Best known as the hot air balloon capital of Australia, Canowindra is an historic village in the Orange region of Country NSW. Set on the banks of the beautiful Belubula River, the crooked main street follows the route of an old bullock track and the surrounding rich farmlands produce wool, wheat and fat lambs.
The best way to see the town is from above. Join Aussie Balloontrek or Balloon Joy Flights and watch the sun paint the sky orange and pink as you drift over the red earth at dawn. Time your visit to coincide with the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge in April, a colourful week-long spectacle.
Meander through Canowindra's heritage-listed centre while learning about its fascinating colonial history, including the fact that the whole town was bailed up in a pub for three days by bushranger Ben Hall and his gang in 1863. A must-visit is the Canowindra Historical Museum, housed in a former school building.
In 1955, a rock bed full of thousands of rare Devonian fossils was uncovered by chance near Canowindra. It contained fossils of bizarre fish with crushing jaws and armour from 360 million years ago, long before dinosaurs roamed the planet. Many of these are now on display at the intriguing Ages of Fishes Museum.
The centre of Canowindra is brimming with galleries and gift shops, such as the Canowindra Trading Post and Finns Store. Stop for a cool drink at the Royal Hotel Canowindra, built in 1910 on the site of Ben Hall’s most daring escapade. Join Blind Freddy’s Bushranger Tours and explore the myths of Hall and his gang.
Sipping on fine wines is a popular pastime in Canowindra, which straddles the Cowra and Orange regions – both well-known for their acclaimed vineyards, fresh produce and culinary festivals. Enjoy wine tastings at Toms Waterhole Wines and Wallington Wines, and check out Canowindra@Home for festivities such as the 100 Mile Dinner.
Canowindra is a 30-minute drive north of Cowra and 50 minutes' southwest of Orange. From Sydney, the drive through the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains is a little over four hours. You can also fly to Orange airport and rent a car. Accommodation options suit various budgets with cottages, motels, farmstays and a caravan park.