Orange, NSW: Why this stunning wine region should be where you holiday next in Australia

  • 19/06/2022
Orange has exploded in popularity among Sydneysiders in recent years.
Orange has exploded in popularity among Sydneysiders in recent years. Photo credit: Destination NSW

If you're thinking of joining the throngs of Kiwis heading across the ditch on holiday this year, it's worth putting time aside to explore beyond the major cities and seek out some of Australia's lesser-known destinations.

One of the spots you should definitely consider popping on your itinerary is Orange, in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales.

A wine region that has exploded in popularity among Sydneysiders over recent years, it's a must-visit for foodies and wine connoisseurs wanting to take it slow in a majestic rural setting for a few days.

Orange is just a 45-minute flight or 3.5-hour drive from the city, but feels a million miles away from the sprawling metropolis of Sydney. Instead of traffic-heavy roads and skyscrapers, you're among fruit-laden vineyards and handsome Federation-era buildings, and bustling, charming main town.

The landscape - lush and loaded with verdant shrubbery, vineyards and farmland - is nothing like the dusty outback or swampy terrain we usually associate with Australia, and feels more like New Zealand wine regions Martinborough or Hawke's Bay.

Here's how to make the most of your time there.

Have a drink, or two

Owing to its high altitude - Orange's vineyards sit 600m to 1100m above sea level - the region gets four distinct seasons and is at its best in Autumn when the vines turn orange and a warming glass of pinot shiraz feels like just the ticket.

Wine is the natural place to start in Orange.

It's what the region is famed for, with its rare combination of cool climate and nutrient-rich volcanic soil (thanks to its position at the base of the dormant Mt Canobolas) lending itself beautifully to the creation of spectacular wines - particularly chardonnay and bubbles.

Printhie Winery is among the most highly rated wineries in New South Wales.
Printhie Winery is among the most highly rated wineries in New South Wales. Photo credit: Destination NSW

That's perhaps why the region boasts more than 60 wineries and 40 cellar doors - most of them small-batch, boutique, family-owned setups, which adds to the area's charm.

Among the best and most well-known wineries in the region is Printhie. Founded and operated by the Swift family since the '90s, Printhie was one of just three from NSW to be named among Australia's top 50 vineyards late last year.

It's easy to see why. Their méthode traditionnelle sparkling wines are award-winning, and they have spurned the 'fruit salad' approach of growing all their grapes in one location in favour of the vastly more complex and expensive system of growing each variety where conditions are optimal.

Printhie is one of a number of vineyards in Orange with an extraordinary attention to detail.
Printhie is one of a number of vineyards in Orange with an extraordinary attention to detail. Photo credit: Destination NSW

The kangaroo-laden Colmar Estate has also earned a strong reputation in the region for its meticulous attention to detail and has 27 awards in five years to show for it - many for its outstanding 2015 Chardonnay-Pinot Noir.

Colmar's grapes are constantly assessed and handpicked to the day they're ready; the winery's cellar door manager explaining that some grapes in one lot were harvested three days apart because there was a 5m difference in altitude from one end to the other that slightly impacted when they ripened.

Heifer Station is another great spot for a tasting, and is notably more family-friendly than the other wineries on offer in Orange, with a mini petting zoo on-site and a vast outdoor area perfect for picnic-style grazing.

After something a little more casual? Tamburlaine Organic Wines in Millthorpe is a safe bet for a tasting, as is Ferment, a wine bar in the heart of Orange where you can select the wines you want to try and watch them be poured for you out of a vending machine.

There are so many wine options in Orange it's impossible to mention them all, but if you're in the mood for something else head over to the Parrot Distillery Co to taste some of their hand-crafted gin, whiskey and rum made with local botanicals.

If you visit, make sure you try their phenomenal Asian-inspired Oriental Gin infused with lemongrass and chilli - truly heavenly stuff.

Parrot Gin Distillery Co is a decent alternative if you're over the wine.
Parrot Gin Distillery Co is a decent alternative if you're over the wine. Photo credit: Newshub.

Of course, to get around these places you'll need either a hire car or a tour guide. If you're keen for the latter (it's a good way to get to know the region and visit the best of Orange's vineyards), Lyn from Uncork Orange Wine Tours is a delight and super-knowledgeable about the area.

