (this may be a reference to there being no screening between the guests and highway), too small and too close to the highway. The facilities were mostly seen as clean, good and spotless.

travelling with children

Respondents were sked about travelling with children, what aspects they found to be child-friendly, and what could be improved. Only 26 respondents were travelling with children. Their comments suggested that they liked the parks (saying there were “lots of parks”, they liked the “parks and playground” and “the new park”).

Issues raised included trucks passing by (these were thought to be dangerous), uneven foodpaths (seen to be a trip hazard), a dedicated parent’s room that fits a pram would be useful and there was a lack of shade.

Are people welcome in merriwa?

When asked if they felt welcome in Merriwa respondents overwhelmingly, (all but one) indicated they felt welcome in Merriwa and said the local businesses were friendly. Additional comments included: great service; good service; people are nice; charming town and people – big hearts; love the vibe; friendly staff in shops; people are friendly; very lovely people; helpful and friendly; friendly country hospitality; travellers also good; friendly and courteous; lovely people; five star service for a five star town; everyone has been friendly and pleasant; shops are friendly; people are eager to help; people are generally friendly and say hello.

suggested improvements

When asked for suggestions regarding what they thought could be improved in the Merriwa area to make it more inviting to visitors, only 41 of respondents offered suggestions. These included a viewing platform at the silos – maybe 50 metres away, more signage for caravan parking, cycling or MTB trail, walkways along the river, bush camping areas, a clear tourist office and hours, a movie theatre, signs and viewing platform for silo art, street art to describe the history of the town.

Other suggestions included more street seating, more shops to buy antiques, memorial to General Ivan Docherty 7 Div AIF WW2, improved cafes (they could be better), seats in street, street market, more to do, internet access, street art, caravan parking, public toilet signage, easier Council DA application, more support for business, more pathways to connect river to rest of town, a large park for kids, a water play (area), better access to river, signage for old buildings, parking signage, a main street makeover / beautification, more street lights, a bike path, music playing in business hours, a tip vouchers for locals, more motor bike parking, bands, live music events, promotion of surrounding area.