Ten Country Towns You Should Visit on a Road Trip from Melbourne to Sydney
Hit the road to discover big landmarks, baked goods and plenty of history.
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There's nothing like escaping your neighbourhood and hitting the road to explore a new one with a great playlist pumping through the car speakers. One common journey is that from Melbourne to Sydney and, with so many places to stop off, it's clear why travellers choose to drive it. Plus, the Dog on the Tuckerbox needs a regular visit.
We've highlighted ten country towns to visit along the way, so you can fill your journey with nature walks, wineries, the Big Merino and some of the best bakeries the country has to offer.
Please stay up to date with the latest NSW Government health advice regarding COVID-19.
CYCLE THROUGH AN OUTDOOR SCULPTURE GALLERY IN ALBURY
Right on the border between Victoria and New South Wales, you'll find Albury. This vibrant city neighbouring Wodonga has plenty to explore. Stretch your legs by taking a stroll or hiring a bike and riding around the bends of the Murray River Precinct. By taking the Wagirra Trail, you can spot a string of sculptural works by local Aboriginal artists that portray the Wiradjuri peoples' connection with the river.
Alternatively, grab some cheese from The Riverina Dairy and set up a picnic at one of the many riverside spots. For a more substantial meal, try out The River Deck, surrounded by the native trees, for some regional food. Spending the night? Book a room at the Astor Hotel, which was given a multimillion-dollar, Palm Springs-inspired revamp last year.
SIP ON COOL-CLIMATE WINES IN TUMBARUMBA
Tumbarumba, locally known as Tumba, is a tiny town located on the western edge of the Snowy Mountains. It's known for its cool-climate wines and nature walks. Head to Courabyra Wines to pick up a bottle of chardonnay or pinot grigio — any passengers not sharing the driving can also enjoy a wine tasting — and, if you're feeling peckish, enjoy a seasonal produce platter on the balcony.
Or, head to Nest to tuck into a dish made with local ingredients, take a look around the bookstore or catch a flick at the on-site cinema. This charming little cottage, located on the Johansen Wines vineyard, is the perfect little retreat for your overnight stay.
STOCK UP ON FRESH PRODUCE IN BATLOW
Batlow is the apple of the Snowy Mountains region's eye. It's known for its apple orchards and bountiful produce, including cherries and pears. Grab some apples and local harvest from Wilgro Orchards' roadside stall and stop by Mouat's Farm for seasonal fruit, fresh apple juice and other goods, such as apple jelly and honey. And don't forget to take a photo at the Big Apple, too, just five kilometres north of the town. We suggest bunking down at art deco spot The Batlow Hotel for the night.
CYCLE, HIKE AND SWIM YOUR WAY AROUND TUMUT
If you like getting out in nature, you'll love what Tumut has to offer. Wander around the Tumut Wetlands or along the Tumut River Walk, hike one of the trails at Tumut State Forest or take a dip in Blowering Dam. Get to the know the landscape even better by heading to Kosciuszko National Park, which boasts plenty of wildlife, and take the Wiradjuri Aboriginal Cultural Tour to learn about native plants and bush tucker. The town is also home to plenty of country pubs, including The Royal Hotel and the Oriental Hotel, which offer great local feeds. Spend the night at heritage-listed luxury property The Monarch.
VISIT THE LEGENDARY DOG ON THE TUCKERBOX IN GUNDAGAI
Home to the famous Dog on the Tuckerbox is Gundagai, a town just off the Hume Highway that has long provided weary travellers with a much-needed pee break, a spot for lunch and a place to stretch their legs. If you're in the mood for a hot pie, sausage roll, sandwich or sweet treat, head to Gundagai Bakery. If it's a good cup of coffee you're after, try The Coffee Pedaler along the main street. The town is also steeped in history, which you can learn about by taking the Architectural Heritage Walk, doing a tour of the Old Gundagai Gaol or stopping by the war memorial, ANZAC Grove.
Kimo Estate has plenty of accommodation options for you, from luxury off-grid eco huts (complete with woodfired hot tubs and log fires), cosy cottages, the rustic six-bedroom Shearers Quarters and boutique hotel Flash Jacks.
