Warm your heart and fill your stomach next to a roaring fire this winter. That’s the seductive call of the Fireside Festival, held each August in Canberra and neighbouring villages such as Yass, Hall, Murrumbateman and Gundaroo. Their month-long program of food, wine and entertainment is guaranteed to lift your spirits alongside some chill-combating flames.
Foodies will love this cozy celebration of the region’s famous produce and cool-climate wines. Start your day with roasted marshmallows and a cup of hot chocolate at a fireside brunch in Hall, just 25 minutes from Canberra. In the gourmet village of Gundaroo, you can sit down to wood-fired pizza in the old stables or a degustation dinner, where fire twirlers dance light across each course.
Afterwards, tour the Lake George vineyards or sip muscat in a candle-lit Murrumbateman cellar. Local winemakers will tell you about the region’s diverse styles - from sangiovese to riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz - and the different microclimates that produce them.
Test out Canberra’s reputation for first-class food with a café lunch next to a crackling log fire. You’ll soon learn the city’s secret is staying faithful to local, farm-fresh produce. The connection between culinary pleasure and sustainability is central to the Slow Food movement taking off across the region. Find out more during the festival with a slow food cooking class in an organic kitchen.
Food and wine aren’t the only features of this fireside fun. A performance by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra in a barrel-lined cellar room is a regular highlight. Past festivals have also featured piano recitals, treacled afternoon jazz and virtuoso guitar concerts. For ultimate winter listening, snuggle into an oversized chair with a glass of port or pinot noir.
Fan your creative flames at art exhibitions, poetry readings by local writers or pottery demonstrations on wood-fired kilns. You can even trade art for adventure and try mustering sheep on horseback before a campfire lunch. Then there’s the festival finale – a barbeque dinner or five-course feast followed by dazzling fireworks in a local paddock.
Don’t let the fireside glow fade at the end of the day. Relax with a hot stone massage before falling into bed at your country cottage, boutique bed and breakfast or Canberra city hotel.
If you miss the blaze of activity in August, head to the Murrumbateman Moving Feast in the first weekend in October. Participating wineries will match your locally-grown cool-climate grape to a scrumptious plate. Or join the Canberra District Wine Harvest Festival in the first weekend in April. Wineries from Lake George, Bungendore, Murrumbateman and Hall celebrate the harvest with two delicious days of eating, drinking and music.
Of course, for a winter escape, the warmth of Canberra’s collective firesides is hard to beat.