When it comes to a road trip, I am a girl of habit.
Small towns, vacant beaches and these days – an Esky big enough to bring some of my favourite finds home with me.
Growing up in the Hawkesbury at the foot of the Blue Mountains in NSW, the ocean was always our first port of call for holidays or long weekends away. What sat beyond the mountain ridge didn’t really strike me as a rival destination worth swapping a weekend in Byron Bay for.
But the unpredictable nature of 2020 has given us the opportunity to revisit a favourite place, or in my case – explore a region completely new.
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Over the Blue Mountains in NSW, you’ll find the ultimate destination for food and wine lovers. Picture: SuppliedSource:News Corp Australia
As borders open and close, Sydney-siders are really spoiled for choice when it comes to weekend road trips and even more extended jaunts away.
With airlines slowly starting to recommence their domestic network (albeit limited), regional road trips are still set to dominate the holiday circuit for the coming weeks, months and well into next year.
Australian tourism experts predict destinations within a three-hour drive of Sydney will prove popular for holiday-makers. But add just 45 minutes to your trip, and you’ll come across one of the most scenic regions I have ever visited in NSW.
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Pastries from Racine Bakery in Orange – which is the most popular bakery in town. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied
Orange has positioned itself as the ultimate food and wine destination in NSW. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
Surrounded by rolling hills, vineyards and copious amounts of cool climate wines – it’s no secret a trip to Orange is a food lovers dream.
Meandering through Bilpin, Lithgow and Bathurst — a drive to the pretty country town of Orange is the perfect gourmet road trip for a long weekend away.
With its heritage buildings and vibrant food and wine scene, this 40,000-person town is known for its cool climate wineries, as well as a growing number of chic bars and restaurants.
So whether you have a couple of nights or a whole week to spare, here’s the ultimate guide to what to see, where to stay and of course an extensive menu on where to eat in Orange.
When it comes to accommodation, Orange has expanded their portfolio to offer the ultimate in country chic meets modern luxury.
For an experience like no other, Nashdale Lane Glamping is the most unique (and Instagram-worthy) accommodation option in the Central West. But you may be on a decent waiting list! With just two tents available for bookings, they’re highly sought after because they offer guests the ultimate experience in luxury camping and bringing the outdoors, in.
Perhaps the most magical stay in Orange is glamping within 60 majestic acres of grape vineyards.Source:Supplied
The Nashdale Lane glamping tents are a few steps to the vineyard’s cellar door.Source:Supplied
Surrounded by 60 acres of vineyards (and maybe a couple hundred resident sheep to greet you each morning) the glamping tents are the perfect way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Central NSW.
The air is crisp (except for inside your tent, which stays toasty warm thanks to your own wood fireplace) and the stars will keep you mesmerised for hours at night.
Nashdale Lane Glamping is the ultimate in luxury camping.Source:Instagram
Each of the two ‘tents’ offer complete kitchen and bathroom amenities, as well as a four-poster Queen-sized bed and an alfresco deck with BBQ and sunken lounge to enjoy your private sanctuary among the vines.
With both tents sitting just steps away from the Nashdale Lane Cellar door, the vineyard has all tastes covered.
Offering a range of affordable whites, including a pinot gris, riesling and my personal favourite – their sauvignon blanc fumé – the cellar door is perfectly positioned at around 900m above sea level to enjoy a glass while watching the sun set over Mount Canobolas.
If you’re more inclined to a red (and who isn’t when temperatures dip below zero), give their ‘Colour Series’ Shiraz a go, or even the 2018 Legacy pinot noir.
The Nashdale Lane Cellar Door is the ultimate spot to park yourself for the afternoon with a glass of rose and an unrivalled sunset.Source:Supplied
Each tent is kitted out with a kitchen so you don’t really need to leave.Source:Supplied
For the ultimate experience, guests can book in for a private massage on the deck of their glamping accommodation, or sunrise yoga can be organised on request. For breakfast and dinner – talk to the owners Nick and Tanya about their suggestions for the ultimate in local produce to cook without having to leave camp.
The glamping experience allows guests to book additional in-tent experiences, like yoga and massages.Source:Supplied
If you’re more inclined to a stay within walking distance to town, you cannot go past Byng Street Boutique Hotel, which offers the ultimate experience in luxury.
Sitting in the heart of the heritage precinct, this high end accommodation experience has only been open for little more than six months by owners Thomas and Kristen Nook.
The stunning hotel is a perfect juxtaposition of old and new.Source:Supplied
The property perfectly juxtaposes old and new; the front of the property – a two-storey homestead – was built in 1896 and served as a family home for generations. The husband and wife duo teamed up with Mayoh Architects to add on a 22 room extension to the back of the original mansion, with local interior designer Louise Spicer adding her flair to the ‘modern wing’ of the property.
Each room – and even the common areas throughout the hotel – mixes colour, texture and furnishings that compliment the original features and surrounds of the property.
Byng Street hotel is a luxury boutique accommodation option within walking distance of the Orange town centre.Source:Supplied
The hotel is filled with bursts of colour from local interior designer, Louise Spicer.Source:Supplied
Once a family home, breakfast is served each morning in the original dining room of the homestead. Now called the Yallungah Dinig room, the two-course à la carte breakfast is included in all accommodation bookings and is the perfect way to start your day.
Byng Street Boutique Hotel has been created by Thomas and Kristen Nock, who have spent their entire professional careers in hospitality.Source:Supplied
For a more self-service option, de Russie Boutique Hotel is ideal for families looking for a little more space and amenities, while being close to town.
