Fancy a mini-break among nature and spectacular produce? Within an hour of the bustling metropolis of Sydney lies one of nature’s salad bowls – the Hawkesbury Valley. Think ‘farmgates’ of every nature, as well as wineries, gin and cider distilleries, heavenly hikes and houseboat stays on the river. The Hawkesbury River winds through some of NSW’s prettiest countryside, dotted with rolling green hills and gum trees.
The Cooks Co-op
The people and the produce are what attracted renowned city chef Martin Boetz to this region. He eschewed a busy career in the big smoke to set up Cooks Co-op. Once a rundown farm in Sackville, but with breathtaking views of the river, it’s here the chef established a provedore business, supplying local produce to city chefs. Martin is also transforming the old shed on the property into a dining and event space perfect for weddings or a lazy lunch. And he is offering the cottage as a base for a gorgeous weekend away. What’s more, it’s inside the beautifully designed tin shed that he plans to host foodie feasts and chef collaborations, celebrating locally grown produce.
Early next year, you can enjoy the spoils of Cooks Co-op, with Martin’s renovation reaching completion, revealing a space that everyone can enjoy – and stacking up against some of the best culinary farm-to-table restaurants around the world.
Showcasing the Hawkesbury region’s incredible farmers, produce and food producers, Martin is working with local suppliers including Gerry Harvey, the entrepreneur best known as founder and executive chairman of Harvey Norman, who is also a passionate farmer and supporter of the Cooks Co-op project. At Cooks Co-op, school prawns come from the Hawkesbury River, the free-range pork is sourced from Melanda Park, goat’s milk and curd products come from the nearby Willowbrae Farm and sourdough comes from local bakers Bowen Mountain Bread.
PS, you can follow Martin’s shed renovation dreams, enjoy his recipes and hear tales of the region in an exclusive web series, here, or scroll down to view episode one. For bookings, visit Cooks Co-op.
Trails to adventure
Why not make a weekend of it and follow the Hawkesbury Harvest Farm Trail? On the journey you can pick your own fruit (depending on the season) and visit the Ironbark Distillery – where small batch gin, vodka and even moonshine can be sampled – followed by a visit to Hillbilly Cider, which is set on the beautiful Shields Orchard. They brew a very special cider using a patented apple, the Sweet Julie. The apple was created by property owner Bill Shields and named after his wife, Julie. Finish off the tour with a visit to Bilpin Cider, which has a diverse range of local ciders as well as beautiful grounds for families and friends to gather for a picnic.
Dotted through the Hawkesbury are lovely little hamlets such as Wisemans Ferry with its famous Wisemans Inn, a perfect spot for lunch. Tizzana Winery should be on every wine buff’s list and, if you fancy a little old-world charm, visit Australia’s oldest surviving church, Ebenezer Church, built in 1809, where you can get a Devonshire tea with warm fluffy scones and lashings of cream and homemade jam.
The Hawkesbury offers scenic driving routes, and what makes it so enjoyable is you can cross the river on free car ferries to discover the different towns. Consider the Hawkesbury Convict Trail, the 43km section immediately north of Wisemans Ferry that winds through very steep country. Along the route you will see 19th-century buildings and dry-stone retaining walls. The Colonial Weekend, complete with a town crier and demonstrations by a blacksmith and a stonemason.
You can meander through the towns of historic Richmond and Windsor, enjoy the arts culture, shopping and lunch in Kurrajong, then head over to Bilpin. Nature lovers should make a beeline for Colo, where there are bushwalking tracks for all levels, with gorgeous views of the Colo River.
Where to stay
- For a true adventure, book a stay with self-driven Hawkesbury River Houseboats.
- At Wisemans Ferry, book into Del Rio Riverside Resort, which offers traditional camping sites through to luxury cabins. There are loads of activities for the kids, too!
- Prefer a luxe hotel stay? Crowne Plaza Hawkesbury Valley offers boutique accommodation set on landscaped gardens with an 18-hole championship golf course and spa. It also caters for high teas.
- Top choices for private stays include a converted 19th century church on the Colo River, and the cottage at Cooks Co-op.
- Or become a shepherd for the weekend and stay at Tobruk Sheep Station as part of its farmstay program.
If you'd love to find out more about the fabulous Hawkesbury region, click here.