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Up and Down the Yass Valley
Small towns offer some of the most unique destinations, and Yass Valley in New South Wales is a perfect start to your exploration of Australia.
Words and Images by: Courtney Cunningham

Yass Valley is a region growing at about three percent annually, with a community spirit kept alive by locals stopping in the streets to chat and enjoy the immense space and beautiful, clean air the area has to offer. One of the most fantastic aspects of visiting this region is all the beautiful towns and surrounding areas that are just waiting to be explored at your leisure.

There are plenty of caravan parks, holiday parks, general parks, showgrounds, reserves, and resorts for RVs and caravans to set up for the night, along with homestays and B&Bs for those wanting something a little different.

Hungry foodies certainly won’t be disappointed in this region — if anything, we’d recommend not checking the scales after. Yass Valley has quality food and wine for you to enjoy, with quaint eatin options to top quality food producers, cafes, fine dining, and world class wineries and makers — don’t miss Barney’s Cafe in Bookham and The Baker at Sutton.

Yass Valley is excellent for adventurers and more laid-back travellers

This region has a strong connection to early rural Australia, with several museums, historical sites — many of the original period architecture of Hamilton Hume’s expedition and settlements are still standing — and antiques centres to visit. Galleries, boutiques, and design studios showcase wares by the talented artists, sculptors, designers, and creators of Yass Valley. If nature is more your thing, a wide range of outdoor experiences are on offer, with tours and trails, cave exploring and bushwalking, relaxing in parks and gardens, camping, and water sports on Lake Burrinjuck. With plenty of events and festivals in the works, the region is about to become a hive of activity.

GETTING THERE

Yass Valley lies between the Hume and Barton Highways, bordering Canberra. To get to the region from Canberra, follow the Barton Highway north to enter Yass Valley at the New South Wales border, about 20km from Canberra CBD. From Sydney, visitors can follow the Hume Highway south via Campbelltown and Goulburn, approximately 280km from Sydney. From Melbourne, travellers can also follow the Hume Highway north via Albury-Wodonga and Gundagai, about 590km from the city.

Merchant Campbell, Yass

YASS

Located 45 minutes from Canberra, or a three-hour drive from Sydney off the Hume Highway, the name Yass is believed to be derived from the Indigenous word ‘Yharr,’ meaning ‘running water’. This area was traditionally occupied by the Ngunnawal and Wiradjuri tribes, with Oak Hill, the Hollywood Mission, and Hattons Corner comprising sites of significant Indigenous cultural heritage. This town has some spectacular natural scenery thanks to the Yass River wending through, and a strong sense of community synonymous with country lifestyles.

History lovers will be drawn to the Yass Railway Museum where you can walk through the yard and view the behind the scenes of old railway stations, and the ‘Yass Historic Walk and Drive’ will take you through the town and its main street with buildings dating back to the 1840s. While agriculture is still a large part of Yass’s economy, tourism is becoming a major focus due to the fine food and quality cool-climate wines on offer. When passing through, Joe O’Connor Park is perfect for self-contained RVs to park up to 48 hours at no cost. Good Hope Resort is another place to stay, just 15 minutes out of Yass. The natural lake resort offers caravanning spaces on the river and is perfect for relaxing, fishing, and water sports, and boating, but be sure to book in advance.

An architectural gem waiting to be explored in Yass

BINALONG

Explore Australia’s past with wellpreserved Victorian and Federation buildings, as well as the home to writer and poet, A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson. This area historically brimmed with bushrangers, and a mural in Pioneer Park on Fitzroy Street depicts the story of a gun fighting death of ‘Flash’ Johnny Gilbert by the police, with Gilbert’s grave just off the Burley Griffin Way. In town, head over to join glassblowing artists Peter Minson and Lindsay McDonald in their studio and sign up for one of their classes to take home a memento from your travels. For nature lovers, this is a great destination for RV travel as there’s plenty of spaces to set up, and there are great walking and cycling tracks all around. While the 2021 Sculpture on the Green showcase has been cancelled due to COVID-19, the not-for-profit exhibition highlights the regions dedication to supporting local, interstate, and international artists.

Wide open spaces and clean country air — what’s not to love?

GUNDAROO

Modern community vibes blended with a preserved dose of the past has landed Gundaroo a World Heritage-listed status, making it a great stop to walk around and explore the past. Many of Gundaroo’s historic buildings are still in use, such as the Royal Hotel that hosts Grazing at Gundaroo — one of the region’s most well known restaurants. Gundaroo is a perfect excuse to pull your camera out and snap the various textures of slab huts, wattle and daub, irregular stone and locally fired brick. Make sure you also stroll along the community inspired ‘River Walk,’ from the western end of Rosamel Street, south to the rear of Gundaroo Park. The park hosts the town’s annual Gundaroo Music Festival, too — keep an eye out for announcements as the region is still hopeful that this performance will run. If it doesn’t, Joshua’s Fault Winery has its cellar doors open from 29–30 November, so it’s a perfect excuse to head on over to enjoy a glass of wine and learn how their premium wines are made.

