We begin with the major activities and attractions in the Hawkesbury. Some have an entry fee as indicated in the listing.
Address: 356 Annangrove Road, Rouse Hill
Phone: 02 9627 6777
Hours: Open Wed - Sun 10am - 4pm
Tours: 11am to 3pm, Open daily during NSW school holidays
Rouse Hill House & Farm sits high on a rural hill overlooking the modern day traffic of Windsor Road. In 1811, Mr Richard Rouse, superintendent of the Parramatta Lumberyard, won a contract to build and strategically place tollbooths along the road from Parramatta to Windsor. Extracting a fee from those using a government-built road continues into the 21st century!
Rouse built his large home and sprawling farm in 1813 and now kids can learn about that farm life - feed the chickens, collect eggs, churn butter, grind corn and see farm animals up close.
This one-room school is where children learned their numbers, practiced reading - girls probably learned a bit of sewing. Today, kids are amazed at the 'low tech' tools and that schoolmasters could mete out punishment to a naughty child!
'Open Day' and during school holidays, extraordinary activities are planned. We attended the remarkable farmers' market this year - neither a light rain nor muddy footpaths discouraged a sizeable crowd. It was a market to remember - we suggest an early start as provedores sell out quickly.
On the calendar: A nightlight tour for families explores the old house - the table is set for dinner - and the farm with a lesson about nocturnal animals that reside on the property.
Address: Sydney's Hawkesbury Valley
Phone: 1300 555 711
The hot-air balloon is the oldest and most romantic of flying machines. Before their attempt to fly at Kitty Hawk, the Wright brothers researched the French hot-air balloonists.
In movie folklore, the fraudulent Wizard of Oz insists he travelled over the rainbow in a hot-air balloon. Certainly many comedic screwballs have attempted to win a race or escape the hand of the law in this most beautiful of escape vehicles. But it was the animated heart-warming tale, Up that proved for adventure and excitement; you can't beat travelling by hot-air balloon.
Most ballooning takes place at sunrise or sunset when the weather conditions are favourable and winds are light. Passengers are struck by the heightened silence (unless the burners are firing), the bird's eye view of Hawkesbury's patchwork farmlands and the threaded winding river. All heady and arousing stuff "Fantastic! Amazing! Extraordinary" are the adjectives that frequently float in the air once these new balloonists are on solid ground. Unexpectedly, a craving for food kicks in. These newly initiated balloonists head off to Sebel's Gazebo restaurant for a delicious buffet breakfast.
Without question, flying with Cloud 9 is a fantastic way to see our own backyard.
Address: 253 Pitt Town Bottoms Road, Pitt Town
Phone: 02 4580 2800
Hours: Golf Course: Open daily at 6am, Terrace Grill: Open Tue-Sun lunch and dinner
To our eye, this golf club tops all others in the Hawkesbury with its stunning views out to the Blue Mountains. The course is set in rolling acres with natural rough, water traps and wetlands - features that make a course challenging, but always interesting.
The clubhouse with its Terrace Grill has a fresh ambiance and begins serving lunch at 11:30. Sundays are extraordinary as 'The Farm' opens from 12-2pm and kids enjoy some up-close interaction with animals - rabbits, ducks, and birdsand, if you are four, five or six, lunch has rarely been so exciting.'
The bistro has received a touch of cosmetic surgery, and the bar setting is really quite modern - it's an enjoyable hangout.
Address: Bells Line of Road, Mount Tomah
Phone: 02 4567 3000
Hours: Open Mon-Fri 9am-5:30pm, Sat-Sun, 9:30am to 5:30pm
Free entry and parking, free picnic and barbecue facilities
From our initial introduction to the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, we have been captivated by its dramatic view out to Mount Wilson and the unique concept of plantings from the world's cooler regions. We discover that plants - perhaps as gifts from many continents and countries - are grouped by their geographical origin. Chile, Vietnam, Japan, Zimbabwe, California are among the list, making the garden truly international. We rode the shuttle in order to get a visual overview of the garden and then returned for the guided walk.
A favourite of almost everyone is the Brunet Meadow Daffodil garden in spring - a sea of yellow. And a special trip up the mountain during the Waratah season is a must in this household.
But to grasp the early days of English discovery, it is the Botanists Way Discovery Centre (downstairs) that fascinates us most. We were introduced to places and spaces we could never reach through the stories of those early botanists. Using high quality photography and graphics along with the unusual displays - this is Australian education you mustn't miss.
Address: 100 Ridges Lane, Richmond
Phone: 02 4588 5000
Set on 450 acres in agricultural Richmond, the Sydney Polo Club will host the 2017 World Cup in October 2017.
We are speechless, a rare occurrence, on our first visit to the grounds. Using the term, 'world class' is not an overstatement: on these fields, in 2017, the international world of polo will become acquainted with Australian polo, specifically the Sydney Polo Club in Richmond.
Impressive manicured gardens and perfectly maintained fields are set within the beauty of the rural countryside and bordered by the Blue Mountains. Tranquil and quiet - even the beautiful horses stand serene on this summer's day.
All this will change when polo season is on - spring and autumn. Excitement is high, a buzz permanently in the air. Tournaments are held every weekend culminating with the Hector King tournament in March and the Sydney Gold Cup in October. In 2016, attendees will be treated to Olympic standard show jumping.
The events are family friendly and picnics are the order of the day. Gates open at 10am and events continue through the day. Visit the Sydney Polo Club website for ticket information.
Address: Rose Street, Ebenezer
Phone: 0438 751 775
Hours: Open Sun 10am - 4pm; Open Tues & Wed during school holidays; check website for Christmas closures
Free Parking inside The Village
Situated on acreage alongside the Hawkesbury River, Australiana Pioneer Village is fondly referred to as The Village by locals.
For kids who often rebel at learning facts, the Village reenactment of early life and culture in the Hawkesbury is a living history lesson. Facts slide down effortlessly and without the usual pain for parents, or for children.
The Village character is defined by its buildings and sheds – most preserved from the 1800s. Other buildings such as the shearing shed have been constructed in the style of the period. In the shearing shed, shearing demonstrations are on every Sunday. Our favourite is the preserved and famous Blackhorse Inn stables, where a sponsored horse race down the main street of Richmond (750 metres) took place between 1819 and 1927.
Kids who are drawn to things in proportion to themselves will be amazed at the size of official buildings: the post office, the police station, a school and a bank. All are miniature and doll-house size, unlike the massive edifices of today. Regardless of a visitor’s age, a village with unpaved footpaths or streets is a rare scene today. Horse drawn carts in The Village maneuver their cargo – people or goods over dusty roadways.
In an authentic village setting so familiar of our past, volunteers in period dress and in character bring life to history. A day at The Village is a fantastic family outing.