If your ideal getaway involves food, wine and a romantic rural setting, the town of Orange unites country charm and fine dining
At the base of an extinct volcano, 250 kilometres west of Sydney, sits the food basket of New South Wales. Here, fertile soils and cool climates nurture a thriving food and wine scene. The region is characterised by stellar artisanal produce and some of Australia’s tastiest grapes.
Welcome to Orange, a place that encourages you to take things slow: linger at cellar doors while sipping world-class pinot, idle over afternoons spent picking fruit, or enjoy a leisurely lunch under cherry blossoms while watching the world go by. The rural town is also one of the prettiest around – Art Deco pubs, Federation cottages, leafy farmgates and meandering country lanes all give a yesteryear charm.
The best wineries to visit
Orange is the world’s only wine region defined by its altitude. It’s devotion to the grape is evident in its 80-odd vineyards and 40 cellar doors. While Bloodwood and Canobolas-Smith led the charge in the 1980s, a slew of boutique labels have since emerged in the foothills of Mount Canobolas. Housed in a beautifully renovated bluestone barn, Philip Shaw Wines is one of the highest vineyards in Australia – sit outside, order a cheese platter and indulge in the seated wine tasting experience.
Afterwards, toast golden hour at family-run Nashdale Lane Wines – cocooned by silvery olive groves and sheep farms – before retiring with a bottle of red to the on-site glamping suites, replete with monsoon showers and four-poster beds.
If you’d rather stay in town, the 1986 Yallungah homestead has been transformed into the 22-room Byng Street Boutique Hotel, decorated with art by Orange locals Larissa and Loretta Blake – regional ingredients star in the mini-bar and on the breakfast menu.
Where to eat in Orange
With a burgeoning café culture, alongside new-generation and hatted restaurants, Orange is more akin to a trendy Sydney suburb than a small country town. Events such as the annual truffle hunt, Orange Wine Festival and Orange F.O.O.D Week spotlight the area’s stellar produce – the latter is an autumnal feast, with night markets, vineyard forages and meet the producer workshops – perfect for those interested in meeting the maker.
A local institution, the Italian- and French-influenced Lolli Redini has won 17 Sydney Morning Herald chef hats since opening. Orange-raised Simonn Hawke trained under Anthony Musarra before returning home in 2000. Her seasonal dishes feature truffles from Millthorpe and red venison from Mandagery Creek, and the twice-baked Heidi Gruyere soufflé is a menu constant. The wine list is ever-changing – curated by Hawke’s business and life partner, Leah Morphett.
Headed by award-winning Shaun Arantz, Racine Restaurant sits amid the leafy paddocks of La Colline Vineyard. In this upscale ‘tin shed’, visitors can drink in views of vines while dining on three-course lunches. Savour beef cheek with carrot escabeche, perhaps, or pressed duck with radish and black hummus. Spot an apple symbol on the menu? Three-quarters of your dish has been locally sourced.
Four ways to spend a day in Orange
For outdoors types, head to the mountains, lakes and fields surrounding Orange. They make an ideal backdrop for cycling, scenic drives and leisurely walks. The trail that passes Pinnacle Lookout and the loop to Mount Canobolas are particularly lovely.
Orange is the birthplace of Banjo Patterson, and it’s full of history. Take in architecture and gold-rush relics on a self-guided heritage walk through town, all the while learning the stories of bushrangers and pioneers.
Numerous fashion and homewares boutiques, plus an array of artists and designers, call Orange home. Set in the former Masonic Hall, The Sonic is a must-visit. It is a lifestyle concept store inspired by the likes of Merci and Anthropologie in Paris.
Self-proclaimed oenophiles should check out other notable cellar doors, including Swinging Bridge, Ross Hill, Rowlee, De Salis, Word of Mouth and Borrodell. Those travelling with children can enjoy an alfresco chardonnay at Heifer Station. It was previoulsy one of the largest cattle stations in NSW and today is a cellar door with a small petting farm.
The best time of year to visit Orange
Green and gold shine bright in spring. The heritage parks and gardens are bursting with buds and undulating canola fields illuminate the countryside. Visit in summer, and elevated Mount Canobolas promises milder temperatures to alleviate the heat. And languid afternoons give way to balmy evenings and cicada harmonies. A rich tapestry of deep reds, burnt oranges and warm yellows colour the landscape every autumn. Giving leaf-peepers reason to linger against a backdrop of clear blue skies.
And as winter approaches a stillness descends on the Orange region; the landscape rests, although it’s not idle. Frosted mornings and sprinklings of snow are followed by bright sunshine days that filter the crisp mountain air. Produce goes to ground and hearty vegetables fill your bowl, as you sip red wine and gather around a country bonfire, sharing stories and laughter with friends and family under starry, crystal-clear skies, celebrated annually during the region’s annual Winter Fire Festival.