Brendon is on a drive in NSW discovering the Blue Mountains region, stopping off at some very interesting places along the way.
The Blue Mountains are sprinkled with pretty towns with cafes, restaurants, galleries and some beautiful scenery.
At the Megalong Heritage Centre at the base of the Blue Mountains you can discover some aspects of rural life. The 650ha property is reached by a drive through a lush rainforest glen replete with tree ferns, caves and towering gums.
They offer escorted or free-range horse-riding and overnights and campouts can be organised. You can meander your way along rocky ridges and gullies and spot lyrebirds and other wildlife, just as the pioneers did more than 150 years ago. Other rides can be had on the farm's famous Clydesdales, working stock horses or quiet ponies.
You can have Devonshire tea or a barbecue lunch and see shows about Australian stockmen show or the draughthorse show.
Feeding the pigs, fowls, ducks, rabbits, lambs, cattle and ponies is a delightful experience and there is a shop selling regional items. They also offer accommodation.
Hartley Vale is a tranquil area with well-preserved, convict-built sandstone buildings. It was once the site of mines and industrial facilities. Now it's a place where you can indulge in some of Australia's best traditional French country cuisine, prepared by Chef Laurent Deslandes. Housed in an 1823 building, they serve lunch Friday to Sunday and dinner Thursday to Sunday.
If you travel along the Bells Line of Road, it's well worth dropping into Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens, named after the mountain on which it stands. Original owners were the Darug Aboriginal people and tomah is their word for tree fern.
The first European to visit was naturalist and explorer George Caley in 1804. The first land grant was made in 1830 to Susannah Bowen and her property was used for dairy farming and cattle resting.
In 1934 the property was acquired by horticulturist Alfred Brunet and run as a cut flower farm, supplying Sydney florists. In the 1960s their land became an annex of the Royal Botanic Gardens and since 1993, 186ha of sandstone, woodland and gullies have been maintained as a conservation area.
They have wonderful showings of rhododendrons, conifers, a formal garden, herb garden and forest viewing platforms. One of the main drawcards, though, is the extremely rare Wollemi pine, one of the world's oldest plants dating back to prehistoric times. There are less than 100 adult trees in the wild and much work is being done to ensure the survival of the precious plant. Mt Tomah's specimen is fiercely guarded and protected, for obvious reasons!
Gondwana Forest Walk has a wealth of evidence that South America, Africa, Antarctica, Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand and even India were joined about 200 million years ago in the ancient super-continent of Gondwana. Similar geological features, fossils, modern day plants and animals on the landmasses had their origins in Gondwana and it's most interesting to see the results of the research.
The Mercure Grand Hydro Majestic Hotel is celebrating its 100th birthday. It was a particularly popular place for lovers during the 1920s and '30s and is still a place for weekends away, weddings, other celebrations or just a place to stop for lunch or dinner and enjoy the refurbished beauty and views across the Megalong Valley.
The Hydro was built by hypochondriac retail baron Mark Foy, copying a spa he had visited in Derbyshire, England. He purchased a vast tract of land and built a property of 130 elegant rooms and its history is fascinating.
Bilpin is another town popular with visitors. As you head along the Bells Line of Road you will see endless gullies and hills and lots of apple orchards. Most people can't resist popping a bag in the car to take home.
When you are looking for somewhere to stay, there are two Best Western properties in the Blue Mountains in Katoomba and Lithgow.
90 minutes west of Sydney
Rooms at the Alpine Motor Inn start at $179 a night and at the Bowen Inn Motel, $120 a night.
Please note prices are valid at time of filming.
Megalong Australian Heritage Centre
Megalong Road, Megalong Valley 2785
Ph: (02) 4787 8188, fax: (02) 4787 email@example.com
Hartley Vale Road, Hartley Vale 2079
Ph: (02) 6355 2072, fax: (02) 6355 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mount Tomah Botanic Garden
Bells Line of Road, Via Bilpin 2758
Ph: (02) 4567 2154, fax: (02) 4567 email@example.com
Hydro Majestic Hotel
Great Western Highway, Medlow Bath 2780
Ph: (02) 4788 1002
F: (02) 4788 1063www.hydromajestic.com.au
Best Western Alpine Motor Inn
Camp and Ornt Streets, Katoomba 2780
Ph: (02) 4782 2011
Bowen Inn Best Western Motor Inn
Col Drewe Drive, Lithgow 2790
Ph: (02) 6352 firstname.lastname@example.org
Best Western Great Australian Driveswww.bestwestern.com.au
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