It may be known as the land of many crows, but Wagga Wagga and surrounds is fast evolving into the land of boutique stays, quality coffee, gourmet restaurants, fine wines and rich cultural experiences.
Planted alongside the Murrumbidgee River near the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales’ Riverina region is Wagga Wagga. Translated as ‘the land of many crows’ from the Wiradjuri Aboriginal language, the inland city is emerging as one of the state’s most idyllic weekend escapes. We’ve uncovered the best places to eat, stay and play while you’re there.
The Blessed Bean
The Blessed Bean is located on one of Wagga’s main streets in the centre of town. The specialty coffee roasters serves up excellent coffee alongside a well-rounded breakfast menu. You’ll find old favourites such as eggs benedict, smashed avocado, eggs your way and granola served with seasonal fruits and yoghurt, as well as a selection of tasty sides to build your own ideal dish.
Address: 10 Best Street, Wagga Wagga, NSW
At first glance Fitzmaurice looks like a tiny takeaway cafe with limited outdoor seating, but step inside through the door to the left and you’ll find the cafe’s cosy indoor seating area. Industrial-looking lights dangle from the jungle growth of greenery on the ceiling and chilled tunes play over the speakers. Sit and enjoy a coffee and one of the many treats from the cafe’s counter cabinet, or choose from their extensive all-day breakfast menu. There are also salads, wraps and focaccias available to order for lunch. The cafe offers gluten-free and vegan options.
Address: 84-86 Fitzmaurice Street, Wagga Wagga, NSW
Trail Street Coffee Shop
The Trail Street Coffee Shop is a bit of an institution in Wagga. Established in 1999, the cafe grinds up specialty beans from Port Macquarie’s Premium Coffee Roasters and serves one of the best coffees you’ll find in town.
It’s the kind of quirky, edgy cafe you’d expect to find in diverse Sydney suburbs like Marrickville, with lycra-clad cyclists sitting outside enjoying their coffee pit stop, early-risers typing away on their laptops and groups of young and old who come for the food, coffee and company. Top it all off with a stellar breakfast and lunch menu and you can see why this is a local favourite.
Address: 34 Trail Street, Wagga Wagga, NSW
Cottontail Restaurant & Winery
This family-owned-and-run restaurant and vineyard is just 15 minutes from the centre of town. Ask for a seat on the deck so you can enjoy the view (they have ample heating, so don’t worry about the cold). Cottontail’s menu offers a mix of real good comfort food and modern dining, so you can share a few wood-fired pizzas or go a bit fancier with crispy pork belly or the trio of lamb. Don’t skip dessert – the rice chocolate pave with salted caramel, toasted hazelnuts and ice-cream is not to be missed.
Address: 562 Pattersons Road, Eunanoreenya, NSW
The Artisan Baker
You can even find a little slice of France in Wagga at the Artisan Baker on Morgan Street in the town centre. The French-born owner and baker creates the most delectable French pastries, sweets and fresh, crunchy, soft-centred baguettes.
Address: 2/189 Morgan Street, Wagga Wagga, NSW
Some of the state’s most unique and luxurious accommodation options can be found just outside of Wagga. You’ll leave feeling refreshed from a rural escape in the Riverina and energised from the peaceful surrounds of the Australian bush.
Belisi Farmstay Cottages
Just 15 minutes outside of Wagga’s CBD you’ll find Belisi Farmstay: a boutique luxury stay set amongst an equestrian school. Offering all the comforts of a home away from home, the two-bedroom cottage comfortably sleeps six, making it perfect for a romantic weekend away, a relaxing trip with the girls or a family getaway.
The cottage is constructed from recycled shipping containers; not that you’d notice. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls panelled along the front of the cottage gives you unhindered views of the stunning Riverina countryside, horses grazing in the paddocks and the soft lights of Wagga twinkling in the distance at night. A deck wraps around the front of the cottage, complete with an outdoor dining area and a fire pit in the dip below – and that’s just what’s on offer from the outside.
Upon entering you’ll discover a kitchen full of country charm (and, more importantly, an espresso coffee machine). There are built-in bookshelves full of classics and current best-sellers and then the pièce de résistance – the giant bathtub. The perfect place to watch the sunset with a glass of red and one of those books.
Choose from a number of onsite activities, including horse riding lessons, trail rides, yoga and even a facial. Place a pantry order with owner Jenni before you arrive and stock the kitchen full of locally sourced produce to enjoy during your stay. She really has thought of every detail.
Address: 1103 Oura Road, Eunanoreenya, NSW
Kimo Estate JR’s Eco Hut
Nothing says cosy, country escape like a couple of nights in a wooden-and-glass eco hut on top of a hill, complete with a fireplace, expansive views of the night sky and nothing but rolling green hills to see in every direction. A stay at Kimo Estate’s eco huts is luxury glamping at its absolute best. Linger under the rainfall shower and lather up the beautiful Leif body products, then sit by the fire with a glass or two of Gundagai’s own Borambola Wines shiraz.
A gourmet dinner basket for two is available to order and delivered direct to your door ready to cook on the barbecue. Breakfast isn’t overlooked either. You’ll find homemade baked beans, eggs, bacon, cherry tomatoes in balsamic dressing and fresh sourdough bread in the bushman outdoor fridge.
While it is closer to Gundagai than Wagga, as you’re sitting on the deck watching the sun drop behind the hills of Kimo and the sky change from hues of pink to purple and blue, you’ll agree it is more than worth the drive.
Address: 1218 Nangus Road, Gundagai, NSW
There is plenty to experience in and around Wagga; you’ll find everything from foodie experience and wineries to Aboriginal cultural tours.
Bundyi Cultural Tours
I can’t recommend the Bundyi Cultural Tours enough. Spending a couple of hours with Mark Saddler, a proud Wiradjuri man, will enrich your understanding of the local Aboriginal culture in significant ways. Not only do you get to learn about plants, animals, the Wiradjuri language, tool-making and bush tucker on a walking tour of central Wagga; but Mark encourages respectful discussion of the impact of what has been taken from his people and his vision for how we can work together towards a better future.
Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory
Could there be a better combination than licorice and chocolate? Don’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory. Owner Neil Druce is as much of a town attraction as the restored flour mill that houses his factory. Back in 1998 he had the ingenious idea to use the wheat and spelt grown on his family’s Green Grove Organics farm in Ardlethan to make licorice. Today his products can be found in shops all around Australia and overseas.
Tours are open to the public daily and allow visitors to see the magic happen behind the scenes. You can also make your own giant chocolate freckle or rocky road, or if you’d rather just eat it all you can stock up on sweets at the shop at the end.
Stay for lunch at the Millroom restaurant and if you’re visiting on a weekend there is live music from 11am to 3pm.
Address: 45-61 Lord Street, Junee, NSW
Coolamon Cheese tour and tasting
Is cheese your love language? You’ll want to take a drive to Coolamon Cheese. Take a tour of the cheese factory, eat a cheese-inspired meal (can recommend the nachos) and top it all off with a tasting platter of the Coolamon Cheese range.
Its range of semi-hard cheeses uses native ingredients such as bush tomato, alpine pepper, lemon myrtle and river mint to create uniquely Australian flavours. It also makes an impressive range of blue, soft and hard cheeses. All its cheese is handmade onsite and developed under the guidance of Australia’s most experienced cheesemaker, Barry Lillywhite.
Stock up on chef Chris’s sugared olives (we know it sounds weird but please just trust us!). They complement Coolamon’s lemon myrtle semi-hard cheese perfectly.
Address: 87 Cowabbie Street, Coolamon, NSW
Borambola Wines Tasting
Make time for a wine tasting at Borambola Wines. The owner-operator Tim McMullen is as much of a gifted storyteller as he is winemaker. There is a tale behind every wine you taste, from the time Prince Charles announced his “double joy” at tasting Tim’s wines to the bullet scars in the walls of the Old Borambola Homestead left behind after a visit from the notorious bushranger Captain Moonlite in the late 1800s.
Taste a selection of his red, white and sparkling wines, as well as his Tuckerbox ‘Hoppy Lager’ beer and apple cider; best enjoyed alongside a cheese platter. If you’re a red wine lover, you should definitely purchase a few bottles of the Hiraji’s Spell shiraz and Moonlight cabernet sauvignon.
The cellar door is open seven days a week for tastings by appointment, or book in a group tasting.
Address: 1734 Sturt Highway, Borambola, NSW
Charles Sturt Wines cellar door tasting
While you’re on the wine-tasting circuit, make another stop at Charles Sturt Wines cellar door on the university campus. You’ll find a selection of Charles Sturt’s boutique wine range and limited release Uniwines to taste and buy.
After your tasting we’d recommend ordering a cheese platter, a bottle of wine and sitting outside to enjoy the views of the countryside.
The cellar door is open for tastings and sales from 11am seven days a week.
Address: Mambarra Drive, Charles Sturt University Campus, Wagga Wagga, NSW
Food I Am cooking class
If you’d call yourself a foodie and you love experimenting in the kitchen, you’ll want to treat yourself to this unique culinary experience. Set up high on a hill overlooking Wagga’s countryside, it’s easy to see why Food I Am’s site doubles as a popular wedding reception location. The cooking school offers a range of masterclasses run by guest chefs. You’ll be introduced to numerous cooking techniques and cuisines from around the world – and get to eat everything that’s cooked on the day with regional wine and beer to drink.
Classes usually run for around four hours. Find the latest available classes to book on its website.
Address: 29 Kunzea Place (Off Dunns Road), Springvale, Wagga Wagga, NSW