Lisa Wagstaff takes V&T on a weekend in Orange and discovers its natural, and gourmet, charms.
Three and a half hours west of Sydney, Orange NSW is a haven for food and wine lovers, history seekers and outdoor adventurers. The region has indulgent gourmet offerings, cultural appeal, stunning natural attractions and hikes. Its cool climate produces tantalising wines as well as apple, pear and cherry orchards that colour the countryside. Visitors to Orange can enjoy the unique ecosystems created by a 10-million-year-old volcano, walk through limestone caves, and take in 360-degree views of farms, lakes, vineyards and bush. Keep your eyes peeled for Orange’s rosellas, galahs and parrots that you can spot during this nature and foodie-packed long weekend itinerary.
Towac Pinnacle Lookout
I’ve fallen in love with the landscapes of Orange. Once you move out from the flat basin of the city, you’ll venture upon the rolling hills, farms, waterfalls and caves. Towac Pinnacle Lookout is my first stop and only a 30-minute return walk. You’ll have to climb 230 stairs to the top but you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree sweeping views of the region.
Check-in to Basalt Orange
Just two-minutes drive from Towac Pinnacle Lookout is the brand new architecturally designed Basalt Orange studios. The three studios are perched on a hilltop in a cherry orchard that has been in the family since 1979. With a bathtub, indoor and outdoor fireplaces and oversized armchairs, the romantic studios have plenty of places to get cosy. If you are looking for luxury accommodation in Orange NSW, the studios are your best pick. You’ll never tire of the views of the orchard through the full-size spotted gum-framed glass windows, there’s a kitchen for nights in cooking and wildlife that come right up to the door. Check-in from 3pm.
Wine Flight & Tasting Plate at Ross Hill Wines
I’d been told the chicken and chardonnay pairing from the Ross Hill was a must-try, so it had to be my first epicurean stop in Orange. A tasting plate with seven moreish mouthfuls is presented and we pair Sauvignon Blanc with capsicum, Pinot Grigio with hazelnuts, rose with prosciutto, Shiraz and salami, Tempranillo with cheese and finishing with Cabernet Sauvignon with dark chocolate covered almond slivers. I have to agree the buttery chicken rillette was the highlight but all tastings paired perfectly with the excellent wines. The winery, built inside a repurposed apple packing shed and was the first carbon-neutral winery in Australia.
Ross Hill also has a school of wine and food called Barrel & Larder. The cooking school runs a program of intimate cooking classes for up to 12 people led by chefs from around Orange and Australia. The interactive classes finish with dinner paired with wine eaten from around the kitchen table.
Sunset at Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area
You can drive right to the top of the 1,395-metre Mount Canobolas to witness a dazzling Central West sunset that paints the sky red and orange. Keep an eye out for wombats from the newly built observation deck too. Its flat top also makes it a great sunrise location.
Night in at Basalt Orange
Run a bath, open the bi-fold windows above the tub, turn off all the lights and you will be treated to a glittering star-filled sky. The sensation of the warm bath and cool night air is heavenly. If you want to see more of the night skies, the studio has a telescope to view from the outside deck. For dinner, Basalt Orange can arrange dinner from local favourite Racine Restaurant to be waiting in the fridge – it just needs reheating. We ordered butter chicken and dined at the wooden table by the cracking indoor fire.
It’s a beautiful clear morning, and the best spot to watch the sunrise is nestled in the king-sized bed while a kangaroo hops up to the herb garden right in front of the window. We scare it off when we emerge with yoga mats for a 20-min sunrise on-demand yoga session. A complimentary continental breakfast is provided, and we enjoy it on the wooden deck before getting into our hiking gear.
Mount Canobolas Nature Walking Track
Ten million years ago, Mount Canobolas was an active volcano. The lava that flowed from the volcano has given Orange its nutrient-rich soils and made the mountain home to a number of endemic plants and animals. The Mount Canobolas Nature Walking Track has signboards with information on the unique flora and fauna. Among the beautiful bushland, we’re excited to spot wombat poo, wombat holes, and a number of multicoloured birds.
Calling lovers of all things bright and colourful. Head into the main street in Orange and you will be blown away by the eclectic homewares, art and fashion at Jumbled.
Five-course degustation at Printhie Wines
Printhie Wines is one of the most prestigious wineries in Orange and offer several premium experiences, including helicopter rides and lakeside picnics. We couldn’t resist trying the five-course degustation lunch at Printhie Restaurant & Cellar Door, paired with award-winning wines. Chef Jack Brown has created a menu with local produce and native Australian flavours crafted to complement Printhie’s wines. The restaurant is ultra modern with concrete walls and soft leather furniture; the north-facing glass windows have views of the vineyards growing 1,000 metres above sea level.
Before the lunch begins, we are served a complimentary snack from the chef, crumpets with smoked salmon and kangaroo pastrami on a buckwheat crisp; the first course is a sliced scallop paired with the 2011 Swift Blanc de Blancs, which won the best Australian Sparkling award at the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships in London. Next is smoked quail with a 2021 Milwood Pinot Noir, Murray Cod with 2021 Wattleview Chardonnay, and five-hour slow-cooked wagyu beef rump with leek and tarragon gel paired with 2019 Super Duper Syrah. After mains, there is the option to add a course of cheese, then a lemon myrtle cannoli palette cleanser before an almond cake with stewed apples and white chocolate ice cream with NV Swift Riche.
We’re almost at winter’s solstice, and the sun is meeting the horizon as we finish lunch, but if you have more daylight, I suggest the short stroll around Lake Canobolas.
Saturday evening at Basalt Orange
Still full from lunch, we head back to the Basalt Orange to sit around the outdoor firepit and later toast marshmallows over its crackling flames. If you are wanting to head out, options include:
- Badlands MicroBrewery for a beer and food truck prepared meal
- Birdie Noshery & Drinking Est. for a funky vibe
- The recently opened wine bar, Hey Rosey
After breakfast in Orange, we head to Arch Cave in Borenore Karst Conservation Reserve. This impressive limestone cavern has an easy path, with massive limestone boulders at the end. Use your torch to see the cave’s stalactites, stalagmites, columns and flowstones. The walk to Arch Cave is short and can be accessed at any time of year. However, Verandah Cave at the end of Boree Creek trail is closed from March to October to protect the large bent-winged bats that hibernate here. It’s an ironic name for the bats as they weigh just 15 grams. The cave is 250 metres long and a fun adventure all other times of the year.
Other things to do in Orange
- Stroll through the Botanic Gardens
- Visit one of the 30+ cellar doors
- Picnic in Cook Park and see the birds in the aviary
- Explore the Orange Regional Museum
- Drive by the beautiful historic homes along Samson Street
- Hot air ballooning
- Visit during one of Orange’s annual events and festivals including the month-long Orange Wine festival in October
- Montoro Wines is the first winery outside the Orange CBD as you head out on Cargo Road. The building is an architectural beauty with a striking oversized steel roof and blackened timber and glass, housing Montoro’s tasting room.
- Charred is one of the coolest dining options in the Orange CBD, sporting a relaxed atmosphere and a menu of dishes featuring local produce and cooked using a “Lucifer” wood and charcoal oven, hence the name ‘Charred’. It also has an impressive list of more than 400 wines and more than 100 beers.
Looking for more inspiring Vacations & Travel stories? Try these…