Mandarin-picking is the perfect winter excursion, so take the kids, bring the family and tell the tourists. Mandarins are so sweet and easy to peel, and provides a hit of vitamin C to keep those pesky colds at bay.
If you're wondering what to do with your bucket loads of mandarins, I can tell you that making your own mandarin marmalade is very rewarding. Plus they make great presents for family and friends. Feel free to have a go making your own.
Watkins Family Farm is located near Wiseman's Ferry, about 75 minutes north west of Sydney. The farm will be opening its gates from 30th May 2015, 10am til 4pm, every weekend until all the fruit is picked.
I've been told it's a bumper crop this year, so there's plenty of fruit to be picked. What's new this year is a lovely pony called Barbie, who loves to be petted and is available for occasional rides, which will be a definite hit with the kids.
There will be 2 large signs along Singleton Road directing you to turn into a dirt track to Watkins Family Farm. You will have to follow this narrow dirt track for 1km before you reach an open paddock, where there is plenty of parking.
Watkins Family Farm, pick your own mandarins
Following the families walking along the bridge over the creek to the farm, you see the signs to prepay for a bucket, which can hold up to 5-7kg of mandarins. Also on sale are honey, eggs, and a shed full of grow-your-own mushrooms bundles.
In each bucket there are is a list of simple rules: one bucket between two adults, place the peel in the bucket to keep the farm clean, sample 2 mandarins, and keep to an honesty system with what you have picked.
The orchard is dotted with orange mandarins and spectacular sandstone escarpments. It is recommended to come early, as it gets particularly busy at lunchtimes. Once you have picked your quota of mandarins (or your arms have had enough of carrying a heavy bucket), there is an area where you can place your picked produce into plastic bags for easy transport back to the car.
Entry is free, with plenty of paddock parking. There are picnic chairs and tables available, as well as portaloo facilities. But bring a picnic and a rug to enjoy the green space.
Tractor at the farm
As we wanted to go back to a lookout that we spied driving on our way to Watkins farm, we ended up having a bite to eat overlooking the Hawkesbury River at Hawkins Lookout, and enjoyed the sunshine.
Please be advised not to use Laughtondale Gully Road (your GPS will direct you that way). The road is dangerous and difficult to navigate. Travel on Old Northern Road, all the way into Wisemans Ferry, and when you see the township, there is a road on your right (Singleton Road).