Small Towns Worth Visiting Around Canberra?

By 15 October 2009 27

Could anyone give us some tips on small country towns within an hour or two of Canberra that are worth making the effort to visit? We are looking for great little country pubs, unique shopping experiences, B&B’s, restaurants etc.

We recently moved to the ACT from Sydney and are really enjoying exploring the region!

Thanks for the recent tips following our first post here. I was actually trying to find a shop selling 50′s style pin-up and rockabilly dresses for my wife. Replies to the post took us to Braidwood for the first time and a superb little shop called Hoola Hoop that sells just that type of thing. We had a great time and really loved the town.

Are there any other little towns in the region that might offer such unique little shops. More tips from locals will be greatly appreciated!

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27 Responses to
Small Towns Worth Visiting Around Canberra?
Felix the Cat 6:45 pm
15 Oct 09

Bungendore is not a bad little town. In the other direction there’s also Gundaroo and Gunning. Murrumbateman could be worth a look as well, not a bad pub there.

busgirl 7:33 pm
15 Oct 09

Being from Sydney I’m assuming you’ve already checked out the likes of Berri, Bowral, Moss Vale, Picton, Cowra and all around that area…so, on the other side of Canberra you might like Cooma, Jindabyne, or Tumut?

enrique 8:08 pm
15 Oct 09

Murrumbatemen – great wineries

Wamboin – more, great wineries

Cooma – plenty to choose from, it’s on the way to the snowfields so caters for many seasonal travelers (but, due to this, also means many spots are mainly grab a bite and run type places). On the way there you could stop in at Williamsdale, Michelago, Bredbo

Gunning – Grazings Restaurant – top notch, Great Pub (Telegraph Hotel)

Collector – Great Pub with an excellent cafe/bistro (Bushranger Hotel), Linwood Cafe – Lovely, some nice wineries nearby

Bungendore – Take your pick – lots to choose from

Captains Flat – Quirky old mining town (and doesn’t it look like one) that has a cool old pub that boasts about previously having the longest bar in the Southern Hemisphere. If you have a 4wd or a car that can handle dirt roads you could keep on driving and head through the Forest down to Araluen and then onto Moruya – a great drive.

Hall – still within the ACT border, nice old place, has a market every now and again

Yass – old big money families used to have farms around here (maybe still do), lovely old town and getting better by the day now that the highway doesn’t run smack bang through the middle anymore

I could go on but I don’t think I’m doing justice to any of these places… they’re all lovely in their own way and there are plenty more towns I may have forgotten. Pick one or two towns to visit each weekend and that should get you through to next year – go exploring – you’ll enjoy discovering each new place.

sepi 8:37 pm
15 Oct 09

Gundaroo is small and very cute – and not too far away to go for lunch.

Murrumbateman is having one of their field days soonish.

Gunning has markets once a month on a sunday.

Hall markets are also monthly.

For quirky shopping Fyshwick has 4-5 antique shops

Punter 9:24 pm
15 Oct 09

I’ll watch this post with interest. I’ve been in Canberra some 7 years now and I’m sorry to say I haven’t explored much. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen tonnes of the region and it has all been great but…..I just think I need to see a whole lot more. I want to thank Soundbloke for the OP and the kick in the arse to get out there!!

emd 9:52 pm
15 Oct 09

Murrumbateman Field Days are on this weekend:

gargamel 9:53 pm
15 Oct 09

sepi said :

Murrumbateman is having one of their field days soonish.

The field day is huge these days and it is on this weekend! $12 entry.

Details are available at

astrojax 9:56 pm
15 Oct 09

cowra isn’t too far away and the japanese gardens are worth a look – on the way you take the lachlan valley highway, off the hume just south of yass, through booroowa, which is a cute little place.

i’ll also second gundaroo for a half hour drive to lunch – cork street cafe has the best pizza in canberra. a great pottery, laughing frog, is on the way out and the potters there started the cafe some years back. all worth a go.

el 10:04 pm
15 Oct 09

What ever you do, don’t ever bother going to Bombala. It’s even more boring than every other boring-as-batsh!te rural town in NSW.

Also, Captains Flat is fairly ‘Deliverance’. Good luck!

trevar 8:01 am
16 Oct 09

Canowindra is heaven. Being a foodie, my best recollection was a place called The Shed, where they make an awesome spanakopita.

