If you’re on the hunt for a final summer holiday destination—a last hurrah before the reality of 2021 really, truly sets in—we’ve got a fresh idea that doesn’t involve crowded beaches, overpriced Airbnbs, and all those east coast destinations you’ve probably visited a hundred times before.
Yes, rather than road tripping to somewhere predictable, we reckon you should round out your summer with a trip out west to Orange. Making tracks across the Blue Mountains into the rolling western plains of NSW might be a pastime we typically reserve for cooler months, but Orange has a lot to offer even in steamy February.
First of all, as one of the state’s great food and wine destinations, there’s plenty of deliciousness to sip and eat any time of the year. But also, being high up near an extinct volcano (Mount Canobolas, which is about 1,390 metres above sea level and the highest mountain in the region) means Orange doesn’t actually get very hot in summer. Nope, no sweltering, sticky, unbearable 40 degree days out here. It might be a long way from the sea breeze, but Orange’s summertime average is a very pleasant 26 degrees.
Need more convincing? Here’s what else you can get stuck into in Orange in summer in 2023.
Amazing Stays: Wilga Station Farmers Hut
If your ideal summer escape includes a little luxury with a side of country air, quiet solitude, good wine, and sweeping pink sunsets, Wilga Station should be top of your list. Nestled within the rolling green hills of a 260-acre working sheep station about 10 minutes outside of Bathurst and 40 minutes from Orange, the highlight of this recently opened farm is its stunning off-grid eco hut for two.
As well its eye-catching grass roof, The Farmer's Hut at Wilga Station is packed out with luxury fittings and features, like a designer bathroom, Hunter Lab amenities, your own BBQ, king-size bed, and a complimentary hamper of local cheese and wine. This eco-hut has also been designed to maintain a comfortable temperature of 16 - 24 degrees all year round, making it perfect for a summer stay. And, we can confirm, this is one of the most magical spots to watch the sun set in all of NSW. Book your stay here.
Indigenous Cultural Adventures
Orange and its surrounds fall on Wiradjuri Country—one of the largest First Nations groups in Australia. If you're keen to peer into this important and special part of the region's history, there are a number of tours you can take that have been approved by local Wiradjuri Elders. Detour Adventures' Ngurambang 4WD Cultural Tour will take you to three significant sites in the area, while Indigenous Cultural Adventures' immersive two-day, one-night camp will have you visiting sacred sites, foraging for bushtucker, learning about Indigenous astronomy under a blanket of stars, and listening to stories that have been passed down for thousands of years. Email the team to inquire here.
Gin Tasting At Parrot Distilling Co.
Sure, Orange is a place to visit for its many (many) amazing cool-climate vineyards, but if an icy-cold G&T is what you're after come summertime, make sure you drop into Parrot Distilling Co. This bright and airy warehouse is a quick trip from the centre of town and is a major favourite with the locals for its fun gin tasting paddles and epic list of gin cocktails.
Drop in from 4 - 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays for said cocktails, or book a tasting experience from Wednesday through Sunday, from 11.30pm until 6pm. As for our pick of the gins? Try the peach-coloured Parrot Seville, created just for summer, it's been made with the rind of Seville oranges for a summery, zesty flavour. More info is here.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
If you thought stand up paddle boarding was a summertime sport reserved just for Sydney's waterways, think again. You can also paddle along the tranquil waters of Lake Canobolas in Orange—a pretty spot that's perfect for strolling, swimming, picnicking, cycling, kayaking, and yes, SUP'ing too. Float Stand Up Paddle Boards operates on weekends during summer, hiring out paddle boards from 10am until 4pm. Once you've worked up a hunger, hit the Lakeshore Cafe for some burgers and baked treats.
Boutique Hotels: Byng Street Hotel
Retro motels are cool and all, but sometimes you just need a little luxury and good-looking design to make a holiday complete. Dotted with jewel-toned designer furniture and contemporary art, Byng Street Hotel has been partially built into the heritage-listed Yallungah homestead, which dates back to 1896. We recommend going all out and booking one of the guest suites in the modern wing—each features a spacious free-standing tub perfect for soaking in after a long summer afternoon in the vineyards.
Byng Street Hotel is also located right in the middle of town—with many of Orange's homewares shops, restaurants, country pubs, and bakeries all a short stroll away. Book your stay here.
Orange isn't exactly short on destination restaurants. Among the standouts is Charred—a relaxed fine diner that's centred around a massive cast-iron wood burner called "Lucifer". In that sense, you could group Charred in with the likes of Firedoor and even Ross and Sunny Lusted's newbie Woodcut, but its country location makes for a much more relaxed, fireside feel, far, far away from trendy Surry Hills and Sydney's shiny new Crown complex. Slow-charred meats and a farm-to-plate philosophy make this a degustation to remember.
Elsewhere in town, The Schoolhouse Restaurant at The Union Bank Hotel is led by former Rockpool trained Head Chef Dom Aboud and plates up Orange's finest seasonal produce, and at The Agrestic Grocer, you'll be treated to quirky cafe feeds, fresh produce, and craft beer—this spot is also home to Orange's oldest craft brewery, Badlands.
Keen to hit Orange's amazing wineries? Work your way through this list of our favourites.
Image credit: Wilga Station, Sammy Preston, Orange 360, Parrot Distilling Co., Orange 360, Byng Street Hotel, Destination NSW