Where can I pick...?
Drive time: 1h 30m
This picturesque orchard in Bilpin has been run by the Galbraith family for 40 years. Manager of the farm John is also an avid horticulturalist, so at different times of the year you’ll be able to spot various flowers on the property, from daffodils to cherry blossoms, as well as birdlife like rosellas, New Holland honeyeaters and parrots in all colours of the rainbow. But what you’re really here for are the crisp, rosy apples – and that feeling of reaching for a perfectly formed fruit and with a light twist the treasure’s yours for the taking. They grow different varieties throughout the year, starting with Tydemans and akanes in January, before royal gala, golden delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith and pink lady apples carry the season until late May. If you come at the right time, you might also be able to pick peaches, plums, pears and even kiwifruit. There’s no admission fee at Pine Crest – simply pay for what you pick.
Drive time: 1h 20m
At this strawberry farm in Thirlmere, just past Picton, the fruit is grown inside greenhouses, draping out of tunnels elevated two metres from the ground. It’s a little surreal to walk around under a thick Christmas-coloured ceiling when you’ve been expecting a traditional strawberry field with its rows of soil mounds, but you’ll soon forget the topsy-turvyness of it all as you find yourself enthusiastically reaching overhead to snap up the juicy red orbs. The owners say the system helps eliminate pests and bacteria, reducing their need to spray the fruit with chemicals – plus, because everything’s undercover, you can pick through rain, hail or shine. Entry is $10 per person ($5 for kids), for which you’re invited to stuff yourself with as many berries as you can, before taking home the rest for $12 a kilo. This particular pick-your-own farm is super popular and regularly books out, so make sure to save yourself a spot over the phone before making the journey.
Drive time: 1h 10m
In roughly the same amount of time it would take for the L90 to spit you out into the Northern Beaches, you could be frollicking down a peach orchard, picking perfectly formed fruit as you soak in the sun and pretend you’re living in an endless rural Italian summer. The 100 acre orchard at Canoelands was originally purchased for a mere 100 pounds, and today you can gather endless blood plums, candy plums, yellow and white nectarines, and of course, peaches. When the glorious summer stone fruit season has passed, you can also score tomatoes and eggplants. You can get a-picking for $5 per person ($3 for kids) and a kilo of produce is about $6 on average. It’s not just about fruit here, either – the farm also runs regular bee and blossom tours, and for just $3 you can hitch a tractor ride, taking in views of Marramarra national park before visiting the farm shop for a scoop of homemade ice cream.
Drive time: 1h 50m
If you’re not afraid of a little heavy lifting, there’s a charming citrus orchard less than two hour's drive north where you can pick more zesty goods than you can throw at an industrial juicer. At Ford’s they specialise in mandarins – satsuma, imperial and hickson varieties are all grown here, and some of the original emperor mandarin trees planted 50 years ago are still bearing fruit today. You can also pick Tahitian and kaffir limes, lemons and cumquats, tiny oval shaped fruits that are both sweet and tart, and incredibly fun to pop in your mouth whole. Make a day of your visit – there are picnic areas, a farm shop selling homemade chutney, and sheep to feed. If you’re driving, there’s plenty to do before and after your citrus stockpiling session. Located right on the Hawkesbury River, the farm is wedged between two massive national parks – Dharug up north, and Marramarra down south, plus the historic town of Wisemans Ferry is on the way, just 20 minutes out.
Drive time: 1h 40m
As their name suggests, Bilpin Fruit Bowl offers a cornucopia of sweet treats for picking, from yellow peaches and nectarines in summer to Granny Smith and Fuji apples in autumn. But they’re one of the few places that also permits you to forage your own veggies too – the bounty they offer, depending on the season, includes zucchini, yellow squash bok choy, lettuce, capsicum and even green kale. Entry is $5 for adults and $3 for kids, after that you simply pay for what you pick. The farm’s been owned and operated by the same family for over 30 years, and they diligently update their Facebook page each week with details of the produce that will be available, so you can start planning ahead for that colourful stir fry. After a gallop through the fields and orchards, replenish your energy stores with a slice of freshly baked apple pie from the farm shop, which also stocks homemade jams and local honeys you can enjoy on the ample picnic grounds outside.