Angela Saurine finds she can have the best of both worlds at a family-friendly winery in Orange
Before having a baby, Orange’s growing reputation as a food and wine destination had seen it creep onto my bucket list. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to make it to the town, in NSW’s central west, before Oliver entered the world. When an invitation to attend a friend’s significant birthday in Orange lobbed in my inbox a year later, my interest was piqued. But would it still be worth visiting with a toddler in tow? Yes, as it turns out.
A bit of research led me straight to Heifer Station, which is surely one of the most family-friendly wineries in the country. Less than 15 minutes’ drive from town, it has plenty to entertain littlies, including a petting zoo and a sandpit complete with toy bulldozers. We nab a table outside the cellar door, housed in an old woolshed, and while away the afternoon in the sunshine. While Oliver joins other children following around the chooks that roam freely around us, we snack on a cheese platter and dips and enjoy a wine tasting, which includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Shiraz. When he eventually gets bored, we wander down to see the animals together. There we meet Tilly the Shetland pony, highland cattle Curly, Larry and Monique, and Brutus, the black-faced Suffolk sheep. A small herd of alpacas can also be seen in the distance.
On the volcanic slopes of the region’s tallest peak, Mt Canobolas, the 26ha Heifer Station was once part of a larger property used by stagecoach company Cobb & Co as a change station for its horse teams, which has been subdivided into smaller lots over the years. It was a cattle station in the early 1900s, and cows still graze amongst the vineyards in winter and in nearby paddocks during harvesting.
The petting zoo was added in 2016 after census data showed young couples with two or more children were the fastest-growing demographic in the region. “At the time there was nothing around for them,” sales and operations manager James Thomas says. “It was a demographic that was largely ignored by the wine industry, and we saw that as an opportunity. A lot of people thought we were mad in the beginning, but we found that if you have something to occupy children then the parents get to have some actual adult time and that’s made us super popular.”
Older kids will also love soaring through the air on the flying fox near Lakeshore Café at Lake Canobolas Reserve on the outskirts of town, while a visit to the old-school style Coronet Milk Bar in Summer St is a must for ice-cream and lollies. On the second Saturday of each month children can also ride a miniature train run by the Orange Society of Model Engineers in Matthews Park for $2 per ride. Sadly, our timing isn’t right, but we are content with a visit to Cook Park, also in Summer St, instead.
It’s somewhere I probably wouldn’t have considered visiting before having a child, but it turns out to be a pleasant addition to our itinerary. Oliver’s face lights up when he sees the aviary filled with cockatoos and parrots. He’s entranced by the water flowing over the fountain in the middle of the park, and he loves running back and forth through the dry leaves beside the duck pond and hearing them crunch beneath his feet.
After a push on the swings, we stroll back to our accommodation, Red Door Cottage, in nearby March St. With its cute verandah, corrugated iron roof and white picket fence, the superbly renovated two-bedroom heritage home is just like one of the properties I’d seen in the ABC TV series Escape from the City that also enticed me to visit. It’s owned by BNB Made Easy founder Tim Mortimer, whose family established Mortimer Wines in the early 1990s, and his wife Flora, who comes from the Albi wine region in Southern France. As parents of two young children, they are extremely accommodating to families. We arrive to find a port-a-cot set up in the bedroom and a highchair by the dining table. Oliver makes a beeline for the toys in the loungeroom, while I am taken by the large open-plan kitchen, polished wooden floorboards, slow combustion fireplace, mosaic tiles and heritage features.
I may not have managed to dine at its hatted restaurants, or ticked off as many wineries as I would have pre-parenthood, but we had a wonderful weekend nonetheless.
The writer was a guest of Heifer Station and BNB Made Easy.
Orange is approximately a four-hour drive north west of Sydney.
Red Door Cottage can be booked from $150 per night through BNB Made Easy. bnbmadeeasy.com.au
MORE INFO: visitcentralnsw.com.au
Scarborough Wines has a giant checkers set and giant Jenga and for $5 you get an accompanying cheese plate with your tasting
Elbourne Wines has farmyard animals including Wessex Saddleback pigs, Black Suffolk sheep, a pony, chickens, geese and ducks. The owners also let the kids of guests use their childrens’ play equipment, which includes a large sandpit, cubby house and trampoline, while their parents enjoy a tasting experience (by appointment only)
De Bortoli Wines De Bortoli Wines offers camel rides around the vines every Saturday (weather permitting) to enjoy while parents indulge in a chocolate and wine pairing in the cellar door.
Calais Estate has a kids’ corner in the cellar door where children can play games and do craft activities. It also sells gourmet picnic packs which can be enjoyed on the grounds, which are home to peacocks, geese and other wildlife
Lowe Wine has a farm trail walk, which takes kids past the jetty to see rescue donkeys, chickens, peacocks and ducks. Children can also play petanque and other games
Robert Stein Winery & Vineyard has a collection of vintage bikes at its motorcycle museum that little boys (and their dads!) will love. The family farm surrounding the vineyard also has Angus cattle, Dorper sheep and Berkshire pigs.
Coolangatta Estate near Berry offers onsite Segway tours through the vines and rides to the top of Coolangatta Mountain on board a large 4WD open-sided tractor with Bishop’s Bigfoot Adventures
De Bortoli Wines at Bilbul has a pergola where parents can enjoy a wine while keeping an eye on the kids on the nearby playground.
The Rivendell Restaurant and Cellar Door has a playground with a sandpit, slippery slide and climbing frame as well as games on the lawn, including totem tennis, football and bocce
Swings & Roundabouts has been recently renovated with a new eco-friendly wooden playground with wine barrels to crawl through, and a cubby house. Families also love the wood-fired Italian pizza
Xanadu Wines has a small shaded playground that you can see from the cellar door, plus a kids’ menu
Aravina Estate in Yallingup has a large lawn for picnics, a fenced playground and a kids’ menu
Cape Mentelle Vineyards has swings and a kids’ corner with a drawing table to keep children occupied while adults enjoy a wine tasting. They also operate an outdoor cinema in summer
Mandoon Estate, on the banks of the Swan River, has an enclosed playground, alfresco area with picnic tables and live music on weekends
Gemtree Wines has a playground and lawn area for children to play on, animals they can visit with their parents, and a 1km-long eco-trail, as well as a picnic area with barbecues
Maxwell Wines has a maze where kids can get lost and a picnic area where you can snack on a cheese platter from the cellar door
Woodstock Wines has a wildlife sanctuary with kangaroos, wallabies and long-nosed potoroos
Fox Creek Wines offers a kids’ treasure hunt that sees them following clues in hanging wine bottles, spread throughout the cottage garden,s before collecting a prize at the cellar door
Lake George Winery, which is the oldest in the region, has giant games such as Connect Four, a small kids’ play area which includes colouring and a few games, a flying fox and a tractor to climb on
Tallagandra Hill Winery has a playground set for kids
Murrumbateman Winery features a ping pong table, chalkboard tables and colouring books. The dogs who live at the winery also love a good pat
Clonakilla offers colouring books, a basket of toys and outdoor games such as quoits. You can also BYO picnic lunch
At Ocean View Estates Winery and Restaurant, kids can kick a ball around while parents enjoy a gourmet picnic hamper on the grass, or watch them from the noshery’s verandah
O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards is also home to Mountview Alpaca Farm, where children can feed the alpacas and walk them through the vineyards
De Bortoli Wines has a playground, gazebo and gardens where families can picnic or dine in the Italian-inspired restaurant, Locale.