Why your kids will love you for taking them to a farmstay in the Hawkesbury
You only need to drive 90min north of Sydney to be nose-to-nose with an alpaca or in the saddle of a horse. The Hawkesbury offers a slice of country life every city kid needs to experience.
We all know the joy that being outdoors can bring: breathing clean air, listening to wildlife, smelling flowers, seeing the world through un-polluted light – it’s the most natural way to de-stress, relax and boost your mood.
For young explorers, swapping the city for the farm has additional educational benefits, such as encouraging sensory learning (patting fur, smelling fresh herbs, feeling mud underfoot); developing an appreciation for the sources of our food; and learning about healthy living.
Read on for four family-friendly farms in the Hawksbury area, where you can meet alpacas, horses, goats and chickens, and where having a snack means picking fruit straight from the tree.
Best for fruit picking: Pine Crest Orchard (Open from November to April)
The owners of this Bilpin orchard raised their seven children surrounded by trees laden with stone fruit, apples, pears and persimmons. Your little ones will love the landscape just as much as its long-time residents, who generously give guests free reign in the property’s many lush groves. There’s no entrance fee, you just pay for what you pick, whether that’s blood-red plums in January, golden delicious apples in February, berries around March, pink lady apples in May or peaches over summer.
Best for fresh eggs and veggies: Bilpin Country Lodge
With space for 20 guests, this sprawling estate is a gateway to the many fruit and nut orchards that characterise the Hawkesbury. Wander two minutes down the road to pick your own apples at Bilpin Springs Orchard. Or jump in the car for the five-minute drive to Bilpin Fruit Bowl, where, in addition to plucking fruit and berries, visitors are encouraged to roam the 1.6 hectares of veggie gardens and gather fresh produce. The beauty of staying at the Country Lodge is that you have a communal kitchen at your disposal to whip up a feast when you return. Start the day right with eggs collected from the chook pen – send the kids out to find the hens – then get to know other resident animals, Charlie Brown the Shetland pony, Ollie the goat and Denton the alpaca.
Best for alpacas: Madison’s Mountain Retreat
You can holiday with your dog when you check in to Madison’s, bordering the Wollemi and Blue Mountains national parks. Be warned that you might want to leave with an extra animal in tow – the farmstay’s alpacas are that adorable. Spas are a drawcard in three of the self-contained cottages, but the real attraction for families are the two converted train carriages, each with space to sleep five. Not that you’ll want to spend much time inside, with eggs to collect at sunrise, the daily handfeeding of hay to the alpacas and getting your kids cooking local produce on the barbecues.
Best for horse riding: Eden Farm Escape
Dog, horse and child friendly, this ravishing estate looks like it has slipped from the pages of a design magazine – right down to the stylish equine art in the five self-contained cottages. The property’s stables are home to 12 glossy-maned horses and ponies, with rides and lessons available, on request, across the grounds and down to the dam (a great place to cool off in summer). Wandering the fields and enclosures, you’ll also find donkeys, pigs, alpacas and a noisy brood of chickens, who lay eggs daily in their whimsically named Cluckingham Palace.
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