February 13, 2023
15 mins Read
The name Mudgee is derived from the Wiradjuri term, Moothi, which means ‘nest in the hills’. And the Mudgee Region has certainly become a great place to cocoon. Watch through the window on the 268-kilometre drive from Sydney to Mudgee and you will observe the landscape being pulled together in thousands of colourful threads until you arrive in Mudgee, which was named a Top Tourism Town in 2021.
Australia has more than 60 wine regions to choose from, and Mudgee is up there with the best of them. Encompassing the towns of Mudgee, Gulgong, Kandos and Rylstone (and a few small villages in between), a trip to the Mudgee Region in Central NSW is now on the radar of wine-lovers of all stripes (from newbies to hard-core oenophiles) who are looking to find a new varietal.
But there are also many more reasons to explore beyond the 35-odd family-run boutique vineyards, which are surrounded by cinematic landscapes and dotted with sophisticated restaurants and cafes to refuel along the way. In addition to the historic villages and world-class wineries, you can add a distillery and brewery to your itinerary and time your trip to coincide with one of the Mudgee Region’s annual events or festivals.
The fact there are no traffic lights in Mudgee’s town centre and the surrounding townships of Gulgong, Kandos and Rylstone also speaks volumes about the pace of life in the region. Here’s how to maximise your time in Mudgee.
The Rylstone Kandos Region is an outpost of cool country charm located just three hours’ drive from Sydney. You can visit a winery, learn about the area’s ancient and modern history, experience country charm, sample local produce and enjoy everything from bushwalking to birdwatching against a backdrop comprising Wollemi National Park and the Capertree Valley.
Start your seven-day journey with a guided tour with Southern Cross Kayaking along Dunns Swamp, or Ganguddy as it is known to the Dabee people of the Wiradjuri nation.
This peaceful waterway, formed after the building of a weir in the 1920s, is located along a squiggle of the Cudgegong River that wends its way through Wollemi National Park for about five kilometres. But the beauty of the waterway is only part of its appeal.
Apart from the soaring sandstone escarpments and rugged geological features, the eco-conscious tour demonstrates the Dabee People’s connection to the land as it glides past Aboriginal rock art and sites of significance to the Traditional Owners of the land.
Enjoy a Vigneron Experience at De Beaurepeaire Wines in Rylstone led by winemaker Richard De Beaurepaire who helped pioneer a new wine sub-region of Rylstone when he and wife Janet bought the property in 1998. Richard leans into centuries-old methods of winemaking that build on his French heritage and a private tour of the vineyard is as immersive as it gets.
Thanks to a narrow band of limestone where the property sits, the single-estate vineyard creates wines that are similar to those produced in Beaune, in Burgundy, where members of the De Beaurepaire family have lived for more than 1000 years.
Taste that terroir in a Grape to Glass Tour that steers participants around the 53-ha vineyard and into the sandstone cellar door converted from 170-year-old stables that housed The Grafter, the horse that won the 1898 Melbourne Cup.
Owner and chef Na Lan has been doling out dumplings and delicious yum cha in the Central West since 2008. Lunch time can be extremely busy at 29 Nine 99 and the crowd is a mix of local families and day-trippers drawn to the fun décor and nostalgia of eating yum cha.
While the dining room is very small in size, there’s more seating outside. Pace yourself as the plump pork buns and dumplings packed with pork and prawns live up to the hype. In addition to enjoying yum cha, a must while in the Mudgee Region, you can purchase everything from tea to tea pots and clothing, all adorned with Chinese motifs and rose-gold accents.
Na Lan grew up in Xian, in the Shaanxi province, and named the eatery after the date she married her Australian husband, Reg (September 29, 1999).
Naked Lady Wines is potentially clothing optional but only if you’re in the privacy of your bedroom at Quaker Barn which is located above the Naked Lady Wines Cellar Door.
It’s the simplicity of a stay at this vineyard that makes the experience so special. There are two bedrooms with en suites located at Naked Lady Wines, which offers gourmands the opportunity to get to know the wines and the winemaker in this down-to-earth district.
Arrange for a home-cooked dinner to be delivered to the mezzanine level of the barn where you can enjoy views out to Wollemi National Park. Ganguddy-Dunns Swamp, about 30 minutes away, is home to a population of platypus which you might spot the next morning if you’re lucky.