Cooma’s The Lott is also a great feed.

If you can get to Braidwood early enough, and on the right day of the week, the Dojo bakery has bread to die for (and you can sometimes pick it up at the IGA there later in the day).

Young also boasts some great eateries, and in the next few months they’ll be very imaginative with the cherries. If you’re going there, stop at the car museum in Binalong (which is worth a stop, but not a day trip)

At Goulburn, visit Roses or the gyros shop, both near the big park in the middle of the city.

Best fish and chip shop in the world is at Moss Vale, opposite the narrow English-looking park.

Jindabyne has a great cafe in the terrorist information centre.

Nimmitabel has a pie shop with a good reputation, but I’ve always been more impressed by their donuts than their pies.

Better pies at Yass, it’s well worth the drive, and you can visit the wineries as you wend your way back to the concrete jungle. And Yass also has Hume Cottage, which is a great example of architectural evolution. Also at Yass there are a lot of sites of great significance for the various Aboriginal peoples who have called the region home (although you’d be best to find an elder to show you around, as they can tell the best stories).

As has been noted, there is nothing noteworthy about Bombala, unless you happen to know someone there. I have not known any country town to be as welcoming as Bombala, but you have to be introduced. Oh, and they do a good steak in the big white pub at the bottom of the main street.

wishuwell 8:36 am
16 Oct 09

Soundbloke it might just fall outside 2 hours but have a go at Kangaroo Valley a cute little place just down from Fitzroy Falls which is worth going to on its own. Suggest you give pies at Robertson a miss though.And then carry on to Huskisson great pub then onto…oh is it Monday already?

Trunking symbols 8:43 am
16 Oct 09

How about Queanbeyan?

pug206gti 8:52 am
16 Oct 09

Goulburn has a charm about it, you can tell there was plenty of wool money there about 100 years ago and some nice architecture.

Taralga is pretty, stop there on the way to the Wombeyan caves.

Crookwell is an experience too, and very pretty rolling hill scenery. A good few B&Bs there.

Gungahlin Al 9:31 am
16 Oct 09

Further afield, Wagga and Albury are great inland towns. Tumut is gorgeous in spring (most recommended destination). The drive through the back way from Tharwa to Adaminaby is very special.
At Goulburn, just keep driving through though…

misspris 9:46 am
16 Oct 09

I’ll sound like I work for the Crookwell Tourist Information Centre again but oh well :)

If you drive out to Crookwell the “back way” (i.e. not down the Ho Hum Highway) you can check out some nice towns like Gundaroo and Gunning on the way.

There are several really nice B&Bs and self-contained accommodation in Crookwell. The bistro at the pub opposite The Bank House is good, as is the recently renovated Paul’s Cafe.

Laggan Pub is definitely worth a visit. The Mill at Laggan is also a great place for a meal although it’s been quite a while since I’ve eaten there.

Taralga is gorgeous and the Taralga Hotel is definitely worth visiting. It has been renovated in the last couple of years and the meals and accommodation are good.


crabb 10:09 am
16 Oct 09

Trevar @ # 10 – cafe at the Terrorist information centre in Jindabyne!?
It always seemed a spooky kind of place, now I know why…

ABC129 10:21 am
16 Oct 09

You could always pop out to Temora to see the Aviation Museum on one of their flying days for something a bit different too.

Buzz2600 10:51 am
16 Oct 09

+1 above posts – all great recommendations. I enjoy following the mountain roads. Head out over Urriara Crossing, along Brindabella Road into Brindabella valley, check out the Goobragandra River then follow the road (dirt but no need for 4WD) to Tumut. While not particularly funky, Tumut is a great town. Then follow along to (take your pick) Gundagai, Yarrangabilly Caves, Batlow, Cooma, Yass, Wee Jasper – tiny town, not much there (read deliverance country ;) Head to Tumbarrumba – great little place to visit, couple of good cafes etc. Not many ‘shopping’ experiences but fun anyway, lots of outdoor experiences – views, bush walking etc.

Otherwise, why not head to South Coast – Bungendore, Braidwood has some great little shops,via Clyde Mt Batemans Bay and then Mogo – lots of crafty shops etc. Or head the Brown Mountain way, Nimitabel, Tilba Tilba a heritage town etc … heaps to choose from. Or you’ve got the Kangaroo Valley (once again, lot of shops, great little B&Bs etc) down to Nowra and Jervis Bay (beautiful beaches).

