Spending a weekend on the Hawkesbury River is a common feature on bucket lists, and in our increasingly noisy and busy lives house boating is fast becoming a popular way to relax and enjoy family, friends and nature. Perhaps this summer is the perfect opportunity to tick house boating off that proverbial list.
Closer than you think
With several companies hiring houseboats for between two and 12 people only 20 minutes north of Hornsby, the Hawkesbury River has become a much loved spot for many people. Families, friends and couples spend weekends, or entire weeks, floating along the river. And perhaps one of the Hawkesbury River’s charms is the fact that it’s hidden from prying eyes and busy schedules.
“We always say Brooklyn is Sydney’s hidden paradise,” says Brooklyn Marina’s Paul Ritten. “It’s an amazing waterway.”
“The river itself is beautiful, and a lot of people like the appeal of getting out of civilisation and being undistracted,” says Hawkesbury House Boats’ Jason Mcquillan. “Once you’re out there, you drop anchor, pop something on the barbecue, open the Esky and away you go.”
Loads of things to do
For many people the idea of getting away from the hustle and bustle of life, with no TV or Wi-Fi, is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with friends, family and nature and to simply relax.
“A boat does that,” Paul Ritter says. “It just relaxes you. It’s your chance to catch up with life and with your thoughts, rather than letting them run away with you.”
Sections of the Hawkesbury River flow through national parks, and the view from the water is nothing short of spectacular. With sea hawks flying above, wildlife roaming the riverbanks and sunsets to die for, it really is a natural wonderland.
“It’s hard for me to say what my personal favourite is,” says Luxury Afloat’s Kieran Jones. “I continue to find new things almost on a daily basis but being a fisherman, I also like the unnatural features such as shipwrecks that tend to make homes for the river’s marine life.”
Even the odd whale, turtle, shark or dolphin can be spotted along the way. “May I just add that there’s never been a shark attack on the Hawkesbury!” says Paul with a laugh.
As well as soaking up the peace and quiet, people enjoy exploring the historical aspect of the Hawkesbury River, and particularly the World Heritage Convict Road, also known as the Great North Road.
“There’s heaps of history up the stretch towards Windsor,” Jason adds.
Many people enjoy learning about early settlements along the banks, as well as the Darkinjung, Darug, Eora and Kuringgai Aboriginal people. Other common activities include waterskiing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, bird watching and picnicking along the riverbanks.
“Swimming, fishing and just plain relaxing are the key activities,” says Holidays Afloat’s Steve Hayward. “Stand up paddle boards and kayaks can also be hired for the duration of your holiday.
It’s easier than it seems
Hiring a house boat is simple, Steve Hayward explains. “We give a personal briefing on navigating the vessel on board, so no experience is required.”
The boats are fully insured and don’t require a licence, so after a quick introduction you’re ready to go.
“As long as you’re over 21, reasonably intelligent and sober, you’ll be fine,” Paul adds. “Water and alcohol don’t mix but water, entertainment, relaxation and fun do mix.”
Connected via tracking devices, the hire companies keep an eye on the locations of the boats, as well as weather patterns, making sure holidaymakers are always safe.
“The weather is generally pretty good but can be unpredictable,” Kieran says. “We monitor weather and pass on important information to our customers. There’s normally a safe place we can guide our boats to find shelter.” … and cost effective too
With the price of a family weekend on the river ranging between $500 and $6,000, it’s a cost-effective option. While the self-contained accommodation requires that customers provide their own food, many simply place an order for delivery through a supermarket to be loaded onto the boat before they arrive.
A coffee boat comes by in the mornings and one of the best restaurants in Sydney, Peat’s Bite — which is only accessible by boat or seaplane — is the perfect spot for a special meal with loved ones.
“Or you might catch a fish and a crab or two and eat local!” Paul says.
So, if it’s time to reconnect with family and friends and to take a well deserved break, consider spending some time on the Hawkesbury River, playing, eating and enjoying the surroundings — and most importantly, those around you.
Your bucket list will thank you for it.
Places to hire a houseboat
(02) 9985 7722
Hawkesbury House Boats
1800 024 979
Holidays Afloat & Ripples
(02) 9985 5555
(02) 9985 7344**
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