The quaint NSW villages northwest of Yass are bursting with rich history, great eats, antiques and wonderful experiences just waiting to be discovered.
The small businesses in many rural and regional towns have been hit hard by drought, floods and COVID-19 lockdowns so now is the time to help them bounce back.
A day trip or long weekend is the perfect opportunity to explore our regional areas and take in some fresh air, spectacular scenery and good old-fashioned service with a smile.
Binalong is a quintessential Aussie town, just 25km from Yass, and just over an hour’s drive from Canberra.
It’s home to some beautiful Victorian and Federation buildings, and is known as the home of Australia’s best-loved poet Banjo Paterson.
Binalong is also famed as a bushranger town, with stories of antics by Ben Hall, John O’Meally and ‘Flash’ Johnny Gilbert. A mural in Pioneer Park depicts the story of the gunfighting death of Gilbert by police in 1865, as told by Banjo Paterson in his poem How Gilbert Died.
You can visit Gilbert’s grave on the outskirts of town, then walk or cycle through the village checking out its art and craft shops and admiring fabulous examples of period architecture such as Binalong Hotel, the local police station and courthouse, post office, St Patrick’s church and the Binalong Mechanics Institute.
Glass artist Peter Minson is a third-generation glassblower who can be found working in his studio most days.
You can watch Peter at work and ask questions about his craft before picking up a unique piece of art in his gallery.
“We also have a small cafe where we make for visitors a variety of ‘real leaf’ tea brewed in my great glass teapots, and espresso coffee with freshly baked Anzac biscuits made by my partner, Lindsay,” says Peter.
“Binalong has a proper butcher shop where your meat is wrapped in newspaper and tied up with string – like the good old days.”
The 2 Little Pigs cafe has great coffee and snacks and is located in the Old Bakery just across from the post office.
Owner of 2 Little Pigs, Christine Davis, says if you want to make a weekend of it, Motel Royal Tara, Honeysuckle Cottage and Binalong Hotel all have great accommodation in town.
“Take a drive off the Hume Highway and see the small towns that offer old-fashioned service,” she says.
If golf is your thing, why not play a round at Binalong Golf Club, which boasts impressive rural views for miles, and the fairways are looking green and lush after the recent spring and summer rain.
Jan Giles and Adrian Sykes run Cafe on Queen in the old general store that was built at the bottom of the main street more than 100 years ago.
They were both born and raised in Binalong and encourage visitors to stroll through the village to explore the markets on the second Sunday of every month.
“We usually have about 30 stallholders in the laneway next to the cafe with local produce, wine, jams, chutneys and clothing made by locals,” says Adrian.
“It’s so pretty and relaxed with a lovely variety of things, and we often have live music at the cafe.”
On the way to Binalong, why not call in and explore Bowning, just 500 metres off the Hume Highway. It is a popular stopover for travellers between Sydney and Melbourne.
Renata Ryan from the Rollonin Cafe welcomes families who enjoy country food. Kids can also pet the farm animals and play in the cubby house.
She says the COVID-19 lockdowns hit the town hard, with several small businesses, including a cafe and antique shop, closing their doors.
“We need people to just get off the highway and have a look at what’s in the little towns, and hopefully some of the little businesses can open up again,” says Renata.
In summer, the quirky Rollonin Cafe is the perfect escape with a big outdoor area, loads of seating and a big shed with a pizza oven that’s ideal for functions and weddings.
Located at the base of Bowning Hill, the town also holds a lot of history.
“The house next door to my house was built in 1840, and the oldest inland school is across the road,” says Renata.
There’s always something happening in Bowning, with movie nights and live music, and the alpaca farm is just a short drive away.
The Rollonin Cafe holds many a story, with newspapers from as far back as 1901 lining the walls, and a shed full of old farm machinery. Even the staff get into the spirit, wearing aprons and old fashioned bonnets.
Towns in the Yass Valley are open and just waiting to be explored so get the kids out of the house for a day of authentic family fun.