Apple pies, autumn wines in frosty Albury
Sarah McPhee, Albury | AAP | May 5 2017
There's nothing like waking up on a Sunday morning and buying 20 pies.
At least, that seems to be the case for the man standing next to me.
"Stocking up, James?" the stallholder pipes.
"We just don't get a chance to get down here every weekend," he replies.
His purchase is as impressive as it is enviable. Pies & Loaves is the most popular stall at the Rotary Albury Wodonga Community Market, tucked away in a multi-storey car park and filled with rugged-up locals, their arms laden with bags.
"My daughter's downstairs selling health foods but everyone's at stores like this," a lady says.
I'm about a six-hour-drive southwest of Sydney and just under a four-hour-drive north of Melbourne.
The market itself is dark and grey but take just a few steps outside and you get to see Albury in all her glory.
Autumn here is a sea of yellow, orange and brown leaves that curl on the ground and crunch under your boots.
The sun is trying to peek through the clouds and the manicured green parks make the perfect spot for an apple pie or Portuguese custard tart. The $1.50 price tag is nothing to sneeze at either.
There are one-kilogram buckets of Nashi pears for $3, pots of honey and rows of homemade fig jam. For the meat-lovers, there's a sausage sizzle or pies filled with Thai green curry, lamb korma and beef and Guinness.
It's a small taste of the bustling Albury Wodonga Farmers' Market, held in Hovell Tree Park on Saturdays, where the six-generation farming family behind Willowbank sell their produce and Rutherglen Berkshire sell their pork.
Something about being on the border of NSW and Victoria has taught this regional city the art of collaboration. And although the streets are blanketed in thick fog, the cafes and restaurants are buzzing.
Melbourne's iconic coffee culture has certainly been embraced since it brewed its way over the border.
In the centre of town, The Proprietor serves up toasties as big as your head. Think corned beef, mushroom and Cuban pork, or my pick - the pressed lamb shoulder on brioche with sweet onion pickle, kohlrabi and cabbage.
The cafe is housed in one of Albury's oldest buildings with original foundations laid pre-1890. It was a saddler, then a butcher, but now smells of roasted Padre coffee beans from South Melbourne.
Nestled into the back of the city's most breathtaking drawcard - Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) - is Canvas. Here, I feast on tuna tartare, confit duck leg, buttered greens with almonds and warm apricot crumble.
Albury is on the NSW side of the border, so it seems only fair to wash my dinner down with a pinot noir from Eden Road in Tumbarumba.
The grapes are grown less than two hours' drive away on the western edge of the NSW Snowy Mountains, near the crisp apple-growing region of Batlow.
A bell chimes nearby, signalling the start of a show at the Albury Entertainment Centre.
Desserts are hurriedly gobbled up and I see more locals converge in one spot than I've seen here all weekend.
Another popular meeting spot is behind the trees in Noreuil Park, a stone's throw away from Victoria.
Home to The River Deck cafe - set to celebrate its second birthday - it's surrounded by the gushing Murray River.
As I feast on my Murray cod and chips I watch kayakers paddle past, children swing on the playground and dogs streak towards the endless piles of leaves.
A long-time Wodonga resident tells me it's the best venue in town. And from what I've seen, I'd have to agree.
I'm told local kids bring their inflatable toys and rafts down on Australia Day to jump into the river, float around the riverbend, and sprint across the most narrow stretch of grass before doing it all again.
And although I've fallen for this autumnal wonderland, I think I might be back in summer to do just that.
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: Albury Airport is a one-hour flight from Melbourne, and less than two hours from Sydney. Regional Express (Rex) operates daily to and from Sydney and Melbourne. Qantaslink and Virgin Australia fly between Albury and Sydney. Jet Go operates to Brisbane.
STAYING THERE: Atura Albury is located near the botanic gardens on the main road, Dean Street. Prices for Deluxe Twin or Deluxe King rooms in the former Rydges Hotel start at $A145. It has a breakfast buffet, restaurant and bar. For more, visit aturahotels.com/albury
PLAYING THERE: Bicycles with helmets and locks are available to hire from hotel reception. Lake Hume is a 15-minute drive away, offering fishing and numerous water sports.
Destination NSW are encouraging travellers to post their own NSW videos and images at visitnsw.com/ilovensw and use #IloveNSW. Prizes packs are up for grabs.
* The writer travelled as a guest of Destination NSW.
(Image: Sarah McPhee/AAP Images)