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Road Trip Guide

Here’s All You Need to Know to Turn Great Southern Nights Into an Epic Weekend Away in Wagga Wagga

This country city should already be on your bucket list, but Great Southern Nights means you've run out of excuses not to visit.

Road trips are good for the soul, chasing the horizon and seeking adventure outside of our usual territory. Do you know what else is good for the soul? Music. It’s no wonder, then, that one of the most popular reasons to hit the road in New South Wales is to chase the sights and sounds of our state’s thriving music scene.

You’ve heard of Splendour in the Grass and Groovin in the Moo, but there’s a lesser-known festival that’s also dedicated to taking you beyond your usual home turf and into regional NSW — and it runs for almost a month.

That festival is Great Southern Nights and it’s returning in 2024 to get us all touring the state in search of our favourite tunes.

THE FESTIVAL

Great Southern Nights is a massive 17 nights of Australian artists taking to stages across regional NSW, setting up shop in Wollongong, Newcastle, the Northern Rivers, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga between Friday, March 8 and Sunday, March 24.

So what’s on the cards for anyone eyeing the drive to Wagga Wagga? Glad you asked.

A great many gigs will take place at the centrally-located Tilly’s cocktail bar and restaurant. Specifically: ARIA-winning Melbourne rapper Illy, Sydney heavy metal group Northlane, vibetastic veteran dance duo Sneaky Sound System, and dancefloor stalwart DJ Tigerlily.

Elsewhere in town, catch country legend Kasey Chambers at the Civic Theatre and alt-country star Raechel Whitchurch at The Curious Rabbit.

To get a taste of the lineup on the drive down, queue up the playlist we’ve curated with the biggest songs of the headline acts here:

Image: Destination NSW

WHERE TO STAY

Happily, some of the best places to stay in Wagga Wagga are also the best places to eat: Mates Gully and The Charles Boutique Hotel.

Mates Gully is certainly cosy, with only three rooms available to guests, all fitted out with Victorian-era detail but still with mod cons available. It’s as ideal for a small family as it is for a quiet mini break or romantic getaway.

The Charles Boutique is just half a kilometre from the centre of Wagga Wagga and is a luxurious four-and-a-half-star hotel with a range of room options and even serviced apartments to choose from.

And at the more indulgent end of the spectrum is The Houston — an historic colonial building now transformed into an 11 suite hotel, each with its own style and character.The one thing they all have in common is luxury.

Image: The Houston (Destination NSW)

Local Food

When visiting a new city, sussing out where to get decent grub is the top priority after finding somewhere to sleep.

Mates Gully ticks both those boxes and, in its own words, offers “local freshly grown produce, from our farm to your plate.” The dinner menu makes lamb the star of the show – have it in a curry, braised in a ragout, as sticky ribs, cutlets in red wine jus, or dig into the backstrap.

Magpies Nest, the home of Riverina Olive Oil, is another option that places importance on sourcing ingredients from nearby. Followers of the slow food movement which promotes local food and traditional recipes, Magpies Nest offers an enticing set menu among a picturesque setting.

If you’re craving steak, it’s hard to beat Hide, whose chargrill menu includes Angus ribeye, wagyu skirt and O’Connor rump cap with all the sides you’d expect from a specialist steakhouse plus a wide range of sauces.

Finally, located in The Charles Boutique hotel is The Charles Dining Room for when you really want to push the boat out. There are à la carte options, but the pièce de resistance is the seven-course tasting menu which, wine wine pairings, includes dishes like trout with sushi rice and sumac, pork belly with celeriac and braised fennel and an Angus striploin with beetroot, shallots and pommes pavé.

Image: Magpies Nest (Destination NSW)

Local Drinks

If craft beer is your thing, then you can’t go wrong with Wagga Wagga’s Thirsty Crow. Like all good brewpubs it has has a great selection of pouring beers with a dozen of their own concoctions on tap, from lagers to stouts to American pale ales to hazy IPAs. You can grab a burger or a pizza while you work your way through the best beverages they have to offer.

Tilly’s is another option to kick back and relax and is the place to be seen in Wagga Wagga. Food, wine, events, promotions and an extensive cocktail menu are all available on a large deck so you soak up the vibes as enjoy your time in the city.

There’s also the Farmers Home, which gives you the quintessential Australian country town experience. A pub, a hotel and a bistro all at once – you know you’re getting a warm welcome and reliability when you step through the doors.

Image: Borambola Wines (Destination NSW)

What to see

As you’d expect from a regional city of its size (over 57,000 people call it home), there’s plenty to keep you entertained when you’re in Wagga Wagga. To really dig into the history and heritage of the region, there’s both Wiradjuri Trail and Bundyi Aboriginal Cultural Tours.

The Wiradjuri Trail is a 42km circuit of Wagga Wagga which, as well as providing beautiful vistas, also passes several Aboriginal sites of interest. But if you want to learn about the significance firsthand, Bundyi Tours offers a range of fully-guided tour options that give you the opportunity to see, taste and drink in Indigenous culture.

If you’re a food-motivated traveller, it’s easy to organise your own food and wine trail in the region, stopping off at local spots like Junee Licorice Factory, Borambala Wines, Bidgee Strawberries and Cream, and Wollundry Grove Olives.

After all that tucker, why not imbibe some culture instead? Wagga Wagga Art Gallery is situated on the banks of the Wollundary Lagoon and has seven separate exhibition spaces where you can view art across a range of disciplines, by artists from Australia and abroad. It’s also home to the National Art Glass Gallery, worth checking out while you’re there.

For a change of pace, operators In Motion Fitness offer guided kayak and paddleboard tours of the Riverina’s waterways, or you can just hire the equipment and enjoy the area at your own speed.

And if even that sounds like too much effort, there’s always Riverside Wagga Beach. That’s right — Wagga Wagga may be an inland city, but there’s a natural riverside beach located just five minutes from the CBD. What a place.

Images: Murrumbidgee River, Bundy Cultural Tours, Wagga Wagga Art Gallery (Destination NSW)

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For more information on Great Southern Nights, including the lineup, venues, local areas and to book tickets, visit the website.

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