A Hen's Party in the Central Ranges
Looking for a fabulous locale for your hen’s night? Think outside the box and head to the happening Central Ranges.
It’s been a slow burn but the NSW Central West – a cool climate region incorporating Orange, Mudgee, Bathurst and Cowra – is now officially one super-hot destination.
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 groups of women who have something special to celebrate.
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; the hen and her bestie could be installed here). One of the most Instagrammable options is Byng Street Boutique Hotel, with suites in the heritage wing featuring oversized patterned bedheads and a zany sense of colour.
If partying is more of a priority for you than sleep, The Victoria is one of the liveliest hotels in Bathurst. The pub, bearing the stern countenance of its regal namesake on the exterior, offers 19 newly renovated rooms (book the hen into one of two rooms with an ensuite). 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, 12min drive out of Bathurst towards Blayney. The 105-hectare sheep farm, already home to the two-person Farmers Hut, will be opening the five-bedroom, two-bathroom Shearers Hall in October 2021.
For maximum fun in Mudgee, book out the entire seven-room Parkview Hotel or 13-suite Perry Street Hotel in the city centre. At the red-brick Parkview, give the hen the one room with a bathtub. It also has a kitchenette and direct access onto the veranda – 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 tripping around 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 Pinot & Picasso on Summer Street. Afterwards, repair to neighbouring Washington & Co, a cool and cosy whiskey and cocktail bar.
From Orange, it’s a 45min 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 Aussie Balloontrek or Balloon Joy Flights. Canowindra (pronounced Ca-nown-dra) is also home to a burgeoning organic wine scene that includes the likes of Windowrie Wines (taste the range at the collective cellar door Ferment, the Orange Wine Centre). Visit the Stathams, organic wine pioneers, 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 Mayfield Garden, one of Australia’s largest cool climate gardens and an extraordinary botanical wonderland that’s a 35min 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 the camera 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 Lolli Redini. 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 Legall Patisserie Cafe 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.