Fantastic Fun

A day trip is far too brief.
An overnight, a weekend, a mid-week? Give yourself a break, a lift, a buzz, a little R&R ... so many descriptions.
We know only one expression ... 'ay, caramba!

Stay

Crowne Plaza - Hawkesbury Valley

Address: 61 Hawkesbury Valley Way, Windsor
Phone: 02 4577 4222
4.5-Star accommodation

Did you know?

Aboriginal hand and fern stencils were found on rocks on the Sackville Reach Aboriginal Memorial Reserve (Lower Portland)

If you are looking for a resort hotel, the Crowne Plaza Hawkesbury offers all the amenities. It is the only resort hotel in the Hawkesbury and is located between Windsor and Richmond. Situated in a lakeside setting and surrounded by golf courses, the Crown boasts the superb Villa Thalgo Day Spa. In-house dining — breakfast in the casual Gazebo begins at 6am for the earlier risers and for formal dining, The Harvest Room begins serving at 6pm. Beautifully renovated in a French Provincial style the Harvest room is elegant. Dining with friends in early spring, our loin of lamb was perfect. Choices were difficult as the grass-fed beef tenderloin and the three types of fish were all tempting. The Harvest offers the best fresh produce and meats — from 'paddock to plate' is a short journey in the Hawkesbury! The Barracks Bar setting is outstanding and a great place to meet up after work with brilliant bar food — a light lunch if needed — snooker tables and lots of comfortable seating. So many options.

Check out the wedding arrangements — an onsite chapel is available or the setting overlooking the lake festooned with lily pads makes for a beautiful backdrop for a ceremony. Windsor florists are nearby for the special bouquets.

A great resort for Hawkesbury stays.

Highfields Country Cottages

Address: 203 Comleroy Road, Kurrajong
Phone: 02 4573 2643

It's The View! It's The Experience out to the sweeping Kurrajong Hills that brings Shakespeare to mind: "One touch of Nature makes the whole world kin".

Three charming cottages built in 2015, are sparkling clean and outfitted in a classic country theme with touches of art that might surprise you. We arrived on a hot autumn day, yet a breeze blew gently through the windows and doors while we enjoyed tea on the verandah overlooking homes and cottages sparsely dotting the hillsides. As early evening darkens, lights twinkle on as though stars had fallen weightlessly to claim and shimmer across the rolling rural hills.

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The 'group cottage' with two bedrooms sleeps six and two nearby cottages each accommodate four. They are spaciously situated so privacy is not compromised – the world is quiet, only the native birds are active. Each cottage has a full kitchen and is stocked with basics – milk, coffee, tea and honey. When you arrive, a surprise sample of fruit grown just steps from your door may be awaiting you. This is, of course, seasonal dependent!

Weather permitting, a 'sunset walkabout' when you arrive on the property is perfect to unwind from your normal hectic routine. Uphill through fruit trees, past domestic animals (pets, really) and the occasional wildlife overhead, the pace is good for your health and domestic tranquility! Often families occupy all three cottages for an extended holiday – internationals have found Highfields Country Cottages and they love the personal attention sprinkled generously by owner/host, Sandra Eid. Sandra has hospitality in her blood – make your wishes known and she tries her best to satisfy at her eco-friendly property.

Tizzana Bed & Breakfast

Address: 518 Tizzana Road, Ebenezer
Phone: 02 4579 1150
5-Star accommodation
Gay friendly establishment

Attached to the historic Tizzana Winery cellar door, hosts Carolyn and Peter have brought this beautiful old building back to its original beauty and added a fashionable B&B upstairs on the first level.

Only 15 minutes from Windsor, this B&B is situated on a winding Ebenezer road through horse and wine country — we feel like we have returned to Italy. With Tuscan-like views overlooking the vineyards and ponds filled with lily pads, the bedrooms are furnished and beautifully decorated with handsome large pieces, the living area with large leather couches, a fireplace and colourful area rugs. This is a B&B with that touch of sophistication and style. An additional benefit — with early arrangements prior to your arrival, you can book a five-course dinner. The vintners are on site and Carolyn's menu is divine — slow food prep and artisan wines. Book early.

Wisemans Inn & Hotel

Address: 5545 Old Northern Road, Wisemans Ferry
Phone: 02 4566 4301
Hours: Open daily 11am til late, Museum open Sat, Sun & public holidays

Wisemans Inn Hotel offers pub-style accommodation along with motel accommodation in the heart of the little village of Wisemans Ferry. The pub-style accommodation, renovated in 2016, exposes sandstone walls leading to the guest rooms and reveals the innovation of early settler, Solomon Wiseman and the workmen he hired.

The five guest rooms above the hotel are individually styled in historic colours and period furniture. Bathroom facilities are shared. Each room is equipped with a TV, Air Conditioning, bar fridge, and tea and coffee facilities.

Note: For the accommodation directly above the pub, occasionally the partiers at the bar may like to sing. Best that you be a 'night person' and enjoy the merriment and good cheer.

The Jungle Lodge – Blue Mountains Botanic Garden

Address: Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah
Phone: 02 4567 3019
Bookings Required

This accommodation comes with many perks — panoramic mountain views, access to walking trails through pristine rainforest, and after-hours access to the gardens.

Perhaps built in the 1970s, the Lodge sleeps 10 guests comfortably. A large lounge, full kitchen facilities and a barbecue create a relaxing space for a family gathering or a group looking to be surrounded by all that nature offers (four bedrooms, three baths).

