There's much ado about Mudgee in the New South Wales Central West at present, as foodies and wine lovers flock from Sydney to sample the region's bounty. Here's a checklist of ten fabulous things to see, do and taste in the region, thanks to Choice Hotels.
Set in soft, rolling countryside 270 kilometres north-west of Sydney, Mudgee is a mecca for food and wine enthusiasts.
Thanks to the town’s rich architectural heritage and flourishing art scene, there’s also plenty to please culture and history buffs. In short, it’s a near perfect short break destination, and one that’s well worth the four-hour drive from the New South Wales capital.
Why the unusual name? It comes from the Wiradjuri First People’s word ‘moothi’, meaning ‘nest in the hills’. Nestle in and enjoy all that this serene locality has to offer.
Here are ten of the best things to do in Mudgee.
1. Visit scenic cellar doors
How better to while away a languid afternoon than sampling fine wines at a boutique vineyard as you feast your eyes on one of Australia’s prettiest landscapes? With around 40 cellar door experiences to choose from, visitors to the Mudgee region are spoilt for choice. Use a wineries map to plot your course, or make a beeline to the Lowe Family Wine Company’s shady tasting terrace to sip their signature organic Zinfandel and soak up the sweeping views.
2. Take in the heritage architecture
In downtown Mudgee, two magnificent nineteenth-century sandstone churches — one Anglican, one Catholic — face off diagonally across the intersection of Market and Church Streets. There are also elegant National Trust-classified commercial premises, and at least three pubs dating from the nineteenth century, while the Cobb & Co building harks back to the glory days of horse-drawn transport in regional Australia. Other architectural standouts are the pink arcaded Post and Telegraph Office (1860s), the green Art Deco-style Regent Theatre (1930s) and the circa 1884 railway station, which now houses an arts and crafts co-operative.
3. Shop for locally sourced and created products
For jaded city retail fiends, one of the great pleasures of a regional trip like this is the chance to browse and shop for a whole new range of locally sourced, created and curated products. Check out the stunning collection of homewares at Whatever Mudgee and the array of art and craft supplies at Mudgee Art House. Indigiearth showcases an exclusive range of skincare, wellness and culinary products made with Australian native ingredients (‘from the desert to the sea’), while Mudgee Antiques in Church Street offers an outstanding collection of authenticated silverware, porcelain and furniture.
4. Indulge in the region’s finest flavours
Mudgee’s reputation as a foodie destination grows year by year, and it’s easy to see why. The fertile countryside that surrounds the town is prime land for farming fruit, meat, dairy, olives and of course grapes, all of which find their way to the tables of the local restaurants. Enjoy the vintage settings of Eltons Eating + Drinking and Roth’s Wine Bar, the latter said to be the oldest wine bar in New South Wales. Simple, fresh fare for breakfast or lunch is served at Alby & Esthers in a cute cobblestoned laneway under the shade of birch trees and vine trellises. For special-occasion dining, book a table at one of Mudgee’s two most prestigious restaurants — The Zin House at Lowe Wines or Pipeclay Pumphouse at the Robert Stein Vineyard.
5. Go back in time in Gulgong
Affectionately known as ‘the ten dollar town’ (because it was depicted on the old $10 Australian banknote), Gulgong is a living monument to the country’s pioneering past and the perfect destination for a half-day excursion from Mudgee. Admire the heritage streetscape of the old gold-mining town, then compare it with the 1870s photographs on display at the Holtermann Museum. Encounter the life and work of Gulgong’s most famous son and one of Australia’s greatest writers at the Henry Lawson Centre, then ramble through the Gulgong Pioneers Museum of industrial and farm artifacts. Top off your visit with lunch or gelato at the Rusty Owl Wine and Tapas Bar on Mayne Street.
6. Try some top distilled drops
Wine may be king in Mudgee, but there’s a new kid in town — and a new range of flavours — courtesy of the Baker Williams Distillery. It shares premises with Vinifera Wines (which we hear serves up gourmet sausage rolls on Saturdays!). Specialising in gins and liqueurs, the distillery is big on Australian native and locally sourced ingredients. Stop by to try an Orancello, Lemon Myrtle Liqueur or their best-selling Butterscotch Schnapps. As is the norm in Mudgee, the cellar door has glorious landscape views.
