Easy gift voucher shopping, all-inclusive party packages and cleanup-free feasts, memorable experiences, endless pampering and sublimely beautiful timeout zones – the Blue Mountains is a stress-free Christmas and New Year’s Eve destination beginning just 60 minutes from Sydney.
From daytrips to multi-day stays, festivities begin at the foothills where a river cruise into the far reaches of the Nepean River laps at the edges of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler owner Carol Bennett said: “Christmas should be a season of joy and fun with loved ones where you can take time out to relax after a busy year, be pampered, indulge in tasty food and create memories through exciting activities.
“But YOU shouldn’t have to put in the effort. Treat yourself to an unforgettable experience in one of the world’s most recognisable landscapes and let us do the work for you.’’
From the banks of the river, Mrs Bennett encourages visitors to spend at least one night in the region to fully explore the bushwalks and nature, attractions, dining options and activities available.
Here’s a sample of Christmas cheer and New Year’s Eve options available:
TALISMAN GALLERY, Hartley Historic Site, Great Western Hwy (400m before turn off to Jenolan Caves heading west)
Millennia in the making, shaped in fire on the forge and presented in a piece of colonial heritage, metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick’s collection includes large high-end pieces along with signature metal art mirrors, small affordable sculptures and candleholders, an extensive collection of imported jewellery and crystal pieces.
A show of Ron’s new range inspired by jewellery-inspired designs will be held in the historic Corney’s Garage below the gallery at 2pm on Saturday, November 30. Can’t choose? Gift vouchers are also available.
Unleash your inner creative fire, work off some energy and learn an ancient art under guidance. Create your own piece of art on the anvil by beating red hot steel into the shape of a fire poker, decorative wall hook or small sculpture. Cost: fire poker or decorative wall hook $45, small piece of metal art mounted on sandstone $65 (additional element costs vary). A great 30-minute family activity for anyone aged 13 years and older, the Creative Fire experience is also available as a couples’ workshop activity at the special price of $275 per couple until February 15, 2020. No experience necessary. All materials supplied.
Creative Fire sessions available December 28 & 29. Talisman Galley is open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday.
Bookings, details and vouchers: Ron 0407 723 722 or Facebook page Talisman Gallery Hartley/events, website: www.talismangallery.com.au.
ECHOES BAR & RESTAURANT, Lilianfels Ave, Katoomba
Perched on the very edge of the Blue Mountains escarpment just 200m from the Three Sisters rock formation at Echo Point, drink in sublime uninterruped panoramas of the Jamison Valley while sipping on a Christmas cocktail. Renowned for its modern Australian cuisine using fresh, local produce with an Asian influence, the award-winning fine dining Echoes Restaurant is idea for a casual lunch or romantic dinner for two.
HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL, Great Western Hwy, Medlow Bath
Christmas Day (December 25)
LUNCH: Indulge in a three-tier festive lunch in the Wintergarden overlooking the magnificent Megalong Valley while you tuck into fresh seafood, charcutier and carvery selections, followed by traditional desserts. Package includes a three-hour beverage package, Christmas decorations, bon bons and even a special visit from Santa for the children. Cost: $199 adults, $125 teenagers (13 – 17 years), $85 children (4 – 12 years) and children under-4 complimentary seating only.
DINNER: Treat yourself to a decadent five-course degustation dinner featuring fresh seafood, traditional roasts and dessert with glass of sparkling on arrival in the Wintergarden Restaurant while soaking up the sunset over the Megalong Valley. Includes Christmas decorations and bon bons. Cost: $125 adults, $99 teenagers (13-17 years), $65 children (4 – 12 years) and children under-4 complimentary seating only.
Boxing Day (December 26, 10.30am to 3pm)
HIGH TEA: Take full advantage of the holiday season and nibble on high tea delicacies in the Wintergarden Restaurant while gazing over panoramic Megalong Valley views. Cost: $65pp.
LUNCH: Extend celebrations over a two-course casual lunch and a glass of sparkling arrival in the Boilerhouse Restaurant with unrivalled views over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $75 adults, $65 teenagers (13-17 years old). Bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 4782 6885.
New Year’s Eve
Bid adieu to 2019 and welcome 2020 with a vibrant evening of live entertainment from The Australian INXS Show, magnificent sunset views and a five-course degustation dinner with glass of midnight sparkling.
The covers band celebrates and honours the memory of rock legend Michael Hutchence and brings back to life the halcyon days of INXS from their self-titled debut to Elegantly Wasted with songs like Need You Tonight, Never Tear Us Apart, Don’t Change, Live Baby Live and New Sensation. Cost: $199 adults, $159 teenagers (13 – 17 years), $95 children (4 – 12 years) and children under-4 complimentary seating.
Bookings: email@example.com or 02 4782 6885.
