Four Winds Vineyard, Murrumbateman, Australian Capital Territory
Canberra is a starting point for short trips to the Snowy Mountains, the New South Wales South Coast and a cluster of historic villages well versed in food and wine.
By Jennifer Pinkerton
Among the reasons Canberra locals love their city is the fact that, nearby, there are numerous locations from which to craft a day trip. A three hour stint on the road will land you either at the beach or the snow. Closer to home, charming small villages and towns such as Gundaroo, Bungendore and Braidwood offer a calm contrast to the hip inner city streets of the nation's capital. In a nutshell: Canberra's surrounds are all about natural beauty, character-laden stone buildings and air so clean you'll want it bottled.
Follow the foodie trail to Gundaroo
Head out past the newer Canberra suburbs of Gungahlin and Amaroo until you pass Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve. A further 20 minute drive will deliver you to Gundaroo, a pint-sized village that boasts a Gold Rush-era pub and country-style restaurant with cuisine to swoon over. Stop in for a tipple at the 144-year-old Gundaroo Colonial Inn before making a beeline for lunch at Grazing, housed in a restored, red-roofed former pub of a similar vintage. Indulge in the ash-dusted Kangaroo fillet, roo prosciutto, cassoulet beans and garden beets and the country dairy panna cotta with strawberries and candied wild rice. Veer west and return along Murrumbateman Road, making pit stops at local wineries Eden Road Wines and Four Winds Vineyard. For an afternoon cheese board or smoked meat platter, pull up a chair in the pretty gardens at Poachers Pantry, then follow the tree-lined Barton Highway back to town.
Ease east through truffle country to Braidwood
Rise early and travel an hour east to the poplar-flanked town of Braidwood, the shooting location for the classic Australian film, The Year My Voice Broke. Full of late 19th and early 20th architecture, the town is also a hotspot for antique and retro-collectable stores, such as Bernadoff and the Stur Gallery. Make your first stop the tucked away DOJO Bread for a loaf of artisan sourdough or a gourmet, handmade pie. The bakery is inside a former microbrewery, a 176-year-old building, down an alleyway opposite the National Theatre. Next, enjoy brunch and a coffee at the artfully styled Albion Café. Drive back towards Canberra via the sweet streets of Bungendore, before dropping in at biodynamic vineyard Lark Hill Winery for lunch. Because of the cool climate, Canberra's surrounds are fertile ground for truffle growing. Whet your appetite for these by selecting Lark Hill Restaurant’s pappardelle, wild mushrooms and black truffle, then steer things back onto a wine theme with a dessert of red wine poached pear, condensed milk ice cream and pistachio. On your way home via Macs Reef Road, join a truffle hunt – in which dogs locate truffles underground – at Blue Frog Truffle Farm. Hunts take place over eight weeks in winter and are held on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Ski in the Snowy Mountains or hover in Huskisson
Snow lovers: fuel up with scrumptious coffee and pastries at Silo Bakery in Kingston before hiring ski gear at Straight Line Ski and Scuba in the nearby precinct of Fyshwick. You'll pass by the townships of Bredbo and Cooma en route to the Snowy Mountains. Stop at the Bredbo Christmas Barn if you’re mad about Christmas, as this store heaves with incredible paraphernalia and is staffed by two of the country's biggest Christmas enthusiasts, "head elves" Leanne and Neville. After arcing past the serene vista of Lake Jindabyne, weave a path to Thredbo or Perisher Blue Ski Resort and ski the day away, taking in the sight of snow weighing down the branches of Australian gum trees. Leave time for an après-ski aperitif of sour apple or Williams pear schnapps at the Wild Brumby Distillery, just outside Jindabyne, on your journey back along the Monaro Highway. For more of a summer-style day trip, venture in the opposite direction out of Canberra to the blissful beachside town of Huskisson. Make your first port of call the cheerful Loaded Dog Tarago Hotel for a pub lunch, before continuing along the bushy, scenic drive though Nerriga to Huskisson. Take in the vintage shops, as well as the great cafés here, such as 5 Little Pigs and Hyams Beach Store and Café before sinking your toes into the white sand at Hyams Beach and splashing in sparkling waters. Return to Canberra via Booderee National Park and stroll along the achingly handsome, untouched Murrays Beach.
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