For a long time, Orange's biggest claim to fame was - confusingly - its apple orchards. These days, however, this pretty country town has become a fully fledged gourmet destination, known for its cool climate wineries, chic bars and produce shops, and sophisticated restaurants.
This itinerary, which takes the scenic route over the stunning Blue Mountains, offers two days packed with treats for your tastebuds. Along the way there are plenty of opportunities to stop for bushwalks, visit spectacular limestone caves and, of course, savour fine food.
Hero image: James Horan, Destination NSW
Day 1: Sydney to Katoomba
2hr | 120km
Sydneysiders treasure the Blue Mountains and it's not hard to understand why. After all, how many cities can boast one million hectares of World Heritage listed wilderness in their backyard? The first part of the drive along the M4 is rather unlovely, but once the road starts to rise into the foothills, you will enjoy increasingly spectacular vistas across the area's peaks and valleys.
Make your first stop at Faulconbridge to visit the Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum. One of Australia's most notorious artists, Lindsay is as famous for his canvases of cavorting nudes as for his much loved children's book, The Magic Pudding. The stone cottage where he lived for more than five decades, set amid beautiful gardens, is worth visiting in its own right, as well as for the rich collection of Lindsay's work that is on display.
From here it's about 20 minutes to Wentworth Falls, where there are a number of good choices for lunch including Bakery Patisserie Schwarz, with its huge range of sandwiches and strudels, and the Conservation Hut, where you can admire the panorama of rock formations while tucking into your meal. After lunch take an easy stroll to the Princes Rock Lookout for a view across the falls described by Charles Darwin as "exceedingly well worth visiting".
Just five minutes down the road, Leura is considered by many to be the Blue Mountains' most appealing village. Take a stroll along Leura Mall, lined with boutiques and galleries, and stop in at the 5ha Everglades Gardens, one of Australia's earliest landscaped gardens.
Don't be afraid to work up an appetite, the Blue Mountains is packed with good places for dinner. Try Vesta in Blackheath, which serves up comfort food classics such as slow cooked lamb that falls apart on your fork. If it's on the menu, the bread and butter pudding is the perfect way to end the meal.
Day 2: Katoomba to Orange
3hr 15min | 200km
Just over an hour's drive from Katoomba lies one of the area's most spectacular sites, the Jenolan Caves. While indigenous Australians knew about the caves, which they called Binoomea ("dark places"), the first cave was not officially discovered by European settlers until 1848 (though local legend has it that outlaw James McKeown had previously used the caves as a hideout).
Much of the cave system, which is believed to cover about 40km, remains unexplored, but a number of spectacular caves can be toured with a guide, including some that feature sound and light shows. Tickets for each cave are sold separately. Among the most popular are the Pool of Cerberus Cave and the River Cave; the latter featuring stunning stalactites, stalagmites and limestones shawls. If you prefer something more strenuous, adventure caving options are also available.
From Jenolan Caves, it's about an hour to Bathurst, Australia's oldest inland settlement. The Victorian buildings lining its streets have some enticing options for lunch. Enjoy excellent pizza at Church Bar + Woodfired Pizza or tuck into salads and southern barbecue at B Town BBQ at The Oxford Hotel. Beer fans may want to make a stop at boutique beer company Two Heads Brewing.
Bathurst's don't miss experience is the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum. On display is the internationally renowned Somerville Collection, which includes not just a dazzling selection of brilliantly coloured gems and minerals but also an astonishing collection of fossils, including fossilised dinosaur eggs and opalised fossils found only in Australia. The highlight of the collection is Australia's only T. rex skeleton.
From here it's 45 minutes' drive to the town of Orange, which enchants visitors with its heritage buildings and vibrant food and wine scene. If you're ready for a coffee, try Byng Street Local Store, Nimrods or The Agrestic Grocer, which also sells some of the area's best local produce.
Alternatively, you may want to head straight for one of the area's acclaimed cellar doors. Philip Shaw Wines, Ross Hill Wines and De Salis Wines are all recommended. You can also sample a range of local drops at one of Orange's inviting wine bars, such as the heritage listed Union Bank Wine Bar. For dinner, the hot picks include Lolli Redini (try their twice baked gruyere cheese souffle) and Racine. Both restaurants are deservedly popular, so it's wise to reserve a table in advance.
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