The picturesque Yass Valley is a perfectly accessable weekend road trip from Sydney and Canberra, and often overlooked. Which is your loss.
When most people think of Aussie wine regions, the Yass Valley is probably not at the top of the list (or even the middle for that matter). With a history of producing quality merino fleece, the area has long been considered the quintessence of a pastoral country idyll. But these days the ground here is increasingly being used to produce wines instead of wool, many of which are giving the big names a run for their money. The area presents the perfect long weekend escape to the country, complete with quaint towns, impressive cellar doors and quality cafes and restaurants using the abundant local produce. Here, the ideal itinerary.
The three-hour drive south-west from Sydney, through the stunning scenery of the Southern Tablelands, delivers you to the town of Yass, once the hub of all things sheep related. Its prosperous past is writ large in the myriad grand Victorian and Federation buildings that flank its wide main street.
After strolling past former bank buildings, the imposing post office complete with clock tower and elegant courthouse, head to the interesting local collective of Trader & Co. for lunch and seriously good coffee courtesy of socially conscious locals Six8 Coffee Roasters.
Next, duck into Banjo Paterson Park (the bush poet spent some of his early years in the Yass Valley and later bought a property here so his children could experience a similar country childhood to his) and then pay a visit to Cooma Cottage – the home of another famous local, the Australian-born explorer Hamilton Hume.
Finish a busy day with dinner at Clementine, a ’50s weatherboard cottage owned by Brooke Sainsbery and Adam Bantock, who curate a menu of European classics and local wines.
The landscape surrounding the town of Murrumbateman, a 20-minute drive from Yass, is home to some of the region’s best cold-climate wineries. Park the car and use pedal power to navigate your way from one to the other down quiet country roads.
Standouts include: Shaw Wines, with its imposing architecturally designed cellar door; The Vintner’s Daughter, co-owned by Stephanie Helm who started making wine at her parents’ winery aged nine; the relaxed Clonakilla; and Murrumbateman Winery. Most offer cheese and share plates to accompany wine tastings. Swing by Robyn Rowe Chocolates to grab some hand-crafted treats to enjoy later with your cellar door purchases.
Yass isn’t the only town worth attention in these parts. The Yass Valley and its surrounds (also considered part of the Canberra region, #10) are dotted with quaint country towns and villages; spend a whole day going from one to the next at an easy pace.
Binalong, the childhood home of Banjo Paterson, also has ties to bushrangers such as Ben Hall who frequented the area in the 1800s; a mural in Pioneer Park recounting the death of bushranger ‘Flash’ Johnny Gilbert at the hands of the police is a focal point, and there’s some impressive period architecture.
Twenty minutes away is Bowning, one of the area’s earliest settlements; check out the Cobb & Co. Coaching Station, Troopers Cottage and the Bowning Hotel, a quintessential Aussie pub where, local legend has it, Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson used to drink.
Add these to your itinerary, too
Three stylish stays
1. The design-driven Abode Murrumbateman has 50 stylish rooms, a large and cosy foyer and a communal gourmet kitchen where guests can cook up a storm with produce collected on your journey or dip into the pantry stocked with delicious local goods (including wines).
2. The delightful boutique Tallagandra Hill Winery has three self-contained, stylishly decorated cottages to choose from. Prepare dinner yourself in the kitchen or order in a cheese or charcuterie platter and a bottle of the property’s finest and sit out on your deck overlooking the vineyard.
3. Yass Tiny Farm and Accommodation has two eco-friendly, off-grid options: the Luxury Farmhouse Suite is a stylishly appointed self-contained suite with a king bed, full kitchen and fireplace; The Tiny House, located in the farm’s top paddock, has a queen bed, kitchenette and stunning views of the Brindabellas.