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Part of the cool-climate Orange wine region, the small central-western New South Wales town of Millthorpe offers visitors a taste of the good life. Just 20 minutes’ drive south of the culinary hub of Orange, heritage-listed Millthorpe has several acclaimed restaurants of its own, along with enticing boutiques and elegant places to stay. One of the state’s largest rail centres in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Millthorpe’s golden years saw the heritage landscape we see today take shape. While the relocation of key industries in the mid-20th century almost saw the death of the country town, this helped to preserve Millthorpe’s legacy for its shift to tourism several decades later.
With dozens of wineries and other country towns within easy reach, Millthorpe makes a charming base from which to explore the region. But with three cellar doors in its town centre, wine lovers can sample a range of local Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris without needing to leave the village.
Millthorpe lies around three hours’ drive northwest of Sydney, and three hours north of Canberra. Flights from Sydney (SYD) and beyond land at Orange Airport (OAG), 15 minutes’ drive north of Millthorpe. There’s also a direct train from Sydney’s Central Station to Millthorpe (4.5 hours) that continues onto Orange (20 minutes). Tiny Millthorpe is easy to explore on foot, but it’s worth hiring a car at Orange Airport (or at Bathurst station, two train stops before Millthorpe or a 30-minute drive to the east) to explore the wine region and colonial-era country towns at your own pace. You can also visit wineries further afield by booking a tour, or catching the train to Orange to visit its urban cellar doors.
The best time to visit Millthorpe is from around November until April, when daytime temperatures are pleasant to warm and local vineyards are lush and green. However with most of the region’s wineries and restaurants open year-round, and fresh local truffles on the menu during the winter months (when it can occasionally snow), there’s no bad time to visit. Australia’s longest-running regional food festival, the Orange F.O.O.D Week, delivers a rich tapestry of culinary events celebrating the region’s abundance over 10 days in April during the autumn harvest. Usually held on the first Sunday of April and December, the Millthorpe Markets see more than 250 stallholders converge for one of the state’s best country markets, while on the first weekend of November, the Millthorpe Garden Ramble sees a selection of Millthorpe locals open their exquisite gardens to the public.
Foodies would be wise to book ahead for top restaurants in Millthorpe and Orange at all times of the year to avoid missing out on a memorable meal celebrating the region’s excellent local produce. Many regional wineries also have a full restaurant, or offer a grazing menu at their cellar doors, making them popular lunch spots. Beer fans will also be pleased to find several breweries in the Orange region.
A 40-minute drive northwest of Millthorpe, the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area delivers the ultimate Aussie bush fix. An important place for the Wiradjuri people, the area’s Aboriginal Custodians, the conservation area is laced with six walking trails including the challenging four-kilometre Federal Falls loop walk (allow one to two hours), which rewards you with superb waterfall views.
Venture beyond Millthorpe to discover similarly quaint country towns rich in pioneer history. Just 20 minutes’ drive south of Millthorpe, the tiny heritage-listed village of Carcoar may make you feel like you’ve walked onto the set of a 19th-century Aussie western. Indeed, on a stroll around town you’ll find one of Australia’s finest preserved courthouses, often used as the set for period movies and TV dramas.