Order a full-cooked breakfast to be delivered to your door at the vineyard, and then make the most of what’s on your doorstep in the Mudgee Region by turning your gaze to the pretty villages of Rylstone and Kandos for some retail therapy.
The heritage village of Rylstone is located on the western edge of the Blue Mountains, and is the gateway to the World-Heritage-listed Wollemi National Park. The village has many fine examples of early colonial architecture and has become as well known for its shopping as its vineyards and artisan producers.
Visit Folkologie, known for its repurposed furniture and Australian-inspired homewares, the Guluu Gallery for Aboriginal art, the Convent Chapel and Wool Shop for your next hand-knitted beanie crafted by local creatives.
Stop eating. Start hiking. Everyone from birdwatchers to botanists and bushwalkers descend on Ferntree Gully, which is a lesson in contrasts thanks to its multitude of microclimates. From groves of gums to tree ferns and carpets of crayon-green moss, Ferntree Gully has a kind of shifting luminescence dependant on the light.
Access Ferntree Gully off the Bylong Valley Way, 17km north of Rylstone on the fringes of Wollemi National Park. The Ferntree Gully is only about 2.5km, but there are a few steep sections and some stairs.
Yes, Pepinos Mexican Rylstone is a long way from Mexico. It’s also a long way from Maine where Holly Harris grew up in the kitchen of PEPINO’s BEST MEXICAN, a restaurant run by her gregarious father and regularly frequented by horror writer Stephen King. The novelist was such a regular patron at the restaurant that PEPINO’s BEST MEXICAN featured in one of his books, The Day That Changed the World.
Holly and husband Grant have taken the Maine model – specialising in Mexican comfort food using regional, seasonal ingredients – and run with it and the colourful Mexican eatery reflects the changing face of the region. While the cantina is probably more Maine than Mexican, it’s a bright and low-key and a top spot to take the family for tacos and chimichanga.
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding luxury places to stay in the Mudgee Region. But for convenience’s sake, cocoon yourself for a second night at the Quakers Barn at Naked Lady Wines so you can enjoy a tutored tasting and not have to draw straws to see who will be the designated driver.
You will see and do more in Mudgee when you don a helmet and e-bike with EzyRide Mudgee for a jaunt around the picturesque village. Download the Cycle Mudgee Region guide and take the Winery Ride route that starts and ends at the Clock Tower.
Choose the Rocky Waterhole Road and bike along the Cudgegong River where the sunshine dances off the steely waterway and plays off the buttery light of the countryside. Wheel freely around groaning gums and rolling countryside before making your way back to Mudgee proper.
Despite being a manmade wetland, the Pucca Bucca Wetlands now functions as a permanent Oxbow Lake (billabong). Bring your binoculars and try and clock some of the bird species found at the biodiverse wetlands such as the freckled duck, Australian wood duck, plumed whistling duck and brown quail.
The Citrine wagtail has also put Mudgee on the map for twitchers, who descended in their droves in September 2014 when the rare yellow bird was spotted (the third ever recording on Australian soil).
Go for breakfast with all the frills at Mudgee Corner Store where the locals will clock you as an out-of-towner in an instant. The café, one of the most popular in Mudgee, is generally on the radar of most visitors, and with good reason.
Head to the Itty Bitty Bread Shop for incredible breads and pastries and to the Mudgee Corner Store for coffee and a mix of burgers, pies, B&E rolls. BYO eco bag so you can stock up on local artisan provisions for your picnic such as Farmer Brown pasture-raised eggs, High Valley Feta, Hello Lovelies Cordial and coffee from Fish River Roasters.
Clean, crisp country air is not the only things going for Strikes Mudgee. Here, you will be given a front-row seat at dawn and dusk each day to a landscape made even more enchanting by the presence of the property’s resident kangaroos, which make cameos at dawn and dusk each day.
The remote timber cabin is cleverly designed with each window offering a different perspective over the surrounding countryside, lacquered in an emerald green gloss. It’s one of many magical places to stay in Mudgee.
Enjoy breakfast at Strikes with a pre-ordered hamper of local from olive.a.twist such as jalapeno and cheese twists, brioche doughnuts, all baked at the Itty Bread Shop behind the Mudgee Corner Store. The Itty Bitty Bread Shop also has ready-made meals such as pies, quiches and soups.
Those who make the pilgrimage to Mudgee will find worthy rewards on a Farm Walk Tour on Sunday mornings following the Saturday Farmers’ Markets. Learn about where your food comes from on the guided farm walks from a great range of producers who fling open their doors each month. Depending on the season, you may get to olive oil being produced, a behind-the-scenes tour of a working winery and amble around a cherry or fig orchard.
