For all the times you’ve chosen a big night out over a weekend of hiking, Netflix over some simple fresh air and forest bathing, we don’t blame you, but now there’s a chance to have the best of both worlds. WILDfest, the Southern Highlands’ annual wilderness festival, combines a few of our favourite things: beautiful fresh produce, artisanal spirits and wines, and the glorious great outdoors.
This year’s program is epic, to say the least. It has been divvied up into nature’s four elements—earth, wind, air and water, and because we’re busy city people, events have been spread across weekends in October and November.
For the "water" side of things, the Wild Spirit Challenge will have you canoeing all long weekend. You’ll paddle the pretty waters of Upper Shoalhaven Gorge and Bundanoon Creek Arms of Lake Yarrunga with a certified guide, camping along the way for three days and two nights.
If that’s a bit too much adventure for you, we recommend checking out Canoes, Champagne and Canapes instead. You’ll drift through a sunken forest in a freshwater lake, watching native wildlife and sipping champagne and cool-climate wines in custom-built cherry red canoes. Busy during the day? A night-time paddle includes an astrophotography course in your canoe (and aforementioned champagne and canapes). Sign. Us. Up.
For "fire", you’ll want to get around the Wild Harvest Feast, featuring Sydney’s smoky food fiend, chef Lennox Hastie from Surry Hills’ two-hatted restaurant, Firedoor. Set within a starry marquee on the banks Wingecarribee River, the dinner will feature five courses matched to cool-climate wines. The dress code is top hats and tiaras, but don’t worry if you don’t have one—they’ll be supplied on site.
In the "earth" portion of the program, you’re invited to forest bathe (basically, a very mindful form of hiking). A two-hour open session will incorporate a gentle hike, a range of sensory awareness activities and guided meditation. There’s also a long weekend glamping retreat that will offer you the ultimate three-day nature therapy among the trees.
In November, the unmissable Highland Valley Forage combines a walking trail with an eight or 10-course degustation. In groups of 12, you’ll meander through native plants and flowers (trees like Red Bloodwood and Southern Sandstone Stringybark, and flowers like Native Iris, Leek Orchid, Sun Orchid). Keep your eyes peeled for echidnas and lace monitors. Afterwards, you’ll be treated to a menu curated by local legends Mark Olive, Nick Gardner and the team from Southern Highlands hotspot, Birch.
Don't miss this one. The full program is here.
When: Various dates from Friday 4 October – Sunday 3 November
Where: Southern Highlands and surrounds
Staying in town? Here are the best events to hit up in Sydney in October.
Image credit: WILDfest