Guides

A Local’s Guide To The Perfect Long Weekend In Orange, NSW

It’s now easier than ever to get to one of NSW’s favourite food and wine gems, with Qantas announcing a new route between Sydney and Orange. There’s no question you should go, but you should really take a local’s advice on what to do once you get there.

Orange local Alexandra Burke originally hails from NSW’s central west but spent nine years living in Copenhagen with long winters that made her dream of “the big sky and the landscape back home.”

A partner in film and television production and distribution company, Arcadia, Burke now bases herself out of Orange’s collaborative space, Hive. She’s also heading up Australia’s first regional Subscription Video On Demand platform (VeryLocal) in conjunction with the Orange Winter Fire Festival.

After spending the last decade travelling the world, walking red carpets and eating and drinking in some seriously lush establishments, Burke’s seasoned palate is put to good use as she shares her tips with us for this slice of food and wine heaven.

Why is Orange so special?

“The Pinnacle lookout can give you a great snapshot of the region,” says Burke. You’ll peer down onto vineyards, apple trees, Lake Canobolas, beautiful gum forests and neighbouring hamlets.

“Aside from the beauty, there’s a great energy in the town, with a growing community of creatives, winemakers, producers, mixologists, restauranteurs, and chefs, like Richard Learmonth (Porteño, Pendolino) who have set up  alongside some of the established makers,” Burke explains.

 

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“Orange is also at the base of Mt Canobolas, so while you experience all four seasons, the summers aren’t so searing,” she adds.

Your long weekend itinerary

Day 1

Orange is considered as one of the best cool-climate wine regions in the country, so you know a wine tour is on the cards. Burke’s hot tip? “Take Friday as your day off and go against the grain – do a wine tour to avoid the crowds.”

Philip Shaw is a lovely venue for wine tasting and a perfect example of what Orange wines are all about: great cool climate pinot noir and chardonnay. Rowlee Wines has some of the best wines in the region and really unique varietals, like their Arneis and Nebbiolo. Swinging Bridge Wines have nailed a blanc de blanc and the Lofty Pinot Noir from De Salis is an absolute must have. There’s a lot. But make sure to book ahead at all venues.”

 

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If you need help, consider enlisting one of the many knowledgeable tour operators that can take the weight off both the decision making and the driving, or check out Ferment (Orange Wine Centre) — a one-stop shop for what’s great in the region as well as wine.

Day 2

Start your morning experiencing Orange’s buzzy cafe scene, one that deserves more time than one weekend can afford. There’s a mix of local institutions and sexy newer spaces that wouldn’t look out of place in Surry Hills.

 

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“Breakfast is a tough call between one of the many fab cafes,” says Burke. Two picks for today are Good Eddy and Bills Beans.

After you’re fuelled up, it’s time to explore. The region is brimming with walks and cycling tracks: there’s Lake Canobolas Reserve, Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area, Cook Park Heritage Walk and much more. But Burke’s pick is the Borenore Karst Conservation Reserve with its ancient limestone caves, less than 20 minutes from Orange centre. Be sure to bring a torch.

 

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“There is an abundance of beautiful hiking trails nearby, including Borenore Caves. These caves were used by the Wiradjuri people for thousands of years – the Arch Cave in particular is highly significant for local Aboriginal women as a maternity site”.

After a scenic wander, head back to town to grab a late lunch at Orange institution, Byng Street Local Store, then spend the afternoon meandering through the town, checking out some beautiful local stores and artists.

“I’m amazed by the calibre of artists living here, including Tully Moore and Larissa Blake, who are definitely worth checking out,” says Burke. “And have fun spotting the street art around town by Sonny Day of We Buy Your Kids”.

 

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According to Burke, Hawke’s General Store never fails for homewares, beautiful blankets and last-minute mother’s day presents. The Sonic is also well-known in Orange as it’s a concept store in an old Masonic hall with three businesses: iglou, JUMBLED and Nimrods, offering a mix of fashion, homewares and coffee.

“Come evening, make sure you’ve booked a table at Charred for dinner, paired with an award-winning wine list and out-of-control desserts,” says Burke. “There is also the newly refurbished The Union Bank’s The Schoolhouse restaurant, led by ex-Rockpool chef Dom Abboud; a great spot for dinner and cocktails”.

 

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“After your meal, pull up a seat at Washington & Co. for an abundant whisky selection, tasty cocktails and friendly bar staff. Mr Lim is also a good time with karaoke on weekends,” Burke adds.

Day 3

Time to choose between two of Burke’s other top picks for brekkie: Groundstone (by owners of renowned The Agrestic Grocer) or Anything Grows (which also has a nursery and gift shop well-worth visiting).

Burke’s advice for the perfect mid-morning activity is hitting up The Orange Farmers Market, on the second weekend of every month. They showcase the best local, seasonal produce – the Orange and Cabonne areas are dubbed ‘The Food Basket’ of NSW after all.

If markets aren’t your shtick, The Orange Regional Gallery is great for a culture fix, however it’s closed until 2021 for a big update.

When it’s time to grab lunch before you hit the skies, “try a sneaky posh pie from the lovely Racine Bakery or head to Mad Hatter Drink Lab (who have opened in a warehouse space during COVID) for their karaage chicken toastie,” Burke recommends.

 

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It’ll be just the thing before making your way back to the big smoke.

Bonus: day trips and seasonal activities

If you decide to add a day to your trip, Burke suggests visiting a few historic towns.

“If you can, rent a car and visit the surrounding villages of Millthorpe (call in at The Bower for beautifully restored furniture and antiques); the historic village of Carcoar (Tomolly for curated homewares is a must); and Manildra, where you can experience watching a film in the oldest continually run cinema in Australia,” she advises.

 

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And depending on when you decide to visit Orange, there is one event worth popping on your radar.

“Every winter, there’s the Orange Winter Fire Festival – and this year’s is going ahead as one of the area’s first post-COVID events,” explains Burke. If you can’t make it from July 31 to August 2, Burke’s running the VeryLocal online video platform where you can catch exclusive food content and a dedicated slow TV channel.

“And when the weather warms, the newly established Orange Open Air crew will be hosting pop-up outdoor cinema screenings across the region.”

(Lead Image: Destination NSW)