STOCK UP ON LOCALLY MADE SNACKS IN JUGIONG
Jugiong is a charming town just 20 minutes down the Hume Highway from Gundagai, sitting along the picturesque Murrumbidgee River. It features the award-winning Long Track Pantry, which boasts jams, relishes, chutneys, vinegars and sauces — all handmade in small batches — as well as olives, muesli and granola bars for the drive ahead.
There's also the Jugiong Wine Cellar, sporting fine drops and beautiful artworks, and the Jugiong Country Experience where you can explore the town's history, heritage and rural allure after being 'held up' by a bushranger — who then becomes your tour guide. And every visit to Jugiong must include a visit to The Sir George. The local institution has a pub and an artisanal bakery, plus 19th-century former stone stables and modern barns, if you wish to spend the night.
ENJOY AN IMPROMPTU PICNIC IN THE PARK IN YASS
Yass, a lively town right in the middle of sheep grazing country, offers a glimpse of laidback country living, scenic parks and plenty to eat and drink. Start by grabbing some handmade baked goods from the small artisanal bakery, Clementine Bakery, and finding a spot under a tree to eat them at Banjo Paterson Park, named after the famous writer and poet.
Then, step back in time at Yass Railway Museum, which boasts a black 1307 steam locomotive, as well as the original loading bank, station building and station master's residence to peruse. This self-contained barn, based on a working cattle farm just out of town, hits the balance between luxurious and rustic country abode.
SAY HELLO TO THE BIG MERINO IN GOULBURN
Two hours shy of Sydney is Goulburn, known as the fine wool capital of Australia (and the world). This is proudly commemorated by the Big Merino — affectionately nicknamed Rambo by locals — standing over 15 metres high and 18 metres long. Suffice to say, it's hard to miss while passing by. The country city is also home to the historic 1830s inn Riversdale Homestead and the Rocky Hill War Memorial and Museum which remembers the locals who fought in WWI. After your dose of history, feed your appetite at Harvest, a charming eatery that fuses fresh regional produce with contemporary food trends.
If you're keen to spend more time in the area, we suggest booking in to Towrang Farm Stay, which is 20 minutes out of town. The homestead is based on a working farm, complete with sheep, horse, geese and chickens. Guests are encouraged to collect eggs for brekkie, pick fresh fruit from the orchard and even fish for trout in the nearby dam.
WANDER THROUGH BUSHLAND IN BUNDANOON
Bundanoon, locally known as Bundy, is a small town in the Southern Highlands. Explore Fairy Bower Falls in Morton National Park, where a one-hour loop walk will take you past moss-covered rocks, small streams and to the top of a flowing waterfall said to sparkle in the sun. Or, take on the Erith Coal Mine Track, where a walk through heath, woodland and rainforest leads to an old coal mine, last in operation in 1915.
After all that walking, stop off at Potter's Pantry for an award-winning coffee and bite of banana bread. A five-minute drive out of town is The Hut at Morton Ash Stable, a modern hut the owners built using timber milled from the property after the 2020 bushfires.
DO A SPOT OF BOUTIQUE SHOPPING IN BOWRAL
Bowral is about 90 minutes southwest of Sydney, making it a perfect place to refresh and revive before making the last leg of your journey. The town is full of boutique shops, such as Barbara's Storehouse, which is full of vintage furniture and home decor, and Cookshop Plus, perfect for cooking enthusiasts. Corbett Gardens is another stop for the agenda — the beautiful park is full of colour thanks to tulips, trees and shrubbery. Then, grab a coffee from The Press Shop and head over to Glebe Park to take a photo with the Mary Poppins statue and enjoy a spot in the shade.
If you want to extend your time and explore everything the Southern Highlands wine region has to offer, accommodation options abound in Bowral. Some of our favourites include the stylish Berida Hotel and five-star estate Milton Park Country House.
Start planning your great escape to New South Wales this season by visiting the Visit NSW website.
Top image: Bendooley Estate, Destination NSW
Published on April 12, 2021 by Marnie Vinall