5 winter road trips to tick off in NSW

Take your pick of the best winter road trips in NSW and spend a few days swilling cool-climate wine and browsing antique stores, gazing at the stars from an outdoor tub or strolling heritage-listed towns.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Apr 2024 -
min read

For a taste of fine country life: a Southern Highlands trail 

Towns: Mittagong – Bowral – Berrima – Moss Vale – Kangaroo Valley 

Total distance: 57.4km, 1 hour 

Recommended time: Two nights 

Where to go: If the ideal weekend involves swilling wine around a glass, perusing antiques and admiring well-kempt colonial architecture, a road trip to the Southern Highlands should be at the top of your list. Its short distance from Sydney (just 1.5 hours) means you can take your time stopping in at every town on the way to Kangaroo Valley 

Stretch your legs at Mittagong on a walk to admire the old laneways and grand buildings. If you arrive around lunchtime, consider a meal at Paste, a fine-dining Thai restaurant (its Bangkok counterpart is a Michelin-starred culinary institution).   

Crab curry at Paste, Mittagong

Crab curry at Paste, Mittagong - Credit: Paste

Next stop is Bowral: the biggest town in the region. Pop in to the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame – even if you’re not into the sport, the museum’s exhibits about the media and its relationship with the game, as well as cricket’s significance around the world, are fascinating. Antique lovers will feel a thrill walking into Coach House Collective. Pick up a hand-pressed flower print or a vase at the beautifully laid out store.  

Another town full of character is Berrima – its elevation means it’s an ideal location for making cool-climate wine. Stop in at Peppergreen Estate to taste the pinot noir and shiraz, stay for lunch at the Tasting Room and pick up a bottle of the estate’s excellent housemade olive oil to take home.  

More of an ale aficionado? Head on over to Southern Highlands Brewing Taphouse in Moss Vale, housed within a historic venue with stained glass windows and high ceilings. They also make an excellent cocktail and offer a full bistro menu. If you’re keen to stretch your legs, visit Cecil Hoskins Nature Reserve, wetlands on the traditional land of the Gundungurra and Tharawal people and home to more than 90 species of birds.  

Reserve a whole day to explore Bundanon, a breathtaking art museum embedded in the landscape. See world-class art, visit Arthur Boyd’s studio and enjoy a picnic on the lush grounds.  

Couple enjoying the view from the museum at Bundanon Art Museum, Illaroo

Bundanon Art Museum, Illaroo - Credit: Safari Global

Where to stay:  If you’re going with a group, Kilburn at Moss Vale sleeps 10 and feels like a grand country manor, with a large balcony overlooking green pastures. 

Aframe Kangaroo Valley, a sustainably built cabin, is the ideal couple’s retreat. Take a chilly dip in your own private creek then warm up in the outdoor hot tub.  

Travelling with your pup? The historic The Dairy at Broger’s End is a lovingly restored milking shed, with an outdoor bathtub, al fresco dining area and woodfired pizza oven.  

> See road trip map 

Wood fired hot tub at Aframe Kangaroo Valley in Kangaroo Valley, Jarvis Bay

Aframe Kangaroo Valley, Kangaroo Valley - Credit: Hayley Rafton Photography

If you’re travelling with kids: Blue Mountains to Central West 

Towns: Kurrajong – Bilpin – Mount Tomah – Oberon – Bathurst 

Total distance: 163km, 2 hours 23 minutes 

Recommended days: Three nights 

What to do: For a blend of rural charm and city buzz, plan a drive through some of the quieter parts of the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains on to Bathurst in NSW’s Central West. Make your first stop Kurrajong – take a deep breath and feel the crisp mountain air fill your lungs and listen for the chimes of the bellbirds that soundtrack the town. If you arrive very early in the morning, watching sunrise at Bell Bird Hill Lookout provides ample reward.  

Next up is Bilpin, which is synonymous with apples. Pick your own at Shields Orchard if you’re there in autumn, or taste them in beverage form at Hillbilly Cider (kids and dogs welcome) and Bilpin Cider Co. Further up Bells Lind of Road is the Zig Zag Railway – little ones will love the thrill of riding on a ‘choo-choo train’ and the views are superb.  

