Dural in Sydney's north-west always makes me breathe deeper. There's something about the semi-rural suburb that makes me relax, slow down, and take a big breath of fresh air. Maybe because they have more of it - fresh air that is. It's a little like taking a step back in time, when the pace of life was slower, and the local shopkeeper knew everybody's name. There's a lovely mix of gardens, orchards, and hobby farms. Just west of Castle Hill and Sydney's Koala Park, it's the perfect destination if you only have a day to recharge your batteries. It's also a convenient central hub, if you have a few extra days, to explore further south-west to the Blue Mountains, or further north and west to Wiseman's Ferry. The original inhabitants were the Darug people. The name Dural was derived from a Darug word 'Dooral Dooral', which means 'a smoking tree', as early white settlers would burn the stumps after logging. For many years timber cutting and fruit growing were the main industry, and the area provided much of Sydney's fresh produce. I visit the area regularly for work commitments, and these are a few of my favourite pit-stops:
1. The Fruit Stalls - there's a few dotted around the suburb, always bursting with the freshest of whatever is in season, as much of it is grown locally. It seems like a family affair - kids play out the back, and uncle or auntie is helping babysit or serve. I love being able to support local growers, picking up the freshest stone fruit, strawberries and flowers. Make sure you visit Warrah Farm. It's Sydney's only certified biodynamic farm, and the farm shop is serenely positioned overlooking the tilled paddocks.
2. The Garden Nurseries - they're big and beautiful. Swane's Nursery at 490 Galston Road, Dural, specialise in roses. This family business has been operating for nearly 100 years and there's nothing about roses they don't know. I visit in October when the roses are in full bloom. There's hundred's of different colours and types and the entrance landscaping has rows upon rows of roses in full bloom. Spring is the best time to visit as in winter they will all be pruned, and there's a coffee shop on site too. Engell's Nursery at 997 Old Northern Road, Dural, specialise in fruit trees, especially citrus. If you want to try your hand at growing mandarin, blood orange, finger lime or whatever else takes your fancy, you'll get all the information you need from these expert growers with over 65 years of experience. