The best stops on a Sydney to Orange road trip
Orange is just over 250km west of Sydney, the perfect distance for a regional road trip. But there’s more than one way to get to the place they call the Colour City and each route offers its own fun stops to break the journey.
Route 1: via Kurrajong Heights, Bilpin and Mount Tomah (Bells Line of Road)
The Bells Line of Road is the alternative route across the Blue Mountains, looping around the northwestern suburbs of Sydney before climbing through picturesque orchards, farmland and villages. Around an hour from the city, the urban sprawl melts away as you arrive in the historic hamlet of Kurrajong. This area was the original kitchen garden for Sydney, providing the new colony with fresh produce from the early 1800s. Grab a coffee and a pastry at The Village Kitchen, then head up to Bell Bird Hill Lookout for panoramic views back over Sydney and all the way to the ocean.
Just 10min further along the road is the village of Bilpin, famous for its apples. You’ll see the many orchards lining the roadside; stop in at the Bilpin Fruit Bowl to grab fresh apples between late January and June, as well as other fruit throughout the year. You can even pick your own straight from the trees on weekends and public holidays. For fruit in a different form, visit Hillbilly Cider. There’s a large grassy area for kids to run around, dogs are welcome, delicious woodfired pizzas and, of course, many different ciders on tap, all made from crushed Bilpin apples and pears.
The road keeps climbing through the mountains until you arrive at Mount Tomah and Australia’s highest botanic garden. Sitting at around 1,000m above sea level, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden features hundreds of rare cool climate species from around the world and plays an important role in global plant conservation. It’s divided into four sections of ornamental gardens, towering woodland, rock gardens and natural landscapes. You can follow the self-guided trail or join a guided tour on select Fridays and Sundays.
If you want to spend a night in the mountains, Love Cabins has the quirkiest accommodation in the area. Choose from a tepee, a treehouse, an enchanted cave and rustic wooden shacks.
The historic Zig Zag Railway reopened in early 2023 after being closed for more than a decade and steam trains are once again taking passengers along the winding 150-year-old track on weekends. It departs from Clarence Station on the Bells Line of Road for a 90min return journey. From Clarence it’s just 10min into Lithgow. Visit Blast Furnace Park to see the ruins of the factory where Australia’s first iron and steel were cast or Eskbank House and Museum for an insight into the daily life of settlers in the mid 1800s.
There’s time for one more stop in the village of Lucknow, about 90min away and just outside of Orange. It’s best known for the Skin Shop and Boot Barn, a fourth-generation family business where you can pick up some stylish cowboy boots, sheepskin boots, cowhide rugs and more. Across the road is the chic Larder & Home a lifestyle store and cafe with an expansive deck and grassed area overlooking pretty Spring Hill Creek. They fire up the pizza oven on the weekends and you’re encouraged to bring a bottle of wine to enjoy an afternoon in the sun.
- Orange is just a 15min drive from Lucknow.
Route 2: via Jenolan Caves, Oberon and Mayfield
Head west along the highway, leave the city behind and climb into the lush surrounds of the Blue Mountains. The region is Australia’s newest ECO Certified Destination, being recognised in March 2023 for its commitment to sustainable travel. You can enjoy your own eco-friendly adventure with Blue Mountains Biking. They offer a fully mobile service, so will meet you at the start of a trail with a mountain bike or e-bike, plus safety gear and an expert briefing. When you’re finished, leave your bike where it is and they’ll come to collect it. There are trails for everyone from kids and absolute beginners to expert mountain bikers looking for a challenge. Afterwards, refuel with a burger and a beer at Mountain Culture Brewpub, a boutique brewery set inside a century-old building in Katoomba.
It’s just over an hour to Oberon, the highest town in the Blue Mountains. This former timber town is known for its four distinct seasons, including plenty of snow in winter. The fertile soils and cool climate are perfect for growing truffles, and there are a number of small truffieres here growing the aromatic delicacies. Between mid June and late August, join a truffle hunt at RedGround where the highly-trained truffle dogs will sniff out the black gold before you sit down to a gourmet lunch in the cosy hunting lodge.
Just outside of Oberon is the magnificent , one of the world’s largest privately-owned cool climate gardens. Covering 15 hectares, the gardens are a riot of colour that changes with the seasons. Follow the paths around lakes and water features, through formal gardens and past intricate stone sculptures. Mayfield hosts festivals throughout the year where extra activities are available, like boating on the lake, glamping, lawn games and access to the private Hawkins Family Garden.
