Eat, stay, play: NSW Riverina

Why the NSW Riverina is the perfect place for a weekend away – or a longer stay.

Eat, stay, play: NSW Riverina

Located in south-western New South Wales and centred around Wagga Wagga – the region’s largest inland town and vibrant cultural centre – the Riverina’s climate and ample supply of water make it one of the most productive and agriculturally diverse areas of Australia. Translation: there’s great food, charming rural villages and vineyards, making it an ideal destination for a weekend away or for longer stays.

Video: Visit NSW

We asked our friends at Destination NSW to explain why the NSW Riverina is the perfect place for foodies, oenophiles and those looking to experience the unique personality and landscape of regional New South Wales.

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Abundant fresh produce, historic cellar doors, lush national parks and brilliant fields of canola in spring make the Riverina one of NSW’s most exciting destinations. The region is centred around Wagga Wagga, the largest inland town in the state and a vibrant cultural centre. Don’t miss the Italian heritage of Griffith, the art deco charm of Leeton and the charming country villages that dot the plains.

Eat
The Riverina is known as the food bowl of Australia. Its perfect climate, rich soil and plentiful water produce exceptional citrus fruits, peaches, plums, figs, almonds, lamb, beef, wheat, rice and more.

Weekend farmers’ markets and roadside produce stalls along the river offer a delicious smorgasbord of regional produce. Start your foodie adventure at the Wagga Farmers’ Market where orange juice is squeezed from locally grown navel and Valencia oranges, the rice is likely to be organic and stalls are run by family producers. In Griffith, the thriving food scene produces gourmet specialties that are heavily influenced by the local Italian cultural heritage.

Look for the local dedicated food and wine trails, such as the Echuca Moama Food and Wine Trail.

Yabbies make a welcome appearance on the trail, as do unexpected delicacies such as organic pork pies, gourmet sausages and locally produced haggis. There’s also superb organic lamb, local cheeses and rich succulent olives.

Image: Destination NSW

Meet the producers who are the heart and soul of many agri-businesses in this region. Tours at Catania Fruit Salad Farm, near Griffith, start at the old farmhouse before moving through the groves and ending with a tasting plate of fruits, preserves, wines and nuts. Learn about olives at Wollundry Grove Olives near Wagga, famous for its fine oils and table olives.

Image: Destination NSW

Pick up more local delicacies at specialty stores around the Riverina, such as Coolamon Cheese and the Junee Licorice & Chocolate Factory. Then learn how to use it all with a cooking class from top local chefs at Food I Am cooking school.

Image: Destination NSW

All this high-quality local produce makes its way on to the tables of the region’s best restaurants. Embrace Griffith’s Italian roots at the fine dining Limone and Zecca Handmade. In Wagga Wagga, dine at the Roundabout Restaurant or The Oakroom, both with menus dedicated to premium local ingredients. Every August, celebrate the humble sausage at Griffith’s Festa delle Salsicce where a long lunch marks the end of the salami-making season.

Image: Destination NSW

Drink
The Riverina is the largest wine region in NSW and produces more than 60 per cent of the state’s grapes. Locals proudly boast that one in four glasses of Australian wine is made from Riverina fruit – and the names of the leading companies are familiar: McWilliams, De Bortoli, Borambola, Calabria Family Wines, Yellow Tail, Lillypilly and Nugan Estate among them.

De Bortoli began here in 1928 and is now in the hands of the third generation. Its cellar door and those of McWilliams, Westend Estate and Beelgara Estate are well worth visiting. Yarran Wines and Berton Vineyards, both outside Yenda, are also worth adding to any wine-lover’s must-visit list. Further afield, Courabyra Wines sits at the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, producing award-winning cool climate wines.

Image: Destination NSW

If beer is more to your taste, head to the Thirsty Crow Brewing Co in Wagga Wagga. Take a tour of the brewery on the weekend (including tastings of some of the newest brews) or settle in at the bar for a schooner and a chat with one of the passionate brewers.

Visit Corowa Distilling Co, housed in the old Corowa Flour Mill, to sample its barrel-aged whiskies. There’s a spacious dining hall and bar, with the gleaming copper stills taking pride of place.

Play
Two Riverina national parks well worth exploring are Cocoparra National Park, near Griffith, and Oolambeyan National Park, south of Carrathool. Wattles, orchids and blue-tinged cypress pines contrast against rich red rocks in Cocoparra, while Oolambeyan is home to threatened birds such as the Plains-wanderer.

Image: Destination NSW

Hike to the top of The Rock lookout close to Wagga Wagga for spectacular views over the plains of the Riverina. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the snow-capped peak of Mount Kosciuszko. Cool off with a dip at Wagga Beach on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, right in the centre of town.

Be amazed by the grandeur of the Sugar Pine Walk in Laurel Hill where a stand of enormous sugar pines has been growing for almost 100 years. The tallest species of pine, these trees can grow up to 60 metres tall and are magical when dusted with snow.

Image: Destination NSW

Leeton, designed by Walter Burley Griffin, features some magnificent art deco buildings, especially the Roxy Theatre and the Hydro Motor Inn, which dates back to 1919. Walk the Leeton Heritage Trail for a step back in time. In Griffith, the Italian Migration Heritage Trail covers 12 sites that are historically significant to the region’s large Italian population.

Driving the Canola Trail in the Riverina in spring takes you through idyllic country towns and villages bursting with life, great food and wine and history, all the while surrounded by the breathtaking, bright yellow pastures and hillsides of canola flowers. The trail is just north of Wagga Wagga, in the triangle formed between the towns of Junee, Temora and Coolamon.

Image: Destination NSW

Enjoy life on the river in a relaxed and laid-back fashion, soaking up the ambience on a paddleboat cruise or luxury houseboat from Echuca-Moama, Mildura or Wentworth. Cruise along at your own pace, stopping to swim, fish or explore riverside villages.

Stay
The Houston, in Wagga Wagga, is a luxury boutique hotel created from the grand neo-gothic Belmore House, built in 1868 and described as "one of the most elegant structures in the colony out of Sydney". Beautifully restored, the property has 13 suites that retain many original features.

Both the Mercure Wagga and Mantra Pavilion Wagga offer contemporary accommodation ranging from king rooms to two-bedroom apartments with a full kitchen that are ideal for families.

Get a taste of country living at Ingleden Park, a farmstay 10 minutes outside of Griffith with two pretty cottages surrounded by gardens. Guests can join in the daily chores, including bottle feeding lambs and collecting eggs.

Gryphon Lodge is a cosy B&B just outside of Junee with two bedrooms, a lounge with an open fireplace and shared bathroom facilities. The hosts are keen cyclists and can offer assistance, support or just friendly advice for riders.

Dating back to 1919, the Historic Hydro Motor Inn in Leeton is one of the region’s finest art deco buildings. It offers comfortable accommodation with period features as well as The Freckled Duck bar and restaurant.

Image: Hillary Bradford

In Gundagai, Kimo Estate is a working farm with a striking glamping-style cabin and luxurious cottages.

Have you visited the NSW Riverina? Where did you go? Why not share your recommendations with our members?

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