7. Sample the sticky stuff
Mudgee Honey Haven brings together a huge range of local honey and olive products under one roof. Try before you buy to select the naturally-flavoured or infused honey most suited to your taste. This is also a great place to learn about mead — a honey-based alcoholic drink popular in medieval times that’s now making a long overdue comeback. Mudgee Honey Haven offers free tastings of sparkling mead (something like cider), spiced mead (something like mulled wine) and mead liqueur (something like heaven!).
8. Revel in Rylstone’s vintage vibe
Tiny Rylstone on the scenic Bylong Valley Way, about 45 minutes’ drive from Mudgee, is the region’s hottest new visitor destination. In this small village filled with delightful nineteenth-century buildings, a hipster sensibility reigns. The wide, tree-lined main street hosts a vintage clothes market, a retro vinyl store, an olde-worlde sweet shop, Wiradjuri art gallery and locally hand-made furniture at Folkologie. Build your visit around an al fresco Chinese meal in the bright and quirky surrounds of 29 Nine 99 Yum Cha and Tea House.
9. Catch a class or festival
Want to learn how to make your own sourdough bread, cook a restaurant-style meal, appreciate wine properly, brew beer or paint landscapes? You know you want to, and Mudgee’s food and art scene includes schools and workshops catering to all these aspirations. Depending when you visit, you might also catch the Farmers’ and Artisans’ markets in Mudgee and/or Rylstone, one of the monthly Mudgee Farm Walks, or an annual festival such as Flavours of Mudgee, Sculptures in the Garden or the Small Farm Field Days. Go online to find out what’s on during your visit.
10. Explore nearby nature reserves
Situated 40 minutes’ drive north of Mudgee in the Goulburn River National Park, The Drip Gorge is a porous wall of sandstone festooned with ferns and glazed with springwater that drips into the river below. It’s a popular picnic spot, offering natural air-conditioning in hot weather. An hour by car from Mudgee on the south-eastern side lies Ganguddy (Dunn’s Swamp) — part of the magnificent Wollemi National Park. Here, striking rock formations called pagodas are reflected in the calm waters of the Cudgegong River. This is a top spot for fishing, birdwatching, or simply unwinding in the tranquil surroundings.
Where to stay in Mudgee
Comfort Inn Aden Mudgee
For those travelling by road from Sydney, Comfort Inn Aden Mudgee is conveniently located on the Castlereagh Highway about two kilometres from the town centre. It offers comfortable, well-appointed rooms in a traditional motel layout. The relaxed setting includes a central grassed area with an outdoor swimming pool and barbecue facilities for guest use.
With a parking space right outside each room and no stairs to climb, the accommodation is highly accessible. Standard rooms have been pleasantly refurbished, while fully renovated queen, king and family rooms offer a higher standard of comfort and aesthetics. All rooms have complimentary Netflix, and all motel guests have free access to Anytime Fitness Mudgee (a six-minute walk or one-minute drive from the hotel).
One of the biggest drawcards of the Comfort Inn Aden Mudgee is its restaurant, Palate. Unassumingly tucked behind the front reception office, this is one of the most highly rated eateries in Mudgee. In a town that’s renowned for its dining scene, that’s quite an endorsement. The seasonal Italian-style menu makes the most of the fabulous local produce, the pasta and gnocchi is made onsite, and the wine list showcases some of the region’s best drops.
Roslyn Jolly is a freelance travel writer whose work has appeared in Luxury Travel, Get Up & Go, The Sunday Telegraph and The Australian. In her former career as an English Literature academic, she studied and taught the work of great travel writers, such as Henry James, Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson, and became fascinated by the history of travel and tourism. Two years at school in Wales and three years at university in England allowed Roslyn to travel extensively in Europe and North America, which she continues to do.