Turning onto the enclaved valley roads of Kangaroo Valley transports you from suburbia to a hidden oasis just outside of Sydney – here’s why it’s the perfect weekend escape for city dwellers.
Discover hills gently rolling between cellar doors, trails that lead to impressive waterfalls, Australia’s largest surviving wooden suspension bridge, and fresh produce at every turn. The only thing missing from a valley visit is the perfect itinerary… until now.
Here are the best ways to eat, play and stay in Kangaroo Valley.
Where is it
Kangaroo Valley is nestled between the Southern Highlands and NSW South Coast, about two hours’ drive from both Sydney and Canberra.
Located smack bang in the middle of the main street, The Friendly Inn is the real deal – a traditional UK style pub. It’s one of the oldest watering holes in the area, providing an indoor/outdoor setting for both locals and those just passing through. The menu consists of nightly blackboard specials and classic pub clinchers. Seafood, steak, schnitzels and burgers are in heavy rotation, alongside more adventurous options like the barramundi, laksa and linguini.
The outdoor beer garden provides ample opportunity to soak up views of the famous Kangaroo Valley escarpments. There’s a covered playground area for kids, as well as a pétanque court. Come summer, the venue also plays host to live music and holiday firework displays.
If you’d rather BYO back at your own digs, The Friendly bottle shop is open seven days a week.
The Friendly Inn is the real deal – a traditional UK style pub
It wouldn’t be a regional Aussie town without a classic General Store. Kangaroo Valley delivers theirs in bulk, offering both a locally-stocked shop and adjoining café. Two for the price of one.
At the café portion of The General, breakfast bounty is beautifully served. The Chef’s Special (named after Head Chef Tony) changes regularly – it could be anything from a fresh cheese, basil and tomato omelette to a lightly spiced congee. The Japanese vegetable pancake is served with rising sun sauce, mayonnaise and seven Lebanese spices, or perhaps a classic Egg and Bacon roll is more to your liking – both are catered to here. Mrs Bread’s pop-up bakery supplying organic sourdough bread to the café. There’s also an adorable honesty system bread shelf out the front. Simply leave your money in the tin and grab your bread to-go.
Stock up on locally made produce at The General Store next door, courtesy of Kangaroo Valley Kindred Spirits. There’s garlic dukkha and chilli pesto, pickles and fresh cheese, plus all the grocery staples of a classic small supermarket.
The classic General Store
For a great eat-in or take-out Thai option you can’t beat Jing Jo Restaurant in the heart of Kangaroo Valley.
The restaurant focuses on the freshest local produce to create its Thai dishes. An unexpected brunch offering (Salmon Gravlax, Rice Paper Rolls) surprisingly delivers. However it’s the lunch and dinner sittings that the locals line up for. A favourite is the Nok Tod Kra Tiem – deep fried quail, Jing Jo style.
The restaurant is housed in a former gallery, and retains an artistic air by presenting a series of exhibitions throughout the year. Local artists are invited to display their art on the walls, providing a blissful backdrop for a classic Thai meal.
Jing Jo provides a blissful backdrop for a classic Thai meal.
Tucked between the escarpments of Upper Kangaroo Valley is Yarrawa Estate Vineyard. The only winery in Kangaroo Valley proper, Yarrawa, or ‘windy place’, is named after a nearby state forest and is perched in a beautiful location on Scotts Road.
Owners Mark and Sue Foster will welcome you to the cellar door like old friends. Spend the next few hours making your way through white varietals such as chambourcin, verdelho and Semillon; followed by some robust reds that include a cabernet sauvignon and cabernet merlot, and an elegant rose named Jasmine Grace. Over the years, Mark and Sue’s efforts have been awarded with silver and gold medals in the South Coast Wine Show, as well as a place in acclaimed chef Luke Mangan’s cookbook.
