The Riverina region of NSW is known as the ‘food bowl’ of the state for good reason. Produce thrives here, and much of it envelops Griffith, from grapes to oranges and everything in between. Explore the town’s fascinating Italian heritage while visiting wineries, restaurants and museums, and linger for festivals celebrating this rich food and wine culture.
History and heritage
Noted architect Walter Burley Griffin was in his prime in the early 20th century, not only (and famously) designing Canberra, but also Griffith as part of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Scheme. The city became a magnet for European migrants, who settled in the region after World Wars I and II, and helped build a distinctive food and wine culture. Their contribution is celebrated at the Griffith Multicultural Festival, which is part of the annual Spring Fest in October.
Whether you are interested in the irrigation scheme or wine making, you can explore the heritage of Griffith at two museums on the same picturesque grounds. The Griffith Italian Museum is within the Pioneer Park Museum, which spans more than 40 historic buildings and details important aspects of the town’s history. If you’re keen for more, head to the Griffith Regional Art Gallery to browse an impressive collection of art.
With more than 60% of Griffith locals descended from Italian heritage, this town takes food and wine seriously. The first vineyard was established in 1912, and since then the region has blossomed into one of NSW’s most applauded wine regions. Some of the best-known wineries with cellar doors are De Bortoli Wines, home of the internationally acclaimed Noble One Botrytis Semillon; Yarran Wines, with a fabulous cellar door overlooking the vines; and Calabria Family Wines.
When it comes time to dine, head to Limone to sample Luke Piccolo’s impeccable cuisine. Luke’s family own an incredible organic farm in Griffith, and this is his primary source of produce for Limone – everything else comes from other small regional growers, makers and farmers. A short walk down the street you’ll find Zecca, set within a former bank and replete with glorious pressed-metal ceilings and polished wood floors. Everything on the menu here is regional and rustic, with chefs relying on family recipes (Italian, of course) in the kitchen.
Time for dessert? Proudly old school, Bertoldo’s has been serving up biscotti, cannoli and gelato since 1952. The fourth-generation, family-owned bakery and sweets store offers a comforting embrace from the moment you enter, welcoming you with the warm aroma of just-baked pastry and the cool kiss of icing sugar, floating on the breeze from the kitchen.
There aren’t many working malthouses in the world – Whitton Malt House is one, set on an immense estate on the outskirts of Griffith. The dining room and cellar door occupy a soaring warehouse, with tables spilling outside beside a manmade lake. And if you can’t bear to tear yourself away, check in to the luxe cabins ringing the lake, replete with designer kitchens, rain showers and windowside sofas.
Raised on her family’s Griffith vineyard, Australian-Italian Cassandra Cadorin knows a thing or two about local wine – and what food to pair with it, for that matter. Launching a tour company that decodes the region’s finest produce was a no-brainer. Her Bella Vita Riverina Tours reveal the full extent of the town’s multicultural heritage, dropping in on top winemakers and purveyors. Ask nicely, and Cadorin will take you to the town’s Hermit’s Cave, a heritage-listed collection of stone structures on Scenic Hill. Griffith Tours also offers delectable adventures that take you to wineries, restaurants and cafes around the area.
The enticing Griffith events calendar includes Festa delle Salsicce in August, which celebrates the town’s Italian heritage. At the Griffith Easter Party, held on the Easter long weekend, you can enjoy fun activities for the whole family, with an Easter egg hunt, wine tasting, live music and more.
Accommodation options suit various budgets and include caravan parks, motels, hotels, self-catering cottages and luxe cabins like Whitton Malt House.
Griffith is a six-hour drive from Sydney and five hours from Melbourne. You can also fly to Griffith Airport via Qantas and Regional Express. Griffith Airport is 5km from Griffith’s town centre. Use the taxi services available at the terminal to make the short trip south. Alternatively, rent a car at the airport and explore the region at your own pace.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the Traditional Owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.