Canowindra has a well-deserved reputation as the hot air balloon hub of NSW. The combination of gentle breezes, excellent thermals, undulating countryside and good networks of roads to reach the balloons when they land make the town the ideal spot to watch or soar in balloons. But the historic village with a rich colonial history in the Orange region of NSW has plenty to offer on the ground as well as in the air, and is also the site of one of the most important fossil discoveries from the late Devonian period.
Why you’ll love it
There are plenty of opportunities to see the town and surrounding sheep and wheat farms from above. Aussie Balloontrek and Balloon Joy Flights offer the chance to drift over the region at dawn as you enjoy the spectacular colours in the sky as well as the view below.
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Back on firm ground, Canowindra Historical Museum is an enjoyable way to learn about the town’s history. Did you know that the entire town was locked up in the local hotel for three days by Ben Hall and his gang of bushrangers 1863? If you’re keen to discover more, Blind Freddy’s Bushranger Tours offer a chance to immerse yourself in the history of the area even further.
Take a stroll through the heritage-listed heart of the town down the curved Gaskill Street, where as well as elegant buildings, there are galleries and gift shops and places to grab a meal or drink. The Royal Hotel Canowindra is built on the site of Ben Hall’s major escapade in the town.
At the Age of Fishes Museum in the old courthouse in Gaskill Street, you’ll be able to check out an impressive display of fossils.
In 1955, a rock bed full of thousands of rare Devonian fossils was discovered in the area. It contained fossils of bizarre fish with crushing jaws and armour from 360 million years ago, long before dinosaurs roamed the planet. (Visit NSW).
There are hands-on educational displays relating to the fossils and talks about the area’s geological history. Gondwana Dreaming Fossil Tours run regular sessions if you’re keen to learn more.
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Canowindra straddles the Cowra and Orange wine regions. There are several cellar doors nearby where you can enjoy a taste of the region’s best while you take in the beautiful vineyards and pastoral areas. We especially like Toms Waterhole Wines and Wallington Wines.
From Canberra, take the Barton Highway and Hume Highways towards Yass. Shortly after passing the turnoff to Yass, turn onto Lachlan Valley Way, which will take you through Boorowa and into Cowra.
Once in Cowra, cross the bridge over the river and turn left into Redfern Street. This will get you into Canowindra in about 30 minutes. The route is well signposted.
When to go
Each year the skies above Canowindra come to life when the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge comes to town in April for a colourful week-long event.
- Duration: Allow 2.5 hours each way from Canberra.
- Distance from Canberra: 220 km.
- Recommended for: anyone into fossils, food, history, wine and food tasting and of course, hot air ballooning.
- More information: Canowindra NSW: Travel guide and things to do
Have you been to Canowindra? Do you have any recommendations to share?