Sheer sandstone walls. Tree-filled hillsides. Narrow, winding historic roads. The tiny hamlets of Bilpin, Kurrajong Heights and Kurrajong Village were founded as 19-year-old Archibald Bell, guided by Aboriginal trackers made the slow tortuous journey across a mountainous terrain in the 1800s.
Today, the area is dotted with apple orchards and produce stands and the sweet smell of apple pies tempts travellers. Welcome to the Bells Line of Road through the eastern Blue Mountains and down into the Hawkesbury.
Located above Bilpin, the cool climate botanic garden remains a favourite with visitors from Sydney and beyond.
The adjective "cool" is attached because the garden sits 1000m above sea level. The 28ha of plants, trees and flowers of the Southern Hemisphere mountains are a display of botanical life that is simultaneously tough and colourful.
To the delight of visitors, the garden blooms year-round. The plant and tree life are so diverse that we recommend a free volunteer guided tour, available most days but we advise booking in advance to ensure that a guide is available.
To us, Mount Tomah is many "cool" gardens in one. Plants and trees from the mountain ranges - the cool climates - of China, Japan, Chile, Korea and North America are clustered as "plant communities" in separate gardens.
The Jungle Walk through pristine rainforest is a must. Along half a kilometre of graded paths, you'll find magnificent sassafras and coachwood trees. Picnic tables and electric barbecues are available, and a kiosk for coffee and snacks is open daily.
See Stay & Play page 9 for more
Set in a young apple orchard, Bilpin Cider cellar door is a step back to earlier days where weekends were for families, car trips, blankets and hampers of tasty treats.
Located in the small historic village of Bilpin, the ambience of this open-air tasting room is that of farming at the turn of the 19th century. Large and small farming tools are on display alongside locally produced honey from Bilpin Bush Honey, seasonal fruit from nearby Pine Crest Orchard and, when available, fruit and vegetables grown on-site.
Standing outside on the tasting room deck, our eye is drawn to huge leafy trees, each with a massive canopy. A large swathe of green lawn, open for as far as the eye can see, is perfect for enjoying a family hamper, available with a blanket from the friendly folk of Bilpin Cider, although pre-ordering is appreciated.
Throughout the year, Bilpin Cider hosts 'Thirsty Third Sunday' a feast for everyone. The menu and the music changes each month -- only the fun stays. Check the website for more details.
We must not overlook the succulent Bilpin ciders available for tasting (and purchase): Archibald Cloudy Apple, Blush Pink Lady, Pear and Original Cider are just the beginning. For designated drivers there is the delicious Bilpin Cider non-alcoholic made from Granny Smith, Pink Lady and Red Delicious apples - a real treat!
See tasting, uncorked, page 13 for more