Zig Zag Railway, Lithgow

Zig Zag Railway, Lithgow

Head on to Oberon, surrounded by wilderness and pine forests, which look particularly gorgeous if you are lucky enough to get a dusting of snow. Mayfield Garden is Australia’s largest cool-climate garden, with pram-friendly paths, a box-hedge maze, rose garden, lakes and pagodas to explore.  

Oberon is known for its truffles. Join a dig for the elusive black diamond truffle at RedGround, and then enjoy a tasting experience in front of the fire (for children 12 years and over). The Jenolan Caves is a worthwhile detour on the way to Bathurst – the oldest open caves in the world, the labyrinth of stalactite-lined chasms is truly jaw-dropping.  

Inside Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains

Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains

Last stop is Bathurst, for some cultural enrichment. The Bathurst Regional Art Gallery has an exceptional roster of exhibitions, including school holiday art workshops for kids. Marvel at the size of the T-Rex and the incredible fossil and mineral collection of one man, Warren Somerville AM, at the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum. There are also plenty of great playgrounds in Bathurst, as well as kid-friendly pubs and cafes. Or time your visit with the Bathurst Winter Festival, two weeks of ice skating, light illuminations, soul-warming food and wine stalls – think mulled wine, local cider and steaming mince pies – and more. 

Bathurst Winter Festival - Credit: David Roma

Bathurst Winter Festival, Bathurst - Credit: David Roma

Where to stay: For a taste of farm life, try the pet-friendly Bilpin Country Lodge, which is home to chooks and an alpaca, goat and pony. For a more high-end taste of country life, Boxgrove Farm offers several eco studios near Bathurst, with floor-to-ceiling windows providing peaceful pastoral scenes, sleek kitchenettes and furnishings in muted tones; or at Wilga Station, stay in a luxurious, five-bedroom Shearers Hall. 

Jenolan Caves House offers an insight into bygone times and easy access to the caves (and might be haunted!). 

> See road trip map 

Interior of cottage at Boxgrove Farm, Eglinton

Boxgrove Farm, Eglinton

A proper wintery getaway in the outdoors: Snow Valley to Snowy Mountains 

Towns: Gundagai – Tumut – Batlow – Tumbarumba – Kosciuszko National Park  

Total distance: 186km, 2 hours 37 minutes 

Recommended days: Five nights  

What to do: Head to the coldest part of the state for an exciting sojourn in a wintery wonderland. Stop in Gundagai for a pie or lamington at Gundagai Bakery; established in 1864, it’s believed to be the oldest working bakery in Australia. Be prepared to spend an hour or two at the Gundagai Historic Museum, packed to the rafters with memorabilia from pioneer life including two medallions presented to the Wiradjuri men whose efforts saved many lives in the great flood of 1852.  

Further on in Tumut, head straight to the extremely pretty Tumut River. Running high, cold and crystal clear through forest, farmland and the town, it is ideal spot for trout fishing. Head out on a drift boat with Aussie Fly Fisher in late autumn or early winter for a full-day fishing trip, no experience necessary. A refreshment at Tumut River Brewing Co is a must – join a brewery tour, see some live music or just sip on one of their unique ales like the Nebuchadnezzar Oat Cream IPA with some classic pub fare. Local at Learmont's is a sweet store full of local produce and handmade crafts.  

Patrons at Tumut River Brewing Co., Tumut

Patrons at Tumut River Brewing Co., Tumut

Stretch your legs and marvel at the eerie majesty of the pine forest on the Pilot Hill Wellness Walk near Batlow. The walk includes interactive timber features such as pods you can lay down in, that are designed to help you observe nature (see the QR code on the signs). Pop in for a locally made cider (Batlow is famous for its apples) at Crafty Cider before you head off.  

Tumbarumba offers a divine mix of landscapes, with surrounding mountain peaks overlooking bushland, vineyards and lush pastures. Absorb the scenery on the 21km Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail, a gentle cycling and walking trail completed in 2020. Refreshments should be taken at Ladbroken Distilling Co. where award-winning gin, whisky and vodka are on the menu. Native botanicals are used as much as possible to give the spirits a local flavour.  

Reserve a few days to explore the Kosciuszko National Park. Whether you’re carving up the slopes or soaking in thermal pools, make it as adventurous or relaxing as you like.  