While Yarrawa is better-known for its wines, the property also enjoys the benefits of highly fertile volcanic and alluvial soils. This makes it the perfect environment for growing other produce, such as citrus, apples, macadamias, pecans, walnuts, Japanese raisins, avocados and vegetables. At the cellar door you’ll find cheese plates with charming additions such as marinated baby figs and estate-grown walnuts to complement your wine tasting.
Yarrawa is the only winery in Kangaroo Valley proper
Take a journey through Kangaroo Valley’s past
Driving along Hampden Bridge might not feel like much, but it’s actually a remarkable lesson in Victorian engineering.
It is the largest surviving wooden suspension bridge in the country and was specially designed with gothic Victorian sandstone towers. Visit the medieval castle and take a self-guided tour to learn the history behind the bridge. Once you’re finished, the Pioneer Museum next door showcases the lifestyle of early Australian colonisers by way of houses, tools and other artefacts.
Hampden Bridge is a remarkable lesson in Victorian engineering
Visit Fitzroy Falls
Any landscape photographer worth their salt has heard about Fitzroy Falls. Water plunges over 80 metres to the valley below, splashing in the untouched bushland of Morton National Park.
The waterfall is named after Sir Charles Fitzroy, the Governor of NSW who visited here during his tenure in the 1850s. Since then it has served as a lush escarpment between Robertson and Nowra, home to local flora, fauna, wildlife, walks and wild swimming.
The East Rim Wildflower Walking track runs 1.25km from the Visitor Centre to Warrawong lookout. In spring, the self-guided stroll is home to diverse florals, native plants and trees. The West Rim walking track (3.5km) is a great introduction to dramatic gorges and waterfalls, pristine eucalypt forests and lush greenery.
Visit the Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre on the way out. Inside you can learn about local history, wildlife and birdwatching, or undertake one of the Aboriginal Cultural Walks on offer.
Water plunges over 80 metres to the valley below
This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nursery can be found lurking behind Kangaroo Valley’s main strip of shops. It’s an independent boutique garden and stocks much by way of edible plants, natives, tube stock, ornamentals and more.
Wander aimlessly and admire the dedication that has gone into each section, and make sure you stop to chat to one of the friendly green-thumbed staff to ask a question or two.
Peruse the Village Green Nursery
Looking to hone your kitchen prowess or expand your weekly culinary repertoire? Slide into Hampden Deli: the cosy deli, café and cooking school that calls Kangaroo Valley home.
Before rolling up their sleeves as teachers, owners Nick Gardner and Stevie-Lee Bounader spent years cutting their teeth in fine dining restaurants. Head Chef Nick trained at Nelson Bay’s Zest, before working at some of Sydney’s best restaurants (think Quay and Tetsuya’s).
Now the space serves as a spot where you can learn the fundamentals of cooking. From pairing the right produce, to quick and easy preparation techniques and bread making, the rotating roster of cooking classes will keep you motivated in the kitchen.
Take a class at Hampden Deli, Dining and School
It’s hard to sum up the beauty of Barranca in just a few words. This place is deserving of a thesis –one line for every time you utter the word ‘wow’ throughout your stay here.
The first ‘wow’ moment will come the minute your car rolls onto the 400-hectare, privately-owned property. A melange of animals will be there greet you: buffalo, donkey, pigs and horses – including the largest horse in Australia, Stormy George.
Designed by award-winning Grove Architects in Woollahra, Barranca’s four luxury villas — Ferndale, Willow, Jacaranda and Banksia — face north, capturing breathtaking views while immersed in all-day sunlight.
Each private residence comes complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, polished concrete floors and contemporary furnishings. Feel jute rugs underfoot while basking in those magic Kangaroo Valley sunsets, then retreat to the fully-equipped kitchen to put those newly-acquired cooking skills from Hampden Deli, Dining and School to use.
If long days of exploring have you in need of some R&R, there is a calming in-room menu of services that includes massages and spa treatments. You’ll leave feeling both Zen and thankful someone told you about Barranca.
It’s hard to sum up the beauty of Barranca in just a few words