BLUE MOUNTAINS LIMOUSINE
The team of professional chauffeurs is always alert and always sober 24/7 – so festive partygoers don’t have to be.
Two luxury sedans are at guests’ service, along with the only stretch limousine in the Blue Mountains ready to transfer passengers between functions and venues.
Guests ($59pp, minimum two passengers per trip) will be collected from and returned to any location between Hazelbrook and Mt Victoria in the Blue Mountains (hotels, guesthouses, railway stations or private homes) between 4pm and midnight any Friday and Saturday from November 15 to December 30, and until 3am on January 1.
Bookings: Rob on 0400 500 542.
BLUE MOUNTAINS VINTAGE CADILLACS
An ideal romantic gesture or retro reminisce, a sightseeing tour of Australia’s first tourist destination in a 1929 Cadillac LaSalle car is a gift as distinctive as the vehicle itself.
The vintage ride will pootle past the breathtaking scenery of one of the most recognisable landscapes on Earth – the Three Sisters rock formation at Echo Point, just as the well-heeled of the Roaring `20s era used to do. Cruise upmarket Leura Mall for head-turning effect. Take in the sights of historic Cliff Drive, pausing for reflection at jaw-droppingly gorgeous vistas along the way.
Details: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Robert on 0400 500 542 or Don on 0455 352 976.
THE POLISHED OPAL, Leura
Opal polishing under the guidance of expert Sonja van As is ideal for gemstone buffs and people difficult to buy for. Each participant receives three opals to polish, as well as a small display case in which to take them home.
Experience the thrill of releasing the iridescent fire from stone and learn about Australia’s national gemstone at a hands-on workshop.
Opal polishing with Sonja van As is available at 9am and 1pm daily. Limited to four people per session, children aged under 15 must be supervised by an adult (not suitable for those under 8). Sessions last up to three hours.
No prior experience necessary. Participants should wear short sleeves and tie long hair back.
Cost: $195 per person. Bookings essential: Sonja on 0448 725 830 or email@example.com.
NEPEAN BELLE PADDLEWHEELER (Tench Reserve jetty, Tench Ave, Jamisontown)
Perfect for those difficult to buy for, vouchers are available to explore the deep reaches of the aquatic heart and lifeblood of the region. Experience the natural wonders of the landscape and its fauna over morning tea, lunch or dinner.
Christmas party venue:
Smooth water cruising, an ever-changing 40 million-year-old backdrop at the foothills of the Blue Mountains and old-fashioned hospitality makes for an ideal festive venue. Choose from lunch or evening, weekday or weekend packages. Passengers on each are served hearty festive fare and may book a public cruise (price from $53 per adult) or charter the vessel for a private function with onboard PA system and optional DJ (price from $84pp). Cash or tab bar only.
Bookings and vouchers: nepeanbelle.com.au, firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 4733 1274.
By Ellen Hill for Hartley Historic Site Photos: David Hill
The only dedicated indigenous art gallery in the NSW Central West showcases the evolution of art from the ancient culture to convict Australia and then to modern Aboriginal talent.
The Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery was opened by then NSW Governor Professor Dame Marie Bashir AC CVO in June 2013 at Hartley Historic Site east of Lithgow.
A partnership between Arts OutWest, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the OEH Heritage Division, the gallery features work by Aboriginal painters, weavers, designers, jewellers and photographers.
Hartley Historic Site manager Steve Ring said the gallery aimed to forge new relationships with the Aboriginal community of the region including the Wiradjuri people without being a strictly tribal gallery.
“Any person living in the NSW Central West who identifies as Aboriginal and is recognised by the Aboriginal community as such, may exhibit work in the gallery.
“The idea of the gallery is to give Aboriginal artists the opportunity to grow into commercial artists: we deal with them on a commercial basis like any other commercial art gallery.
“It also provides us with a commercial link with the indigenous history of Hartley and the Aboriginal people who still live in this area.’’
Visitors to Hartley Historic Site can snap up affordable artworks from $3 bookmarks in Aboriginal colours; leather, bead and seed bracelets, hair wraps and leather cuffs; to artworks, paintings and photographs priced up to $650 by artists such as Scott McMillan, Peter Shillingsworth, Jaycent Davis, Tamara Leggett, Claudette Elliott, Tirikee, Tony Lonsdale and Nicole Trudgett.
The gallery is located in the old Farmers Inn building at Hartley Historic Site, one of the best examples of colonial Australia with 17 buildings of historic significance from the 1837 Greek Revival courthouse to Corneys Garage built in 1945 of timber and iron.
The village was declared an historic site under the management of NPWS in 1972.
“Visitors can actually experience the evolution of art at the site from the crude convict scratchings in the cells in the old court house to the quality artworks exhibited in the Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery, which we like to say were 40,000 years in the making,’’ Mr Ring said.