The de Russie Boutique Hotel offers 25 rooms and suites.Source:Supplied
With 25 luxurious self-contained rooms, this hotel is just steps away from the best restaurants and shopping Orange has to offer (stop by The Sonic for a spot of retail therapy).
When it comes to a road trip to the country – a word of advice. Leave the belt at home.
Orange has a longstanding reputation of doing a country getaway well, but the town’s ability to attract social media-savvy travellers has taken the region’s food scene to the next level.
With more and more visitors drawing their destination inspiration from Instagram, restaurants and cafes throughout Orange are serving up dishes that not only leave your tastebuds dancing – but offer a shareable experience as well.
The food scene is heating up in Orange.Source:Supplied
Start your day off with a bacon and egg roll and a coffee at popular hangout Byng Street Local Store, where the line up for your morning brew is well worth the wait.
If you’re short on time, the croissants at Racine Bakery are perhaps the best $4 you’ll spend all weekend.
Byng Street Local Store offers the best bacon and egg roll in town.Source:Supplied
The coffee is well worth the wait, as Byng Street Local is obviously popular with those who call Orange home.Source:Supplied
For lunch, you’re in wine country, so why not combine tasting and picnic among the vines into one.
Open daily, Rowlee offers the ultimate experience to taste the local produce from the region while sipping on their award-winning wines. Sitting on the Cargo Road Wine Trail, the vineyard also has its own private, luxury guesthouse set within the estate as an accommodation option.
But the standout experience is their luxury picnic hamper, which you can consume on site.
For just $95, each hamper has been designed to enjoy either at the vineyard or to takeaway.
The ultimate lunch experience while in Orange is at Rowlee, where you can drink and dine among the vineyards.Source:Supplied
Including an assortment of gourmet produce – think cheese, smoked salmon and freshly baked bread – and a bottle of By Rowlee wine of your choice, it’s the ultimate Sunday lunch.
For dinner, you can’t go past the relatively new Japanese experience at Raku Izakaya. Located on the main street in town, this little hole in the wall dished up my favourite meal of the weekend.
Offering patrons modern Japanese, do not go past their $16 bowl of Popcorn Prawns. Combing tempura and a secret sauce – this dish is to share, but you won’t want to. Other notable dishes include their take on pan-fried salmon in a teriyaki reduction, Tuna Tataki and the Beef Katsu.
Raku Izakaya is a relatively new restaurant in town shaking up the food scene with their modern take on Japanese cuisine.Source:Supplied
The $16 dish from Raku Izakaya – called Popcorn Prawn – may not photograph well, but it was perhaps the best dish I had in Orange.Source:Supplied
For a cosy experience filled with good cocktails, a log fire and a three-course set menu, stop into The Schoolhouse Restaurant at Union Bank. Recently reopened, the restaurant uses local produce from around the region, with the former art school serving up modern Australian cuisine featuring an Orange-only wine list.
Sitting on the volcanic slopes of Mt Canobolas, Orange is internationally recognised for its array of cool-climate wines including pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, shiraz and tempranillo.
If you’re partial to a stunning sunset along with your glass of shiraz, you can’t go past a stop into Philip Shaw Wines.
Like most of Orange, it’s not a bad spot to grab a glass and watch the sun set.Source:Supplied
Nestled about a 10 minutes drive from the town centre, the vineyard sits on soil that is volcanic in nature, giving each variant a distinct taste.
The cellar door at Philip Shaw offers the perfect tasting for a cheese and wine fiend.
Opt for the Koomooloo Taste & Plate, which is a 60 minute experience offering a selection of four wines and individual grazing plate of locally produced cheese and accompaniments.
The Koomooloo Taste & Plate at Philip Shaw cellar door comes with a local cheese plate.Source:Supplied
Philip Shaw winery is perhaps one of the most popular in the region.Source:Supplied
For an experience that even the kids will love (because let’s face it, wine tasting with a 10-year-old could get old pretty quickly) there’s no better place in the region than Heifer Station.
Sitting less than 15 minutes by car from Philip Shaw, the grounds at Heifer Station offer the perfect lunch stop – with a wine tasting as well.
Heifer Station is the ultimate in paddock to plate wine and dining.Source:Supplied
Heifer Station is great for young and old, with the cellar door surrounded by farm animals.Source:Supplied
Also located on the volcanic basalt slopes of Mount Canobolas, this cellar door was once part of a much larger property that was used by Cobb & Co as a change station for their horse teams.
Spanning more than 65 acres, the property specialises in chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot gris, merlot and shiraz. Opening in 2016, the cellar door sits within the old woolshed offering lunch and wine tasting options, but it’s outside where this cellar door really sets itself apart.
Surrounded by residents cows, alpacas, ducks and chickens – the cellar door is the ultimate paddock to plate experience for young and old.
Heifer Station is surrounded by rolling hills and a few resident farm animals.Source:Supplied
If you want to experience all that Orange and surrounding vineyards have to offer without leaving town, slip into Ferment (which has an adjoining door to Byng Street Boutique Hotel) for a wine bar experience like no other.
With almost every wine from the region under one roof (and even a few locally brewed gins on offer), Ferment is the perfect pre-dinner stop (or post-dinner nightcap).
Ferment houses almost every wine from the Orange region.Source:Instagram
Ferment is the perfect pre-dinner spot for a local wine tasting under one roof.Source:Supplied
It’s worth noting that for any wine tasting experience or restaurant visit, contact the cellar door or phone ahead first as all venues are currently adhering to COVID-19 restrictions, meaning safety measures are in place and bookings are essential.
This journalist visited Orange, NSW as a guest of Orange 360. For more information on Central NSW click here.
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