Just three hours’ drive from Sydney and Canberra, Orange is an accessible entry point to a region bursting with farm-fresh produce, cool-climate wine, cosy accommodation (think preserved cottages) and historic main streets. It’s also famous for its cooler temperatures in summer, offering a refreshing change from Sydney’s baking heat.
A diverse spread of hikes, bike trails, lookouts, and restaurants means that you’ll be well looked after, whether you’re a couple, a family or striking out on your own. There’s even a direct portal for finding the best place to stay. Just be sure to allow plenty of time to properly explore everything at hand – and discover some secrets along the way.
Swimming holes and picnic spots
A few kilometres west of the city lies expansive Lake Canobolas Reserve, a rustic oasis not far from Mount Canobolas. It’s perfect for a cooling dip, while kids gravitate to the Apex Adventure Playground and the whole family can unite by bike or boat. There’s a handy kiosk for lunch, with multiple barbeque and fishing options on the spot.
Meanwhile, the Federal Falls Walk is half an hour from Orange, looping through snow gums, natural rock formations and, of course, the falls themselves. Look out for native plants and birds along the way.
Around 40 minutes from Orange is Kurt Fearnley Park, a chilled-out picnic destination on the banks of the bubbling Belubula River in Carcoar. Named for three-time Paralympic gold medallist and local hero Kurt Fearnley, the park hugs the Belubula River and historic Carcoar bridge. After you’ve eaten, stroll along the town’s remarkably well-preserved main street. For a great view and picturesque snap of the town, head to the old Railway Station.
Hikes and bikes
The countryside surrounding Orange is stunning at any time of year, with orchards and vineyards dotting its many winding trails. Whether you prefer to explore on wheels or on foot, there’s an array of natural wonder on display. Mount Canobolas is a popular destination in winter, while the warm months bring cyclists to the winery-and-cafe-dotted trail skirting Pinnacle Reserve and Lookout, a leafy perch from which to admire wraparound views. Other trails lead to the country town of Forest Reefs and to the sunset-courting Towac Pinnacle.
Level up your hiking with a detour into ancient limestone caves at Borenore Karst Conservation Reserve, with open access to more than one (including the perennial favourite Arch Cave).
If you really want to escape the city, pack your bike and take a tour of the region over six days. Designed for all levels and experience, the newly digitally mapped Orange Village Bike Trail is a great way to get around.
Cool-climate wines and destination dining
More than a dozen wineries orbit Orange, and while you can taste many of them in town thanks to the local-focused tasting room Ferment, many of these wineries are worthy destinations in their own right. Take Rowlee, where you can graze across single-vineyard drops while nestling into the wide-open grounds with a fully loaded picnic basket. Taste your way through local producers with a handful of themed Country Food Trails, too.
For a meal to remember, head to Charred Kitchen & Bar, a seasonal diner featuring wood and charcoal ovens and a rotating set menu paired with a formidable 80+ page wine list. The mountainside Sister’s Rock Restaurant is part of the high-elevation Borrodell Vineyard, offering views over their pinot noir vineyards. Head chef Charles Woodward who has previously worked at Sydney institutions, Est, Bentley and Pilu, champions farm-fresh produce straight from the estate itself, including homegrown gems plucked from the orchard.
Largely unchanged since the late 1800s, the buildings of Millthorpe now also showcase top-shelf dining and shopping possibilities. Just 20 minutes from Orange, there’s plenty of award-winning cool-climate wine, providores and honey to explore. Meanwhile Canowindra, 45 minutes south west of Orange and well known for its balloon festival in April, boasts a historic bendy street forged by the bullock trains back in the day. Perch yourself in one of the cafe windows to watch the locals and world go by, or take a stroll down to the Swinging Bridge and on to the historic site of the original pub where bushrangers once partied and planned their heists.
Named for an Aboriginal word meaning “place of many rocks”, Molong sits among swathes of farmland and revels in heritage-listed European architecture. Browse through boutiques, be fitted by the village milliner and look out for the regular slate of festivals and markets.
Arts and culture
Fresh off a $5 million extension project, Orange Regional Gallery has reopened with a new contemporary gallery. Featuring ground-breaking lighting design, a dedicated state of the art storage and conservation area and other refinements to showcase its upcoming exhibitions. The gallery has been a new anchor for arts in the region since opening in the mid-1990s, with a permanent collection showing alongside fresh exhibitions. Upcoming shows include Aida Tomescu’s large-scale Unfolding Presence, Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens’s A Dickensian Sideshow and the performance-inspired The Arena.
Many more museums and galleries grace the region, from the centrally located Orange Regional Museum to Canowindra’s fossil-focused Age of Fishes Museum, a must-do for anyone interested in the evolution of Australia as a continent and once visited by the legend himself, Sir David Attenborough . There are smaller museums devoted to the iconic bush poet Banjo Paterson, local bushrangers, historical hospitals and even toys, while the performing arts thrive at Orange Civic Theatre.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Orange360.