How to Explore the Stunning Orange Region When You Need a Break from the City

From fine, fine wine and buzzing bakeries to dramatic peaks and hot air balloon adventures, Orange is the perfect antidote to the daily grind.
Cordelia Williamson
Published on August 26, 2020

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Whether you're done with staring at your own four walls, or slogging away at your nine-to-five just to make a living, we all (Dolly Parton included) deserve a break every now and again. We get it, and this year we've spent more time than usual confined to our city homes. The cure? Hit the road and go on a well-deserved trip to the countryside. If you're after rolling green hills as far as the eye can see, bushwalks amid wildflowers, sipping wine among the vines in spring, or settling in for long lunches at old-school pubs and sitting by crackling bonfires in winter, then head for the rural NSW pocket of Orange.

Just a four-hour drive from Sydney, the old mining town has transformed into a major destination for foodies and vino lovers. There's local produce-focused restaurants in reclaimed police stations, rule-breaking winemakers, specialty coffee roasters and cosy tea rooms serving up lemon meringue pie. Plus, its surrounding scapes, neighbouring historic townships, B&Bs in former shearing sheds and friendly hospitality make it a world away from the big smoke. To help get you planning your next group getaway or romantic trip, we've teamed up with the folks at Orange360 to round up the very best of the region — from the must-visit vineyards to the lesser-known gems.



No trip to Orange is complete without eating your way around the local cafes, bakeries, pubs and restaurants. The wine region is widely considered a foodie haven, so you're spoilt for choice here. First up, make tracks to Bills Beans in east Orange to get your caffeine fix. Housed in a former butcher shop, the buzzing cafe is owned by young guns Ricky Carver and Carlie Beer. It roasts its own beans — single origins and blends — right here in Orange, so you can expect a seriously good cup of joe. Then, make your way to Racine Bakery for some freshly baked treats. Here, you'll find everything from top-notch cakes and pastries to organic sourdough, sandwiches, sausage rolls and its famed pies. Just be sure to get there early if you want to pick up its super-popular flaky croissants.

If you're keen to explore the neighbouring towns for your next epicurean adventure, head to the historic town of Millthorpe and go to the The Old Mill Cafe. The old-school tea room is about 15 minutes from Orange and is as quaint as it gets. Pick up some of its mighty fine lemon meringue pies, or sit down for a breakfast or lunchtime feed — just be sure to book ahead. Then, for a long, leisurely lunch or dinner head back to Orange and make tracks to The Union Bank. Built in 1857, the heritage-listed building once functioned as a stables for police horses and later as an art school. Now, it houses a cocktail bar, airy courtyard and The Schoolhouse Restaurant. The latter, helmed by former Rockpool chef Dom Aboud, champions seasonal local produce (vino included) in classic dishes like beef tartare, pappardelle with braised greens and sirloin steaks.



If you haven't quite cottoned on yet, the Orange region is known for its mighty fine wine — and plenty of it. Home to more than 60 wineries and over 40 cellar doors, the region is known for its cool-climate drops, high altitude and unique terroir thanks to dormant volcano Mount Canobolas. One winemaker worth visiting is Young Gun of Wine 2020 winner Tom Ward at Swinging Bridge Wines. Situated on the lofty slopes that surround town, the family-owned winery produces excellent pinot noir, cool-climate chardonnay and riesling, sparkling blanc de blanc, a dry and textural rosé and a fun, minimal-intervention amber wine. For more wine, head to the award-winning Colmar Estate, run by Bill and Jane Shrapnel, where you can ogle its stunning vineyard (and its resident friendly roos) right from the cellar door. Then, hit up Tamburlaine Organic Wines' newly opened Millthorpe Cellar Door. As Tamburlaine is one of Australia's biggest organic vino producers, with vineyards across the Orange and Hunter Valley regions, you'll be sampling a wide range of minimal-sulphur, vegan-friendly and, not to mention, very tasty grape juice.

