Half a day’s drive from the metropolitan hubs of Sydney and Melbourne will take you deep into the Riverina, an abundant region characterised by the winding Murrumbidgee River, its fertile farms and vineyards and the proud Italian-Australian culture apparent here. Don’t forget to pack an esky for a road trip here. If you’re taking a trip to Australia’s food bowl, you’re going to need it.
Located on beautiful Wiradjuri Country, the plains of the Riverina start at the slope down from the mountains at the Snowy Valleys and extend along the river catchment area, towards the wide open of the NSW outback. Towns like Griffith and Wagga Wagga are filled with delectable foodstuffs ripe for the tasting, while its national parks beckon visitors desperate to disconnect from it all.
Whether you’re heading here for a few romantic nights glamping, or to introduce the younger members of a family to the wonders of nature and farm life, you’ve come to the right place.
Start at Griffith, an area rich with its Italian legacy and rightly in love with its own food and wine. A major attraction here are its undulating vineyards, and an obsession with local produce is catching. You’ll feel this in particular during the Griffith Spring Fest.
Also head to the banks of the Murrumbidgee River for a visit to Wagga Wagga and Narrandera, and discover the quirky heritage buildings of Junee. Make sure to go ‘Along the Road to Gundagai’ for the town’s Indigenous and European settler history. Stroll the foothills in the Snowy Valleys of Tumut and Tumbarumba during the crisp days of autumn, and check out the historical art-deco buildings in the town of Leeton. Both Tumut and Griffith feature in our list of Australia’s best under the radar towns.
Take in all the best parts of the Riverina region on a road trip from Griffith to the foothills of the Snowy Mountains. See the highlights in the video above.
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Time to sample everything on and off the menu. Start with seasonal fruit picking and tasting at Catania Fruit Salad Farm and Wollundry Olive Groves. Pick up a picnic at Coolamon Cheese, and move onto the desert at the Junee Licorice & Chocolate Factory.
Want to take home this entire epicurean experience? No problem. Up in Wagga Wagga, the Food I Am cooking school can teach you how to turn Riverina produce into top-notch meals.
The family-owned Borambola Wines not only makes a good drop but also brews local beers and cider. All can be tasted at its cellar door. Over at Courabyra Wines near Tumbarumba, you can not only sip on their sparkling wine with a ploughman’s platter at the alpine cellar door but also enjoy a matched wine meal at their restaurant. At Griffith, Calabria Family Wines has been making wine since 1945.
Move over Bondi – it’s Wagga Wagga that claims one of the country’s best beaches, right on the Murrumbidgee River. Picnic on the sand, stand up paddleboard, or simply float along at this riverside beach. More adventure awaits ramblers at the Murrumbidgee Valley National Park where you can cycle the Turkey Flat trail, picnic at the Koala Reserve and camp. If the family hasn’t had their fill of nature by then, kids will love stopping by the Wagga Wagga Zoo to pet animals to their heart’s content.
Get in touch with local Indigenous Wiradjuri culture, language and history with Bundyi Cultural Tours, and walk part of the 42-kilometre Wiradjuri trail to visit some significant First Nations places.
Slip into the rhythm of country life at the Belisi Farmstay. A luxury, self-catered farmyard accommodation built from recycled shipping containers on a hillside just 15 minutes from Wagga Wagga, it even has an attached equestrian school.
Over Kosciuszko way is the Nimbo Fork Lodge, a remote cottage in the Snowy Valleys. If you want a feel for the outback, the atmospheric 17,000 acre working Corynnia Station bed and breakfast has homestead heritage accommodation. At the Kimo Estate near Gundagai, you can stay in one of the 7,000-acre farm’s three glamping EcoHuts or its century-old workers’ cottages.
Both Belisi and Kimo Estate are featured in our pick of the best NSW long weekend stays and our guide to Where to eat, stay and play in Wagga Wagga. Kimo Estate also made it into our coveted list of 100 Unique Stays.
Save yourself some dollars with a stay in nature in the Riverina. While the Wagga Wagga Beach Caravan Park might have closed down, the BIG4 Wagga Wagga Holiday Park is also on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. Stay cool with a dip at nearby Wagga Beach or in its pool, sleeping at night in one of its cabins or powered and unpowered tent and caravan sites.
For other Murrumbidgee River camping options, there are roughly 47 sites where you can pitch a tent along the river in Murrumbidgee Valley National Park. Facilities might be minimal, but sleeping here overnight is a true and low cost back to nature experience.
For a boutique hotel stay, the historic Houston is centrally located in Wagga Wagga at the neo-gothic style Belmore House property, with 10 self-contained rooms and gorgeously designed gardens. Named after the famous Banjo Patterson poem, the laidback Flash Jacks Luxury Boutique Hotel was in fact once a school.
Start your day of exploring with a cup of coffee at Wagga Wagga’s the Blessed Bean, who roast their beans onsite at this coffee house. For the hot pie-seekers that traverse the roads between Melbourne and Sydney, the Junee Bakery and Narrandera Bakery are both popular country town stops, while Bertoldo’s Pasticceria dates back to the sixties and still goes strong dishing up cannoli in Griffith.
Since you’re already here, continue to live la dolce vita at Griffith’s Limone restaurant. Overseen by chef Luke Piccolo, it is built from locally recycled materials. Linked to the Piccolo Farm, it supplies the fresh ingredients Limone uses in its breakfast, lunch and set or a la carte dinner menus. Or dine on traditional Italian pasta at Zecca Handmade Italian. For a more casual dinner, head over to the Thirsty Crow Brewery in Wagga for a night of local beers and fresh woodfired pizza. The Three Blue Ducks has been set up at the Nimbo Fork Lodge in the Snowy Valleys, using only the Riverina’s best local produce to craft your dinner.
Is it truly a trip to the country without a night at a country pub? Perhaps, but we don’t want you to risk it. We recommend the Riverina Hotel in Wagga Wagga. It is over 170 years old, with a friendly and cosy bistro that serves up pub food classics. And don’t miss our complete guide on where to eat in Wagga for breakfast lunch and dinner.
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The Riverina region is in south-western New South Wales. It has a temperate climate that is hot and dry in summer, with temperatures reaching around 31°C and cold in winter. With lows of 3°C, it is not unheard of for snow to hit around this time. Agriculturally rich, it is nestled between Sydney and Melbourne, which are both four to five hours drive away. From Canberra, it is only a one hour trip. There are flights into Wagga Wagga Airport.
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