One artwork has been part of the building for at least 120 years before the art gallery standard LED lighting and hanging wires were installed. Before the inn closed in 1895, an itinerant traveller painted a picture of a cockatoo on a wall of the inn in return for a free feed.
In fact, art lovers can immerse themselves in art at the popular heritage attraction with a stroll along the Kew-Y-Ahn Bell Rock Heritage Trail and Talisman Gallery showcasing the metal art of Ron Fitzpatrick in the old woolshed behind Farmers Inn.
Arts OutWest will curate the ongoing exhibitions while NPWS manages Hartley Historic Site including the Farmers Inn building. The project forms part of Arts OutWest’s ongoing Aboriginal Arts Development program.
Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery in the old Farmers Inn, Hartley Historic Site, Old Bathurst Rd (just off Great Western Hwy), Hartley, is open from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 4.20pm Tuesday to Sunday. Cost: Free. Details: (02) 6355 2117 or email@example.com.
Mr Ring also encouraged visitors to explore the wider region.
“If you’re coming from Sydney, travel up the Great Western Highway and see the Blue Mountains, spend the day with us at Back to Hartley, then drive into Lithgow and head home via the Bells Line of Road through the Hawkesbury to experience the World Heritage Area from a very different perspective.’’
Visitors can choose from a range of accommodation and dining options in the Lithgow area.
Go to lithgowtourism.com for more information.
By Ellen Hill for Bygone Beautys Photos: David Hill
Whether you like English or Irish breakfast, Oolong or Russian Caravan; white, green, orange or red; weak, strong or smoky, the long-awaited Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum & Tearooms revamp has been steeped to perfection and is ready to savour.
The major extensions and renovations of the popular Leura tourist attraction were officially opened by former NSW Governor Professor the Honourable Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO last Tuesday at a glittering soiree attended by a veritable who’s who of the local tourism industry and Macquarie Federal MP Louise Markus.
Local Aboriginal man Chris Tobin gave a Darug Welcome to Country. Dennis Barber, who gave an Acknowledgement to Country on behalf of the Gundungurra people, said tea drinking was a great equaliser of class and status and that many problems had been solved over a cuppa.
That theme was expanded on by Professor Dame Marie, who said Bygone Beautys was filling an important role in preserving the history and culture of tea, a significant part of Australian ethos and heritage.
She told the gathering about visiting the Blue Mountains, “one of the most beautiful places on the planet’’, as a child.
Professor Dame Marie also unveiled a commemorative plaque and spectacular custom-made Mad Hatter’s-inspired teapot sculpture by metal artists Ron Fitzpatrick and Steve Cunningham of Talisman Gallery at Hartley. The creation was made from a salvaged chimney stack from a steam engine, complete with a candy-like decorative steel handle, bow-tie-wearing rabbit and spout.
The Bygone Beautys revamp was created using local suppliers and tradespeople where possible and includes a new museum space, function room, formal tearoom and retail area specialising in all things tea-related.
Resplendent in a magnificent patterned jacket and trademark bow tie, Mr Cooper led Professor Dame Marie on a tour of the premises before more than 300 guests wandered the airy new spaces and inspected thousands of teapots, some debuting publically for the first time.
Mr Cooper acknowledged the efforts of owner of the original Bygone Beautys teapot collection Ron Hooper who began the collection in 1974 and with whom Mr Cooper went into business with in 1992.
“I was thinking about what I was going to do during my retirement at age 55, Ron had a teapot collection and I was a compulsive teapot buyer,’’ Mr Cooper said.
“When we took over this premises it was zoned as a tearoom so to comply we had this tiny little tearoom and a huge display of antiques.’’
Twenty-three years later, the teapot collection has grown to more than 5500 teapots and is the largest of its kind in Australia and one of the largest in the world. It spans five centuries and includes items from all over the world. It also includes 7000 teaspoons and 3000 tea towels among other artefacts.
The tearooms are also famous for decadent Devonshire tea and traditional high tea, served with a degree of pomp and ceremony on fine bone china from a tea trolley to the strains of Land of Hope & Glory.
Mr Cooper thanked the Bygone Beautys staff for their tolerance during the renovations and partner of 48 years Mr McKenzie, “my mentor, my partner and the person I most respect in the whole world’’.
The occasion was marked with a specially-penned poem by bush poetry champion Gregory North and cake made by Betty Reynolds and guests were entertained with a dance rendition of I’m a Little Teapot by pint-sized dancers from Blackheath’s Dance For Life! school and an opera performance by Opera Bites.
Bygone Beautys is located on the corner of Grose and Megalong streets in Leura, a short stroll from Leura Mall. Open seven days a week between 10am and 5.30pm, last tearoom orders taken at 5pm. Traditional High Tea is available 10.30am – 4pm weekdays and 10.30am – 4.30pm on weekends. Bookings essential: (02) 4784 3117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Bygone Beautys is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media