Wagga Wagga is the largest inland city in NSW, although it hides the fact well in wide, leafy streets and low-slung, historic architecture. This vibrant regional centre sits pretty on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in the heart of the Riverina. In short, it’s the perfect base to discover a delicious food and wine scene, wonderful galleries, tranquil riverbank walks, gorgeous gardens and parks, and fascinating heritage.
Where to eat & drink
From breakfast to dinner to late-night cocktails, Wagga Wagga’s food scene is booming. Start your day right sipping barista-made coffee and fresh, seasonal fare at stylish eateries like Fitz Café Wagga, Uneke Lounge or The Brew Wagga.
Uneke Lounge, Wagga Wagga - Credit: Wagga Wagga City Council
When it comes time for something more substantial, Thaigga is known for its creative Thai fare, while Thirsty Crow Brewing Co. is Wagga’s own brewpub, pulling beers that come in seasonal flavours. Meanwhile, Cadell Place is an abandoned mechanic’s warehouse transformed into a buzzy lifestyle precinct. At its heart is Pastorale by Meccanico, an achingly cool cafe and restaurant where days begin with excellent coffee and French-toast crumpets with gin marmalade, and end with antipasti platters featuring meats from a glass salumi closet.
Meccanico, Wagga Wagga - Credit: Wagga Wagga City Council and Destination Riverina Murray
It’s a short stroll to Birdhouse Bar & Kitchen, which continues the industrial-chic vibe of Cadell Place in its exposed-brick walls, filament-bulb lighting and love for anything green and leafy. Cocktails and spritzes are chalked up on boards behind the bar, as are daily food specials, like the merlot-soaked sourdough with Wollundry Grove olives. For an upscale degustation in town, make a beeline to The Charles Dining Room; for a farm-to-plate meal, it’s hard to look past Magpies Nest, set on eight hectares of grape vines, olive groves and veggie gardens.
Go behind the scenes and see where the region’s food and fibre come from. There are close to 30 wineries in the region, and you can visit the cellar door at small-batch vineyards Borambola Wines, Boutique Wines by CSU and Cottontails Winery. Pluck strawberries straight from the plant at Bidgee Strawberries and Cream then sample locally-grown olives at Wollundry Grove Olives.
Sprawling across nine hectares, the Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens is a floral delight replete with playgrounds, a free zoo and aviary, and a miniature railway, which runs on the first and third Sunday of the month. When it comes time to cool down, take a dip in the river at Wagga Beach, voted ninth best beach in Australia in 2020.
Kids playing at Wagga Wagga Beach - Credit: Jack of Hearts Photography | Visit Wagga Wagga
Explore nature on two feet or two wheels along the Wiradjuri Trail – a 42km loop around the city. Take in attractions such as Marrambidya Wetland, a huge reserve teeming with flora and fauna, or simply enjoy city views from river level or high up on top of Pomingalarna Reserve.
New to the region is the Wagga Public Art Audio Trail, taking you along the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, through the CBD and along Fitzmaurice Street. The walking tour introduces you to a selection of wonderful artworks in Wagga Wagga; as you walk, scan the QR code at each stop to hear interviews with artists and the inspiration behind the artwork. The reasonably flat walk is approximately 3km and will take about 45-60 minutes at an easy pace.
Wiradjuri Trail in Wagga Wagga - Credit: Chloe Smith Photography | Visit Wagga Wagga
You can also learn about the area’s Aboriginal heritage with Bundyi Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge tours, where your guide Mark Saddler will share stories thousands of years in the making. Begin the day on the banks of the Murrumbidgee, where Mark will point out freshwater middens (piles of shells left behind by Aboriginal tribes) as well as scar trees – still-living eucalypts missing a hunk of trunk, cut out hundreds of years ago to craft canoes and shields. Then travel to Galore Hill Scenic Reserve to learn about Daniel ‘Mad Dog’ Morgan, an infamous bushranger who hid from the law in caves that pock the mountainside.
Wagga’s National Art Glass Gallery houses an astounding collection of fragile objects, from jewellery to chandeliers to vases – and other unidentifiable creations that don’t appear to have much function, but look pretty nonetheless. At Ashculme Textiles, you can meet the alpacas, browse the handwoven wares or learn to make your own.
Over two sites, the Museum of the Riverina tells stories of the people and events that have helped shape Wagga Wagga and the Riverina region. It's home to more than 15,000 objects, photographs, textiles and paper-based materials. The Museum's Botanic Gardens site is a great place to discover the Wagga Wagga story and engage with the Riverina's natural environment, while the historic Council Chambers site brings an ever-changing roster of major exhibitions, right in the heart of downtown Wagga.
There are events, markets and festivals happening all year round in Wagga Wagga. Don’t miss the Wagga Wagga Mardi Gras street parade and celebrations in March, Lost Lanes winter festival and Wagga Comedy Fest in June, Spring Jam family festival in September, and the Gears and Beers cycling and craft beer festival in October.
Women viewing the street art along Cadell Place, Wagga Wagga
Where to stay
Wagga Wagga is a great base for exploring the Riverina, and there are plenty of places to stay. Choose from motels, serviced apartments, B&Bs, holiday parks and luxury farm stays. There are also classy boutique hotels like The Houston, where 10 self-contained suites occupy a handsome Neo-Gothic building decorated with lavish velvet sofas and heavy drapes.
Wagga Wagga is just under five hours’ drive from both Sydney and Melbourne, and around three hours from Canberra. You can also catch the train direct from Sydney and the journey takes six hours. Or, fly into Wagga Wagga Airport with QantasLink and Regional Express and hire a car to 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.