Where to eat and stay

Of course you'll need some food to soak up the alcohol and Orange boasts a wide range of eateries that'll cater for most tastes and budgets.

For fine dining, you can't do any better than the Chef Hat-awarded Lolli Redini or the Oriana Hotel Restaurant - both of which serve up top-level European-style fare and boast extensive wine lists.

The Oriana Hotel is a cosy spot for high-end European fare.
The Oriana Hotel is a cosy spot for high-end European fare. Photo credit: Newshub.

You can also head to Printhie's newly opened restaurant and enjoy a five-course degustation with wine pairings by their exceptional head chef Jack Brown, who on my visit there defied the odds by combining Toohey's beer and ice cream to create a delicious dessert.

Orange, NSW: Why this stunning wine region should be where you holiday next in Australia
Photo credit: Newshub.

For something a little less high-end, Mr Lim is a solid Asian fusion restaurant in town that does great pork bao, while the Byng Street Local Store is a popular local spot for coffee, brunch and cabinet food.

Orange, NSW: Why this stunning wine region should be where you holiday next in Australia
Photo credit: Newshub.

Then head to Spilt Milk, Orange's famed gelato and ice cream bar using natural, locally sourced produce, to finish with something sweet.

As for where to stay, there really is no better place than the Byng Street Boutique Hotel, which last year took out the Gold Award at the NSW Tourism Awards in the Deluxe Accommodation category.

Byng Street Boutique Hotel is a 19th Century homestead that has been lovingly renovated.
Byng Street Boutique Hotel is a 19th Century homestead that has been lovingly renovated. Photo credit: Supplied

This luxurious 22-room, 4.5-star accommodation stands in the shell of a 19th Century homestead, which effortlessly melds its historical foundations with modern architecture and eclectic but tasteful interior design.

As well as several homely sitting areas throughout the hotel's common areas it also houses the stunning Yallungah dining room, where guests are able to order a two-course à la carte breakfast replete with fresh local produce each morning.

The hotel's interior is eclectic but tasteful.
The hotel's interior is eclectic but tasteful. Photo credit: Newshub.

While it's not inexpensive - rooms start at AU$340 - Byng St Hotel is high-calibre accommodation and its location in the centre of town makes it the perfect base to experience all Orange has to offer.

What to get up to

Orange doesn't hide the fact it's all about wine, but if you're in the mood for something different, there are options. If you're an outdoorsy type, check out the range of walking and biking trails, replete with native fauna like rosellas, cockatoos, lorikeets, grey kangaroos and wombats.

Or how about meandering around a quaint historical town? The nearby Millthorpe and Caucur are great places to start, both having largely stayed true to their mid-1800s foundations and featuring charming abandoned railway stations and pleasant cafes.

Caucur is a lovely old town to spend a few hours exploring.
Caucur is a lovely old town to spend a few hours exploring. Photo credit: Newshub.

If you're keen to stay close to town, Jumbled at The Sonic - located in an old Masonic hall - is a good shout for eclectic homewares and books - and its onsite coffee shop is the perfect spot for a refuel.

Jumbled at The Sonic is a space for creatives and makers to sell their wares.
Jumbled at The Sonic is a space for creatives and makers to sell their wares. Photo credit: Newshub.

But one of the most memorable experiences you can sign up for is a tour with Indigenous Cultural Adventures, led by charismatic indigenous local Gerald Power - who, as it happens, is also Orange's deputy mayor.

After a welcome to Wiradjuri Country, Power will take you off the beaten path to the burial site of Yuranigh, an Aboriginal guide for colonial explorer Sir Thomas Mitchell who surveyed Orange in 1851.

Gerald Power.
Gerald Power. Photo credit: Destination NSW

The sacred site features a cluster of carved trees, which in Aboriginal culture signify a person's importance, as well as a traditional European gravestone, making it the only known site in Australia where Aboriginal and European burial practices coexist.

After hearing stories about Yuranigh's expedition from NSW to Queensland and how the Wiradjuri Nation lived, you'll get the chance to tuck into food made from native Australian bush tucka - from warrigal greens and lemon myrtle to wattle seed, finger lime and pepperberry.

You'll get a chance to tuck into some native Australian bush tucka.
You'll get a chance to tuck into some native Australian bush tucka. Photo credit: Destination NSW

The experience is a great way to immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture and get a sense of what Australia was like before it was colonised.