The perfect long weekend in Mudgee for foodies
For a rustic escape that comes with a healthy helping of world-class wine and locally sourced food, make your way to Mudgee.
While the Mudgee region has been growing grapes for almost 150 years, it’s recently become the complete package for travellers of all stripes. Blessed with crisp mountain air, ancient rock art, modern art and, of course, vineyards, the town now boasts some truly luxurious accommodation and fine-dining options to pair with the wineries.
Set just far enough from Sydney to feel like a million miles from the daily grind, the rejuvenated Mudgee region is perfect for long-weekend hedonists.
- Explore ancient rock art
- Sleep in the peace of the countryside
- Treat yourself at the buzzing local café scene
- Indulge with fine dining and super-fresh, local, seasonal produce
- Tick off as many of the lauded Mudgee wineries as possible
Wending your way to Mudgee takes around 3.5 hours from Sydney. It’s a simple drive that can be broken up by pulling into one the Blue Mountains’ vantage spots, including Katoomba’s Echo Point or Blackheath’s Govetts Leap.
Once you’ve landed in Mudgee, stay among the gumtrees (with an outdoor bath to drink in the sweet country air) at Sierra Escape. For a more central option, Cobb & Co Court offers a range of rooms, including a spacious two-bedroom apartment with a private balcony overlooking the township. Cobb & Co also has an in-house bar and restaurant.
Fuel up with a coffee and breakfast at Market Street Cafe before heading to The Drip, a stunning moss- and fern-covered sandstone edifice that drips crystalline water. Just 35 minutes north of Mudgee, The Drip and surrounding 2.8km walking track is a great place to get the legs moving and the senses filled.
If it’s a warm day, leap into the Goulburn River to cool off. There’s also a significant Indigenous rock art site, Hands on Rock, just a few kilometres north that is well worth visiting.
After an energetic expedition, a late lunch beckons. About 8km from Mudgee, take a turn into the Pipeclay Pumphouse in the charmingly named area of Budgee Budgee. Part of Robert Stein’s portfolio, the rustic, low-slung restaurant perched on a dam among the reeds exudes a soothing bucolic charm.
But the comforting surrounds belie the fine fare coming from the Pipeclay kitchen. The seasonal, changing degustation menu could include truffle tuna tartare, house-made charcuterie or dark chocolate panna cotta. Pair with a glass or three of Stein’s revered museum-release aged riesling or Reserve Shiraz.
If you’re lucky enough to have a driver, slip into Pieter Van Gent Winery and while away an atmospheric hour among enormous ex-Penfolds casks from the 1850s. Make your way via Vinifera for a tasting of their organically grown Spanish varietals, including the brooding graciano and inky tempranillo. Pop a few in the bag to enjoy back at home.
In the evening, pull into the Ori Kitchen at the Oriental Hotel for a relaxed country pub experience. The Oriental is a local institution that overflows with regulars and out-of-towners, so be sure to book ahead. After your up-market lunch, this is the perfect place for tucking into some serious comfort food. Try the slow-cooked lamb with a local Bunnamagoo Lily Cab Sauv/Merlot blend or, if it’s on the specials board, an unmissable Bangladeshi curry.
While it’s a billed as a wine bolthole, Roth’s Wine Bar is where you’ll want to go for an after-dinner digestif and, if you’ve got the stamina, a boogie on the dance floor (they also do excellent wood-fired pizzas). Settle in with the local version of a negroni, made with gin from Mudgee’s own Baker Williams distillery, and watch the night unfold.
Rise from a well-earned lie-in and get the day underway with a healing caffeine-hit from Alby and Esther’s. Pressed into a gorgeous late-19th century stone building, this courtyard café is a delightful slip of morning calm. Fuel up with an Esther’s Jaffle, made with smoked ham and local free-range eggs.
Before hitting the wine trail (which, let’s be honest, is the main reason you’re here), swing by Brett Niven Ceramics (call ahead) for a collection of stunning ceramics handmade with clay from the region.
Carry on to Logan Wines, one of the best-known wineries in Mudgee, a 15-minute drive out of town. Now a double-hander with its sister outpost in Orange, Logan’s modern winery overlooks an Insta-perfect valley of rolling hills and vines. Swirl one of their superbly drinkable Apple Tree Flat rosés, the skinsy, new-age Clementine Pinot Gris or the flagship Ridge of Tears Shiraz.
Head to di Lusso Estate for lunch, it’s worth popping into the organic whistle-wetting wines of both Martins Hill Organic and Broombee Organic Orchard and Wines. Both boutique wineries offer wonderfully authentic and personal wine experiences, with the deep nurturing of the vines matched by the hospitality of the vignerons who are often on hand to guide you through their wines.
Crossing back through town, Di Lusso will transport you to a place of charming simplicity, with al fresco dining reminiscent of an idyllic Italian trattoria serving a wonderful range of Italian varietals. Sit back with an arneis or fiano and a heaped plate of pear, rocket and parmesan salad or the beef-cheeks with a more robust cabernet/barbera/sangiovese.
As twilight descends, Lowe Wines rises. Ignore the fact that your dinner seating doesn’t start until 6pm and instead turn up early to enjoy sundown with a glass of sparkling. Not only will you have views across the bounteous landscape but you’ll be able to fully appreciate the time and dedication that head winemaker David Lowe has poured into his property, including the permaculture and market gardens that are the engine room of the kitchen.
When it’s time to eat, head over to Lowe’s fine-dining eatery, The Zin House, and sink into your chair, safe in the knowledge that the table is yours for the evening. Lowe’s long-dinner policy makes the seasonal five-course degustation from the farm and surrounding area a supremely stress-free affair. Pairing the food with matched wines will give you the chance to enjoy roast chicken and garden veggies with the lauded Lowe Zinfandel or a tarte tatin with a Craigmoor sticky.
Squeeze the last few moments out of your Mudgee days by grabbing coffee and a bacon and egg roll at the Butcher’s Shop Café before taking the long way home via the historic village of Hill End.
There’s a bonus to this route, with a number of wineries dotted along the way, including Burnbrae, that does pizzas on Sundays for lunch. Across the road is , where you can taste from their list of cracking wines while drinking in the views.
Once you’ve found your way to the former gold town of Hill End an hour down the road, stretch the legs with a self-guided photographic walking tour of the town’s former wealth and a slew of colonial buildings to ramble around.
If you’re making your way back home across the mountains, consider taking the Bells Line of Road rather than the Great Western Highway. At Kurrajong stop in for lunch at the Lochiel House for some fine dining in pristine surrounds. It may be a slight detour, but the extra kilometres are more than made up for with stunning bush scenery and occasional vistas.