Not the fruit, the Prince

Trip Start Jun 12, 2010
Trip End Jun 14, 2010

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Sunday, October 31, 2010

Along with our friends Debra and Clayton, Nathan and I took a Friday off work for a long weekend of wine, food and fun at Orange, in the NSW Central Tablelands.
We headed west straight after work on Thursday evening, stopping only for a quick pub dinner at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains before reaching our destination just after 11pm. We had booked a cabin in one of the local caravan parks on the outskirts of town under the premise it had two double beds – it didn’t. Nath looked quite funny trying to squeeze into a bunk with his long legs. It didn’t matter much though as we were hardly there.
On Friday morning we had a look around Orange, a pleasant city with wide streets, lovely parks and refurbished but historic shop fronts. Contrary to popular belief, the climate is too cold to grow Oranges there. The town is actually named after Willem, Prince of Orange; a name bestowed in 1846 by the Dutch royal’s friend Sir Thomas Mitchell, Surveyor-General of NSW.
After a cafe breakfast we did a lap around the main street and up to Cook Park, with its pretty gardens. Then we headed out into the countryside to a couple of vineyards for some wine tasting. The owner of the second vineyard was particularly hospitable – we sat outside and he even tried to point out the resident group of kangaroos but I think they were hiding. Nearby we drove up to the top of Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area, which afforded a great view of the area. We went on a short bushwalk where we saw lots of crimson rosellas and some big skink lizards. We managed to squeeze in one more vineyard that afternoon before heading back to town for some supplies.
That night we went out for a posh dinner at one of the wineries, in a picturesque setting overlooking the valley.
On Saturday morning we visited a lovely, small historical town called Molong, full of historical shop fronts and houses and colourful locals, including a witch at the newsagent. (Well, it was Halloween!).
Then we visited some vineyards in the area. As we were leaving down the long gravel road from the first one we saw a Brown Snake cross the road, it was very exciting but we were glad we were in the car! At the second vineyard, Prince of Orange Wines, the winemaker gave us a history lesson about the Prince of Orange while we sipped the wines and tried a few cheeses they were sampling.
At Cargo Road Wines we had a lovely lunch amongst the vines – a few other groups came and went but the owner was really friendly and told us quite a lot about the wine-making process, and I got talking to him about the local birds of prey.
The last vineyard we were less impressed with. He was supposed to be the “rock star” winemaker of the area but we weren’t taken with any of them and agreed they would be good cellared for a couple of years. By that stage we were shooting the breeze and had tasted enough that we didn’t really know what we were talking about anyway!
A quick change for dinner back at the cabin and then we walked a couple of kilometres into the city centre, where we had a tasty dinner at a lovely upmarket pub. It had a great outdoor area and we found it was warm enough to sit outside. Afterwards we went to another pub for a drink – more of a characteristically Australian country pub with wide verandahs. Again we saw some colourful characters.
After packing up the next morning we enjoyed a cafe breakfast before setting off south of town to a berry farm. Unfortunately we were a couple of weeks too early for berry picking but it was a nice drive.
From there we drove south east to Millthorpe, a quaint, tree-lined historic town. We visited the Golden Memories Museum there for some local history about the massive gold mine nearby, bushranging stories, the people of Millthorpe’s contribution to the wars and a look at some vintage farming machinery and all sorts of odds and ends. The old guy running the show was very talkative and was trying to convince us all to move there! We then meandered down the quiet main street to the old railway station for a look.
Leaving town, we made one last stop along the highway at the Beekeeper's Inn for some lunch. We sampled some local honeys and bought some Aussie tucker produce before hitting the road back to Sydney. It was a perfect (long) weekend getaway and we really must plan more of them.
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