We have found the most romantic love shacks on the Hawkesbury River.
The Hawkesbury River, known to the native Dharug tribe as Vhen Ruphen, was first seen by a European in 1788, when Governor Arthur Phillip led a maritime expedition searching for fertile river flats for crops. What he found were towering cliffs and steep hills covered in forest.
Starting on the northern edges of Sydney, the Hawkesbury River stretches west to the foothills of the mountains and is navigable for 200 kilometres. The river has more than 4000km of shoreline and 32 bays and beaches in Pittwater and Broken Bay alone perfect for overnight stays.
There is much history along the river, with spots such as Dangar Island, Cottage Point, Brooklyn, Berowra, Wisemans Ferry and St Albans.
Sprinkled along the river banks, in amongst the native trees of national parks, are a few river settlements and self-contained holiday cottages. Hawkesbury Waterfront Rentals manages 11 properties, which can be reached only by boat.
The cabins, cottages and boatsheds are fully equipped with linen, towels, CD player, television and VCR. Kitchens have basic essentials such as ground coffee and a selection of teas. Transport by water taxi or seaplane can be included, as can complete catering, freshly-shucked oysters delivered to your jetty, a fishing trip or massage.
Amaroo Cottage goes back to 1935 when there were just six dwellings on a bend of the river called Bar Point. The lounge's French doors open to a verandah, a perfect place to enjoy brunch. The gardens have many places to relax and take in the views. There is a private boatshed and studio at the water's edge set with tables and chairs, perfect for a sunset dinner. There are two queen bedrooms, a modern kitchen and a gas barbecue by the water's edge.
If you fancy adventurous design and open-plan living, Pelican Pier is for you. Loads of timber and floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outdoors indoors. The enormous loft bedroom's windows allow you to look across the treetops and native gardens. The kitchen is fully equipped, so you can self-cater or order in. There's a hammock and a jetty, where you can sit and dangle a line.
Kooks Haven is an easy-living place, set back from the water, with wonderful views across the river to the cliffs of Popran National Park. A deep-set timber deck spans the width of the cabin and is the perfect dining setting. A specially-designed daybed is wonderful for an afternoon snooze. It converts to a guest bed for overnight visitors. The kitchen is modern, with open-plan living room. The bedroom overlooks the river, there is a barbecue on the deck and again, you can order in catering.
All cottages have pot-bellied stoves and all enjoy black, starry night skies.
If you fancy combining your romantic Hawkesbury stay with a gourmet experience at one of Sydney's best restaurants, Peats Bite, which opened in 1982, has a superb five-course menu. It has water-only access and is known for its long lunches, with courses sometimes broken by a dip in the pool. It serves lunch only on weekends, but can open at other times on request.
To put the icing on a perfect escape, Hawkesbury Cruises' MV Emily Melvey is a family-owned-and-operated charter vessel which cruises along the lower Hawkesbury River in style.
They cater for everything from weddings and cocktail parties to one-hour cruises, leaving from Kangaroo Point public wharf. The lower deck has no stairs, making it easy for elderly passengers to enjoy a cruise.