Not every valley boasts winery bookstores, cheeseburger pies and platypus-populated waterfall walks.
New South Wales is dotted with seemingly endless country towns and weekend destinations. Among the best of these is Kangaroo Valley, named for the Kangaroo River along which the tiny village is situated. The town is only two hours south of Sydney but packs all of the charm that we love about rural NSW — breathtaking mountain and valley views, bushwalks aplenty and wineries galore.
Kangaroo Valley is a cabin retreat that will feel decades away from the city hustle and bustle, but is still close enough for a quick weekender. Here's how to make the most of it.
Kangaroo Valley may not be the most talked about wine region, but it sure is a quiet contender. The region is distinguished by its rich volcanic soil which is ideal for viticulture — aka growing grapes. The winding pathway to the remote Yarrawa Estate is not an easy one to follow, but you'll be pleasantly surprised as the path opens to this lakeside vineyard. If the golden retrievers and frolicking children remind you of a visit to the family country home you either have or dream about, well, it should — the cellar door is quite literally set in the Foster family dining room, where strangers momentarily become relatives. Apart from the incredible wine, they also offer a range of nuts, jams and pickles made from homegrown produce. Be sure to taste their homemade walnut liquor wine, a combination of both passions.
Possibly the best known among the region's wineries is Silos Estate. The cellar door is run by friendly, knowledgeable locals and set among the estate's sloping Shiraz vineyards. Order a local producer's cheese plate at the cellar bar while you enjoy your free wine tasting or peruse the collection of locally-made smallgoods for sale. If you're hankering for something more substantial, head over to the Silos restaurant which is set in a 100-year-old hay shed and has a relatively reasonable tasting menu ($29.95 for lunch, $95 for dinner). Head chef Nick Gardner (Tetsuya's, Quay, The French Laundry) focuses on native Australian ingredients and local produce, like the decadent red snapper topped with warrigal greens, smoked oyster cream and citrus caviar sauce. The open fireplace keeps you cosy in the winter months while outdoor seating is perfect for warm weather days.
Once you're out by Silos, might as well stop over at The Famous Berry Donut Van for their notorious cinnamon-sugar doughnuts. You deserve a second dessert — you're on holiday after all.
If wineries aren't your thing, Kangaroo Valley holds plenty of small town eateries to explore. If you're looking for a quick, road trip snack, check out Southern Pies — the cheeseburger pie or the curry beef are standouts, and vegetarians will love the award-winning lentil and chickpea dhal pie or the honey-roast pumpkin and spinach. The only pub in town, The Friendly Inn, has been around since 1892 and is one of the oldest in the region. Though it's pretty standard pub fare, the real draw is the expansive beer garden which overlooks the rolling valleys and mountains beyond.
On the drive down from Sydney, or on the way back home, have a stopover at Berrima's Bendooley Estate, which houses the original Berkelouw Book Barn. The architecturally-designed winery is situated within a gorgeous backdrop, while the produce-driven restaurant sits within the bookshop itself.
As the town lies along the Kangaroo River, one of the best ways to see the valley is via kayak or canoe. Two companies in town, Kangaroo Valley Safaris and Kangaroo Valley Kayaks are comparable in price and both offer pick-up service at the end of the five-kilometre, self-guided journey. The gentle rapids and overall calm river is easy to navigate and includes spectacular scenery and plenty of wildlife to sight. A pro tip is to go on an overcast or drizzly day when the tourist count will be at its lowest and the river will be as peaceful as ever.
If bushwalks are more your speed, Mortan National Park and Kangaroo Valley Nature Reserve seem to have an endless number of hiking trails to explore. Within the park is the Fitzroy Falls walking track, which offers both forest and cliff-side views, as well as a good chance to see platypus and lyrebird in their natural habitat. The full West Rim walking track, a moderate 3.5 kilometre trip, will take you through eucalypt and lush rainforest, remarkable gorges and waterfalls before finishing at Twin Falls. Beach lovers should go for the Seven Mile Beach track, which includes stunning ocean views and beach side picnic areas.
Once the great outdoors has you good and tired, it's time to check out the many antique shops around town. While Kangaroo Valley town itself is loaded with boutiques and craft shops, our favourite is the out-of-towner, Grandpa's Shed. Located down the road from Fitzroy Falls, this warehouse has every antique imaginable, from hand-axes and old farming equipment to antique jewellery and comic books. The shop is connected to an old-school, working gas station, which will offer a much needed cold drink if you're visiting after a trek.
Kangaroo Valley is ideal for a cabin getaway weekend and there are plenty of options to that end, from The Heavens to Kookaburra Hill. Twin Falls Bush Cottages is by far our favourite — family-owned and operated, the five one- or two-bedroom cottages are nicely spaced for privacy from the neighbours and include a fireplace, full kitchen and outdoor barbecue. The expansive property is set right in the bush, with private hikes and mountain bike trails, as well as a communal tennis court, pool and fire pit to boot. The location is also perfectly situated for both for Twin Falls and Fitzroy Falls treks and the remote location is a true removal from city living.
If you're looking to stay closer to town, the Tall Trees Bed and Breakfast is conveniently located just one kilometre from the town centre and is walkable for those without a car. You can either choose a traditional B&B or a self contained unit here. Another, more upscale option is the villas at Kangaroo Valley Golf and Country Club, only a four-minute drive from town and offering sweeping valley views.