Looking for a quick Sydney escape? Whether you're after a romantic tryst, a riverside retreat, an old-fashioned family holiday or a golfing weekend with buddies, the Hawkesbury region, between 60 to 90 minutes from the city, offers myriad options from secluded B&Bs to bustling river campsites. Here are seven to choose from, but check out Tourism NSW and Hills Hawkesbury and Riverlands Tourism for more options.
A bottle of bubbly and a cheese platter await at Ghost Hill Road Retreat
after your Friday night escape from town. Settle into chairs on the deck of the timber cottage and let the chorus of rustling leaves, chirruping insects and birdsong soothe city stress. Sizzle the steaks from the gourmet BBQ hamper and unwind over a candle lit dinner. Soak in the double spa bath surrounded by aromatherapy candles then cosy-up on the couch in front of the log fire. If you prefer to relax with friends, the two bedroom cottages, surrounded by fields and forest, make a great getaway for two couples, or rejuvenate mid-week with a detox and yoga package.
Show the kids where lamb chops and woolly jumpers come from at Tobruk Sheep Station
. Join a group tour to be welcomed by a whip-cracking stockman on horseback before sampling billy tea and damper. Watch sheep mustering, drafting, shearing and wool classing, and listen to the kids squeal with delight as working dogs run atop the sheep. If you're game, try your hand at shearing, whip cracking and boomerang throwing. When the day visitors depart, retreat to the four bedroom homestead (sleeps up to 12) and have the place to yourselves. Feed the animals, go for a bush walk and spin yarns around the campfire.
Cruise away from civilisation on the Hawkesbury River
aboard Tranquility, a 10-berth, floating apartment from Able Hawkesbury Houseboats
. Like an upmarket penthouse, this top-of-the-range model features five double cabins with ensuites and LCD TVs, a plasma and home theatre in the lounge and 10-person spa on the outdoor entertaining area. Relax on deck with a glass in one hand and fishing line in the other. Cook your catch (if you're lucky) in the gourmet kitchen, savour the wraparound views over your meal at the glass-topped dining table, then sink into the soft red leather sofas.
Let the kids see what life was like for our pioneers, or listen to your grandparents reminisce about the 'good-old-days' as they fossick through the memorabilia in Price Morris Cottage
. Owner and sixth generation descendent of emancipated farmer, Price Morris, Joyce Steptoe welcomes guests in period costume and gives a personal tour of the 1837 slab, wattle and daub cottage. Although heritage-listed, the four bedroom farmer's cottage includes a modern bathroom, kitchen appliances, heaters and fans. Head to nearby Settlers Arms Inn
for dinner then relax in front of the open fire or sing-along to the pianola before curling up in a brass four-poster bed.
Dangle your feet in the water from the lower deck of River Beach Cottage
. Built in tiny, tidal Notting Bay at Cottage Point, in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
, this holiday house is circa 1916, but feels 1950s. It's casual and comfy, a place to kick off your shoes and put your feet up. Pour a G&T and retire to the veranda to watch the sun set on the craggy, eucalypt-covered sandstone cliffs across the water. Fossick for crabs in the mudflats or kayak around the bay. Don't feel like catering? Then brunch at Cottage Point Kiosk
and dine at Cottage Point Inn
Gather your golfing buddies and indulge your passion for whacking little white balls at Australis Retreat at Wisemans
. With comfy motel-style accommodation your group can be as intimate or extensive as you like, as the restaurant happily caters for large groups. With a shady, nine-hole riverside golf course onsite, you can literally amble out your front door onto the course. For non-golfing partners there's a swimming pool, tennis courts and beauty salon on site, eclectic local artefacts at Ferry Artists across the road, and the nearby Great North Road Convict Trail
Shoo the kangaroos from the grass and pitch your tent on the banks of the Hawkesbury River
at Del Rio Riverside Resort
. If camping isn't your thing, options include caravan sites, cabins, lodges, water-view villas and a modern three bedroom house. Facilities cater for the whole family, from a playground jumping pillow and toddlers' pool for littlies, swimming pool and BMX track for big kids, to a golf course and licensed Sports Club for the oldies. With three kilometres of river frontage there's plenty of space for casting a fishing line, paddling a canoe or launching your speedboat for a spot of water skiing.
What is your must do activity on a weekend getaway? Enter your thoughts below.