Autumn sees an array of events, especially in Central NSW, writes Louise Goldsbury.
Autumn leaves its mark on Central New South Wales, as thousands of trees burst with bright colours in the streets, on the farms, in the vineyards and gardens. The season's quirky calendar of events brings a fresh energy to the region, which stretches from beyond the Blue Mountains, near Oberon and Bathurst, out to the country towns of Cowra, Parkes and Forbes.
Orange lives up to its name, turning all shades of citrus, with golden foliage spreading across leafy wineries and breweries in the foothills of Mount Canobolas. Country Food Trails is a new company that runs private tours with a focus on food, drinks and history. Choose from the three-hour Ale Trail, Wine Trail or Heritage Trail with local host Nicole Farrell, or book a pop-up picnic in an orchard. Visit:countryfoodtrails.com.au
Australia's longest-running regional food festival is celebrating its 30th year. From 9-18 April, Orange F.O.O.D Week will see six signature events and more than 90 satellite events held at local restaurants and cellar doors across a COVID-safe format. Among the highlights are the Sampson Street Lunch, Meet the Producer workshops and a Producer Market and Brunch. Visit:orangefoodweek.com.au
Indigenous Cultural Adventures, guided by local Wiradjuri elders, takes guests to sacred traditional sites in the countryside. The overnight camp trip explores the land and food that sustained Aboriginal people for 50,000 years. A traditional dinner is cooked over a fire, while sharing stories, before sleeping under the stars. Visit: To book, phone Gerald on 0414 904 497 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Orange Wild Weekend is a relaxing immersion in epicurean delights held over three days. Wander the cobblestoned streets of Milthorpe, meet the chef at famed restaurant Tonic and enjoy a seasonal degustation. Take a bushwalk with a botanist and conservationist, learn to make a 'tablescape' at brunch, and have a high-altitude wine-tasting at the Strawhouse. Hosted by floral artist and designer Ali Shillington, there are two weekends of events scheduled, 19-21 March and 16-18 April. Visit:lokaleblumen.com/the-orange-wild-weekend
Bathurst has cool-climate wineries, too. Newly opened is Rock Forest Vineyard, where a huge, flat rock surface below the cellar door collects water as it did for thousands of years for the Wiradjuri people. Grapes are hand-picked by the owners' friends to produce chardonnay, shiraz and sauvignon blanc with minimal intervention. Vale Creek, Winburndale Wines and the refurbished Renzaglia Wines are also open for tastings. Visit: bathurstregion.com.au
About 20 minutes' drive east of Bathurst, Conmurra is a new eco-tourism experience on 67 hectares in Walang. Unlike other wildlife parks and zoos, it's not open to the general public; it's just for guests staying in the onsite accommodation. Walking trails can be explored independently by day, while guided tours are offered at night to spot endangered animals, such as bettongs, potoroos, bandicoots and tiny parma wallabies, that have been released into the protected woodland enclosure. Wombats, kangaroos, possums, gliders, goannas, kookaburras and rosellas are everywhere, as well as a few resident dingoes. Visit: conmurra.com.au/wildlife-sanctuary
The National Motor Racing Museum, at Murray's Corner, Mount Panorama, has expanded to cover all types of motorsport from the 1920s to the present. See the iconic vehicles of rally, open-wheeler, motorcycle and speedway races. Fans of famous driver Peter Brock will appreciate the tribute section, which includes his 1984 Holden Commodore VK. View displays of trophies, clothing, footage and photographs, before entering the Immersive Room to experience the speed, sound and excitement of racing. Visit:museumsbathurst.com.au
The Field to Forest Festival runs throughout April, providing a whole month of special events. Forage, collect and taste mushrooms in the wild, while enjoying the pine aroma and serenity of the surrounds. Join a 4WD trout-fishing tour in the Duckmaloi River, or visit boutique distillers. At the amazing garden of Mayfield, the full 65-hectare Hawkins family private estate will be open from 2-25 April; get lost in its hedge box maze, take a rowboat out on the lake and check out the aviary, temple and 80-metre cascade. Visit:visitoberon.com/events
Blind Freddy's Bushranger Tours trace the tumultuous 1860s when hundreds of robberies were committed by the likes of Johnny Gilbert, Ben Hall, Frank Gardiner and Sir Frederick Pottinger. Hear these riveting stories on a walking tour of the 'Wild Central West' with Craig Lawler, who is also available as an in-vehicle guide for families or small groups. Visit:blindfreddytours.com
Rosnay Organic Cellar Door is serving Bush Goddess Grazing Platters of its own olives, figs, stone fruit, edible flowers and other seasonal goodies, matched with local wines. The feast is curated by Pennie Scott, a regenerative farmer who created the Paddock-to-Pocket business model for farmers to take control of pricing their produce. The vineyard also has a cosy 1910 farmhouse that accommodates up to six people. Visit: rosnay.com.au
Strap in for an exciting open-road thrill in a Harley-Davidson sidecar with Captain Barnacles Tours. Rumble along scenic routes to historic villages and attractions such as Escort Rock and Cowra Japanese Garden or do the shorter Poke Around Town ride. Visit:captainbarnacles.com.au
Gum Swamp is an ephemeral wetland providing a rich habitat for native fauna including 150 bird species. Currently underway, a redevelopment is adding three two-storey bird hides on the water's edge and 1.5 kilometres of accessible pathways and boardwalks. Varanus, a 20-metre steel goanna installed last year, will be joined by four smaller sculptures. Always open, the sanctuary is four kilometres south of Forbes, off the Newell Highway, turning right down a well sign-posted gravel road.
Fans of astronomy or the movie The Dish won't want to miss a trip to see the massive radio telescope at Parkes Observatory. Entry is free to the visitors' centre, viewing area and space science exhibition. A theatre shows short 3D films about the vast complexity of the universe. Tickets cost $7.50 for adults, $6 students and concession, or $25 for families. Visit:csiro.au/parkes
Outback Lamb's new three-hour agricultural tour explores Westpoint, a 5000-hectare farm that supplies boutique butchers in Sydney. Before a homegrown lunch, learn about Fiona and Bill's sustainable farming philosophy and approaches to the environment. Watch kelpies participate in a sheep dog trial and horses in a campdrafting exhibition, and see Aboriginal artwork, carvings and tools at a local site known as The Rocks. Visit: outbacklamb.com.au
Poet Henry Lawson, born on the Grenfell goldfields in 1867, is honoured with several statues around this historic town. Take a stroll along Main Street, head to O'Brien's Mine or hike in Weddin Mountains National Park. Grenfell Picnic Race Day is held on April 21 featuring six horse races, children's rides, live music and Fashions in the Field. Visit:grenfellpicnics.org.au
A stay at Wilga Station
Wilga Station is a family-owned, 105-hectare sheep farm which offers luxury accommodation built from repurposed material found on the property.
The Farmers Hut is a self-contained, off-the-grid retreat for couples. It has unique features, such as a grass roof and a daybed nestled in a window with stunning views.
Opening soon, the five-bedroom Shearers Hall will sleep up to 10 people in a former shearing shed. The sheep chutes have been retained (under glass) and the old wool table is the centrepiece of the entertaining area. The station is just 12 minutes' drive from Bathurst and 40 minutes from Orange. Visit: wilgastation.com.au
Drive: Bathurst is a three-hour drive from Sydney or Canberra, and four hours from Newcastle.
Stay: For a convenient base in Central NSW, consider staying at Bathurst. Wilga Station is just outside town and prices start at $450 per night. The NRMA Bathurst Panorama Holiday Park has rooms starting at $105, as well as campsites.
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