Bursting with baby lambs and blossoms in spring, draped in dreamy colours in autumn and perfect for Pinot Noir before crackling fires in winter, Central West NSW gives you reasons to visit in all seasons. Once you've conquered the Blue Mountains' misty, winding roads, you'll find yourself surrounded by rolling paddocks, lush vineyards and friendly country folk. Here's your guide to road tripping, from Bathurst's award-winning restaurants and art-influencing landscapes to Parkes's space tech and Elvis obsession to Orange's truffle hunts and fine, fine wines.
A luxurious yet distinctively local sleepover is at Loloma's White Rock, found a ten-minute drive away on landscaped gardens overlooking idyllic pastures. In the Garden Studio, you'll be cosying up on a linen lounge before a gas fire, then diving into a never-getting-up-again-level-comfy king-sized bed. The spacious, open plan also includes a kitchenette and a big bathroom with separate bath and shower. Brekkie is a hamper packed with local produce.
Crank up Hozier — you're heading to church for dinner. Well, it's not church, exactly, but a former church schoolhouse. Known as The Church Bar, this candlelit hideaway serves wood-fired pizzas. Try the Russel, with sautéed mushrooms, grilled asparagus, a poached egg and Parmesan cheese, drizzled with white truffle oil. Stay alert for ghosts on the way out — ten members of the notorious Ribbon Gang were publicly hanged in the laneway in the 1830s.
Two hours journey west lands you in the 15,000-strong town of Parkes, another gold rush settlement and home to the annual Elvis Festival. Before you ask, yes, the place is named after Federation's daddy, Henry Parkes, and, yes, you're going to The Dish, as seen in Rob Sitch's 2000 flick. Drive 20 kilometres north through farmlands to see the 64-metre telescope that helped broadcast man's first moon walk and has since found more than 2,000 pulsars. There's an onsite cafe, with glass walls (so you can keep looking for signs of alien life while you're eating), serving beef and red wine pies, burgers and fat sandwiches.
Back in Parkes, get your bearings at Memorial Hill Lookout before poring over the indigenous artwork at Wiradjuri Amphitheatre. Next up, you're heading into the '50s - and beyond — at the Henry Parkes Centre. This museum specialises in four things: Elvis, Henry Parkes, old cars and old machines. There's also a bunch of family photos of Tommy Emmanuel, who lived here from age 12.
At dinnertime, the onsite restaurant, IKON, will have you sorted. Take a seat next to the rock star feature wall, order a bottle of Heifer Station Pinot Noir from Orange and start with a tasting plate, available as 'carnivore', 'seafood' and 'herbivore'. The mains are all about quality meats, dressed up. Try the crispy skin duck with bok choy, oyster and enoki mushrooms, soba noodles and orange miso dressing. Another dinner option is Bella's Italian, where you'll be tucking into rich, homestyle pizzas and pastas.
For a slick, four-star stay, check into Hotel Gracelands. This newly renovated 20-roomer is splashed in earthy tones, making it a cool retreat on hot days. Keen to impress your travelling chum? Book an executive king + bath.
Prepare for a long, lazy morning. Parkes has two excellent brekkie spots and, having driven this far, you're obliged to try both. The first is the blink-and-you'll-miss it Onnies Coffee. Flop down next to Einstein (or at least next to a cushion covered in his face), order a coffee and choose from the small but flawless menu.
Just 200 metres away, inside a high-ceilinged, 19th-century building that once housed doctors' rooms is Bent Food and Wine. For something different, go for the veggie brekkie nachos with jack cheese and a poached egg, or pancakes with crispy bacon and house-made butterscotch sauce. Bent is open for lunch and dinner, too.
STOP THREE: ORANGE
It's time to start making tracks back to Sydney. Return the way you came or make a loop, taking in Forbes and the Mount Nangar Lookout, before getting to Orange. Over the past 20 or so years, this 40,000-person town has transformed into a major destination for foodies and winos.
Before getting started, earn your right to gorge with a hike on Mount Canobolas (hot tip: if you've no interest in moving, then you can drive to the summit). Some locals will tell you this is the highest point between the Great Dividing Range and Africa, but, sadly, there's a couple of peaks getting in the way of that tall tale. There's no denying, however, the awe-inspiring, 360-degree panoramas.
Along the Lake Canobolas Road towards Orange is Borrodell Vineyard. Ever wondered what it takes to get a truffle to your plate? You're about to find out. Expert truffle hunter Teneka and her trusty Labrador-cross Bailey invite you to join them on their search. You'll discover how to tell an ordinary truffle from a premium one, and, once you've seen how much digging and sniffing goes into the job, you'll never complain about prices again. Afterwards, taste the results of Teneka and Bailey's efforts, with a three-course, truffle-centric lunch, matched with Borrodell wines. Leave plenty of time to linger. The vineyard is one of Australia's highest.
Before the drowsy, post-feast afterglow wears off, check into De Russie Suites for a kip or a bath. Walking into the light, airy foyer dotted with sculptures and oversized planters, you'll feel like you've arrived at a Tuscan villa. The self-contained suites follow suit, with their king-sized beds, extravagant pillows, quality linen and steal-worthy toiletries. Choose a room to meet your mood, from the Studio which comes with a private balcony, to the Junior Spa Suite, to the marriage proposal-inspiring White Room.
You're advised to reserve for dinner at The Union Bank — this place racks up a crowd quicker than Miley Cyrus does YouTube views. Fortunately, its attraction is far more wholesome. The Bank has its own kitchen garden and farm, where goats and sheep are raised sustainably. Relax in a thonet chair and order away. For sharing, there are impeccably composed grazing plates, such as spiced Caribbean goat with wombok leaves and Cowra asparagus and slow-cooked egg with herb crumb. Mains include UB Farm Pot Pie and poached chicken breast with zucchini veloute and pearl couscous. Ask your waiter for matches from the impressively local wine list.
Come morning, swing by The Agrestic Grocer for, well, anything that takes your fancy. This welcoming hub serves as a grocer specialising in local produce, including pedal-your-own rolled oats, as well as a cafe, bar, workshop space and live music venue. It's a collaboration between four people who share an extraordinarily well-developed sense of all things delicious, healthy and creative. If you're stopping for brekkie, then dig into baked potato skins with Trunkey Creek bacon, Second Mouse quark poached eggs and grilled Cowra asparagus. On the way out, grab some supplies for the trip home.