Mudgee voted Australia’s top tourist town for second consecutive year

New South Wales’ booming food and wine hub of Mudgee has retained its crown as Australia’s top tourist town for the second year in a row, proving the first time was no fluke.

The NSW Central Tablelands town was awarded the title in Australia’s Top Tourism Awards 2022 at a ceremony in Canberra on Tuesday.

Mudgee Region Tourism Acting General Manager Leianne Murphy attributed the big win to the town’s “community spirit”.

“We partner with over 50 local family businesses and the collaborative approach we have is absolutely remarkable,” Murphy told Traveller.

The tourism executive says the ambitious task set three years ago – to be Australia’s best-loved destination – is paying off.

“To achieve this for the second year in a row is absolutely a huge accolade and showcases the last three or four years of hard work,” Murphy said.

The NSW wine region beat regional favorites Bendigo in Victoria (silver) and Mandurah in Western Australia (bronze), with members of the Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC) describing the 2022 competition as fierce.

“With its incredible food and wine scene and passionate local operators, Mudgee is truly an authentic country town experience not to be missed,” said Paula Martin, Senior Director of the NSW Tourism Industry Council.

Local operators are already celebrating. Sophie Storey, who runs Blue Wren Farm in Eurunderee with her husband Nick, said Mudgee’s recognition for the second year running was good for business.

“This recognition reaffirms the incredible tourism experience Mudgee has to offer and we are very proud to be a part of it,” said Storey.

The couple recently launched an on-site restaurant, The Barn, as well as a unique government-backed initiative that encourages local producers to exchange fresh home-grown produce for a meal or store credit.

Storey noted: “[The award] offers an incredible opportunity for us to introduce the food and wine of our region to a wider market.”

Martin said collaboration and “thinking outside the box” were key to the success of the city and tourism operators.

“Domestic tourism is definitely on the rise, with many operators telling us their forward bookings are at capacity as Australians seek out authentic and unique experiences,” adds Martin. “Spending time in our regional towns is good for business and helps expand the diversity of tourism experiences across the state.”

The announcement of the prestigious award comes during one of the town’s main annual events, Mudgee Wine and Food Month (September 2 – October 3, 2022), which sees local wine and food producers from Mudgee and hosts events every weekend.

Demand for accommodations in the area has skyrocketed in the wake of such events, Murphy says, with travelers increasingly booking in advance and staying longer.

And visitors no longer just stay on weekends, according to Murphy.

“Visitors now like to come in the middle of the week. Due to workplace flexibility, we now find Mondays to be one of the busiest days in the region,” Murphy said.

Other award categories at the Tourism Showcase focused on ‘small’ and ‘small’ Australian towns with big tourism prospects.

Strahan, a historic harbor-side village on Tasmania’s east coast, topped the small tourist town category, while the WA Coral Coast Exmouth hotspot, known as the gateway to the famous Ningaloo Marine Park, topped the won the gong for the best small tourist town.

Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC) chairman Evan Hall said the awards aim to celebrate diversity and outstanding regional destinations across the country.

“The Awards are part of the new Quality Tourism Framework which combines multiple tourism accreditation, business development and awards programs into one user-friendly online tool to develop tourism businesses of all sizes across Australia to grow their market,” Hall said.

Phillipa Harrison, chief executive of Tourism Australia, said these tourist towns are the front line of exceptional experiences for visitors, doing their part to make Australia more attractive after two difficult years.

“Collaboration within and between these cities and communities is key to increasing visitation, dispersal and therefore recovery.”