How to spend a weekend in Orange
Many travellers miss Central New South Wales, preferring to hug the coast up to Cairns or fly out of Sydney to places further afield.
For those who are based in the state a little longer and want a slice of country life, Orange is the perfect place for a weekend break.
So, how do we recommend you spend your time in and around Orange? Among other things, work up an appetite and cram as much food and wine tasting into two days as possible!
Tree-lined rolling streets and well-kept gardens make Leura a charming place for a stop-off. Pottering around the craft stores and cosy cafes can easily kill an hour or so. Sublime Point is a short drive from the main drag, and it offers a stunning vista of the Blue Mountains National Park. If you have time, a visit to the National Trust-owned Everglades Historic House & Gardens is worth it.
WALK THE BLUE MOUNTAINS' BUSHTRACKS
Scenic World is frequently overcrowded, so head for some of the quieter walks outside of Katoomba. You'll be rewarded with peaceful lookouts such as this one. Click here for information on the various lookouts and walks available in the Blue Mountains National Park.
The Leura Cascades, Gordon Falls and Fortress Rock offer a relaxing stroll beneath the trees, with some incredible views to shake your camera at.
Morning Tea in Katoomba
Katoomba boasts an elegant and quirky tearoom by the name of the Avalon. With twee tea sets and mismatched furniture, expect hearty portions of delicious sweet treats.
DRIVE THE MOUNT PANORAMA CIRCUIT
Bathurst is home to the 6.2km racing circuit which draws a 200,000 strong crowd every year for the Bathurst 1000 V8 Race in October. We knew the bends from video games, and although there's an unexciting 60km/h speed limit, the Mount Panorama circuit is still fun to drive.
Rose gardens and duck ponds, majestic trees and a traditional bandstand... Cook Park is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll, just minutes from the centre of Orange.
Drink & Dine
Orange has long had a foodie reputation. From artisan bakeries to hatted restaurants, you are spoilt for choice of quality cuisine. The Union Bank is a safe bet, serving local wines in a large courtyard. They do excellent tasting platters of local produce, too. For fine dining, head two doors down to Lolli Redini. We had the most incredible three-course meal here; it's not outrageously priced for the portion sizes, quality of food and the service.
The cool climate of Orange is ideal for grape growing. The conditions produce distinctive wines which have rose to national and global acclaim, so what better way to taste these grapes than by visiting a number of cellar doors?
Take a look at this map for various food and wine trails.
An idyllic drive past fields of grazing cows and rows of vines brought us to De Salis. We were greeted by Charlie Svenson, a former research scientist who established the winery in 1999. His wife Loretta ushered us to the beautiful decking which overlooks the vines for our tasting, and Charlie got back to work ("so he doesn't feel guilty when he goes trout fishing this afternoon", Loretta said). A true family-owned and run vineyard, Loretta, Charlie and their son Mitch are all involved in the wine-making process, as well as working the cellar door.
Their Lofty Vineyard produces some excellent quality wines, and we came away with a bottle of their 2012 Lofty Cuvee - naturally fermented in old French barriques before 48 months on yeast lees in the bottle.
De Salis is a must-visit for those looking for a personal tasting with humble hosts and, of course, fantastic wine.
Another family-owned and operated vineyard, Ross Hill has been rated highly by James Halliday (the absolute boss of wine, basically) with five red stars.
The winery sits at around 800metres above sea level, on a gentle north facing slope, and this altitude has developed some very good wines indeed. Shiraz is a popular grape, with Merlot and various Cabernets on offer, too.
They have a range of wines affectionately named after the grandchildren in the family; the Family Series Sauvignon Blanc 'Lily' and Chardonnay 'Maya & Max' became our firm favourites!
In June 1988, Philip purchased Koomooloo to be the site of his vineyard. In the shadow of Mount Canobolas, Koomooloo rises up to 900 metres, making it one of the highest in the whole of Australia.
With a Shiraz named 'The Idiot', we knew this was our kinda place. All of the Character Series range have nifty little drawings on the label and we found most very palatable; soft and refined, striking a fine balance between making a statement but not knocking your socks off!
After our tour of these three wineries, the boot of our car was significantly fuller...
Lake & Mount Canobolas
If, like us, you want to work off some of that food and wine, head to Lake Canobolas for a walk around the tranquil body of water. You can also take a dip or hop in a kayak, if that floats your boat (excuse the pun).
Getting there and where to stay
Orange is only a 3.5 hour drive from Sydney. There are multiple car hire companies in the city, or you can use a company such as GoGet, which is similar to Zipcar in the UK.
When looking for accommodation, choose somewhere close to the centre of town. We stayed at the West End Motor Lodge and for $100, we couldn't complain!