Dotted with charming country towns such as Yass, Binalong, Bowning and Gundaroo, Yass Valley is right on Canberra’s doorstep, making it an ideal weekend or short break destination.
And in spring, Yass Valley blooms into life with festivals and events for everyone, including: the Gundaroo Music Festival (26 October), Classic Yass vintage festival (2 November), Hills of Hall wine and food festival (2-3 November) and Bowning Country Fair at Rollonin Café (17 November).
CW editor Julie Samaras spent a fun day sampling some of the region’s delights as a guest of Yass Valley Tourism.
First stop: The Old Produce Store Binalong
Around an hour’s drive north-west of Canberra, just off the Hume Highway lies the historic township of Binalong – known for its bushrangers, Banjo Paterson and the famous Binalong Mural by Archibald prize winner Janet Dawson, which adorns the wall of The Old Produce Store Binalong. This beautifully restored Victorian store, owned by Cathy Kerslake and Nadja Zoffmann, proudly promotes local producers and artisans, including honey, beeswax, nuts, olive oil and vinegar, handcrafted ceramics, leather and Merino wool pieces. Check out the store’s own Binalong Bushranger Blend line of 60+ gourmet products and gifts including jams, chutneys, pickles, coffee, tea and the ‘mandle’ – a luxe candle created for men. Taste samples of their homemade treats and ask Cathy about the history and attractions of this quaint town, home to 250 residents.
The Binalong Old Produce Store, 25 Fitzroy Street, Binalong NSW
Open: Friday-Monday 10am-4pm
Second stop: The Crisp Galleries
Heading back toward Yass, we peel off the highway into The Crisp Galleries, created by the Crisp family and world-renowned glass artist Peter Crisp. We’re greeted by the renaissance man himself, who leads us through the extensive, beautifully landscaped gardens where stunning works of art, including sculptures and mosaic panels, catch the eye, nurture the spirit and spark the imagination. Inside, check out the extraordinary Argentinian stained glass panel hanging in the stylish bar. With views along the enchanting avenue of trees, we dined alfresco at the Field of Dreams Café, which offers a delicious assortment of meals, cakes, tea, coffee and beverages. My vegetable curry was delicious and my companion’s Atlantic salmon with potatoes and spring greens was ideally matched with a crisp dry white. Browse through the gift gallery to find unique gifts including fine food and gourmet items, lavender products, pottery, kitchenware, handcrafted jewellery and accessories and quality pre-loved items.
This spring, the performance venue is hosting a concert series: upcoming dates include Sundays 30 October, 6, 13 and 27 November 2.30pm; tickets include high tea ($40 adult, $35 concession, $30 YMC member).
The Crisp Galleries, 28234 Hume Highway, Bowning NSW
Café open: Friday-Monday 10am-4pm
Third stop: Yass Railway Museum
Our volunteer guides, Bill, Bob and Tony, explained the unusual history of this remarkable piece of NSW rail history, which was a tramway linking the townsfolk to the Yass Junction stop on the main Sydney line. Built in 1891, the elegant main station features fireplaces and a dedicated ‘ladies only’ waiting room. The platform, which was added later, is believed to be the shortest raised station platform in NSW. Admire the 1307 steam locomotive, which was in service on the NSW railways from 1877 to 1972, and rekindle childhood memories watching the miniature railway display in action. The museum will open for groups by appointment; their picnic day on 29 September attracted around 550 visitors.
Yass Railway Museum, 8 Crago Street, Yass
Open weekends and public holidays 10am-2pm
Fourth stop: Cooma Cottage
With easy access off Yass Valley Way, Cooma Cottage is a heritage-listed property owned by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) that is well worth exploring. Our enthusiastic volunteer guides, Corrine and Wayde, generously shared their wealth of knowledge and palpable passion for the property during our tour. Built by the O’Brien family from 1830 to1837, it was most famously home to Australian explorer Hamilton Hume, who lived on the riverfront property from 1840 until his death in 1873 and extended the cottage into a Palladian style bungalow. It was later used as a consumption hospital. We enjoyed this fascinating insight into the way European settlers lived in the region, the sprawling grounds, rare Picconia tree and river views. The property will open for groups by appointment.
Cooma Cottage, 756 Yass Valley Way, Yass
Open Friday-Sunday 10am-4pm (some exclusions)
Admission: $10 adult; $25 family