Scenic cellar doors, boutique shopping, vibrant dining and luxe stays – the Central Ranges is the perfect destination for a weekend with the ladies.
We can see why. This elevated region with its distinctive seasons produces extraordinary food and wine, is pretty as a picture and easily accessible for those living in Sydney or Canberra. It’s almost like it was designed especially for girl gangs getting away for a fun-filled weekender.
Pick a base
The buzzing regional city of Orange is a popular destination thanks to its proximity to a multitude of stunning cellar doors – so book your sleeping quarters early. A block back from Summer Street (the main drag) is the four-star Quest Orange, with 77 serviced apartments that range from a studio configuration all the way up to three bedrooms. Another good small-group option is out of town, perched on the flanks of Mt Canobolas: Borrodell Estate, which houses a vineyard, restaurant, heritage apple orchard and trufferie, has two cottages that sleep up to six people each (there are also two suites up the hill). One of the most Instagrammable options is Byng Street Boutique Hotel, with suites in the heritage wing featuring oversized patterned bedheads and a zany colour pallette.
If socialising is more of a priority for you than sleep, is one of the liveliest hotels in Bathurst. The pub, bearing the stern countenance of its regal namesake on the exterior, offers 19 stylish rooms (some with shared bathrooms). Out the back, as part of the Tremain’s Mill precinct, there’s both a hairdresser and coffee shop operating out of shipping containers. For a more peaceful experience, head to Wilga Station, a 12-minute drive out of Bathurst towards Blayney. The 105-hectare sheep farm, already home to the two-person Farmers Hut, opened a luxury five-bedroom, two-bathroom Shearers Hall late last year.
For maximum fun in Mudgee, book out the entire seven-room Parkview Hotel or 13-suite Perry Street Hotel in the city centre. Going away for a special occasion? At the red-brick Parkview, give the guest of honour the one room with a bathtub. It also has a kitchenette and direct access onto the verandah – a great spot to enjoy a sundowner before heading out on the town. Perry Street Hotel also occupies a historic building. Suites have an edgy contemporary design, with some featuring balconies and private courtyards.
What to do
Orange & surrounds
There’s nothing more relaxing than an afternoon of popping into Orange’s stellar cellar doors. Stand-outs include Philip Shaw, a photogenic cellar door inspired by an old bluestone farm building that incorporates avant-garde new lines, and Heifer Station, where you can taste the range inside the historic shearing shed, relax outside on hay bales and coo over animals in the petting zoo. Bring along your new favourite Orange tipple for one of the light-hearted paint-and-sip sessions at on Summer Street. Shop a vivid range of homewares, art and clothing at Jumbled boutique and, afterwards, retire to neighbouring Washington & Co, a cool and cosy whiskey and cocktail bar.
From Orange, it’s a 45 minute drive to Canowindra – the hot-air ballooning capital of Australia thanks to atmospheric wind conditions that favour year-round ballooning. See the historic village, with its crooked main street, and the region from above by booking a dawn flight with or Balloon Joy Flights. Canowindra (pronounced Ca-nown-dra) is also home to a burgeoning organic wine scene that includes the likes of (taste the range at the collective cellar door ).
Visit organic wine pioneers the Stathams, at Rosnay Organic Wines, eight kilometres from town. Wallington Wines is an organic and biodynamic winery that also has fascinating bushranger history. Look out, too, for the extraordinary vinegar and vino cotto made by Cintra Estate, south of Canowindra.
If you’re visiting the Cowra region in spring (September to early October), go looking for the ‘fields of gold’ – otherwise known as canola. Spring is also when the Cowra Japanese Garden is at its frothy-pink best and hosts an annual Cherry Blossom Festival.
Bathurst & surrounds
Put a whole day aside to nose around , one of Australia’s largest cool-climate gardens and an extraordinary botanical wonderland that’s a 35-minute drive from Bathurst near Oberon. It’s actually two gardens: the 16-hectare Mayfield Garden and the owners’ private 49-hectare garden that’s accessible during four seasonal festivals and includes one of the country’s largest English box hedge mazes. Make sure your phone is fully charged to snap the grotto, bluestone bridge and many stunning reflections.
Mudgee & surrounds
There are plenty of cellar doors in the Mudgee area to keep you and your group busy for a weekend. At Rylstone near Mudgee, De Beaurepaire Wines offers a photogenic lawn upon which to laze with the vineyard’s French-style wines and a picnic. At Robert Stein Winery, visit the cellar door, peek at the motorcycle museum or linger over a fine meal at the Pipeclay Pumphouse restaurant. Alternatively, make your own delicious lunch at The Little Cooking School. To work off the gastronomic indulgences, drive out of Mudgee to hike to The Drip Gorge.
Eat & drink
One of the nicest spots to grab breakfast or lunch in Orange is at Anything Grows, a cafe that’s also a boutique nursery (visit on the way to nearby Cook Park, home to an astonishing conservatory filled with begonias). Summer Street is also home to Birdie, a more casual eatery from the team at . There’s now a good culinary reason to head over the railway tracks – Charred, as the name suggests, specialises in slow-roasted deliciousness.
Graze along Bathurst’s best eat street — Keppel Street. Arrive at the acclaimed early in the day to nab one of its famous lemon tarts topped with fine slices of the citrus. It’s right near The Hub, a buzzy spot for coffee and lunch. Up on the next block are two good dinner options. Dogwood BX is an American-style saloon serving world-class cocktails and eats, while Vine and Tap does hearty Italian share plates, which can be enjoyed indoors or outside in the courtyard.
For a really special meal, book a five-course long lunch or dinner at The Zin House overlooking Lowe Wines. Mudgee also offers more casual options such as the Mudgee Brewing Co — a micro-brewery and restaurant that hosts live music on the weekends.