NSW Weekender: 48 Hours In The Hawkesbury
The mighty Hawkesbury River begins just north of Western Sydney – and, for 120 kilometres, winds its way to the Tasman Sea. In the west, green farmlands and pretty villages flank its banks. Closer to the coast, wild forests and rugged rock formations take over. Here’s how to make the most of 48 hours by, on and near the water.
9am: Kayak on Hawkesbury River
Your adventure begins at Berowra Waters, a sleepy village on a tributary of the Hawkesbury, 50 minutes north of the Sydney CBD. Launch straight into action in a kayak, available for hire from Hawkesbury River Kayaks.
Within 15 minutes of paddling, you’ll be surrounded by steep sandstone, deep water and national park. Keep an eye out for White Breasted Sea Eagles – every now and again, one swoops down to fish. There aren’t many places in the wild where you can see them so close.
12pm: Lunch at Berowra Waters Inn
Back on land, slip out of your kayaking gear and into something dry: you’re heading for hatted fare at Berowra Waters Inn. It’s accessible only by water – and you’re too close to catch a sea plane – so, climb aboard the complimentary ferry.
Perched on absolute waterfront, the Glenn Murcutt-designed restaurant feels like it’s part of the river, helped along by floor-to-ceiling windows. Every morning, Executive Chef Brian Geraghty handpicks local produce to transform into seasonal dishes, like snapper with a sprightly combination of nashi, cucumber and coriander, and pork with coconut and pear. This is definitely a spot to switch off your phone and settle in for two or three hours.
4pm: Gin taste at Ironbark Distillery
One of the Hawkesbury’s best-known riverside villages is Richmond, lined with leafy trees and 19th Century buildings. In an industrial estate on the northside, you’ll find Ironbark Distillery, where Reg Papps has been creating spirits for six years – and winning awards all over the world. Taste your way from Wattle Seed Gin to Corn Rye Moonshine to Passionfruit Liqueur.
7pm: Dinner and stay at Spicers Sangoma Retreat
If you haven’t completely unwound yet, you will after a night at Spicers Sangoma Retreat, an African-inspired hideaway on the edge of Wollemi National Park.
While some suites overlook treetops, others afford fairytale views of the city. Either way, you’ll be completely encircled by nature while you laze about on your king-sized bed, relax in your free-standing bath and snuggle by your fireplace. There’s also a sauna, infinity pool and an onsite spa, housed in a safari tent with a sparkling chandelier.
Sangoma – which, by the way, is a Zulu word for healer – is all-inclusive, so your stay includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. Head chef Matt Ostrenski hails from Melbourne’s triple-hatted Vue de Monde. Expect decadent, imaginative dishes, like braised rabbit with smoked corn broth, cottage cheese and leek, matched with fine Australian wines.
9am: Breakfast at The Village Kitchen
Your day starts with a hearty country breakfast at The Village Kitchen, Kurrajong. Head to the back verandah for rural views, soundtracked by bell birds, and tuck into grilled mushrooms with eggs, goats cheese and walnut sage butter.
11am: Morning tea at the oldest church in Australia
Now it’s time for a little history. Ebenezer Church, built in 1809, is the oldest church in the entire country – and it’s beautifully maintained. You’re welcome to wander around freely – through the buildings, which include a former school, around the cemetery and to the riverside. The home-made scones with plum jam are a winner.
12pm: Wine tasting at Tizzana Winery
Also dating to the 19th Century is Tizzana Winery, built by pioneering winemaker and surgeon Dr Thomas Fiaschi in 1887. Current owners Peter and Carolyn Auld specialise in unusual varietals, like Tannat and Vermentino.
Very soon, they’ll be teaming up with much-loved chef Marty Boetz (ex-Longrain), for a series of long lunches. Boetz usually hosts them at his Cooks Co-op, but it’s taking a break to undergo a major transformation. Watch this space.
1pm: Lunch at Easy Lane
You’d never know it from the outside, but, behind Windsor RSL, is an outdoor beer garden that’s filled with greenery and colour. The menu offers generous dishes, like the monster Big Easy Burger, packed with a double Wagyu pattie, as well as pizzas, salads and steaks. There’s a decent selection of craft beers and boutique wines, too.
3pm: Coffee at Cassiopeia
After so much sipping, feasting and exploring, you’ll need to fuel up before heading home. Get the right hit at Windsor’s Cassiopeia, which is also in Katoomba and Rosebery. The beans are roasted in the Blue Mountains, then served up as seasonal blends and single origins – from Kenya, Ethiopia, Colombia and beyond.
Just 50 minutes’ drive will land you back in the hustle and bustle of the Sydney CBD – but you’ll feel as though you’ve been much further away and for much longer.
The writer travelled to the Hawkesbury as a guest of Destination NSW.
(Lead image: Berowra Waters Inn exterior / supplied)
Published 08 April, 2019