Hop to it: A Kangaroo Valley Weekender
Here’s a hot take for the colder months in Australia – the Kangaroo Valley is the perfect winter weekend escape from the big smoke of Sydney. Bordered by the Southern Highlands and the beauty of the South Coast, this region of quintessential bushland is dotted with unique and charismatic small towns, fantastic wineries and some incredible displays of local produce. You’ll find space to breathe and plenty of opportunity for charm and romance – if that’s what you’re hoping for.
We finish work on a Friday and drive the easy 2 hours as the sun is setting in the west. We reach our Airbnb-booked ‘tiny house’ just as the stars are beginning to really put on a show. The Milky Way gleamed overhead. Wallabies and wombats scurry out from the scrub, eyes glowing in the car’s headlights. We’ve well and truly made it ‘out bush’.
Kangaroo Valley Weekend Trip: Day One
Our Saturday is spent bouncing between the inordinately quaint villages of the Southern Highlands. Bundanoon – the perfectly named home of the annual highland games – is home to an outstanding number of cafés. At the Jumping Rock we soak in the comfort of the start of a weekend spent out of the city.
From here, we begin our self-devised wine trail. Safe to say, if you want to sample everything the region has to offer, you will need to drive. As wineries go – St Maur is home to a surprising Chardonnay, Cuttaway Hill to a superb sparkling and at Southern Highlands Winery a perfectly full-bodied Pinot Noir.
We set up camp at their Cellar Door and Restaurant for a late lunch and were not disappointed. Set overlooking the estate and vineyard, the menu showcases intricately simple Italian fare using locally sourced produce, including yabbies caught from the nearby dam. Definitely a hidden gem amongst tourist traps that tend to dominate the area.
We finish our Saturday flight of cellar door visits by heading to the always stunning Bendooley Estate. This grand estate is a spectacular example of charm and grace. The cellar door provides a great space for quaffing wine beside an open fire with a great book from the book barn next door. Slow down, take your time – you deserve it, right?
That night, we start our exploration of Moss Vale – yet another charming rural town really coming into its own in terms of vibrancy and culture. We by chance stumble upon Birch, a relative newcomer to the scene that showcases that enigmatic genre of ‘Modern Australian’ cooking, with the menu changing to reflect the season.
Retiring to the cabin, we spend a morning listening to the kookaburra out the window laugh to his mates while we sipped tea and devoured the incredible almond croissants from the local Gumnut Patisserie.
Our Sunday is spent heading east towards the ever-popular Berry. Along the way, we find great coffee and beautiful design stores in Moss Vale (including Highlands Merchant & Made by Others), wind our way through the tight corners of the valley and cross the famous Hampden Bridge to Kangaroo Valley proper. We’ve heard great things about the cheeseburger pie at Southern Pies. If you’re not into that kind of thing, the honey-roast pumpkin and spinach is also raved about.
Not to be ones to shy away from a winery visit – we make a quick stop at Silos Estate. Home of some fab sparkling red amongst other greats, Silos always makes you feel welcome. We set ourselves up with local cheese and alpaca salami as we make our way through the winery’s offerings. We’ll definitely have to swing by again to eat at their restaurant. Set in a 100-year-old hay shed, it’s run by head chef Nick Gardner of some of Sydney’s great restaurants including Quay and Tetsuya’s.
The final stop on our Kangaroo Valley weekend trip – Berry. This stylish village seemingly triples its population each weekend, with yuppie couples (not excluding ourselves from that crowd) and international tourists alike, rummaging through boutiques and vintage stores and marvelling at the sleepy heritage architecture. The Berry Donut Van is an institution, and for good reason – though you might have a bit of a wait for your cinnamon-sugar dreams. The Berry Sourdough Café – sitting pretty in a restored 1890s building – never disappoints to provide a great lunch spread and some perfect pastry morsels for that post-lunch sugar rush. Can you tell I’m into baked goods?
Then it’s a quick-smart 2-hour drive home after a great weekend of eating, drinking and general merriment – car full of wine and glorious yellow wattle cut from the side of the road. Even without the yuppie wonders, the Southern Highlands and Kangaroo Valley plays host to some beautiful bush walking trails, the immense Fitzroy Falls and tranquil Cecil Hoskins wetlands – creating an idyllic backdrop to whatever you fancy, really. So go on, hop to it.
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