NSW Weekender: 48 Hours In The Hawkesbury’s Forgotten Valley
Called Forgotten Valley because of its isolated nature, this region, comprising Wisemans Ferry, Macdonald Valley and the Hawkesbury, is surprisingly easy to get to. It’s 90 minutes north of Sydney, and makes for the perfect weekend break.
In the Valley, you’ll find pastoral roots, a strong community feel and a much slower pace of life. Here’s how best to experience that.
9am: Amble around Wisemans Ferry Village
Start your adventure at the village of Wisemans Ferry, perched above a switchback in the Hawkesbury River. Stop en route at Hawkins Lookout for a magnificent view of the river below.
The hub of town is a small cluster of shops either side of the main road that slopes down to the river. Admire the bronze statue of Solomon Wiseman, emancipated settler after whom the town is named. Call into the Men’s Shed behind the Bowling Club and chat to the guys (and ladies) as they craft items to sell for charity.
10am: Soak in art at Ferry Artist’s Gallery
Light-filled Ferry Artist’s Gallery is community-run and showcases local artists from around the Hawkesbury area. Works include paintings, pottery, sculpture, jewellery and textiles and feature wood, metal, stone, clay, glass and silk.
Chat to the artist behind the counter; pick up a copy of Kate Grenville’s novel The Secret River, based on Wiseman’s life; and catch up on local happenings on the village notice board outside the store.
11am: Step back in time at Cobham Hall Museum
Hand-hewn sandstone walls are held together with mortar of cooked oyster shells, and exposed river red gum rafters and acacia slats showcase colonial building techniques. You’ll appreciate modern appliances as you peruse the period homewares that include washing boards and bedpans.
12pm Picnic by the Hawkesbury River
For lunch, pick up freshly made wraps or baguettes from the Wisemans Ferry Grocer Café and head to Wisemans Ferry Park. Drive to the end of the carpark and picnic atop the sandstone wall at the water’s edge as ducks and kayakers paddle past.
Children will love the adventure playground here too.
1:30pm Walk Devines Hill
After lunch, catch the free vehicular ferry, reportedly the country’s oldest continuously operating ferry service, across the river to the Devines Hill section of the World Heritage-listed Convict Trail in Dharug National Park. Part of the Old Great North Road linking Sydney to the Hunter Valley, it was built by convict labour between 1826 and 1836.
Learn about the backbreaking work quarrying the enormous sandstone blocks used to build the road and cutting-edge engineering techniques from interpretive signage along the walk. Download the Convict Trail app for more entertaining information.
5pm: Toast sunset with a drink at Retreat at Wisemans
Check into your accommodation at the Retreat at Wisemans, conveniently located in the village centre, meaning you can ditch the car and walk to dinner. Buy your tipple of choice from the bar at Wisemans Inn Hotel and head onto the deck to watch the sun set over sandstone cliffs.
6:30pm: Dine on local produce at Busby’s Café Restaurant
Stroll to dinner at Busby’s Café Restaurant. Have a fireside drink before a hearty rack of lamb or crispy duck with mango cheek. After dinner, wander back to Wisemans Inn Hotel and listen to live music under the stars on the cobblestoned courtyard.
Early birds: Golf by the river
For the early risers and keen golfers, hit the nine holes at the Retreat’s onsite river-front golf course to work up an appetite for breakfast.
9am: Breakfast at the Grocer Café
Enjoy the fresh morning air outside or catch the sun at a table inside the family-run Wisemans Ferry Grocer Café.
Watch the mix of locals and weekenders come and go as you enjoy their famous bacon and egg ‘breakie’ pie or breakfast muffins while reading up on local affairs in the Forgotten Valley Newsletter.
10am: Pick mandarins at Watkins Family Farm
Arrive early to avoid the crowds at seventh-generation Watkins Family Farm at Laughtondale.
Pay for a bucket and head into the orchard to pick your own imperial mandarins in season as the winter sun rises over the hills. Stock up on free-range eggs and honey, pick up some Tahitian limes for G&Ts and grab a coffee on your way out.
12pm: Settle in for lunch at the Settlers Arms
For lunch, cross the river on Wisemans Ferry and follow Settlers Road, beside the Macdonald River, through the Forgotten Valley to St Albans. Take a table outside under the enormous camphor laurels at the historic, sandstone Settlers Arms Inn, built in 1836.
Watch peacocks and chooks wander the lawn as you linger over lunch listening to live music.
3pm: Take a leisurely drive home
After what is sure to have been a wonderful weekend away, it’s time to head home.
Take the historic bridge across the Macdonald River to St Albans Road, which winds past farms and poplar plantations to Webbs Creek ferry and back to Wisemans township. On the way out, stop at Glenorie Bakery on Old Northern Road and pick up one of their award-winning family-sized pies to take home for dinner.
(All images unless marked: Briar Jensen)
Published 31 July, 2019