The ultimate long weekend in the Riverina for food-obsessed travellers
Whether you love chocolate or cheese, wine or gin, the Riverina never disappoints travellers who enjoy a little culinary indulgence. From Wagga Wagga to Griffith, here’s how to get a taste for the region.
Endless orange groves, vineyards as far as the eye can see, lush almond and prune orchards – the Riverina region of southern NSW is known as the food bowl of the state for good reason. The bountiful produce growing here has, in turn, attracted some of the country’s finest producers and makers – talented chefs, artisan gelato gurus, award-winning vintners, cheese- and chocolate-makers. It all adds up to a tasty tour that will see your stomach full, and your cooler bag full of treats to take home.
- Sample Griffith’s Italian heritage on a food tour
- Spend a lazy afternoon sipping wines in the sun at Yarran
- Get a sugar hit at Junee Licorice & Chocolate Factory
- Sign up for a Food I Am cooking class to hone your skills
- Sip the Thirsty Crow’s experimental beers
The drive from Sydney to Griffith, your first stop on this tour, takes around 6.5 hrs. It’s a scenic road trip, through the Southern Highlands and skirting the Snowy Mountains. The other way to reach the Riverina is by plane, with Qantas and Rex Airlines operating daily flights to Griffith. If you choose this route, hire a car at the airport when you arrive, as there’s a lot of ground to cover over your long weekend.
Arrive in Griffith for a full-throttle day of food on a Bella Vita Riverina culinary tour led by Cassandra Cadorin – like many locals, Cassandra is of Italian heritage. Experiences are customised, but regular haunts on Cassandra’s itineraries include plum farms and wineries like applauded Calabria Family Wines and boutique producer Mino + Co. Cassandra grew up on a vineyard and offers a rich and insightful commentary on top producers in the region.
Back in town, The Aisling Distillery opens for Saturday tastings and tours. Sip small-batch Riverina rum, single malt whisky tawny or pepper berry gin with owners and distillers, Mark and Michelle Burns.
Zecca’s chef and co-owner Ben cooks up family Italian recipes in his kitchen, his menu relying heavily on local suppliers. The food is honest and generous in true cucina regionale style – the pasta is so good you’ll want to take some home, and thanks to the on-site providore, you can.
It’s an easy stroll up the street to Bertoldo’s Pasticceria, serving biscotti, cannoli and gelato since 1952. This family-owned institution is proudly old school, and you’ll likely see the owners pottering about in the kitchen or behind the ice-cream bar.
You’ll need to drive to Yarran Wines on the outskirts of town; the commute is worth it. The cellar door includes a swoon-worthy patio, its tables metres from the grapes. Tastes here lean toward Italian varietals like durif and nebbiolo, but vintners also bottle shiraz and sparkling wines. Order a glass of cuvée blanc and a cheese platter and enjoy the outlook.
Luke Piccolo spent years working in Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy. He was drawn back to his home town by his family and the ridiculously tasty produce grown on their farm. At Limone Dining, Luke transforms this bounty into dishes like ravioli with nettle, burnt butter and local Glendale hazelnuts.
If you want to walk back to your accommodation, Quest Apartment Hotel offers one and two-bedroom suites replete with kitchenettes. If you don’t mind driving, get a 50 km start on tomorrow’s journey south, and check in to one of the self-contained cabins at Whitton Malt House, where your evening can end with some of the finest craft beers or specialty whiskeys.
Arrive in Wagga Wagga, on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River and surrounded by canola fields, to get hands-on with a Food I Am cooking class. Discover the skill behind smoking or barbecuing meats, preparing dim sum or perfecting seafood. It ends, as all good classes do, with a glass of wine and sampling session.
More tipples await at Borambola Wines, 50 hectares of grapes transformed into everything from sparkling to shiraz. Each vintage at the cellar door bears an individually designed label and an estate-related story.
After touring Wagga’s National Art Glass Collection, housing an astounding collection of fragile objects, wander across the road to Birdhouse Bar & Kitchen, all exposed-brick and potted plants. The menu is modern Australian, with plenty of snacks – fret not, a lot of eating is still to come – including merlot-soaked sourdough and Wollundry Grove olives.
North of town, Willy Wonka moments await at Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory, a magical place where you can craft chocolate freckles or stock up on giant chocolate pizza wheels.
Drive along dreamy Canola Way to reach Coolamon Cheese Co., where everything is made by hand in small batches. The semi-hard cow’s milk range comes infused with river mint, lemon myrtle or native alpine pepper.
Formal or casual? Take your pick between dinner options. In the former category is Roundabout Restaurant, where you can opt for innovative five and seven-course tasting menus that might include confit Murray Valley pork belly with miso-roasted mushrooms. For the latter, try Magpies Nest, set on eight hectares of grape vines, olive groves and veggie gardens. Sustainability is the mantra here, with many operations off-grid and produce sourced regionally.
You also have a choice in tonight’s accommodations. The Houston is within walking distance of Wagga’s main street – handy if you want to duck out for a nightcap. The 10 self-contained suites are individual in design and layout and sit around a leafy courtyard.
Alternatively, drive 15 mins to : recycled shipping containers utterly transformed into a high-style retreat, replete with an alfresco firepit and views over a working equine estate offering horse therapy sessions.
Days at Meccanico Espresso and Wine start with excellent coffee and decadent toasties (try the jamon, provolone and truffle combination). The establishment sits in an abandoned mechanic’s warehouse, part of symbiotic, buzzy lifestyle precinct Cadell Place. Have an explore to make room for lunch at your next stop.
At Nimbo Fork Lodge, a sprawling estate between Gundagai and Tumut. Your early lunch here might be a serve of butterflied Nimbo trout or of coal-roasted mushroom risotto, and your view of lush emerald-green fields.
Head to the Tumut River Brewing Co. which makes some of the more interesting beers around, try the With or Without You Red Irish Ale or spicy Ginger Ninja. Tour and taste some of the brewery’s best selections.
Or if you would prefer to taste a wine, Cathy and Brian Gairn are your oh-so-welcoming hosts at Courabyra Wines in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains. From the grounds to the cellar door – try the pinot gris – it’s a setting you won’t want to leave.
Once you have tasted some of the regions finest, it’s time to hop into the car for the five-hour drive back to Sydney.