Apple picking has become an annual outing for our family. There is nothing better than getting fruit fresh from the tree. Add a scenic drive from Sydney’s built up suburbs to the country feeling town of Bilpin and it is a wonderful reprieve from the rat-race.
I love the sound of the Bell-birds singing as if heralding our arrival.
There are many orchards to choose from for ‘pick your own’. We choose Shields. A friend originally recommended it as being the most wheelchair friendly and now we are greeted like old friends making BJ’s day every time.
The owners offer visitors the opportunity to taste test the different varieties of apples which are currently in season. Once you decide what you’d like to pick they direct you to that area of the orchid. My favourite is Jonathon apples so I look out on the website to see when they are ripe for picking and we visit that weekend each year.
I’m a passionate Jonathon girl so it is always hard to curb my enthusiasm with a whole 2 rows of trees to pick from. BJ is always equally enthusiastic about the process. He loves picking the apples and placing them in the basket. I think it gives him a great sense of accomplishment to do this job. He would keep picking all afternoon but there are only so many apples we can eat, even with sharing them with neighbours.
The apples are at varying heights on the trees so there are always plenty at wheelchair height and lots low down for all the enthusiastic littlies running from tree to tree.
Once you have collected as many apples as you want, you take your basket back to the shed for weighing. When we visited the apples were $2.50 per kilogram compared to $4.98 per kilo in the supermarket. A lot fresher and cheaper too.
Check the website for Shields Orchard to check what is available and in season before you go. Phone ahead to ensure that pick-your-own is available.
Getting around – There is no paved path to the orchard. It is a well worn track which has a little incline at the start but mostly flat the rest of the way. Self-propelling in a manual chair may be difficult but we have no problem pushing BJ’s chair.
If you don’t want to pick your own, Shield’s and plenty of other orchards have fruit for sale in sheds on the roadside.
Shields have a toilet but it is not wheelchair accessible.
I love the idea of getting produce fresh from the farm and the drive there is beautiful. It gave us a real feel of having been to the country for the day.
The Hawkesbury Harvest website lists other ‘pick your own’ fresh produce in the area.
THE BLUE MOUNTAINS BOTANIC GARDENS
If you have time, continue on to the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens which is only about 10 minutes from Bilpin. The restaurant has spectacular views, there are wheelchair accessible bathrooms and facilities. You can read more about our visit here. A visit to the gardens and apple picking combine nicely to make a full day’s entertainment.
EATING IN BILPIN
Apple picking works up an appetite. One of our favourite places to stop is Tutti Fruitti. There is an indoor and outdoor area to the café. We sit outdoors for two reasons; it is lovely to sit outside on a fine day and there are stairs to the indoor eating area. There is an outdoor area at the rear of the property which is set in a garden with fragrant roses surrounding. Being further away from the main road it is very peaceful. You do need to order inside so if you are using a wheelchair and by yourself or prefer ordering this isn’t the place for you.
We enjoyed scones, hot chocolate and a pot of tea. They had reasonably priced sandwiches, home-made Bilpin apple pies and other delicious treats on offer. I liked the fact that the scones came with a little jar of their own home-made raspberry jam, the hot chocolate was in a bright rainbow mug and the tea came with a tea cup hidden under the pot. I like quirky. Tutti Fruitti has the most fragrant roses for sale in rose season. They are divine. I usually buy my Mum and myself a bunch and the scent fills the car.
If you don’t have time to stop and eat at the café they do take away.
Try the real fruit ice cream. They take plain vanilla ice cream and blend your choice of fruit through it. Yummo!
PIE IN THE SKY
I can recommend the chunky steak pies and apple pies from the roadside cafe Pie in the Sky. This cafe is wheelchair accessible with ramp access and indoor and outdoor seating. Well worth the stop and it is just 5 minutes from apple picking at Shield’s Orchard.
BJ thoroughly recommends apple picking so what are you waiting for? If you are not in Sydney, check if there is fruit picking near you.
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