One weekend in Orange gives you 48 hours to eat at Lolli Redini, shop at The Sonic and savour the best of 60 wineries. Of course, you’ll also want a taste of the quiet country life.
Orange is honey to the bee for jaded urban folk keen to swap the rat-race for the good life. Joining them are residents who flew the coop after high school only to return to raise their brood. “I love it here,” says café owner Maddy Howell. “So many young people are opening places now and we’re spoilt for choice – there’s a sense of excitement.”
Sure as (locally laid, free-range) eggs, the appeal lies in property prices and the vibrant food and wine scene. But there’s also the gentle pace and the chance to be part of a proud, resilient community.
The regional city buzzes throughout Orange Wine Festival in October so book well ahead if you plan to travel in these months. Here, we show you how to eat, sip and shop like the locals do...
Orange has more cafés per capita than an inner Sydney suburb, according to one well-placed local source (with a coffee in hand). Leading the charge is Good Eddy, a cute-as-a-button operation in Lords Place, run by Maddy Howell and her husband, Toby. Melbourne-trained barista Toby weighs every shot of coffee and sources the best beans locally and abroad.
On a quiet street nearby, Byng Street Local Store serves robust brews best enjoyed on the lovely timber deck in the courtyard out back or on the wraparound verandah out front.
With floor-to-ceiling glass windows, views of Orange’s cultural precinct and smart umbrellas shading the kid-friendly outdoor space, Groundstone is a community grazing hub. It’s run by Katie and Beau Baddock. From condiments and cakes to milkshake syrups, pretty much everything is made in-house. If you pick the classic eggs Benny over the house waffles, you can satisfy your sweet tooth by making a beeline for the counter, where cheesecakes, brownies and muffins await.
A few blocks away, Bills Beans East Orange is a tiny café big on flavour (truffled eggs or “sinful” polenta porridge, anyone?). Perch on a stool outside and devour the brekkie roll, which features locally grown Trunkey bacon and a relish better than your grandma makes.
Set in the heart of town, The Sonic is a clothing and lifestyle concept store with a grand presence. In 2016, when laid-back fashion entrepreneur Pip Brett snapped up the former Masonic Hall, built in 1864, she knocked out the internal walls and styled the cavernous interior to the gorgeous hilt.
Hawkes General Store has been run by the same family for 42 years. Second-generation owner Coco Pogonoski has an eye for chic women’s clothing and bright homewares. The shop also serves excellent coffee that you can sip near the quince tree in the front courtyard, a popular hangout for locals and, occasionally, Coco’s schnoodle, Bob.
Belle Armoire Boutique in the same building as coffee joint Good Eddy, stocks feminine and affordable Australian labels. The building also houses Botanica Flora, where you’ll find local blooms and a thoughtful fit-out, including parquetry floors and a custom-made concrete work station.
Best adventures nearby
City folk looking for a farm fix should steer towards Heifer Station, a relaxed cellar door at Borenore, 20 minutes’ drive from Orange. As the kids coo over goats, sheep, hens and Tilly the Shetland pony, parents can relax on a hay bale with a vino and grazing plate.
The Borenore Caves are just up the road; look out for the turn-off to the Borenore Karst Conservation Reserve and take the dirt road until you reach an idyllic, grassy picnic area. From there, it takes a few minutes to walk to the caves; they’re easy to explore but be sure to pack a torch. Before you head home, have a rest under a eucalypt in the picnic area and listen to the wildlife.
Within cooee is Lake Canobolas, where you can grab a coffee from The Lakehouse café before walking the lake’s perimeter. If you’re after more gentle recreation, you can lie back on the sandy shore as the kids either frolic in the water or at one of the two playgrounds.
Boasting 15 chef hats at last count, Lolli Redini is renowned for its indulgent, polished dishes. Owner and chef Simonn Hawke keeps things fresh and seasonal, taking cues from French and Italian cuisine. Tip: order the twice-baked Gruyère cheese soufflé – it hasn’t budged from the menu since the restaurant opened in 2001. Simonn’s partner, Leah Morphett, keeps the award-winning wine list evolving and on point. The swank service makes for a memorable evening; just as splendid is weekend lunch outside under the magnolia.
A five-minute drive leads to Racine restaurant, run by husband and wife Shaun and Willa Arantz, who own the popular bakery of the same name in town. “We’re a very Orange experience,” says Willa of the restaurant, which is set among vines and known for its warm vibe and fine food. The event space, The Apple Packing Shed, is in full swing most weekends when Willa and her team host weddings and functions.
Other dining gems are Sweet Sour Salt, where the son-in-law eggs are the bomb; Mr Lim for dinner that typically ends in karaoke; and Charred, where the wood-and-charcoal-fired oven brings a whole new level of smoked goodness to dishes.
A perennial favourite, the Parkview Hotel– or “The Parky” as it’s fondly known – serves modern bistro fare you can enjoy in the unpretentious dining room or in the green oasis of a courtyard in the back.
Make your way to The Greenhouse of Orange for rooftop dining, woodfired pizza and plenty of beers on tap. Take the lift up from the RSL car park then unwind beneath the sun or stars (in summer, a refreshing mist cools things down). The sprawling children’s play area is a hit with parents keen to have an uninterrupted conversation over coffee or wine.
For a scenic sip, head to De Salis Wines where the deck captures picture-book views of the vineyard and surrounding district. Owners Charlie and Loretta Svenson will greet you in the old apple packing shed that now serves as their cellar door. “We grow it, we make it, we bottle it, we love it, we drink it and we hold your hand at the cellar door,” says Charlie, a microbiologist-turned-winemaker.
To sample more of the region’s high-altitude, cool-climate wines, don’t miss Philip Shaw. It’s one of the most stylish wineries around, with its architectural mix of old and new, a blend of bluestone and glass, polished concrete and rusted corrugated iron.
In town, intimate wine bars abound, including Ferment and Soirée by Faisan Estate. Take a seat outside the old homestead at Zona Kitchen Bar Events or for cocktails, head to Washington & Co. Whiskey Saloon, a bar crammed with trendy young things sipping spirits like there’s no tomorrow.
If it’s starry nights and country charm you’re after, Old Convent and Black Sheep Inn are your best bets. The former is set on a large property with views of Mount Canobolas. It has three separate dwellings, including a refurbished convent once home to Australia’s only saint, Mary MacKillop, now a bright cottage with plush bedding and a deep bath.
Black Sheep Inn offers cosy lodgings in a former shearers’ quarters and a converted woolshed (where you can dine at the old wool-classing table, now topped with glass). Roam the pretty grounds before falling into one of the comfy beds, equipped with electric blankets for the cooler months.
De Russie Boutique Hotel has luxurious suites for corporate travellers. There’s also the beautifully styled White Birch Cottage, prized for its no-children policy, fine furnishings and alfresco dining area.
This piece was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.