This rural town, west of Sydney in the New South Wales Central Tablelands, provides a tasty mix of country charm and epicurean delights, thanks to its flourishing food and wine scene.
By Alissa Jenkins
What the country town of Mudgee lacks in size, it makes up for in the gourmet experiences that have made it a weekend favourite among Sydneysiders. Geographically blessed in the picturesque Cudgegong River Valley, 270 kilometres (168 miles) west of Sydney, this fertile farmland is now the third largest grape-producing region in New South Wales. Just as impressive as the region's wine are the restaurants and the locally produced ingredients that they serve.
- Taste wines at cellar doors
- Enjoy restaurants and local produce
- Explore the beauty of Wollemi National Park
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Top things to do in Mudgee
Indulge in the local wine
With a winemaking history spanning 150 years, the Mudgee region is home to 35 wineries, each with its own style and appeal. Among the big players is Lowe Wines, run by a sixth-generation Mudgee local, with a major focus on organic and biodynamic practices. Book a seat at the Winemaker's Table Dinner for an interactive experience at the cellar door, held every third Saturday of the month. Robert Oatley is the oldest winery and vineyard in Mudgee; taste award-winning Shiraz at its cellar door. The Logan Wines Tasting Room has received countless accolades and is celebrated for its architectural design, perched on the side of a hill with uninterrupted views over the vineyards. Optimiste Wines also offers gorgeous country views, from the estate's Tasting House, a restored 100-year-old homestead. Mudgee’s warm, temperate climate is perfect for Mediterranean varieties such as Tempranillo and Garnacha. Try Vinifera’s Tempranillo – it was one of the first wineries in Australia to experiment with Spanish-style wine. Or plan your trip around one of the regular events hosted by Gooree Park Wines. As well as being a thoroughbred horse stud, Gooree Park is home to Mudgee's biggest vineyard, and combines the two industries with events such as its Wine and Wagyu Barbecue. If you'd rather taste the region's best without leaving town, pay a visit to Roth's Wine Bar, which has an extensive wine list (80 per cent of which is local), wood-fired pizza and tapas, as well as live music on Friday and Saturday.
Enjoy food to match
Wine isn't the only thing that Mudgee has a talent for producing. Thanks to fertile soil and a temperate climate, you'll find an abundance of local produce on the menus of many local restaurants. The Zin House, set among the organic vineyards of Lowe Wines, serves an unmissable six-course weekend lunch menu featuring all manner of delights grown on site, from fruit and honey to eggs and meat. Expect a warm atmosphere, no-fuss platters and a healthy dose of delicious fare. Alby & Esthers is an intimate leafy courtyard in town, specialising in local coffee and wine, as well as healthy comfort food and a rotating roster of cooking classes. The Wineglass restaurant is something of a local institution, set in a repurposed historic shed that once housed coaches and horses. With a cuisine du terroir (food of the earth) approach, expect fresh local ingredients and an ever-changing menu that reflects the seasons. A more recent addition to the Mudgee restaurant scene is Pipeclay Pumphouse. Part of the Robert Stein Winery, it’s all about paddock-to-plate food, with just about everything homegrown or locally sourced. They even cure their own meats.
Sample local delights at the farmers markets
It wouldn’t be a trip to country New South Wales without exploring the local Farmers Market, which takes place on the third Saturday of every month. Order a bacon and egg roll for breakfast from one of the stalls and peruse the tasty delights on display that have undoubtedly been grown, reared, caught, brewed, baked or bottled within the Mudgee region. Keep an eye out for tender Nanima Farm Lamb, addictive Spencer Cocoa Chocolate and High Valley’s artisan cheeses. Crave Natural stocks seriously delicious jarred fermented foods and kombucha, for a tasty keepsake to take home.
Stay in a boutique property
With more travellers becoming aware of Mudgee's gourmet offerings, boutique accommodation is on the rise. Elouera Mudgee is a stunning 52 acre (21 hectare) property, minutes from the town centre, with two self-catered hideaways to choose from: a five-bedroom homestead with wraparound veranda, and the renovated three-bedroom railway carriage. For a suave city-style stay, Perry Street Hotel comprises 13 luxuriously appointed suites with a decidedly modern style. The Cobb and Co Court Boutique Hotel offers a charming hideaway in the centre of town, while the most indulgent stay is Horizon Mudgee. With uninterrupted views of the undulating countryside, this secluded holiday house sleeps up to eight guests and comes with its own library, two fireplaces, a pool and even a helipad.
Explore Wollemi National Park
As the western fringes of Wollemi National Park border Mudgee, make a day of hiking one of the many trails that weave through this 500,000 hectare (1930 square mile) wilderness. Expect impressive sandstone canyons and tiered rock formations, waterways, more than 150 native bird species and significant Aboriginal rock art sites. Keep a look out for the Wollemi pine, one of the world’s oldest and rarest plants.
How to get there
Mudgee is almost a four hour drive west of Sydney through the stunning Blue Mountains. By air it's 45 minutes, and Pelican Airlines operates flights daily. Arrange a hire car for your arrival.