Yass Valley is well-known for its cool-climate wines

WEE JASPER

Wee Jasper is a must-visit for its stunning camping spots beside Murrumbidgee River, underground caves, birdwatching, and historical homesteads. The town is believed to be named after tiny green gemstones found by an early Scottish resident, which he called ‘Wee Jaspers.’ Its fossil viewing tours with expert guides — especially in Carey’s Cave — will give you one of the most memorable natural experiences of the trip. If properly equipped, you can also discover a myriad of other wild limestone cave systems! The five primative camping reserves allow RV travellers immense opportunities to settle for the night, such as Wee Jasper Reserves, and bushwalking along the river and walking tracks will allow you to immerse yourself with nature and animals — some 56 species of birds as well as mammals and reptiles.

Stretch our your legs on one of the many trails

MURRUMBATEMAN

Spoil your senses by stopping at the award-winning boutique wineries and eating excellent food in the former gold mining town of Murrumbateman. This small community is perfect to relax at, and with plenty of areas to set up camp, this is the perfect base to explore the entire Yass Plains region. While the 2021 Murrumbateman Moving Feast and Murrumbateman Field Days have both been cancelled due to the escalating COVID-19 situation in NSW, there’s still plenty to do and see here by slowing down and experiencing the local community spirit. Book a wine tasting experience at Shaw Winery to stop and unwind over a glass of wine and a vineyard platter on the lounge or terrace. Murrumbateman Winery is another in the area that has many events throughout the year, so keep an eye out for those when passing through.

BOWNING

A must see stop on your trip is Bowning, one of the earliest settlements of Yass Valley, with its history, great food, antiques and shopping opportunities. The 796m Bowning Hill provides a backdrop to the town and allows travellers to view how early explorers and settlers saw the area. The Rollonin Cafe is a replica slab hut, featuring memorabilia from the towns history, with Mac the draught horse and his animals friends in the fields outside. Finish your night at Bowning Pub Mayfield House, famous for hosting ‘The Bulletin Debate’ by Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson regarding their views on the Australian bush.

Picnic at Tulip Top Gardens in Sutton

VISITORS WANTED

Being so close to Canberra, Yass Valley residents have easy access to work and education opportunities while having the luxury of country living, but, like the rest of Australia, it has suffered due to the pandemic. When you’re travelling through, don’t forget to use the #YassValley and #ShopLocal hashtags to encourage tourism back into the region — whether it be to post a photo of your coffee, meal, new clothes, or an event you loved. On that note, liking and commenting on posts by local businesses also helps support them and entices other travellers to follow in your footsteps. Know anyone else that will love what you’re experiencing? Another way to support the region’s businesses it to purchase a Yass Valley Gift Card so that they can spend their money locally and support the families living within the region.

A far cry from crowded city parks

As all of the region’s upcoming events have been cancelled due to  the pandemic, as things start to settle in the coming months, keep an eye out at yassvalley.com.au to monitor any festivals or events that you can structure your next holiday around.

If you’re ever stuck on what to do, check out the Yass Valley Information Centre. It’s a great place to meet if you’re travelling in a group as it’s located in the gorgeous Coronation Park. It’s also staffed each day by welcoming individuals who will be able to give you the run-down as to what’s on in the region. Don’t hesitate to give them a call on 1300 886 014 to find out what festivals or events are in the plans for the coming months.

It’s time to start planning your next adventure in Yass Valley, where you’ll be able to choose from stunning natural wonderlands and outdoor adventures, award winning wineries and restaurants, historical journeys, unique artisan exhibits, plus everything else in between. 

Eat, drink and be merry in Yass

Indigenous Peoples 

The traditional Owners of the Yass Valley region are the Ngunnawal People, who have lived in the region for at least 20,000 years. We wish to acknowledge Elders past, present, and emerging.

Tags: Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia CMCA Campervan Motorhome Caravan Fifth Wheeler RV Camper Trailer yass valley nsw lake Burrinjuck Barton Highways yass valley food and wine trail Wiradjuri Yass Railway Museum yass history self contained parking in yass rv friendly parking in yass motorhoming in yass caravanning in yass joe oconnor park yass good hope resort caravan parks near yass where to park rv near yass wineries near yass binalong gundaroo history murrumbateman bowning
Category: Features
Written: Fri 01 Oct 2021
Printed: October, 2021
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