Plan your escape to Mudgee for a romantic weekend in NSW’s prolific Central Ranges wine region.
There is something about escaping to the country with your significant other that feels deeply romantic. The frenetic pace of the city or the busyness of home falls away and a weekend full of romantic possibilities opens up in front of you.
With two nights and three days for exploring up our sleeves my partner and I have set our sights on Mudgee. The drive is a little over three-and-a-half hours from Sydney and the destination boasts a long list of romantic itinerary fillers – think glamping under the stars, hot air balloon rides, private wine tastings and the perfect climate for cosying up beside a fireplace with a warming glass of local shiraz. Follow along for the perfect romantic weekend itinerary in Mudgee.
The drive from Sydney will take you along the scenic Great Western Highway through the Blue Mountains and onto Castlereagh Highway until you reach Mudgee. Alternatively, you can opt to fly from Sydney, Canberra, Newcastle, Ballina, Taree or Dubbo with FlyPelican to Mudgee.
We set out early from Sydney and take our time to stop for a coffee and stretch our legs at MJay’s Café in Blaxland – she also has a mouth-watering selection of home baked goods for the journey such as baklava, almond crescent biscuits and loaded brownies. Back on the road, there are plenty of quaint and quirky towns in the Blue Mountains worthy of a pit stop if you have the time, but we have a cheese platter with our names on it waiting for us in Mudgee.
With a continuous winemaking history stretching back to the 1850s, Mudgee is by far the oldest wine region in the Central Ranges of NSW. You’ll find over 40 family-owned cellar doors, a distillery and a brewery – definitely make wine tasting a priority on your itinerary.
Logan Wines is located 15 kilometres outside of Mudgee in Apple Tree Flat – could there be a cuter destination name for a winery? Peter Logan has been making wine for 25 years in the Central Ranges, starting out in Orange before setting up the Logan Wines vineyard (named Weemala; an Aboriginal word meaning ‘good view’) in 1997 with his father in Mudgee. Today, Peter and his team continue to source grapes from both Orange and Mudgee to produce their range of riesling, pinot gris, chardonnay, gewürztraminer, sauvignon blanc, shiraz, merlot, pinot noir and tempranillo.
The interior of Logan Wine’s award-winning tasting room is modern and inviting with a cosy fireplace near the entry. We are seated in the glass box section that juts out from the side of the building and boasts uninterrupted views of Weemala below. We’ve opted for the 60-minute guided tasting experience accompanied by a locally-sourced cheese platter for two – the combination of High Valley Cheese Co.’s Stefan Blue with Mudgee honey and Mitta Mitta hazelnuts is to die for! There is also a limited dining menu on Fridays to Sundays.
Lowe Family Wine Co.
At our next winery, owner and winemaker of Lowe Family Wine Co. David Lowe takes us on a tour of his property before our tasting, he points out the rustic, wooden chapel he built with his staff during the 2020 lockdown – perhaps the perfect spot for an impromptu wedding should the romance of Mudgee really carry you away?
The sprawling Tinja property in Mudgee has been in the Lowe family for generations. Today it is an organic and biodynamic vineyard, working winery, cellar door, the site of award-winning Zin House restaurant and Pavilion events space. There are gardens and orchards to wander through, a picnic area to while away the afternoon in, animals in paddocks to spot and a dam with a jetty to admire.
The hour-long tasting experience at Lowe’s takes you through the full range of wines – Sarah, the sparkling rose named after the original Lowe lady, is fun, bubbly and easily my favourite. Purchase a selection of Zin House made and locally sourced products from the cellar door’s Food Store to build your own platter before settling in for your tasting – think fresh baguettes, black olive tapenade, and cheese (the pickled quince is a must-try if available).
Glamping under the stars at Glenayr Farm
With two of Mudgee’s best-known wineries under our belt we make our way to our accommodation for the weekend. Glenayr Farm is about a 25-minute drive outside of town, open and close the gate (to keep the sheep in) and take the winding unsealed track to the top to reach the glampsite (note: low-lying cars will struggle to navigate the drive).
Owner Rachel White has set up Glenayr’s luxury glamping and villa accommodation on a 320-acre working sheep farm. The secluded property is completely off-grid with all onsite facilities solar powered. It’s the ideal romantic setting for the weekend.
Our five-metre canvas bell tent, Pinot, is one of four on the site. Each tent is spaced 15 metres apart for privacy and are within close proximity to the indoor communal area that houses two bathrooms with hot showers, a lounge room with indoor fireplace, television, a billiards table and plenty of other games, DVDs and books to keep you entertained.
There is also a separate dining area and kitchen with fridge/freezer and gas stove in addition to the outdoor barbecue, hot tub and fire pit.
The private villa with hot tub is tucked away on a separate part of the property and is also available to book if glamping isn’t really your thing.
After we settle in to out generous-sized tent, we fill the hot tub up with hot water (which takes approximately 40 minutes) in preparation for a post-sunset dip and set up the fire underneath to keep the water temperature heated.
Exclusively Mudgee private sunset tasting experience
Stephanie Ross, owner of Exclusively Mudgee, arrives just before sunset to set up our private wine tasting and generous platter on the jetty by the dam on the property.
The experience is tailored to your taste and after our previous chat on the phone she’s brought a selection of reds in addition to a sparkling chardonnay, rose and pinot gris. Manners 2019 Sangiovese Rose and Martins Hill Mudgee 2013 Shiraz are the standouts for me. To top it all off we are joined by a couple of curious kangaroos; watching them graze by the dam in the soft glow of a pastel pink sunset is a very memorable end to the day.
