The Enchanted Valley

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By Julie Miller

Beneath the Medlow Bath escarpment and the Shipley Plateau lies a pastoral valley that’s often admired through the picture windows of the Hydro Majestic’s Wintergarden Restaurant.

Like Alice through the looking glass, Megalong Valley offers a magical, less familiar experience of the Blue Mountains - one where kangaroos and wombats graze under golden sandstone cliffs, alpacas oversee rows of grapes and little horses straight out of fairyland trot around emerald paddocks.

Meaning ‘valley under the rock’ in Gundungurra language, Megalong is approached via a winding road from Blackheath, through temperate rainforest dense with tree ferns and cabbage palms The grazing pastures and bushland cover 96 square kilometres from Narrow Neck to the Coxs River, with the only paved access an 18 kilometre spoke that is eventually swallowed by the Kanangra-Boyd wilderness.

Hunting grounds of the Gundungurra people from time immemorial, Megalong Valley was first settled by Europeans around 1838. In the early 20th century, hotelier Mark Foy grew fresh produce for the Hydro Majestic on a farm in the valley, ferrying it to the distinctive white edifice atop the escarpment via a flying fox and creating arguably the first paddock-to-plate dining experience in Australia.

Today, only about 200 lucky humans call Megalong Valley home, a close-knit and supportive community of regenerative farmers, artists and nature-lovers. For visitors, however, this remote pocket punches well above its weight, with a choice of nature-based attractions and gourmet experiences belying the size of its population.

There’s a choice of picnic glades, riverside campgrounds and walking trails, from short strolls through the rainforest of the Coachwood Glen Nature Trail to the epic Six Foot Track, a three-day hike from Nellies Glen to Jenolan Caves via the Cox’s River and the Swinging Bridge.

Stop off at the historic Megalong Valley Tea Rooms for its legendary scones or all-day breakfast; browse for local produce and crafts at the seasonal Megalong Makers market stall (megalongmakers.wixsite.com); or linger for a new fine-dining experience at Megalong Restaurant, serving produce straight from the gardens and paddocks of Lot101 Farm.

Saddle up and learn to ride to the ‘tolt’ – a rare fifth gait - on prized Icelandic horses at Megalong Icelandic Horses (megalongicelandichorses.com.au). Sip on fine, locally-grown and produced wines as the sun illuminates the eastern escarpment at Megalong Creek Estate (megalongcreekestate.com) and Dryridge Estate (dryridge.com.au), two of the valley’s three boutique wineries. For those who want to enjoy a tipple without the worry of driving, let the Megalong Shuttle – run by the Fantastic Aussie Tours (fantastic-aussie-tours.com.au) – be your designated driver, with pick-up and drop-offs at Katoomba, Leura and Medlow Bath.

But why hurry back to reality? There’s a plethora of accommodation choices in Megalong Valley, from chic bed and breakfasts to rustic cabins. Enjoy the comforts of the mountain home of Glenview; nestle down at rustic Werriberri; or embark on an adventure at the remote National Park and Wildlife Service-owned cabins at Galong, where your only companions will be the wild creatures that call this enchanted valley home.

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Megalong Restaurant at LOT101

Located on a regenerative organic farm based on the ethos of sustainable farming practices, Megalong Restaurant elevates the concept of “paddock-to-plate”, with 90 to 100 per cent of its menu coming directly from the vegetable garden, orchard, olive grove, berry patch and paddocks where beef, sheep and free-range ducks and chickens roam. This farm-fresh produce is brought to the table by Colin Barker, former head chef of the hatted Sydney restaurant The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay (see Meet the Chef on page x).

Having been at Lot101 from its inception two years ago, Barker has been hands-on in the development of the restaurant, from the renovation of the former homestead with its panoramic valley and escarpment views, to designing the kitchen and 60-seat restaurant that now welcomes guests for an immersive dining experience. The freshness of the ingredients is key, with the ever-changing menu honouring what’s come from the land. Diners are invited to wander through the garden before their meal, meeting the team of gardeners before feasting on the daily harvest, plucked straight from the ground at its peak.

Megalong Restaurant is open for dinner Thursdays to Saturdays, and for a long lunch sitting at the weekends. A 5-6 course set menu is $185 per person, with matched wines an additional $115 per person; matched non-alcoholic beverages are an additional $75 per person. Reservations essential.

3-7 Peach Tree Drive, Megalong Valley;  E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

W: https://megalongrestaurant.com.au/reservations

 

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Megalong Valley Tea Rooms

Serving Devonshire teas and apple pie since 1956, the historic Megalong Valley Tea Rooms basks in the sunshine with rural and escarpment views. Open daily from 9am, the indoor/outdoor café makes the most of its relationship with neighbouring Lot101 Farm, using the restaurant garden produce in its all-day breakfast and lunch menu. There are seasonal specials, while popular comfort-food such as daily pot pie, toasties, and scones with housemade blackberry jam and chantilly cream. You can also pick up fresh organic vegetables from Lot101 from a stand on the veranda; while on weekends, the outdoor shelter becomes a farm-gate outlet for fresh vegies.

824 Megalong Rd, Megalong Valley; T: (02) 4787 7089

W: megalongvalleytearooms.com.au

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Werriberri

Across the road from the tearooms, Werriberri comprises six self-contained cottages in bushland under the shadow of the escarpment. Enjoy the rustic comforts of the twin or family-sized cabins, with cosy log fires to keep you warm in Winter and outdoor decks for watching the wildlife coexisting on the 180-acre property. Fully-equipped kitchens provide space to whip up a meal from the farm-fresh veggies sold at the tearoom’s farmgate outlet; or use the outdoor barbecue before a match of tennis.

829 Megalong Rd, Megalong Valley; T: (02) 4787 9127

E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; W: werriberri.com.au

 

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Glenview

The wonders of the Megalong Valley are at their most magnificent at dusk and dawn, making a weekend escape or a longer break at Glenview an enticing proposition. This three-bedroom home set on 168-acres of bushland accommodates up to six people, with wraparound verandas taking in the epic escarpment views and immersing guests into the surrounding landscape. The house is fully equipped for comfort, with a slow combustion wood fire for chilly Winter nights, a full kitchen with dishwasher and coffee machine, and outdoor dining options for a sun-soaked lunch. Guests have access to the many walking tracks, waterholes, caves and creeks on the property, while a section of the Six Foot Track meanders adjacent to the property.

T: 0417 815 051; E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

W: glenview.com.au

Meet the Chef: Colin Barker, Megalong Restaurant
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