The Magic of Australia: The Wines, Food and Music for summer escapes

They don’t call it the Eyrie for nothing. This small town in NSW’s Blue Mountains is a bit of a culinary destination. Simply walking around the pretty stone, built-in-1849 market square with its outdoor food stalls or past the beautifully restored Carrington Hotel (one of two restored Victorian buildings on the square) will rouse your appetite.

My head was buzzing with the news that the Carrington is the site of Australia’s latest eating experience: the Aperitivo Festival. It sees 80 of the region’s most diverse restaurants cook at night and serve traditional Aperitivo treats to a crowd of more than 7,000 in and around the Carrington.

Over at the Tasting Room Bar, a menu curated by renowned chef Ben Hogan combines the best of the region’s produce and regional legends, including terrific pizzas, skewers of golden rich Italian olives, smoking mushrooms and bacon-wrapped chicken thighs. Takeaway takes us to one of the town’s neighbourhood cafes for fresh-baked bread and croissants, and an Australian mainstay, a traditional cold beer from V8 Brewing Company, right beside the smoking screen.

There’s a plethora of options when you arrive at Collingwood or Scone, not least the pretty Scone Greenway, a mountain trail that winds through the meadows beside the Richardson River. Explore in time for dinner at DeEtta’s boutique hotel (another of those wonderful Victorian buildings restored by locals or enthusiastic designers) and get ready for the UK’s first-ever Australian-grown kale, basil and parsley powder. Like all of the curries, the Turkish-born owner, Arlene Yahya, makes sure it’s one of the best and freshest in the region.

You might need a rest to recover, but the best way to drive to Grey Highlands is via satellite. The six-hour journey is superbly flat and quiet, and the nearest station is Gunnedah, which lies 250km north-west of Sydney.

Our Scone-based guide, Simon Bennett, provides a unique perspective on contemporary Australia. His love of local art and wines complements the passion he has for the landscape. Unplugged and exposed, he’s our missing link between travel and the natural world.

If you travel carefully and time your holiday right, you can clock up close to 10,000 kilometres by driving through the gorgeous Karringal, with its amazing national park, climate and wines. Dental lecturer Vicki Chapman enjoys strolling the ancient Mogollon Valley for walks, a perfect way to release inner European as well as mood and energy. The Warmholme winery is an adorable stopover from the spa town of Gerard, which provides plenty of local produce – including goat’s cheese and tortoiseshell cigars. A bike ride through the stunning Illuka Mountains and along the tiny Kalkarindji Track combines cycling, cycling food and striking views of farmland.

And finally, after unwinding with your desert-bonding Palm Beach Double Tree Away spa treatment, chill out with a soft toy in the local historic Nellie Forbush Bed and Breakfast. No, really – the small outhouse will entertain the children, who can come inside and play under a large fir tree.

More about Grey Highlands in the Radar section of

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