Women enjoying food and drink at The Local Pub in Thredbo Village, Snowy Mountains.

Thredbo, Snowy Mountains

Where to stay: Kestrel Nest EcoHut is a beautifully appointed off-grid cabin with an outdoor bath, hammocks for stargazing, and indoor and outdoor fireplaces.  

Located at the Ladbroken Distillery in Tumbarumba, the three-bedroom Moonshiner Cottage overlooks a creek and lush garden but is near the centre of town. 

Avonside Alpine Estate is the perfect base to explore the snowfields of Mount Kosciuszko, a working farm with two and three-bedroom cabins. 

> See road trip map 

View of fireplace at Kestrel Nest Eco Hut, Mount Adrah

Kestrel Nest Eco Hut, Mount Adrah - Credit: Lean Timms

Fascinating history and delicious food: Hidden gems of the Central West 

Towns: Millthorpe – Carcoar – Cowra – Canowindra – Orange 

Total distance: 172km, 2 hours 6 minutes 

Recommended days: Four nights 

What to do: Orange is one of the more well-known towns of the Central West, and rightly so – the food and wine scene is second to none. But within two hours, there are more towns to discover – smaller but just as charming, with an authentic taste of country life.  

The whole village of Millthorpe is heritage-listed, and you’ll understand why as you wander through: its streetscape and many buildings have been beautifully preserved. There is no shortage of top-tier venues to sample the excellent local produce and cool-climate wine of the region. Try Tonic for a well-priced five-course degustation that changes weekly; Angullong Cellar Door for full-bodied reds; the family-owned Slow Wine Co for small-batch chardonnay (plus tapas on Friday and Saturday nights); and the cellar door at Tamburlaine Organic Wines for organic wine tastings, plus cocktails and live music on Saturday night.   

Tonic Restaurant. Credit: Orange360

Tonic Restaurant - Credit: Orange360

A pitstop at Carcoar is worthwhile. The town itself is listed on the National Trust due to its large number of preserved 19th-century buildings; walking through it is like taking a step back in time. You might recognise it from a number of Australian films, such as Jessica, Country Life and the series Ten Pound Poms 

Cowra is set on the banks of the Lachlan River, surrounded by vineyards and pretty countryside. Try some of the rarer wines from the region and fine dining dishes using produce from their own garden at The Quarry Restaurant and Cellar Door. Train enthusiasts will enjoy the Lachlan Valley Railway Heritage Centre – take a ride on a heritage steam or diesel locomotive and admire the picturesque landscape.  

Discover the fascinating history of WWII at the Cowra Prisoner of War Camp Site and learn about the largest prisoner of war breakout in modern military history. Stroll the Cowra Peace Precinct which ends in the tranquil Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre or walk up the hill to admire the water tank murals. 

Couple enjoying a picnic in the scenic Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre, Cowra

Couple enjoying a picnic in the scenic Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre, Cowra

Further along in Canowindra, take to the air in a hot air balloon at dawn – Cowra is known as the balloon capital of Australia, and it is a gorgeous way to admire the colours of the land. Artists abound in this town – see some of their pieces at the David Isbester Gallery, the Melissa Barber Galleries and the Canowindra Art Gallery.  

Thirsty? Rosnay Organic Farm and Vineyard were one of the pioneers of organic wine in Australia, and also grow olives and figs. The farm’s old wool shed now offers tastings of their natural wine, or book in to try a local produce platter or do a farm tour.  

Couple enjoying a wine and olive tasting experience with Sam Stratham of Rosnay Organic Wines, Canowindra

Rosnay Organic Wines, Canowindra

The heart of the Central West, Orange has a lively energy to it and has a reputation for some of the best food and wine experiences in the state. Dedicate a day to wine tasting: Printhie Wines for a glamorous meal in a state-of-the-art cellar door and award-winning sparkling; Rowlee Wines for an intimate tasting and deep dive into their single vineyard wines; and Swinging Bridge Wines for excellent pinot noir and a lush food matching experience.  

Restaurants and specialty shops aboundFerment is ideal if you’re keen to try some of the smaller producers. The Orange Winter Fire Festival, held in August, is a fantastic way to sample the region beside crackling fires a great option for families, too.

