By Rebecca Lawson
Tucked away on a gentle bend in the Hawkesbury River, an easy hour and half from Sydney, lies the quiet town of Wisemans Ferry. Most Sydney-siders have heard of it, but what many don’t know, especially those with little ones in tow, is the perfect mix of relaxation and intrigue that Wisemans offers weekenders. There’s the ghost of a murdered wife floating around the local pub, a mysterious cemetery secreted into the bushland with hidden graves floating their way up the hillside, a convict trail with enough cruelty to interest any tween boy, a 25 metre pool lined with palms that wouldn’t be out of place on any Fijian resort and a charming nine-hole golf course.
Wisemans is known for this golf course. It reclines along the river bank at the golf resort, The Retreat on Wisemans, offering players a gentle but challenging couple of hours. Easily one of the best places to stay in Wisemans, The Retreat is also home to aforementioned swimming pool which will surprise and delight any guest – its calm, uncrowded waters framed by the stunning Aussie bush-clad hills of the surrounding Dharug National Park. Rooms are comfortable and large enough for families to spread out and create the kind of chaos necessary on any family holiday.
There are several great dining options for family visitors in this neck of the bush. While the pub boasts that spooky ghost to spice up any meal and a huge outdoor area with its own petting zoo, when you’re after a meal that’s not deep-fried, Busby’s Cafe Restaurant is another great place to try. The atmosphere is quiet and calm, with more of those amazing views that are unique to Australia. The menu is varied and offers a refreshingly lovely selection for children, with no nuggets in sight. While the kids are happy, I can definitely recommend the freshly-made papadelli. It was an absolutely delicious creamy combination of bacon, spinach and semi-dried tomato. I wish I had another stomach so I could order two bowls.
Unfortunately you can’t eat all day, however much you will want to at Busby’s, so next, try walking off that pasta lunch across the river at the Convict Walk. Jump on the river ferry – you can either go as a foot passenger if you don’t mind a ten minute walk on the other bank, or if you have really little kids you can take the car.
The Old Great North Road provides an interesting glimpse into Australia’s convict past. Stories of chain gangs, pick axes and blistering sun will capture the attention of kids, while the engineering feats are undeniable and will interest mums, dads and teens. The dirt road winds steeply up the side of the mountain though, so don’t plan to make it all the way if you have little ones along. An hour and a half into the climb, you’ll come across Hangman’s Rock and I guarantee the gruesome discussion on what the rock was used for will last the kids all the way back down the road.
After such a long walk, a great place to cool off if you don’t mind getting down and dirty is the small river beach next to the award-winning Wisemans Ferry Park. Turn right when you get off the ferry on your way back from the Convict Walk, and follow the road past the kiosk. Right at the end of the cul-de-sac is a small, indistinguishable beach – indistinguishable that is until the kids discover the deliciously thick, mushy mud along the banks and on the river bed. The perfect spot for a good old, clean mud fight and a delicious mud pie or two. Trip done.
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