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Overlooking Swinging Bridge Wines vineyard towards Gaahna bula-Mount Canobolas. Photography by Pip Farquarson.
Sophie Hansen
Sophie Hansen Orange, NSW
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A vibrant food and wine scene, cellar doors galore, top-notch produce, interesting art … here’s an insider’s guide to an awesome New South Wales town, by local cook and food writer Sophie Hansen.

Moving to Orange was never the plan but never a hardship, either. Even then, 18 years ago, it was rich pickings for food and wine lovers, thanks mostly to a budding wine industry. Where wine is made, restaurants will open to pour it. 

My first date with my now husband in Orange was dinner at legendary Selkirks with chef Michael Manners at the pans, cooking the venison Tim was producing at the family farm. Selkirks has since closed its doors, having put regional restaurants and Orange on the “places we take seriously” map. Other venues have risen to the challenge. Shiny new cellar doors and wine bars have opened, and cafe after cafe has sprung up amid an interesting string of shops and galleries. 

Orange is a big hitter but it still feels small, in the best possible way. For example, when you visit a cellar door in Orange, you’ll probably do a tasting with the winemaker, or someone close to and passionate about the process. When you visit one of our small galleries you might be shown around by the artist. When you go to the farmers’ markets you’ll probably be buying direct from the farmer or maker. 

Though food and wine are enough to keep me happy, this is a town with the full gamut of experiences. We have a new art gallery and an interesting public art program (google the trail of “golden balls” for more). And thanks to my teenage son’s interest in mountain-biking, I’ve had the (terrifying) pleasure of taking the appropriately named Trail of Awesomeness, which runs down the slopes of Gaanha bula-Mount Canobolas, from the Lidster side and into the forest. The view from the top is spectacular. 

So, here is my own Trail of Awesomeness, aka a local’s guide to Orange.

Just click on the drop-down menus for my suggestions about where to eat, drink, stay and what to do. And we’ll also be joined by local artist-lawyer Sarah Barrett to hear how she’d spend a dream day in and around Orange.

Sophie Hansen is a food writer and cook living on her family’s farm on the outskirts of Orange. Her fifth book, What Can I Bring? (Murdoch Books) is out now.

Where to eat (and drink)

The Union Bank

The UB is firing. The recent award of its first chef’s hat in the Good Food Guide is just one indicator of this. The other is that it’s always busy, though the space is big enough that you can generally find a table. The menu is designed to share (though I do resist/resent sharing the famous house hash brown), the cocktail and wine lists are impressive, and sitting in the courtyard under a giant magnolia tree strung with festoon lights and filled with happy people sharing delicious food and wine is a properly good time. 

84 Byng St, Orange 


In the pretty village of Millthorpe, about 20 minutes’ drive south of Orange, Tonic has been setting a high bar for just over 20 years. In that time, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy special dinners, a friend’s wedding and long lunches in the care of owners Tony and Nicole Worland (hence the name Tonic). Every visit has been memorable, the service consummate, and the food fancy but not pretentious or heavy. Tony does great things with local truffles and is clever with the classics.

Cnr Pym and Victoria Sts, Millthorpe

Printhie Dining

This new-ish cellar door and restaurant high up on the folds of Gaahna bula-Mount Canobolas is sleek but friendly, and the restaurant, with its well-deserved Good Food Guide chef’s hat, is fine dining at its best. By which I mean, you’ll have the full tasting menu, plus wine and leave happily sated, rather than needing a lie-down. Dishes are well balanced and meticulously assembled. Can you tell how much I love this place?

You can also visit for a wine tasting and/or book a seat at the wine bar for oysters from the in-house tank, freshly shucked and served with a glass of Printhie’s award-winning sparkling. The impressive trophy cabinet includes one for best Australian sparkling wine at the 2022 Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships, awarded to the Swift 2011 Blanc de Blancs.

208 Nancarrow La, Nashdale

Raku Izakaya

For something light and very tasty and a glass of something equally good, try this contemporary Japanese izakaya on the main street. Raku’s spicy sashimi poke and a chilled glass of Rowlee chardonnay is my choice for a special-treat lunch. 

129 summer street, Orange

Carriers Arms

An old pub with a bit of a twist. The vibe is friendly and low-key, and it’s well priced. The pizzas are terrific and available to take away - handy for a twilight picnic in Cook Park or out at Lake Canobolas, or on the couch.

133 Lords Place, Orange

Groundstone Cafe

Perhaps before or after browsing the newly refurbished art gallery (about 15 steps away), the Groundstone is a great place for breakfast or lunch. Generous salad bowls are a winner here, the burgers, too, are much loved, and they do mean shoestring fries. Plus it’s licensed. This is a lovely open space tended by a great team. 

151a Byng Street, Orange

Spilt Milk

Ice-cream can be a meal, can’t it? Spilt Milk is a favourite spot for my family; the flavours are seasonal and handmade in small batches, often using local ingredients - for example, a recent run of locally grown saffron and rosewater gelato. And it’s open late, making this ice-creamery the obvious way to end an evening out in town. Hazelnut with a drizzle of hot Nutella is my pick.

45 Sale Street Orange

Racine Bakery

This is the place for picnic supplies. Grab a loaf of house sourdough, some cheeses and goodies from the fridge, a few tarts and maybe a slice of the carrot cake and head out to Lake Canobolas for a lazy afternoon. They make good coffee, too.

Entry via Woolworths carpark, behind 166B Summer Street, Orange

Good Eddy Cafe

When visiting Orange during the week, I highly recommend this café. Its coffee is my favourite and they do the best avocado toast. It has something to do with the lemon juice squeezed on top - word is the lemons come from co-owner Maddie’s mum’s garden, and they’re Meyers. 

87 Lords Place, Orange

Where to drink (and eat)

Hey Rosey

Go here. You’ll love it. The wine list is interesting, and the staff know it thoroughly. They always have good tips. They make a deadly martini and negroni. The turntable spins sweet tunes on vinyl, the bar looks straight into the kitchen, and there’s a generally lovely vibe of a place that’s cool but welcoming, with zero attitude. But the main drawcard for me is the food. The beef tartare with crunchy buckwheat and Murray cod crudo are current favourites. The kitchen works closely with small producers and the seasons, so the menu changes frequently and it’s always presented with a deft hand and an interesting twist. 

301 Summer St, Orange 

Pinnacle Lookout

Late in the afternoon, pack a backpack with a few mugs, some local cheeses (Second Mouse), salami (Cured), apples (markets or Hillside), a knife and some crackers and drive about 10 kilometres out of town on the Pinnacle Road. On the way, stop at Ross Hill Wines and pick up a bottle of its Pinnacle Series Blanc de Blancs, then drive another couple of kilometres to the Pinnacle Lookout. That’s a lot of Pinnacles – we are talking peak experiences here after all. Walk uphill for about 10 minutes and at the top is my favourite spot in Orange: a 360-degree tableau of mountain, orchards, vines and countryside. There is (almost) no higher point between here and the Indian Ocean; the lookout sits at 1200 metres above sea level, just 197 metres short of nearby Gaahna bula-Mount Canobolas. In short, it’s very high, the views are sweeping and there’s a nice bench to park yourself and have the best sundowner of all. 

1189 Pinnacle Rd, Canobolas


Also known as the Orange Wine Centre, here you can have a tasting, a half glass or a full pour of wines from nearly every vineyard in the region, plus a few extras. The staff are knowledgeable and generous with that knowledge, and in winter especially – when the fire is roaring, the lighting gentle and the buzz warm – it’s a terrific place to go on your own with a book or with others to share a cheese plate and bottle. Ferment’s marmalade gin and tonic is outstanding, too. Out the back is a tiny local bottle shop, a good place to pick up a few bottles, or a case or two, if you’re flying through town and don’t have time on this trip to visit cellar doors.

87 Hill St, Orange 


This is the all-day, bistro-style eatery from the team that brought us Lolli Redini. (Vale, we miss you.) Sim and Leah have created a relaxed space with a casual menu focused on excellent pasta. The drinks list is ever-changing and always strong. This is a good place to try local wines with tasty bar snacks. 

120-122 Summer Street, Orange

Gladstone Hotel

A proper pub just a few blocks from the main street, and my town pub of choice. We love sitting outside under the Gladdy’s verandah with a cold beer, watching life go by and the locals flood in. There’s an in-house Thai restaurant that does the job (well) and often live music in the bar. 

71 Byng St, Orange 

Parrot Distilling Co

Of all the gin joints in town, this is the best. And only. But still, Parrot is a terrific spot. I highly recommend a tasting of the Parrot’s house-made gins; it’s fun and a good way to learn about about mixing. And then stay for pizza and more gin.

66 Endsleigh Ave, Orange

See Saw

Our neighbour, See Saw wines, recently opened a cellar door. It’s close to Lake Canobolas - perhaps walk the lake loop before or after a visit. It’s a winner for tastings cleverly matched with tasty morsels; the likes of grilled peaches, stracciatella, thyme honey and basil with See Saw’s whites. Lots of space, light and friendly faces here. 

42 Lake Canobolas Rd, Nashdale

What to do

Cellar doors

With 30 or so cellar doors currently on the map, how to choose and where to start? Here are four places I always recommend, all of them quite high on the slopes of Gaahna bula-Mount Canobolas and all of them makers of ultra-cool-climate wines. In both senses. So, head out to Nashdale then duck up Nancarrow Lane to visit Printhie Wines (see above), then keep going up to De Salis for some of the region’s best views and most interesting wines, presented by the wine-making Svenson family. Our last visit included a tasting of a 2016 chardonnay that was like nectar. Then it’s off to Rikard Wines. Get comfy on the Chesterfields in the barrel room looking over the vines and towards the mountain, and settle in for a tasting with winemaker Will Rikard-Bell or one of his team. When we visited we tasted with former sommelier and future winemaker Brenda Lucca. We left with wine and some new tips for what to team it with (for example, try a dry sparkling with a big steak – brilliant). And a little further along, pop in to see James Sweetapple at Cargo Road Wines. He’s one of the OG Orange winemakers and produces my favourite riesling. 

Orange Farmers Market

Try to time your visit on the second Saturday of the month so you can hit up the Orange Farmers Market. Open 8am-noon, it’s the best snapshot of what’s made and grown in this fertile part of the country. Depending on the season you’ll find fresh garlic, miso, stonefruit, apples, quinces, wine, cider, elderflower fizz, vegies, cheeses, salamis and plants. One constant is Trunkey Bacon & Pork’s bacon-and-egg rolls (the bacon-to-egg ratio is excellent) and good coffee. 

Naylor Pavilion, Orange Showground, Leeds Parade

On your bike

Mountain-bike riding is on the rise in Orange on a network of trails around Gaahna Bulla-Mount Canobolas that I have cycled (and survived) and loved. Some parts are terrifying (nice and slow does it) and the views are spectacular. Bring your own bike or rent one from the friendly folk at DG Cycle. Catch the shuttle bus up the mountain if you prefer only the downhill ride.

Come to F.O.O.D Week

It’s a year-round party around here, but the main event is F.O.O.D Week (Food of the Orange District). This is Australia’s oldest food festival. Every April – this year on 5-14 April - we gear up for a packed program of events including cooking classes, night (and day) markets, distilling workshops, picnics, sparkling-wine masterclasses, concerts, vineyard and farm tours, and more. The now-famous Forage is a five-kilometre walk through vineyards and orchards with food stops along the way; it books out in minutes so you need to be well organised and ready to click when tickets go on sale. In spring (October) there’s a wine festival, in winter (August) a fire festival, and in summer (February) the Banjo Patterson Poetry Festival.

Play golf

Not my game but if any course was to tempt me, it would be Duntryleague. From the big old clubhouse to the big old trees surrounding each hole, it’s a beautiful spot.

Pick fruit

Many of Orange’s orchards offer pick-your-own experience. Cherries from November to January and apples in autumn are the main events. And through summer and early autumn, we pick berries and figs, too. For starters, try Hillside Harvest, Thornbrook OrchardNorland Figs (in December and then again in autumn) and the Huntley Berry Farm. The team at Orange information centre is very helpful and well informed about who is open and what’s up for grabs (literally), so call or call in, then grab a basket and get picking.

Where to stay


Among the latest arrivals on Orange’s luxe accommodation scene are three cabins at Basalt, near the summit of Gaahna bula-Mount Canobolas. They’re luxurious, clever and something quite different. Each cabin has a log fire in a comfortable lounge, huge bath, well-kitted kitchen, fire pit with views for days, and every detail and special touch you might hope for and even not expect. We had a mid-week escape here recently and it was exceptional. We took our own dinner picnic, used the telescope provided to seek out some stars, and came down the hill feeling completely refreshed.

1100 Pinnacle Rd, Canobolas

Byng St Hotel

Feeling special? This is your place. The Byng St Hotel is a renovated old mansion just a few blocks from the centre of town. The rooms are all different, some with inky blue walls and oversized fabric headboards, some with access to the old verandah lined with wicker furniture, and some connected to the garden. The public spaces are quite beautiful, with sculptural window fittings throwing light around the lounge, and art, colour and interesting design at every turn. It’s perfect for a special occasion, because it really is special. 

62 Byng St, Orange 

The Oriana

Very retro. Very fun. The Oriana is a well-priced, recently renovated motel in town with its own pool and pool bar. There’s a strong Palm Springs vibe happening here. There’s also a wonderfully camp restaurant, The Peacock Room, where the vibe might be playful but the kitchen is serious about its food. The Bela Vista Bar does a mean cocktail and I enjoy the bar snacks. It’s a fun place and everyone we send here to stay raves about it. Norwegian-born owner Espen Harbitz is doing something different and it’s great to see. 

178-184 Woodward St, Orange

Nashdale Lane Glamping

Surrounded by vines, orchards and dams but not far from town, these tents are perfectly situated and set up. They’re part of the Nashdale Lane winery, which has a funky cellar door for tastings. 

125 Nashdale Lane, Nashdale

The Farm Kitchen BnB

Disclaimer: this is our place, so it’s easy to be biased. This is where we used to base our farm tours and lunches, back when we farmed venison. Last year we renovated the shed as a quiet farmstay for couples, 25 minutes’ drive from town. Breakfast is a generous spread of freshly baked sourdough, granola, fruit, and jams and there’s always a cake set out on arrival. The space is colourful and very chill. The front lawn is the place for cricket matches, Finksa, drinks, lunch under the quince tree and supper by the firepit (in the cooler, non-fire-ban months). This spot is also home to monthly cooking classes.

25 minutes west of Orange on the Cargo Road. Specific address and directions will be sent on booking.

Central Caleula Motor Lodge

For central, clean and affordable lodgings, this is a solid option and a good base for exploring the region. It’s on the main street, close to lovely Cook Park and a stroll to the café-nursery Anything Grows.

60 Summer Street, Orange

Mayfield Vineyard

From its heritage-listed homestead to smaller cottages, there are a range of accommodation options here presented with great style and care, set in the property’s park-like gardens. There’s a handy cellar door for the family’s wine label, too. It’s popular for weddings and wedding groups, so book ahead.

954 Icely Road, Orange

A dream day with Sarah Barrett

Orange-based lawyer and artist Sarah Barrett plans a day out with her family, starting with coffee and ending with gelato. 

MY DREAM day in Orange starts at Racine Bakery for sourdough and croissants – they’re as close to France as you’ll get – before dropping into Byng St Café for Allpress coffee. It’s always friendly and I love their brews. 

Next step is to grab the kids and head up to Gaanha bula-Mount Canobolas, an extinct volcano and the highest peak in the central west at nearly 1.4 kilometres above sea level. It’s only about a 10-minute drive from town and almost at the top is the Federal Falls loop, a walk that delivers knock-out views and immersion in the local bushland – capped off, of course, by the falls themselves. We might stop at the bottom and have our pastries and a drink before hiking back up the hill.

By now it’s probably lunchtime and on the way down the mountain we’ll stop at Borrodell Vineyard’s restaurant, Sister’s Rock. Borrodell is one of Australia’s highest vineyards and the view from the restaurant deck basically sums up this region: a patchwork of orchards, vineyards, and rolling green. There’s space for active children to run around (looking at you, Barretts), the menu is Italian-inspired and heavy on local produce, and it’s just a beautiful place to spend a few sunny hours in good company.

Lunch done, it’s back down the mountain we go, well fed, watered and ready for some quiet time. We’ll explore the recently renovated Orange Regional Gallery with its permanent collection including paintings by Elisabeth Cummings, Margaret Olley, Brett Whiteley, Sidney Nolan and John Walker, alongside a rotation of temporary exhibitions. If we have time, I love popping into local artist Maddi Young’s Corner Store Gallery, a wonderfully intimate and privately owned gallery that showcases local artists and makers. 

If the kids are still with me, we’ll grab a picnic dinner and head to Cook Park to enjoy the towering trees dating back to the 1870s, and its Art Deco fernery, aviary and a 1930s glass conservatory; between February and April each year, this is the site of an incredible display of begonias. Otherwise, I’ll sneak down to Hey Rosey, a hip new addition to Orange’s food and wine scene. The bar menu is balanced and delicious. 

On the way home, kids or no kids, we’ll duck into Spilt Milk for a scoop or two of its small-batch gelato. My favourite is the honeycomb. 

And that’s it. A dreamy day in Orange.

A bit further afield: Manildra and the movies

Fancy heading further afield? Sophie Hansen spends a day in the dark – in a heritage cinema and ancient limestone caves.

About half an hour’s drive north-west of Orange is the town of Manildra, population 822, known to some for its enormous flour mill and to others for one of the oldest movie theatres in the country. 

The Amusu Theatre has been in continuous operation since 1936, and these days it’s run by a team of volunteers who care for the original carbon projector, original seating, original curtains – all of it – with so much love. 

New releases are screened on the third weekend of each month. Even if your visit doesn’t chime with a screening, be sure to visit the Amusu museum next door at Tom’s Garage – the theatre was built by Allan Tom, who showed his last film at the Amusu in 1995, a week before his death at 93. The museum is open most weekends, but best check its Facebook page or website before heading out.

Either way, make a day of it and add a couple of stops on the way from Orange. First could be at Hillside Harvest at Borenore, a well-stocked pantry of local produce. Depending on when you visit, there might be pick-your-own stonefruit, apples or figs in adjacent paddocks, and the shop itself sells pre-picked fruit and vegies, as well as cheeses, dips and breads. Everything you might need for a little picnic. 

All of this could be enjoyed just a little further on at the Borenore Caves, where there’s a big grassy park, barbecues, picnic tables and the odd ancient limestone cave to explore. It’s quite beautiful here – we used to come here often when the kids were little. The Arch Loop Track is a short walk from the picnic area through the closest caves, all well-stocked with stalactites, stalagmites and columns.

When you get to Manildra, stop in at the Royal Hotel for a pre-movie refreshment. This is a good country pub with a menu of classics to match. Share a burger or pizza (or similar) in the shady courtyard just around the corner from the theatre. I have fond memories of this pub and the day we came out for a special screening of the movie Grease. The whole town seemed to be here, dressed up as their favourite character, and everyone gathered for the after-party at the pub.

A shorter version of this article was featured in Galah Issue 09: Home