The Mudgee CBD Walk is only about 2.8 kilometres long and a great way to appreciate the Federation architecture that lends the country town so much of its charm.
Wander past the Town Hall Building, and Loneragan’s Store, which first opened in 1870, The Mudgee Guardian newspaper building, the Regent Picture Theatre and Anglican Parish Church of Saint John the Baptist, and Cobb & Co Boutique Hotel, to name a few.
Pick up some provisions so you can self-cater for the next few days. While you’re in Mudgee, take the time to duck into a few thrift stores in search of retro cardigans.
Plan ahead for a tutored tasting with Exclusively Mudgee, who will bring a range of emerging labels and blends from the Napa Valley as well as some local produce (read more about the experience in our romantic weekend itinerary for Mudgee). This is the region’s only virtual cellar door and you can choose between sipping, swirling next to your outdoor fire pit or setting up a picnic on the property with a platter of light bites.
Check into Evamor Valley (it’s a two-night minimum stay) located on this properly spectacular property with views over the dam and surrounding bushland.
The glamping-style tents (one of a handful of glamping operators in Mudgee) have an earthy palette that reflects the muted colours the Mudgee Region is known for.
Light the fire pit for the perfect romantic getaway. And check out the Farm Walks Tour calendar to see when the next tour will be.
Need a little exercise? The hills around Mudgee are filled with lovely trails. Mudgee is the third largest grape-producing region in NSW.
Give Brett from Ezyride Mudgee a call and ask him to drop your bikes at Evamor Valley and help plan an itinerary that takes in some of the family-owned cellar doors, as well as a local distillery and brewery or two.
If you like what you taste while at a cellar door, make a purchase and Brett will pick up your orders from each estate. Now that’s service.
Be warned: if Lowe Family Wine Co is one of the first on your list of places to cycle to for a swirl and a sip you could easily flop and drop here and stay for the day.
It’s like an advertisement for country life with handsome couples strolling hand in hand, a rustic barn bathed in light where you can enjoy a tasting and charcuterie plate as well as the Zin House, one of the many bucolic boltholes on the family property. The rustic feel here stretches out onto a tiered terrace with views overlooking the vineyard.
Get a taste of the local Indigenous culture during a Warakirri Dining Experience, which is proving to be a big draw to visitors in Mudgee. Besides a ‘Welcome to Country’ owner Sharon Winsor, a Ngemba Weilwan woman from western NSW, connects visitors to her culture using dishes built around ingredients that she has harvested in the wild.
There are items for sale in the shop next door that include bags, jewellery, and premium native foods and condiments. The bush tucker dining degustation includes seafood, kangaroo, rainforest fruits and beverages infused with native ingredients.
Check out the Gulgong Holtermann Museum to learn all about this historic town that was founded during the 1870s’ gold rush era. Wander the cobblestone streets to get to the state heritage-listed town buildings that house the UNESCO-listed Holtermann collection of photographs. Make a note for the calendar: the Henry Lawson Festival is held every June long weekend.
The Prince of Wales has been owned and run by the Ellis family since 1976. And that continuity has resulted in a pub that is a classic Aussie institution – full of local characters and a little quirky to boot.
Take a virtual tour of the pub and pay attention to the period detail and museum-worthy pieces arranged around the building, which began life as a rustic shack in 1872.
Chips and gravy, bangers and mash, chicken schnitty burgers are all on offer at the pub, where you can also bed down for the night.
Make like a barn owl and roost at the Owl Head Lodge for the night, which is conveniently located close to Gulgong. Choose between the Slab Cottage, the Shearers Quarters, Shearers Cottage and Glass Cottage and Studios.
Set the alarm for the early morning so you can drop into Mudgee Farmers’ Markets to fill your esky with local produce, wine and gifts.
Time to pack up and skedaddle. If the markets aren’t on, drop into the Mudgee Visitors Centre, which is stocked with wine and cheese to pick up some gourmet souvenirs.
Follow the highway to the Mudgee Region as it curves away from Sydney via the Blue Mountains and Lithgow for about three and a half hours. From Newcastle, you can take the Bylong Valley Way for the four-hour drive via Denman and Sandy Hollow. It’s also a four hour-drive from Wollongong along the Great Western Highway, and a five-hour journey from Canberra.
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