February 3, 2019 / By Penelope Barker
Located just two and a half hours' drive from both Sydney and Canberra, Kangaroo Valley is a hidden world of lush farmland and untouched rainforest surrounded by a rugged escarpment. Bisecting the valley is the pretty Kangaroo River and nestled in it's centre is the historic village of Kangaroo Valley. Crossing the river near the village is the imposing Hampden Bridge, a sandstone suspension bridge with parapets like a fairytale castle. In the 1920 silent film The Man from Kangaroo, famed Australian athlete turned actor Snowy Baker leapt from the top of a stagecoach as it thundered across the Hampden Bridge and into the Kangaroo River below – a daring and remarkable stunt if there ever was one!
In such a spectacular natural environment, bushwalking, trail rides, canoeing and kayaking are popular activities. Visit the stunning Minnie Ha Ha Falls (above) or take some lilos to the end of Upper Kangaroo Valley Road, slip into the water at the Flat Rock swimming hole and gently drift down the river the 15 kilometres back to Hampden Bridge. Beside the Hampden Bridge lies the Pioneer Village Museum, a lovely place to explore and discover more about the history of the area from the early cedar-getters to dairy farming and the dozens of butter factories that dotted the Valley, the produce taken by bullock train over a rugged mountain track to Nowra for sale.
The delights of a stay in Kangaroo Valley often involve waking in the morning to a full-throttle chorus of birdsong and enjoying a coffee on a verandah with splendid views while possibly spotting echidnas, wombats, wallabies and lyrebirds going about their daily business. At night, look up at the bowl of stars that circle the sky and if you're lucky spot tiny sugar gliders floating from tree to tree. In winter, mists roll in and shroud the Valley in mystery and after heavy rain huge waterfalls tumble down the high, rocky escarpment. It's truly a place of constant beauty, surprise and wonder.
In the village, you'll find a general store, cafes, restaurants and boutique stores aplenty plus the historic Friendly Inn, a cosy sandstone pub with open fires blazing in winter, an excellent bistro and a beer garden at the rear with quite possibly the most beautiful views of any beer garden in Australia. On the second Sunday of each month, the beer garden hosts the local Farmer's Market, where you can purchase fresh local produce straight from the growers. Feel like a meat pie? Head out of the village to the Barrengarry General Store, a historic general store and cafe that has appeared in many a television commercial and claims to serve the “World's Best Pies!” We can't verify this of course, but the range of gourmet pies on offer here are certainly scrumptious.
Kangaroo Valley also offers cultural riches. The Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival brings the magic of the arts into Australia’s most beautiful valley. Outstanding musicians perform classical and contemporary fine music in the intimate setting of private houses as well as in public spaces over a weekend in May. The festival includes the fabulous Sculpture in the Valley exhibition, music bushwalks, and delicious local produce stalls. Between festivals, art shows and occasional concerts are staged.
Each October, the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival is a three-day celebration of music, dancing, poetry and craft held at the Showground and smaller venues around the village. There's also an annual Kangaroo Valley Craft Beer and BBQ Festival held in the grounds of the Friendly Inn featuring dozens of craft beer breweries, top of the line BBQ caterers, live music and activities from piglet races to helicopter rides.
Out on Mt Scanzi Road lies the truly impressive Galeria Aniela Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park. Founded in 1994, Galeria Aniela offers an opportunity to purchase modern and contemporary original works of art of impeccable provenance and museum-quality. Paintings and sculptures are displayed in three light-filled exhibition-rooms and the outdoor Sculpture Park. The gallery also has an extensive stock room and specialises in selling quality art by some of the most important Australian artists from post WWII until today. Keep an eye out for posters around the village to see if the local ArtsLab are putting on any activities at the Upper Kangaroo Valley Hall, such as live music, movie nights or a stage play, during your stay.
Whether you are looking for an active break or simply want to relax in absolute tranquillity, Kangaroo Valley is a very special place to experience and enjoy.
First image credit: Waterfallwandering https://waterfallwandering.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/kangaroo-valley-minnie-ha-ha-falls/
Final image credit: ‘Illusion’ by Vikki Holik Blazley, Kangaroo Valley art festival 2017, Photo by Sue Agar https://www.veniceclayartists.com/kangaroo-valley-sculpture-arts-biennial/
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