Maybe a bit further afield than what you’re looking for (all 2+ hours driving)but worth the trip (IMO). I always love going and eating/staying at little country towns, it helps the local economy and keeps us sane!

neanderthalsis 11:55 am
16 Oct 09

el said :

Also, Captains Flat is fairly ‘Deliverance’. Good luck!

Not as bad as Wee Jasper though. Had the worst cup of coffee made by the most sullen b arista I have ever seen at Wee jasper.

sepi 12:28 pm
16 Oct 09

Peter Crisp Galleries is nice – 15 km out of Yass, on the way to Gundagai. There are nice gardens, as well as the amazing glasswares he makes – it looks like stuff royalty would use – 300.00 wine glass anyone?

Gundagai is quite cute, although small, and has a cafe with wooden booths etc unchanged since about the 50s. The food is not that special though. There is also a big park there with an old wooden bridge that was flooded out yonks ago. (legend being that indigenous people saved the locals during the flood – so nice to read some positive historic facts.)

Jugiong has a fabulous cafe with homemade organic jams and sauces for sale and a great fruit and veg shop next door – unfortunately nothing else really at Jugiong – except the pool they are very proud of, and a monument to Richie Benaud. But well worth a stop if you are driving to Melbourne.

sepi 12:29 pm
16 Oct 09

PS – I have had the sullen hot chocolate at Wee Jasper too – and it is always freezing and windy there.
the Goodradigbee river is pretty, but basically the name is the cutest thing about Wee J.

There are caves somewhere near there, but I don’t know if they still do tours – and there used to be a good ugh boot shop.

youami 1:08 pm
16 Oct 09

I second most of the selection above. A couple that haven’t been listed so will list now. They are not really substantial places, might have a pub or cafe or an antique store or a natural attraction of some sort but half the experience is getting there:

- Araluen
- Nerriga: (and with the new road to Nowra well on the way to being completed)
- Tarago: (quick way to get to Nerriga Rd via Oallen ford etc.)
- Lake Bathurst
- Tilba Tilba/Central Tilba
- Bungonia (caves and alternative route to Queanbeyan)

What about localities as well, not a town or village as such but districts that are vibrant and full of attractions, caves, national parks, cafes, vistas, country drives, wineries etc. etc.:

- Wamboin
- Oallen Ford
- Sassafras
- Wombeyan Caves
- Abercrombie Caves
- Porter’s Retreat

misspris 1:33 pm
16 Oct 09

There’s a barista in Wee Jasper? What a hoot.

H1NG0 1:36 pm
16 Oct 09

Head to Batemans Bay for a weekend and visit Mogo. Some nice crafty type shops and a great zoo.

smilesr 2:16 pm
16 Oct 09

Wee Jasper is an interesting place though. The caves are great and there are some beautiful camping/picnic/bushwalking spots beside the river and the drive there (the back way through Uriarra Xing) goes through some lovely countryside. But there isn’t a town centre as such.
Tumut is a nice typical country town – you can drive directly west over the brindabellas (and you don’t have to have a 4WD). There’s a lovely camping spot beside the Goobarragandra river (I’m always trying to seek out good camping spots beside rivers).
And slightly further along from Tumut, Adelong is a fascinating gold-mining town with a great waterfall walk and historic town centre. It’s a lesser known place but is really well worth seeing.

RatsNest 8:09 pm
16 Oct 09

wishuwell said :

Soundbloke it might just fall outside 2 hours but have a go at Kangaroo Valley a cute little place just down from Fitzroy Falls which is worth going to on its own. Suggest you give pies at Robertson a miss though.And then carry on to Huskisson great pub then onto…oh is it Monday already?

Skip the pies at Robertson, but make sure to check out the little cafe in town. Cant recall its name but they made the nicest osso bucco i’ve ever had there. really great coffee and atmosphere too.

I-filed 10:14 pm
16 Oct 09

Buzz2600#18 and Youami – excellent posts!

Don’t forget several roads heading east of the road to Cooma – there are fantastic backroads behind Bredbo etc through the hills. Amazing rocky outcrops and old farms.

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