Play

Rouse Hill House & Farm

Address: 356 Annangrove Road, Rouse Hill
Phone: 02 9627 6777
Hours: Open Wed–Fri 10am–4pm, Open daily during NSW school holidays Tours: 11am–2pm

Rouse Hill House symbolises an era which, bit by bit, is vanishing. Poised on a high hill overlooking Windsor Road, the house and sprawling farmlands are reminders of the rural environment that defined the agrarian lifestyle of colonial settlers. Richard 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. These are activities the Rouse family would have considered work!

The one-room school is where children learned their numbers, practiced reading, and girls probably learned a bit of sewing. Today, kids are amazed at the 'low tech' tools and how children of the 1800s survived without mobile devices. In 1831, schoolmasters could mete out punishment to a naughty child — another concept of past years!

The 'elegant' stables speak volumes about the wealth of the Rouse family at that time. A bath house (near the main house) would have been unimagined by most settlers of the period. When planting long living Moreton Bay Fig trees, Hannah Rouse would not have considered the problems that a huge root bed might create some 200 years later. The house and all its out-buildings are a study in archaeology and in preservation — perfect for dazzling young minds.
In 2017, a LEGO® 'explore and build' exhibition opened in the visitors' centre and a detailed model of the house and the surrounding buildings along with the farmyard animals was set up. Children, parents, grandparents, teachers and LEGO® enthusiasts have participated, creating with more than 200,000 tiny bricks their own houses and out-buildings.

The exhibition will continue through May 2018.

LEGOLEGORHHF joggersSack Game

Cloud 9 Balloon Flights

Address: Sydney's Hawkesbury Valley
Phone: 1300 555 711

... in the still dark hours of the morning, sleepy adventurers gather. With little conversation, we board the brightly coloured transport van and travel toward the low Richmond flatlands, our launching pad.

Within minutes, the crew unravels a 'Flat Stanley' image ... a huge colourful but still flat, one-dimensional balloon. The passenger basket is then pulled from its perch on the travel van and immediately, the quiet travelers are now wide-eyed and chattering quietly.

The flame is lit; powerful fans turned on. A brilliant curved blue inflates and expands above our heads — dramatic and thrilling! Blue is embedded in our memory forever.

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Seats, as with any flight, are assigned and we climb in. Our pilot is confident, instilling calm and with his comedic style, we fail to notice the smooth silent ascent. The dazzling balloon lifts our basket higher — the ground below falls away. Mountains to the east; the green patches of vegetables and turf growing below us. So quiet, we resist talk — this is joy! So smooth, no fear of flying among this group of 20. We now comprehend the joy of hot air ballooning, the oldest and most romantic of flying machines.

Spoiler Alert: An hour later and back on terra firma, passengers participate in deflating the balloon. 'Sensational group activity — take a walk inside'!

Museums Discovery Centre

Address: 172 Showground Road, Castle Hill
Phone: 02 9217 0111
Hours: Open Mon–Fri 10am–5pm

The showpiece of The Hills is newly renovated MAAS Discovery Centre. This is a collaboration between three great Sydney museums — the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney Living Museums, and the Australian Museum. The Castle Hill MAAS houses treasures, thousands of them. But, the big secretis that millions of items are housed at the Discovery Centre. Enroll in a 'Deep Collection tour' with a guide.

Volunteers here are no less than brilliant. For now, what's new at Discovery Centre. The entrance is an architectural delight leading to interior and colourful steps that suggest Dorothy's 'yellow brick road' and the amazing adventures she will encounter in Oz. Here in the Discovery Centre, amazing objects and specimens — in museum-talk, 'artefacts' — wait for all who enter. Great for kids, great for grandparents who can recall many of the items on display!

The collection has been curated using a specialty-store concept. Store #3 is home to big, big machines: trains, trains, fire engines, planes — all types of transport. Most are Really Big!

Store #4 is home to creatures, great and small: insects, beautiful butterflies and birds. And all those scientific instruments that revealed knowledge about the world around us.

Each store is special — everyone will have a favourite.

There is so much information we can't include everything here, so take a trip to the Discovery Centre's website.

Discovery CentreDiscovert Centre DadDiscovery Centre Grandparent

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden – Mt Tomah

Address: Bells Line of Road, Mount Tomah
Phone: 02 4567 3000
Hours: Open Mon–Fri 9am–5.30pm Sat–Sun 9.30am–5.30pm

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 - gifts from many continents and countries - are grouped by their geographical origin. Chile, Vietnam, Japan, Zimbabwe, and California are among the list, making the garden truly international. We rode the shuttle to geta 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. Through film and the stories of those early botanists we were introduced to places and spaces we could never reach.

MtTomah Autumn TreesMt Tomah DaffodilsBMBG Botanists

Australiana Pioneer Village

Address: Rose Street, Ebenezer
Phone: 0438 751 775
Hours: Open Sun 10am–4pm, Open Tues & Wed in school holidays Free parking inside The Village
(Fee applies)

Situated on acreage alongside the Hawkesbury River, Australiana Pioneer Village is fondly referred to as 'The Village' by locals.
For kids who often protest 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, demonstrations are held every Sunday. Lots of noise and excitement.

Kids drawn to things in proportion to themselves will be amazed at the size of the official buildings: post office, police station, a school and a bank.

A village with unpaved footpaths or dusty streets is a rare scene today. Volunteers in period dress and 'in character' bring life to history. Great family fun!

Village Centre