More than just a convenient halfway point between Australia’s biggest cities, the NSW high country town of Tumbarumba is a wonderful destination in its own right, particularly for the caravan and motorhome crowd.
Its low-cost campsites are amongst the best you'll encounter, and you'll be richer for the decision to veer off the rather mind-dumbing Hume Highway. But Tumbarumba doesn't stop with great parks for motorhomers. It also offers to interesting history, wonderful local produce, award-winning wine, coffee as good any city barista can muster and a bounty of surrounding natural wonders.
The drive here is stunning no matter which road you take. From the north you will pass through the charming riverside town of Tumut and the apple orchards of Batlow. From the south you'll journey via idyllic hamlets dotted along the mighty Murray River, and upon sweeping open roads, where productive cattle country sprawls under the watchful eye of the Snowy Mountains. Speaking of which, if you arrive from the east you'll travel via Kosciuszko National Park, with its pristine forests of snow gum, wild and legendary brumbies, and that incredible feat of engineering, the Snowy Hydro Scheme.
TUMBARUMBA'S TREATS AND EATS
The best coffee in town can be found at Nest Cafe, a reclaimed Masonic lodge now a vibrant hub serving delicious food, and offering a boutique armchair cinema experience – complete with dinner and wine.
Every local has a great story, and the owner is former Sydney girl Laura, who made her tree change to ‘Tumba’ eight years ago. Laura found love here and is now kept wildly busy with three kids under five and a cafe-cum-cinema to manage.
The Tumba Bakery is also a great spot to grab a bite. Here we met a group of bikers who sang the praises of the region - its windy roads with breathtaking vistas had tickled them rather pink.
A WALK AMONGST THE PINES
Tumbarumba has some great local shops to browse (you'll be lured at the antiques store, let me tell you) but there are also some excellent attractions just outside of town. The famous Sugarpine Walk is near the town of Laurel Hill, 22km north of Tumbarumba. It is simply an isle of cleared pine trees amongst a forestry plantation, but it’s rather beautiful. Tall, perfectly straight trees frame the path like a crowd of giant onlookers, their discarded needles forming a spongy carpet underfoot. The canopy whirs in the breeze high above, giving the illusion that perhaps, just over the next hill, you’ll find the ocean. The trunks and branches creak and crack in these lonely woods. It’s all very whimsical, and you’ll want to pack your camera.
WOMEN IN HISTORY
The Pioneer Women’s Hut is a wonderful place to gain a vivid picture of the lives of Australian women from bygone times.
The main museum building – built from recycled prison cells from the nearby Mannus Correctional Centre – houses a quirky collection of domestic items that tell the tale not only of their owner or maker, but of pioneer Australian women. They include hats made of tussock grass and hand-sewn dresses, and the ingenuity of country women is evident everywhere you look. Most pieces were donated by relatives of their former owners, and the display tells the story of many of them.
But the main attraction is the Museum's quilt collection. Here, a wonderful assortment of handmade patchwork quilts are laid out upon antique beds, the stories of their maker presented at the foot of each one. The curators wanted to collect something that would be both beautiful and sentimental that would tell deeply personal stories: a blanket made for a little boy to stay warm on the train back from boarding school; a quilt that grew layers like a tree throughout the years as the family of its maker moved to ever colder parts of Europe before migrating to Australia.
TOP DROPS OF TUMBARUMBA
This region may be soaking in history and natural beauty, but visitors can also soak up a little more 'flavour'.
Courabyra Wines, 6km northwest of Tumbarumba, offers thirsty travellers some refreshment, respite and fantastic views across the vineyard to the mountains beyond.
Cathy Gairn greeted us at the cellar door with a mottled German shorthaired pointer dog by her side. She chatted excitedly about how she was heading to Sydney the following day to rub shoulders with industry bigwigs; her sparkling wine had again won the best sparkling in NSW and she was off to collect her prize.
Stocked in some of the best restaurants in Sydney, this wine is evidence of Tumbarumba’s growing reputation as one of the best cool climate wine growing regions in Australia. The vineyard also has a great menu, and you could easily while away an afternoon here amongst the stunning gardens, grazing casually on produce grown on site by Cathy, a former horticulturist.
SHOWTIME IN THE HIGH COUNTRY
No trip to the high country is complete without a little horsemanship. At a property to the west of Tumbarumba is the Boggy Creek Show, a fun exploration of Australiana filled with herding, horse work, whip cracking, pony races and shearing.
Created and performed by fourth generation mountain cattleman Tim O’Brien, this two-hour extravaganza is a thoroughly entertaining and often funny demonstration of life on the land, both past and present.
Tim is a talented animal trainer, and put on an impressive performance of his working kelpies, horses, ponies, goats and even pigs. It's choreographed to music and performed in the custom built arena set against the backdrop of the Snowy Mountains.