On the outskirts of Canberra and the ACT, there are many rural NSW towns and villages to discover.
Some feature the Aussie outdoors and wilderness, while others preserve local history. Do not overlook these small towns near Canberra – they are bursting with exciting opportunities to try things that only rural Australia can offer.
Best for camping near Canberra – Wee Jasper, Yass Valley NSW
Wee Jasper is one of the best towns near Canberra for camping and RV enthusiasts. Set amongst beautiful water and wooded landscapes are five campgrounds – Billy Grace Reserve, Swinging Bridge Reserve, Micalong Creek Reserve, Carey’s Reserve, and the Fitzpatrick Trackhead Reserve. The Fitzpatrick Trackhead Reserve even provides direct access to the Hume and Hovell Walking Track; a 426-kilometre trail through rugged countryside. This is the same path that renowned explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell took in 1824.
You can find the best accommodation deals and check campsite availability here.
Brindabella National Park is another great spot near Wee Jasper that is ideal for a day in nature. The mountain terrain is brimming with four-wheel drive, mountain biking, and walking trails that provide spectacular views. It’s the perfect spot to spend the day fishing, birdwatching or enjoying a lovely picnic in the park.
There are also beautiful sights to see underground at Careys Caves – the gem of Wee Jasper. Thirty steps down into the earth, you can explore a diverse geological landscape. Carey’s Caves have seven breathtaking chambers of crystal formations.
After a long day exploring this stunning stretch of wilderness on the ACT outskirts, enjoy a delicious meal at Duck‘n Fishes Café & Bar. The panoramic views of Wee Jasper Valley are unreal.
Best for wine tasting near Canberra – Murrumbateman NSW
With 20 boutique wineries, it’s no surprise that Murrumbateman is considered the capital of the Canberra wine region. Clonakilla Wines was established in 1971 as a small family business. The distinctive handcrafted wines are exceptionally exclusive, produced in very limited quantities.
You can also enjoy wines in the cellar door located in the heritage-listed 1888 Toual Public School at Helm Wines. Given a 5-star rating by wine critic James Halliday, its award-winning Rieslings and cabernet sauvignons are sure to tingle your taste buds.
Resting on 33 acres with 29,000 vines, Four Winds Vineyard is a must visit. Its decadent wines go down a treat with their fresh wood-fired pizzas.
There is more around this town than great vineyards, grapes and wine. Explore the surrounding bushland with Burnelee Excursions on Horseback, where you can round up sheep and cattle on the 3500-acre property. There’s also a two-hour ride, appropriate for all ages and skill levels, with an experienced instructor.
Indulge your sweet tooth at Robyn Rowe Chocolates, where the motto is “life is short – make it sweet!” Combining Australian products with traditional European methods, guests can learn how the yummy chocolates are made. After a long day, rest your head at Abode Murrumbateman.. Or stay at the Historic Merryville Homestead to experience a bit of the town’s history.
If you’d rather leave the driving to someone else, you can opt for a vineyard tour with a local guide.
Best for artisan products – Bungendore, Queanbeyan region NSW
Bungendore is a small historic town in the Queanbeyan region that will have you feeling as though you’ve taken a step back in time. The streets are filled with colonial, heritage-listed buildings that are captivating to see on a self-guided walking tour through town.
Visitors can stay in The Carrington Inn, built in 1885, or this gorgeous country-style cottage set on 20 acres. Both embrace the town’s country customs and slow-paced way of life.
For the past 30 years, Bungendore Wood Works Gallery has been showing off the craftsmanship of Australia’s top woodworkers. Its diverse exhibits promote Australian wood art, giftware, sculptures and contemporary furniture.
Bungendore is also known for Turalla Truffles, which provides visitors the opportunity to go on a guided black truffle hunt with the help of trained truffle detecting dogs. Following your hunt, you can take part in a delicious food tasting featuring a shot of truffle-infused vodka.
If wine is more your thing, be sure to visit Lark Hill Winery. This is not your typical winery – the owners treat the land as a living organism interconnecting the whole farm. This technique removes any artificial and toxic inputs from the soil, and subsequently the crop itself.
Take home some of Bungendore’s rural heritage by shopping in the bric-a-brac and antique shops dotted around town. Filled with old-school treasures, Village Emporium And Antiques Bungendore, Village Antiques, Retro and Record Emporium, and Phil’s Emporium Op Shop are an antique-lovers’ dream.
Best for food – Gundaroo, Yass Valley NSW
Frozen in time, the colonial village of Gundaroo is one of the most well preserved towns near Canberra. Take a nostalgic walk and discover 19th-century slab huts, wattle and daub buildings, and several irregular stone and locally-fired bricks.
The historic village is famous for its food and wine experiences, making it a top destination for foodies. The old town police stable is now the home of Cork Street Café. This quirky restaurant is widely popular for its gourmet pizzas and relaxed atmosphere.
The beautifully refurbished, historic Royal Hotel is home to award-winning restaurant GRAZING. The menu is based upon the best that the Canberra region has to offer, and uses only the freshest local produce. There’s even a chef’s garden on the premises providing the fruit and vegetables served at the restaurant. The aim is simply to serve great tasting meals matched with wines from some of the region’s best wineries – all while surrounded by the rustic charm of the historic village.
Joshua’s Fault Wines focuses on quality over quantity. Through a hand-making process, the winery produces its wine only in small batches, allowing great attention to detail. The limited quantity sells out every year, so don’t miss your chance to taste this exclusive wine when you stop in Gundaroo!
The Gundaroo Colonial Inn is a heritage hotel that has been in operation since its establishment in 1872 during the gold rush. Escape from the hustle and bustle of the city in this country-style hotel, and indulge in its rustic roots.
Best for colonial history – Braidwood, Queanbeyan region NSW
Filled with colonial streetscapes and antique stores, Braidwood oozes country charm. Its rural beauty even gets a staring role in the Australian film Ned Kelly.
Discover the town’s gold rush history at the Braidwood Museum. Journey back in time as you marvel at exhibits, showcasing day-to-day life of those living in Braidwood years ago. Bushrangers and Chinese settlers take centre stage in visions of the dramatic events that took place in the goldfields over the years.
Sample an array of goods at Sully’s Cider and Wine at The Old Cheese Factory. Learn about the significance the cider industry has played in Australia, while observing apple pressing, cheese making and bread baking. Be sure to also check out the home butchery.
Stay at the colonial Royal Mail Hotel Braidwood, built in 1890. It has a wholesome country-style about the place, equipped with a gold rush game room for the kids and a pub for parents.
Braidwood locals love their local Braidwood Farmers Markets, and anyone who pays a visit is sure to, as well. Today this historic town is a hub for artists. Home to potters, ironworkers, craftspeople and designers, Braidwood is a top place to visit for the experience of a true Aussie country town.
Want to explore a little further afield than the outskirts of the ACT? Check out our stories on regional NSW.