The Hawkesbury River to the north of Sydney, one of the most beautiful rivers in Australia, played an important part in the early days of the colony of New South Wales. The first settlers arrived in the area in 1794, establishing farms which contributed to the survival of the colony, threatened with starvation by the shortage of food. In 1810 Governor Macquarie ordered the foundation of five towns in the upper Hawkesbury valley which became known as the 'Macquarie towns' - Windsor, Richmond, Castlereagh, Wilberforce and Pitt Town - which have preserved many historic old buildings.The surrounding area is still farming country, and the river is flanked for considerable distances by unspoiled woodland and bush.The Hawkesbury River offers excellent facilities for water sports, particularly in its lower reaches between Brooklyn and Pittwater, where it becomes very wide. The best way of seeing it is by boat, and boats of all sizes can be hired in Brooklyn, near the Hawkesbury River Bridge, and also at Bobbin Head, Berowra Waters and Wisemans Ferry. The mailboat which sails upstream from Brooklyn, leaving at 9.30am, also takes passengers. There are also organized boat trips on the intricate river system and to Broken Bay.At Wisemans Ferry the river can be crossed by boat. A road on the north bank runs along the boundary of Dharug National Park from Wisemans Ferry via Gunderman and Spencer and through the Mangrove valley to Mangrove Mountain (48 km).The freeway from Sydney to Newcastle crosses the Hawkesbury and its tributary the Mooney (sheer sandstone cliffs and fascinating views).The Hawkesbury River is surrounded by four national parks. It forms the northern boundary of the old-established Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, to the north of Sydney, and the southern boundary of Brisbane Water National Park. To the northwest is Dharug National Park, famed for its Aboriginal rock drawings, and to the north of Broken Bay (Marine Park) is Bouddi National Park.
Windsor (pop. 9420), in the Hawkesbury valley, is one of the oldest towns in Australia, with many buildings dating from its early days. The first settlers came to the area in 1794, and the town, one of the five 'Macquarie towns', was founded by Governor Macquarie in 1810. The well-known convict architect Francis Greenway was employed to design and build St Matthew's Church (1817). The courthouse was also his work.
6km from Windsor is the Hawkesbury Museum, in the old Daniel O'Connell Inn (c 1840). Also of interest is the Australiana Pioneer Village at Wilberforce. In the neighboring village of Ebenezer are a church of 1809, an old cemetery and a schoolhouse.Windsor is a good starting point for visits to the other four Macquarie towns - Richmond, Wilberforce, Pitt Town and Castlereagh.
Cattai National Park
364ha.The main feature of interest is the historic Cattai Homestead (1821). The land was acquired by Thomas Arndell, a doctor with the First Fleet, in 1804, and the house remained in the family until 1981.
Richmond, sister town to Windsor, only 8km away, was founded in 1810 during the governorship of Lachlan Macquarie (Famous People). Both towns do well out of their relative nearness to Sydney.The town features Hobartsville, a mansion in Castlereagh Road, St Peter's Church (1841), and a graveyard in which some notable pioneers are buried.
South of Richmond is the University of Western Sydney (founded 1895). The RAAF station is the oldest air force establishment in Australia.
Wisemans Ferry, Australia
Wisemans Ferry (pop. under 200), on the south bank of the Hawkesbury River, is a popular recreation area for water sports. There are two car ferries across the river.The main feature of interest is the old Wisemans Ferry Inn, named after the founder of the original ferry service and innkeeper. On the north bank of the river is Dharug National Park.Along the MacDonald River runs the Great Northern Road, built by convict labor.
Dharug National Park
14,800ha.Features of the national park (established in 1967) are sandstone cliffs rising above the windings of the Hawkesbury River, impressive waterfalls, a rich flora and fauna and numerous old Aboriginal rock drawings. Along the northern and western boundary of the park runs the Old Great North Road, the first road from Sydney to the Hunter Valley, constructed by convict labor from 1826 onwards.From the valley of the Mill Creek there are walking trails into various side valleys. The park also offers ample scope for bush walking and bush camping.
Useful tips: Access from Gosford or the Pacific Highway: road to Central Mangrove and from there to Spencer. From Sydney via Windsor or Glenorie to Wisemans Ferry. By ferry over the river, 4.5km east of landing stage on road to Spencer.
Transit: The park cannot be reached by public transport.