When you need a break from your routine, get out of town and discover a new weekend escape in NSW.
Driving to a small, quaint town is a reminder of the power of leaving familiar surroundings for a fresh comfort zone.
If you’re a city slicker like me then you spend most of your days on a computer, working within the confines of four walls, and occasionally gazing out at a sea of bitumen.
As you may already know, there’s no greater feeling than hurtling down a highway at 100km an hour with the city trailing behind you. Inching further and further out of the map, you watch concrete turn to green, offices turn to trees, and pedestrians turn to sheep roaming rolling hills.
There’s a depleted primal memory activated on this journey; you feel a connectedness to the land – a feeling that’s wired into our very own DNA. We forget that we were once a part of the landscape we so longingly but fleetingly admire from our city-based lives.
At least that’s how I feel when embarking on a weekend escape and an adventure in New South Wales…
A few months ago I spent five days in a very small and very quaint village on the Hawkesbury River with six others. The tiny town of Spencer, NSW is located at the junction of the Hawkesbury River and Mangrove Creek.
When searching for a destination for a winter getaway, the only criteria for a house was a hot tub as a must. I examined every house that was available on the NSW coast on Airbnb for our group’s dates.
There were a range of options to choose from but there was one house that stuck with me – The White House. I couldn’t get it out of my head.
A big open kitchen for cooking lots of comfort food, a covered outdoor area with a dining table, three bedrooms, a pool table and hot tub, and insane water views from a sweeping verandah that wraps around the entire house.
The interior was a beautiful blend of old and new, decked out with antique furnishings but the place still felt modern and fresh. The house was cleverly detailed, and its design capitalised on the remarkable landscape just a stone’s throw away.
We had fair warning from the host that Spencer was a very small town so we should bring everything we needed with us. The host was not wrong. There were only two stores in Spencer, a Thai restaurant and a general store. The economy is rural, and farming and fishing are the area’s main sources of income.
The general store doubled as a cafe, burger bar, liquor store, post office, and had an array of random groceries and supermarket items. It also seemed to be a thriving hub for locals to hang out and catch up, a place where everyone knows everyone.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie or thrill seeker, Spencer might not be for you. It’s the idyllic place you go to slow down and take in the wealth of bush and lack of people around you.
One activity I couldn’t recommend highly enough is a day charter on the Hawkesbury River. You’re able to take these boats off on your own: you don’t even need a boat license. Fully equipped with beds and a BBQ, you could spend an entire week on one, cruising coves and fishing.
Just before boarding the boat, I received a message from our Airbnb host, Emma, that she heard we were going out on the water with Brad and to enjoy our day. I smiled at the message – in such a small town word gets around quickly.
Since we only wanted a one-day hire, Brad (the owner) kindly offered to be our skipper so that we didn’t have to go through the one-hour training. It also meant we could turn the charter into a ‘booze cruise’.
I was surprised by the openness and the untouched feeling that the Hawkesbury River brought to the table. The original inhabitants of the Hawkesbury area are the Darug people.
Gently drifting through it on a boat with a wine in hand was the perfect way to see it. The river was largely unpopulated aside from a few fishing boats littered here and there.
Boating is not the only thing to do in Spencer. Twenty minutes down the river there is a dirt road that meanders through the bush to a Thai monastery. Nestled within the Dharug National Park, the Wat Buddha Dhamma’s 90 hectares are virtually indistinguishable from the beautiful bushland that surrounds it.
The monastery is environmentally conscious and completely self-sufficient, running on rainwater and power being derived from a mixture of solar, gas and wood fire.
Guests are welcome to come for the monks’ one meal of the day at 10am, pray with them, talk to them and ask questions. Their meal consists of whatever food donations have been given in that day and we were welcomed to take a plate and enjoy.
We weren’t expecting to have pearls of wisdom passed on to us but there are things that have stayed with all of us. They talked about how we all carry around mental baggage all day – the bags are heavy and difficult to carry and often slow us down. What many of us don’t realise is we can put the bags down for a moment or so. Then the next time we pick them up they won’t feel as heavy, you come back to them rested and stronger.
For anyone curious about the monk lifestyle or meditation should call ahead and let the monastery know of their planned visit, they will give you the code to the gate and the rest is in your hands. Approach with reverence and an open mind.
Spencer is the place to unwind with friends, get lost in a book, drink wine, and enjoy the expansive nature of the Hawkesbury River. There are many beautiful places to stay in Spencer but click here to see The White House.