Need a break from the nectar of the gods? For beer, make sure you visit independent microbrewery Pioneer Brewing, slightly west of Orange. Take a tour of the family-run farm or simply sample the brews. Head brewer Peter Gerber makes lagers, sessionable pale ales, porters, red ales, milk stouts and pretty much everything in between — and everything is done on-site, from growing the grains to brewing and packaging the beers. Then, head to Orange's very own distillery, Parrot Distilling Co., for hand-crafted gin made from locally sourced botanicals. Or, for an all-in-one booze stop, drop into Ferment, located in the heart of Orange. It's essentially 19 cellar doors in one and showcases vinos, cider and artisanal spirits from all over the region — making it the perfect place to stock up on supplies before heading home.



Although Orange is an up-and-coming foodie capital, there is much more to this rural NSW spot than its wine and dining delights. The region is also home to rolling hills, pastoral landscapes and national parks, plus quirky shops, galleries, markets and festivals. To get a lay of the land, literally, hop in a hot air balloon and cruise above the clouds. Local company Balloon Joy Flights offers sunrise and sunset tours over the historic town of Canowindra. You can either round up your mates or book a romantic flight for two with champagne. But, if you want to get your heart pumping, then hike up Mount Canobolas for 360-degree panoramas, or explore nearby Nangar National Park for its wooded hills, dramatic cliffs, wildflowers and waterfalls. Bushwalking is a popular activity in the park, as is birdwatching, picnicking and mountain biking.

For the less intrepid, you can check out Orange's many boutique shops and galleries, including adorable design store Tomolly, The Corner Store Gallery and super-colourful clothing and homewares boutique Jumbled. There's also the monthly Orange Farmers Market, where you can pick up some of the very best the area has to offer. Artisanal breads, meats, seasonal fruit and veg, honey, oils, cheese, award-winning booze... it's all there. Best of all, you'll be supporting all the local growers, farmers and makers directly. If you can, it's also worth planning your trip for when one of Orange's annual festivals is taking place. In spring, you can hit up its celebration of all things vino or, in autumn, eat your way around the region at F.O.O.D Week. Come winter, there's the not-to-be-missed Orange Winter Fire Festival, which sees the town bursting with great food, drink and cultural events, all with a wintry atmosphere.



As far as quaint and cosy accommodation goes, Orange has it in spades. Planning a long weekend escape with your partner in crime? While there are many places to choose from, you can't get much better than sleeping among the vines. Not only can you try multiple vinos, but you'll also wake up to beautiful views — and feel a world away from your city abode. The eco-friendly, open-plan Borrodell Cider Suites at Borrodell Estate each have a king-sized bed, floor-to-ceiling windows, a luxe spa bath, kitchen, and heated concrete floors and fireplace if you're there in the winter months. Or, opt for this off-grid tiny house, where it'll just be you two and a whole lot of wilderness. If you'd prefer to be closer to shops and cafes, the Speckled Nest Studio in Millthorpe is cute, too.

For groups, book in for a true country stay at Black Sheep Inn, just nine kilometres west of Orange on Heifer Station Lane. Originally a 1900s shearing shed, the Inn has most of its original features such as a huge wool press and sheep chutes, with the addition of a wrought iron fireplace. It has five snug suites, with the entire building catering for up to 14 guests (and you can book the whole thing). In town, White Place Home on Byng is just a short stroll from buzzing eateries, fine dining restaurants, bars and stores and can accomodate up to eight people. The elegant brick cottage has four decent-sized rooms, a wood fireplace, ornate ceilings and polished timber floors, with furnishings done by the folks at nearby homewares and lifestyle store The White Place.


Whether you're planning a springtime escape or a wintry weekend away, the Orange region has fine wine, good food and spectacular surrounds that make for a great city break — at any time of year. Start planning your trip here

FYI, this story includes some affiliate links. These don't influence any of our recommendations or content, but they may make us a small commission. For more info, see Concrete Playground's editorial policy.

Published on August 26, 2020 by Cordelia Williamson
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