Gundaroo makes Lonely Planet’s list of Australia’s Top 500 Experiences


The Gundaroo Colonial Inn, formerly known as Matt Crowe’s Wine Bar, remains a village institution. Photo: Camilla Duffy.

Lonely Planet is probably the last word in travel guides. So when its panel of industry experts ranks the top 500 “must-do experiences and hidden gems across the country to create a definitive travel wishlist,” people pay attention.

Among the thousands of potential sites in a country rich in superlatives, few expected a small village in the Yass Valley to feature.

But there, ranked number 481 on Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Australia Travel Checklistis Gundaroo.

And while Yass Valley Mayor Allan McGrath is unsurprisingly a fan, he has to admit he was surprised.

“Mind you, this definitely deserves to be on the list – it’s one of those special places,” he says.

“It’s a typical country village in a pretty little pocket of nature, with tree-lined streets, heritage houses and a sense of history. It’s unique in that regard.

READ ALSO: New Gundaroo pub operators are looking to create something special

When COVID kicked off an international travel blitz, Australians started scouring their backyards for vacation spots.

A village of around 1,200 people located less than 30 minutes from the nation’s capital, Gundaroo requires zooming in on the map to spot it – but Lonely Planet will attest, it punches above its weight for attractions.

The article invites readers to “go back to the 19e century” before praising the village’s history and gourmet offerings.

“It’s a low-key little village with lots of beautiful historic buildings, including a lovely town hall, and it has quite a bit of history,” says Cr McGrath.

“One of Gundaroo’s great strengths, of course, is its community. They care about their neighborhood, the facilities and the streets and it shows.

Cr McGrath can vouch for the appeal of country charm. After nearly 30 years in Queanbeyan, he and his young family moved to Yass in 1998.

“My wife and I grew up in country towns. Queanbeyan had grown considerably by then and we were looking to raise our children in a rural community. You know, a place where people made eye contact and got to know each other,” he says.

“Places like Gundaroo still have that.”

Cr McGrath says Matt Crowe’s Wine Bar (now the Gundaroo Colonial Inn) was his introduction to the village.

“It was a local institution,” he says.

“It was the focal point for the locals then and I imagine it still is.”

But like Lonely Planet, Cr McGrath is also quick to highlight Corkstreet Cafe’s delicious pizzas and, of course, Grazing Restaurant and Bar.

Located in the historic Royal Hotel in Gundaroo, owner and chef Kurt Neumann surprised many when he took over the establishment.

Among his many credentials, Kurt was the head chef at the culinary gems of Canberran Courgette, Ottoman and Viola.

A chef with his reputation had options. In 2011, he chose to open Grazing.

READ ALSO: Five Minutes with Kurt Neumann, Grazing at Gundaroo

“I’m a country boy at heart. I grew up on a property and when we were presented with the Grazing opportunity, my wife – who is also my business partner – couldn’t pass it up,” he said.

“We had a wealth of experience in gastronomic catering behind us. We saw the opportunity to start our own business and 11 years later – although I find it hard to believe it’s been so long – we are still here and, on the contrary, we are going from strength to strength.

COVID has been brutal, of course. The pasture was forced to close for around 10 weeks during the first lockdown and pivoted to doing high-end takeaways during the second.

“The locals supported us,” he says.

“A number of locals who had never dined with us before tried us and are now regulars.

“During the Father’s Day lockdown we did Father’s Day takeaway packs and it was huge – we had cars queuing in the street. Our minds were bent on what was going on. It was humiliating.

As winter approaches, the chimneys of the Grazing go out. Restaurant manager and Jerusalem artichoke “guru” Lilly brought an abundance of vegetables to serve the customers. Truffles are on the way and then there’s the Canberra-only wine list. Kurt doesn’t see the need to stray from the area to get the most out of it.

With cautious optimism, it has noticed that the destination diners that formed its core pre-COVID market have started to return. The restaurant has “never been busier” – a sign that the village is getting the attention it deserves.

And why not? Lonely Planet calls it a “National Trust listed treasure” – as solid an endorsement as any.

Plan your trip to Gundaroo with Visit the Yass Valley. and download the Gundaroo Village Heritage Walk.

Original article published by Dione David on riot law.


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