Gold Rush of Food and Wine in Orange
Seeking the ideal food and wine getaway? Orange offers treasures beyond measure.
Anyone who has spent any time outside the Sydney bubble knows just how much beauty awaits within a few short hours’ drive inland amongst the Central Ranges and Central Tablelands of New South Wales, beyond the Blue Mountains. And for those in the know, one of the jewels in the regional crown must surely be Orange.
Once earmarked as a potential site for the then yet-to-be-determined national capital of Australia, Orange has a rich and storied past. The birthplace of Banjo Paterson and an historic centre of wealth due to the discovery of gold in neighbouring Ophir in the mid-19th century, its fertile soils - a consequence of Mount Canobolas, an extinct volcano which is the region’s principal landmark - altitude and climate saw it also thrive as an orchard town.
Today, while still peppered with apple, cherry and stonefruit plantings (ironically enough, oranges aren’t grown here as it’s too cool), Orange’s agricultural output is now largely oriented around wine - which thanks to those volcanic soils, weather conditions and elevation, has seen it become one of the country’s pre-eminent cool climate wine regions, most notably for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (though its Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and cool climate Shiraz are also most worthy of your attention).
The Byng St Boutique Hotel marries old and new world charm and comfort.
Philip Shaw is the quintessential Orange winery.
A WEALTH OF WINE IN ORANGE
As a result, roughly 60 wineries and cellar doors are yours to explore across Orange and surrounds such as Nashdale, Borenore and Canobolas. First stop for many will no doubt be the cellar door of Philip Shaw Wines, just south of the town centre. Its Kooloomoo vineyard was one of the earliest modern plantings in the region, with Shaw spearheading the viticultural renaissance that has propelled the region to its current status as cool climate wine hotspot.
Head west on Cargo Road into Nashdale, and a clutch of superb wineries await to welcome you. Rowlee Wines, in the foothills of Mount Canobolas, offers visitors views directly across its vineyards. Nashdale Lane, founded by Nick and Tanya Segger, has garnered acclaim for its sustainably produced range. Nearby, Heifer Station offers a rustic cellar door experience, with a petting zoo to occupy the kids.
Further along Cargo Road you’ll find Byrne Farm, where Jeff Byrne has made his own little piece of paradise in the foothills, creating exquisite wines that are the culmination of years spent honing his skills under the guidance of figures like the Evans family of the Hunter Valley. Dindima Wines also rewards a visit. If you’re feeling peckish, stop by Hillside Harvest for a bite to eat. Situated on a sweeping apple orchard, its fresh produce and locally sourced pies and sausage rolls are a treat.
Heading back towards town, take a right up Nancarrow Lane and stop by Printhie Wines, where its architecturally designed cellar door offers sweeping views over the hills. Its Swift Sparkling range is considered amongst the best in the country - one to enjoy over a degustation lunch. Or stop by Borrodell Vineyard and Cellar Door, off Lake Canobolas Road, offering views from its SkyBar, an onsite restaurant (one of the few in the region), and accommodation in its chic cottages.
After a day in the vines, it’s time to head back into town for some rest. Byng St Boutique Hotel blends historic charm with contemporary comfort, and is close to everything that the Orange town centre has to offer, but there are plenty of other options from four-star hotels and more to choose from. Grab dinner at the sensational Union Bank Hotel (known as the UB) - its share plates of seasonal produce offer sensational value for money. Cap the night off with a drink or late snack at Birdie Noshery and Drinking on Summer Street.
Printhie's Sparkling wines are sure to impress.
Nashdale Lane's cellar door.
No trip to Orange would be complete without a visit to nearby Millthorpe, a historic heritage-listed village just 20 minutes southeast from town. Here you’ll find the cellar door of Angullong Wines, whose reputation for crafting premium wines from alternative varietals is well deserved. Make sure to try one of the savoury biscuits owner Hatty Crossing, now in her nineties, continues to bake for visitors and guests.