Spend the night in a piece of Blue Mountains history at Jenolan Caves House, around 40min from Mayfield. Built in 1897, this romantic Arts & Crafts style wilderness lodge has maintained its traditional Victorian era rooms (so there’s no TV or wifi) and you’re encouraged to mingle with other guests in the elegant lounge or games room. Caves House guests also have exclusive after dark access to the iconic Jenolan Caves, the oldest cave system in the world dating back 340 million years.
Wake up early to join the Daybreak Nature Walk, another exclusive for overnight guests. The area has been a wildlife reserve for more than 100 years, so you’re guaranteed to spot wallabies, lyrebirds and many more starting their day in the tranquil forest. Then head underground to explore some of the breathtaking caves; marvel at vast caverns, admire the blue water of an underground river, and walk through forests of glittering crystal formations.
It’s just an hour on to Bathurst, where you can spend the afternoon sampling some of the town’s tastiest drops. Bathurst Grange Distillery is housed in one of the Australia’s oldest colonial homesteads, dating back to 1823. Today, it produces small batch whisky and gin in the bucolic surrounds. Take a tour of the distillery, sit down for a tasting, nibble on a cheese board, pat the farm animals and play games in the sun. Beer drinkers should head for Reckless Brewing in the centre of town. As well as an ever-changing range of brews, there’s an international street food-inspired menu, outdoor fire pit and live music.
- Orange is an easy 50min drive from Bathurst.
Route 3: via Katoomba, Blackheath and Lithgow
Your first stop is just an hour from the centre of Sydney. As the Great Western Highway climbs into the Blue Mountains, call in at the Norman Lindsay Gallery in Faulconbridge. The former home of the great Australian painter, sculptor and writer now showcases many of his works, plus has beautifully landscaped grounds and a cafe.
Another 30min up into the mountains, you can stretch your legs again on the short but spectacular Three Sisters Walk. After you’ve completed the 1km loop, sit down for lunch with a view at The Lookout, perched right on the edge of the escarpment at Echo Point. If you’re travelling on a weekend, Ates restaurant in Blackheath is also a great option for lunch, serving up Mediterranean share plates from its 150-year-old ironbark wood oven.
For more glorious scenery (with a little bit of adrenaline thrown in), head to Scenic World, just outside Katoomba. Take super-steep Scenic Railway to the valley floor, follow the Scenic Walkway elevated rainforest walk and catch the Scenic Cableway back up. Make sure you leave enough time for the Scenic Skyway cablecar across the Jamison Valley, too. Sign up for the Beyond Skyway experience to climb out of the car halfway and admire the views from the roof, 270m above the canopy – not for the faint-hearted. Or learn about the ancient traditions of the valley on a guided Gundungurra Indigenous Tour.
If you want to break the journey overnight, the Hydro Majestic is the place to stay. The grand dame of the Blue Mountains, this art deco masterpiece has been welcoming guests for more than 130 years. As the sun sets, join a Blue Mountains Stargazing tour for a guided journey through the dazzling night skies. For dinner, descend into the valley for an exquisite paddock-to-plate dinner at Megalong. Almost everything on the menu is sourced from the surrounding Lot 101 farm and super fresh seasonal specialties are paired with organic and biodynamic wines.
The pretty village of Blackheath is perched right at the top of the Blue Mountains. There are a handful of stylish boutiques, the vast Victory Theatre Antiques Centre with more than 50 dealers selling everything from jewellery to furniture, and the interesting Blue Mountains Heritage Centre where you can take a virtual reality tour through Claustral canyon. On the edge of the village, you can take the Fairfax Heritage Walking Track to Govetts Leap Lookout. This walk also joins up with the new Grand Cliff Top Walk, a 20km trail than runs along the entire length of the Blue Mountains escarpment.
On the other side of the mountains, you’ll find the town of Lithgow. Grab some lunch at the Lithgow Tin Shed and call in for an artisan cheese tasting at the Jannei Goat Dairy. Military buffs will enjoy the Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum, where an impressive array of machine guns, rifles and hand guns are on display. After checking out the painted silos at a former cement works, The Foundations, you’ll arrive in historic Bathurst, 50min west of Lithgow. Get revved up at the National Racing Museum or check out dinosaur bones at the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum while you’re here.
- Orange is an easy 50min drive from Bathurst.
Take an indulgent break in Orange
Take an indulgent break in Orange
From winery escapes and hatted restaurants to grocers that double as cellar doors, Orange does decadence very well. Here are 10 ways to indulge yourself.