Whether it is a last minute New Year’s plan or just a short summer break in the works, the Hawkesbury River is the ideal destination to get away from it all. Rejuvenate or simply enjoy some good times with friends, family or lovers – all without having to go the distance.
45 minutes from Sydney lies another world… A hidden world with outstretched waters, jetties, private boat access, jumping fish, fine dining – and most of all, tranquillity.
How you do it is up to you – and there are various options.
Of course, there are the Hawkesbury houseboats – a fun way to go with a group of friends. Why? Spas on the deck and they move. Enough said.
But, if you’d prefer something more grounded, we picked from one of the many properties on offer from Hawkesbury River Escapes. Amazing riverside boatsheds, from the basic knock-around holiday variety, to luxury accommodation. Whichever way you go, you’ll be on the water with magnificent views and you’ll have a boat to get around.
And if you’re smart, you’ll have the team from Hawkesbury River Escapes organise gourmet food hampers for you. From our own experience you can’t go past the whole smoked trout (when available) – smoked on the river and brought straight to your jetty. Perfect with a glass of bubbles on the deck.
For your morning coffee fix try Dangar Island, which has a fantastic cafe you can boat right up to. How’s that for a morning start? Try the homemade Summer Fruit Pudding for breakfast – delish.
For those wanting to splash out there are a couple of finer dining options for lunch & dinner. The best and a favourite of ours is Berowra Waters Inn. The menu and location are near impossible to beat and there is a water taxi service that will ferry you to and from the restaurant – it’s all part of this magic experience.
That was our weekend away. When will you take yours?
Whichever way you go, a break on the Hawkesbury has a certain magic to it. And the best part is you’ll be back home and fighting traffic within an hour of departure.
36 Hours in the Blue Mountains
Go west, where autumn attractions are at their peak (and valleys)
Dramatic valleys and blue-tinged vistas. Invigorating mountain air. Grand hotels and art deco cafes. It’s little wonder the Blue Mountains have been Sydney’s playground for more than 100 years, and autumn is the perfect time of year to visit. Take the train or jump in the car and escape to the mountains in a mere two hours.
9am: Art Deco Discoveries
Katoomba – the Blue Mountains’ epicentre – was first developed as a resort destination in the late 19th Century. Its main street still boasts many beautiful examples of art deco architecture, such as the Paragon café that dates back to 1916. Relive this bygone era with a stroll down Katoomba Street and pop into the overflowing antique shops. This town is a trove of vintage treasures.
1pm: Warm Your Cockles
After some dedicated foraging, restore your constitution with some hearty victuals. There’s no better stop than the Old City Bank Bar & Brasserie for a warming pub feed. If the English watering-hole vibe hasn’t fully transported you to Ol’ Blighty, a more-ish beef and Guinness pie with mushy peas and a pint of ale will.
3pm: Lurk in Leura
This popular spot has more homeware and gift stores than a one-horse town, plus there are a couple of gastronome gems that make it a worthy visit. Josophan’s Fine Chocolates boutique is a cocoa-holic’s dream. And across the tree-lined street is Leura Cellars, a haven for the true oenophile. Upstairs the store boasts one of NSW’s best ranges of craft brews, while under the floorboards you’ll discover the cellar – shelves laden with Australia’s most celebrated vintages, plus a healthy selection of such old-world superstars as Chateau Latour.
6pm: Make a Toast
Indulge in the tradition of the cocktail hour at Champagne Charlies inside The Carrington hotel. While not as lively as the joint might have been during the Roaring ’20s, they do know how to shake a mean, potent potable. Go for the Old Cuban – Havana Club rum, mint, lime, sugar, bitters and sparkling; a modern classic.
8.30pm: Bring Your Marshmallows
There’s no shortage of accommodation options in the Blue Mountains, but one that gets our vote is theMountain Heritage Hotel & Spa Retreat, with its sweeping views of Jamison Valley. Just a short stroll from Katoomba, this historic retreat was built in 1908 under the handle ‘The California’. Many rooms contain a fireplace, so bring your marshmallows and crack that bottle of red you purchased earlier.
9am: Meet the Sisters
Towering above the Jamison Valley are the Three Sisters – a striking rock formation and the Blue Mountains’ most famous landmark. En route, strap on your walking shoes, take a stroll down Katoomba Street, and pick up a coffee on your way to Echo Point, where you can view the main attraction. It’s only two kilometres south of the town.
Noon: Horsing Around
One of the best ways to explore the mountain scenery is to give your legs a rest and borrow someone else’s. In the Megalong Valley, a short drive west of Katoomba, you have a myriad of horse riding options to serve your purpose. Werriberri Trail Rides are a family affair with Kathy Tucker and her four children running the show.
6:30pm: Local Dining
In Leura, the French-infused, modern Australian menu at Silk’s Brasserie is hard to beat. A piquant Provençale fish soup with saffron, aioli & rye crostini is the pick of the entrees, whereas the generous and juicy Moroccan lamb loin with couscous, pine nuts, dates, tomato relish and gremolata reflects some real country hospitality.
Sydney’s Best Fish and Chip Shops
1. Bondi Surf Seafoods
Voted Sydney’s best fish n chips, Bondi’s oldest fish shop gets fresh seafood from the markets each day and grills or fries it to order. Take your purchase to the beach for eating and you’ll be thinking life doesn’t get much better. But it does. They also do deep-fried Mars Bars.
128 Campbell Pde, Bondi Beach. Tel: (02) 9130 4554
2. Ocean Foods
Let the brightly coloured fish outside show you the way to what the owners proclaim as “the best fish n chips in the universe”. It’s a bold claim, but they can back it up pretty well with a menu that covers everything from classic fish n chips to sushi and oven-baked barramundi.
Cnr Lyons Rd and Gipps St, Drummoyne. Tel: (02) 9181 4336
3. Fish Mongers
It’s the little flourishes that the Mongers put on their meals that make all the difference, the extra thick cut chips, kumera crisps or tempura vegetables that are served with your boxed meal of fish, barbecue octopus or salt and pepper calamari.
42 Hall St, Bondi Beach. Tel: (02) 9365 2205; 11 Wentworth St, Manly Beach. Tel: (02) 9977 1777
4. Bottom of the Harbour
What started life as just your average chipper has evolved into one of Balmoral’s favourite cafes. There’s a breakfast service on offer, but we say skip straight to what they’re known for: grilled ocean perch with chips and salad. Add a glass of wine and an ocean view and you’ve got it made.
21 The Esplanade St, Balmoral. Tel: (02) 9969 7911
5. Kiwi Style Fish & Chips
When they’re not complaining about our theft of pavlova, Phar Lap or Russell Crowe, you’ll often hear the Kiwis bemoan the lack of good fish and chips in this country. Steer them to this expat joint for a slice of home (and some kumera chips). The burgers aren’t half bad, either.
895 Botany Rd, Mascot. Tel: (02) 9667 2499