Organic wine pioneer Tamburlaine also has its cellar door here on Pym St, in the town’s former General Store. Its range of quality organic wines is best enjoyed with a tasting plate of top local produce from the nearby Millthorpe Providore, a must-visit in its own right for those wanting to grab a bite to eat after browsing the boutique shops of this charming village.
Head back towards Orange via Mitchell Highway and take a right up Icely Road where more top winery experiences await. Mayfield Vineyard, purchased by the Eastham family in 2021, is reasserting its legacy for excellence under co-owner and winemaker Charles Simon. Book a stay there also, if the fancy takes you - its six historic cottages, including the 7-bedroom Homestead, offer picturesque accommodation options that are sure to charm.
A little further along Icely Road and right onto Emu Swamp Road, make sure to visit ChaLou Wines, where Young Winemaker of the Year Nadja Wallington, along with partner Steve Mobb, craft first-class wines with a focus on quality and sustainability in authentic bud to bottle fashion.
Banqueting at Union Bank.
Lake Canobolas is the perfect spot to picnic (Photo Credit: Kirsten Cunningham).
FAMILY FUN AND FESTIVALS IN ORANGE
It’s not all wine and cheeseboards in Orange, however. History buffs and families also have much to discover in town. The Orange Regional Gallery is a wonderful way to spend a morning. After, grab some lunch and make your way to the gorgeous Cook Park, offering 4.5 hectares of parkland right in the heart of Orange. Just outside town, meanwhile, you’ll find the Orange Botanic Garden, an undulating, 17-hectare site with an impressive native and exotic plant collection. Grab a hamper from The Agrestic Grocer nearby before you do - it's a local icon.
The Orange Villages Bike Trail - known as The 360 for its 360km length - offers the chance to explore a range of paths and tracks via country roads. To do it in full will take you six days, but take things easy and choose which section you want to tackle at your leisure. We suggest a visit to Spilt Milk Gelato Bar afterwards on Sale Street in town to cool off - even in winter though, expect to line up! Meanwhile, about 20 minutes west of town, the Arch Cave in Borenore Karst Conservation Reserve is an impressive yet accessible cave structure definitely worth a visit.
Orange has also made itself a destination thanks to its impressive calendar of festivals. Through winter, the Orange Winter Fire Festival heats up with bonfires and feasts across the region’s vineyards and orchards. Come October, the Orange Wine Festival kicks off with a massive food and wine market not to be missed, celebrating the best of the region’s exquisite produce. Then, as autumn begins, there’s the Orange F.O.O.D Week, Australia’s longest-running regional food festival.
Enjoy a tasting platter of award-winning beers at Reckless Brewing Co. in Bathurst.
Cook Park in Orange is a textbook Victorian garden park.
ORANGE FOOD AND WINE IN BLOOM
For those travelling back to Sydney, it would be remiss not to extend the trip by another day or so to see how neighbouring Bathurst is fast following in Orange’s footsteps as a developing food and wine destination. Here and around its outskirts, small wineries are beginning to stand up and be noticed - from the inviting atmosphere and appealing wines of Winburdale, to the ultra-boutique selections of Rock Forest Vineyard in the granite hills overlooking the town.
For car lovers, of course, Bathurst is a mecca - take a hot lap around Mount Panorama and dub yourself King of the Mountain. The Bathurst Railway Museum meanwhile is the ideal way to entertain the kids for the morning before lunch at Bathurst’s best new brewery, Reckless Brewing Co. Housed in the historic Crago Mill site and founded by partners Grace Fowler and Jarrod Moore with Alice Wilson, it’s quickly become the best spot in town to grab a cold beer and a bite to eat.
Without doubt, for those who have yet to discover its delights, the Central West and beyond is a genuine joy to explore. Take a long weekend - or better still, a week - and discover it for yourself. You won’t go wanting for experiences you’ll treasure long afterwards.
With thanks to Orange360. Visit visitcentralnsw.com.au and keep up to date with the latest in food, wine and fun west of Sydney.