The private tasting isn’t exclusive to a stay at Glenayr Farm (although it makes for a pretty spectacular setting); you can book the experience to come to your accommodation or even opt for a picnic set up in Lawson Park. It’s a great way to taste some of the boutique wine offerings in Mudgee – and you get to keep the bottles to polish off over the course of the weekend.
Once the sun sets we top up our wine and head for the hot tub. Stargazing on a secluded property under a sky full of stars should definitely be included in your own romantic weekend itinerary, so make sure you book the experience in advance of your stay – it is worth the extra fee.
We had grand romantic plans for a hot air balloon ride at dawn with Balloon Aloft, but unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate this time. Instead, we woke up to the sound of the rain falling softly on our tent and unzipped the entrance to watch the sunrise from our cosy queen size bed with a steaming cup of tea.
After a day of consuming nothing but cheese and wine we are ready for a hearty breakfast and make our way into town. Mudgee’s tree-lined heritage streetscapes are everything a country town should be – full of charm, history and boutique dining and shopping experiences.
Mudgee – or Moothi (meaning ‘nest in the hills’) as it was known by the Wiradjuri people who have called this region home for tens of thousands of years – was established as a European settlement circa 1800 and many of the original buildings constructed in the decades after remain to this day. Walking its streets is a well-preserved step back in time.
Alby + Esthers for breakfast
Breakfast is at Alby + Esthers, the well-known café has a number of quiet nooks and dining areas but we take a seat in the charming courtyard under the canopy of leaves that stretch out from the tree in its centre. I opt for their famous Jaffle – mostly because it is the comfort food of my childhood – filled with locally smoked ham, eggs and Swiss cheese with a delightfully tangy tomato relish. While my partner orders the local breakfast bowl with locally smoked bacon, eggs, marinated mushrooms, cheddar, greens, house-made hazelnut dukkha with a roast capsicum dressing and sourdough toast. The coffee is also top notch – we order an extra takeaway each and make our way to Robertson Park for the monthly farmers’ market.
Mudgee Fine Foods Farmers’ Market
Mudgee has a rich pastoral history that is still thriving today and the monthly Mudgee Fine Foods Farmers’ Market lets you sample some of the region’s best edible bounty. Set in the perfectly-manicured Robertson Park off Market Street, the stalls are set up in a circular arrangement around the rotunda, a live band provides the soundtrack to the morning. Find freshly-baked bread, local produce, cheeses, wine, olive oil and more. Stop at the Abuzz Bees ‘n’ Wax stall for the local honeycomb, creamed honey and runny honey.
Lunch at Moothi Estate Winery
Another day, another winery – and I am definitely not complaining. We hit the road and take the short drive to Moothi Estate for lunch and a tasting. This is the most relaxed of the tastings we’ve had so far, with the wines arriving as a flight with a tasting card for a self-guided experience out on the deck overlooking the vineyard. We order the trio of dips with flatbread and veggie sticks and a side of fries (as we’re still quite full from breakfast). We spent a fair amount of time here, relaxing and people watching before driving to our next winery for our final tasting.
Rosby Wines, Gallery & Sculpture Garden
We arrive at Rosby Wines the same time as the rain and miss out on wandering through the impressive Sculpture Garden before our scheduled tasting. Gerry and Kay Norton-Knight bought the 80-acre property as newlyweds back in 1983, transforming it into a home, then a winery in 1996, followed by the sculpture garden, luxury guesthouse accommodation and the gallery it boasts today.
It may be the soothing sound of the rain falling on the rammed-earth cellar door as Gerry takes us through his wines, the comforting taste of freshly-made baked cheesecake (which is the best I’ve ever tasted!), or maybe it’s the sense that everyone seems to know each other here, but there is something about a visit to Rosby’s that makes you instantly feel part of the family.
Rosby’s is renowned for their cabernet sauvignon and shiraz – we buy bottles of both to take home as Gerry’s commitment to low-impact farming means they are only sold out of his cellar door. They also produce riesling, chardonnay and sangiovese, as well as a lovely rose. Definitely add this winery to your list and do make time for a romantic stroll around the gardens to admire the impressive sculptures if the weather permits.
Dinner at Roth’s Wine Bar
After an afternoon relaxing back at our glampsite we make our way into town for dinner. From the street Roth’s Wine Bar looks like a quaint wine store and bar, but we follow the music out back and it opens out onto a courtyard with ample seating, plenty of cosy nooks and a big barn-like dining area with a stage.
Their seasonal menu features a delicious selection of wood fired pizzas, salads and share plates made with locally grown produce. We share an order of southern fried Buffalo wings with hot sauce and blue cheese and opt for the pulled-pork pizza with Napoli sauce, caramelised onion, rocket, feta and cheese – washed down with a bottle of 2019 Manners Hilltop Malbec from the cellar out front. Then head back to Glenayr to make the most of our last night of glamping.
It’s been a romance-filled few days in Mudgee and after a slow morning in our tent we pack up and hit the road – but not before a quick pit stop at Mudgee Honey Haven on our way into town for a takeaway coffee. This place is a honey lover’s heaven – and there is also an onsite café if you fancy staying a while.
If you have the time, take a detour to the heritage village of Rylstone, it’s just a 45-minute drive outside of Mudgee and there are a number of great walks in the surrounding national park. Follow it up with lunch at 29Nine99 Yum Cha for the best dumplings in the region.