How to have the perfect get-away-from-it-all break in the Hawkesbury
Feeling the need for nature? Breathe clean air, picnic on fresh produce straight from the farm and immerse yourself in a bush wonderland in the heart of the Hawkesbury.
You don’t need to travel far from Sydney to find yourself enveloped by nature – a 90min drive will land you in the middle of the Hawkesbury region, with national parkland, orchards, farms and off-grid accommodation at your disposal. Now is the time to disconnect from your phone and reconnect with the outdoors.
Where to stay
Less is definitely more at Kurrajong’s aptly named Tiny Home Big Views, a petite hut that punches well above its weight when it comes to both style and sustainability. Solar power, low-energy LED lighting and rainwater collection system aside, the nook reunites you with nature through bedtime stargazing, alfresco dining by a fire pit and close encounters with the resident cows grazing in the surrounding fields.
Some places sing to your soul – Rusticspirit is one. You could spend days exploring the grounds in the Kurrajong Hills, particularly beautiful in spring and autumn thanks to swathes of deciduous forest. The selection of a treetop pavilion, bush cabin or garden suite ensure your mind and spirit are never far from flora and fauna. The onsite dining room continues the healing theme, serving nutritious meals that change weekly, featuring ingredients harvested metres from where you sit.
No less lovely are the gardens around The Chapel, outside Ebenezer, and you have them all to yourself once you check in – well, apart from the resident horses and friendly hens. Set on the estate of an historic farmhouse, this remote retreat is as pretty inside as out, with grand Gothic-style doors, a sun-drenched deck and lovingly thought-out curios and art. You’ll feel at home, only without the glare of streetlights and hum of traffic.
Wine and dine
Acclaimed Sydney chef Martin Boetz was drawn to the Hawkesbury for its bountiful produce and blissful country vibe. He’s onto a good thing. His restaurant, Cooks Co-op, is a snapshot of his passions, uniting global flavours (meals are themed – think Middle Eastern or Thai) with the region’s best ingredients. The dining room is country-chic, in a refurbished shed with the same mix of charm and swagger that characterises the locals.
The Hawkesbury offers so many opportunities for DIY dining – picnics in national parks, by rivers and in gardens. But you’ll need provisions. Head to the Richmond Good Food Market on Saturday to pick up everything required for an alfresco feast to remember, including cured meats, cheeses and freshly baked breads. And then there are the essentials: Bilpin Cider and Karu Distillery Gin.
It can be easy to forget where your food comes from, which is why farms like Bilpin Fruit Bowl are so nourishing – for the body, mind and soul. Here, you can pull seasonal ingredients from the soil, pick berries as they ripen on vines, and bite into apples and peaches that have just left their branches. Once you’ve eaten food this fresh, you’ll find it hard to walk down a supermarket aisle again.
Hawkesbury walking trails are too numerous to name, as are the many scenic highlights along the way. But one that truly reminds you how wild and wonderful the world can be is the Colo River Gorge. Remarkably, this is among the largest of its kind in the world – needless to say, the hiking choices are enviable and when the river’s flowing, kayaking, canoeing and canyoning opportunities abound.
You’ll want to ditch your accessories and dive straight in at Wheeny Creek Beach. This swimming hole offers glorious respite from the heat, its water lapping a crescent of pearly sand, all fringed by native forest. Getting here is a bit like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: one minute you’re walking through tall stands of eucalypts, the next you’re in a watery oasis. Bring some of that produce from the Richmond market because you’ll want to linger.
The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden may sit on the Hawkesbury border, but its glorious floral displays seem to know no boundaries. Set at an altitude of 1,000 metres within the World Heritage-listed Greater Blue Mountains Area, this cool-climate landscape is so vast that you can explore it yet not see another soul taking in its magnificent themed displays. With vistas like this, you’ll soon forget how close you are to Australia’s biggest city.