When you need to get out of the city and into nature Fruit Picking in Bilpin makes a great Sydney day trip. Take the kids and go for a picnic or stop at one of the local restaurants.
We’re so excited to be at Pine Crest Orchards the first fruit we pick is perhaps not the best. We’ll learn. There’s been a lot of people picking this weekend and we are here on Sunday. The orchards here have opened on Friday and Saturday too, this first week of the school holidays. A group of pickers, who have obviously done this before, sidle past us with a ladder. This is a very good idea as some of the best fruit to be had is on the top branches.
Sometimes the best remedy to city life is an escape to the country. There really is nothing like picking fruit from a tree to remind you food comes from a farm. Fresh air and an astonishing view out over the Sydney basin are big draw-cards too.
Bilpin is a small highland hamlet about 93 km out of Sydney city just past Richmond. It’s best known for apples and apple juice but that is just the beginning of what is grown in the fertile mountain soil. We found out last weekend there’s lots more to see and do in Bilpin for either a day trip or a short break.
There are at least 6 orchards in the area with pick you own fruit or a farm gate if you don’t want to do the hard work yourself. You will need to come by car, and all the farms are easily accessed by road with a range of fruit available for picking that includes Plums, Pears, Quinces, Figs, Persimmons, blueberries, chestnuts, walnuts, macadamias and various varieties of apples. Late summer and winter also offer a choice of produce like late season tomatoes and citrus.
Just a word of warning, you need to pick (and carry) your own fruit so come prepared!
Once you get back to the shed at each orchard your fruit will be weighed and you pay for what you pick. If you find you are not cut out to pick and carry fruit you can buy some at the end. Lets face it, it can be just as fulfilling picking fruit from the display!
The most recent by product of fruit here is cider. Visiting the various cellar doors for a taste of crisp cider (hard or non alcoholic) is almost a reason for a trip alone. Places like Bilpin Cider Company and the Hillbilly Cider shed offer food and picnic grounds at their cellar doors.
The peak season for picking is January to May but don’t let that stop you doing a trip to the mountains in the cooler weather. Each weekend there is a farmers market in the Bilpin Community hall (10 am to 12). The Mount Tomah Botanic gardens is Australia’s oldest, established in 1816 and is always worth a visit at any time of the year. Stop in at The Potager restaurant and cafe for delicious food and views from the verandah. Other establishments in Bilpin are famed for their apple pies, opening year-round on weekends.
Check the pick your own website here. Or google Bilpin Fruit Picking for opening hours and what’s in season.
Lunch in Bilpin
We headed off to the Archibald Hotel just down the road for lunch. It’s a very popular place with views out over the greater Sydney basin. The pubs eating areas stretch from an outdoor undercover area out the front and a side open area dining section. We could only find a table inside the hotel, this is older style pub dining but the big glass windows letting in lots of light make up for the fact we are indoors. The menu has you covered on just about anything you can imagine with large serves presented in a clean modern way. Although the hotel is packed the food comes out quickly. It’s well worth the 5 minute drive down the road from Pine Crest orchards.
I had an entree of smokey Lamb Ribs ($16) because I was so full of apples (shhhh! I was eating on the job).
It’s a very self service arrangement. You’ll need to order at the bar and pick it up once the buzzer goes off. If pub life is not for you try Lochiel House restaurant. This little restaurant has a big reputation for farm to table dining. Local produce is presented in a laid back atmosphere with indoor and outdoor seating.
Places to pick fruit
Take a look at some of the Bilpin websites for places to stay in Bilpin.
We picked at Pine Crest Orchard .
Details: No entrance fee. Pay for what you pick from January to May. Take your own bag or use a basket provided by the orchard. To avoid disappointment call or email first. Address: 2549 Bells Line of Road
If you go to Shields Orchard during blossom time between September and October in Bilpin, families can go and plant their own potato patch at the orchard for free. In a couple of months, usually around March, the family receives an email to notify them that their potato patch is ready. On arrival you look for your signposted plot, and can harvest up to 3 kg of potatoes to take home. Always call ahead and let them know you are going to avoid missing out.
My Kitchen Stories crew travelled independently and has no affiliation with any of these businesses