Absorb the culture of the land’s Traditional Owners and visit ceremonial sites of the Wiradjuri people on a tour with Indigenous Cultural Adventures, hosted by local Elders. Add in a bush tucker tasting to sample native food.

Where to stay: Millthorpe Boutique Motel is simple and comfortable, offering rooms and apartments with kitchenettes and Rosebank Guesthouse can house 12 people in a magnificently restored building with a wraparound verandah.   

Everview Retreat, near Canowindra, offers three stone cottages, with private decks, fire pits and a shared pool area.  

For a boutique hotel full of personality and charm, The Oriana Orange or Byng Street Boutique Hotel fit the bill, or sleep in a luxurious rammed earth studio that makes the most of the views at Basalt Luxury Studios. 

> See road trip map 

Foyer area of hotel with fireplace at Byng Street Boutique Hotel, Orange

Byng Street Boutique Hotel, Orange - Credit: Pablo Veiga

Meet the growers and eat well: a Riverina tour  

Towns: Wagga Wagga – Junee – Bethungra – Coolamon – Griffith  

Total distance: 285km, 3 hours 18 minutes 

Recommended days: Three days 

What to do: The wave of European migrants after the World Wars established a strong food and wine culture in The Riverina, plus the excellent growing conditions means great produce and restaurants are not hard to find.  

The Festival of W lights up Wagga Wagga over two weeks in winter with lights, live music, winter markets featuring local produce, ice skating and more. Find out more about the olive growing process at Wollundry Grove Olives – five different varieties are grown at the farm, with all but one going into their olive oil. Travel a little further out of town to Borambola Wines, established in 1995, where they grow their own fruit for almost all their wines and the homestead itself was built in the 1880s.  

Families skating on the ice rink at Festival of W, Wagga Wagga

Festival of W, Wagga Wagga

When eating out, the options are manifold. Try Magpies Nest (just outside of town) for an affordable set menu in a beautiful 1860s former stable; Olivette is the spot for excellent cocktails; and Mr Lawrence for photogenic breakfasts and good coffee.  

If you have a sweet tooth, save room in the suitcase for your next stop: the much-loved Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory. Watch chocolatiers make delicious treats, do a workshop or simply stock up on goodies to take with you. The Junee Rotary Sunday Market, on the first Sunday of the month, is another spot to meet the locals and pick up some handmade items or breakfast. For an authentic county experience, pop into Bethungra Olde School T-House (open Sunday to Tuesday or by appointment) for tea and cake, a treasure trove of memorabilia and knick-knacks located in an old school building.  

An essential stop on the way to Griffith is at Coolamon Cheese Co. Housed in a 1920s co-op building, the site itself is characterful, with wooden floorboard and original high ceilings. View the entire cheesemaking and maturation process, then try some with a glass of local wine – the double brie and the lemon myrtle cheeses are excellent.  

Griffith is the agricultural heart of the Riverina. Discover the region on a Bella Vita tour. Gnocchi the Italian Way will see you tasting prosecco, making pasta and enjoying lunch at Mirrool Cottage (or a tour can be customised based on your interests).  

Or take yourself on an agricultural tour of the region. Stop in at Catania Fruit Salad Farm or Piccolo Family Farm; taste wine at Calabria Family Wines and Yarran Wines; and save time for a long lunch at the impressive Limone Dining or Zecca – the chefs at both restaurants are passionate about their Italian heritage and regional produce.  

Food and drink available on the menu at Limone Dining, Griffith

Limone Dining, Griffith

Where to stay: Just a stone's throw from central Wagga Wagga is the new, five-star St Hugh Hotel. Suites in this contemporary stay offer premium amenities including king-sized beds, custom artworks, rain showers and minibars stocked with local goods.  

Love spooky stories? Stay in what is said to be Australia’s most haunted house – the Monte Cristo Homestead in Junee. If an overnight stay is too much, they also offer ghost tours on the weekends.  

Cosy up in a garden pod on three acres of farmland in Griffith at Jen’s Garden Pods, where queen-sized beds, an outdoor firepit and breakfast delivered to your door is offered. 

> See road trip map 

Each Pod has a patio area with fire pit at Jen's Garden Pods, Griffith

Jen's Garden Pods, Griffith

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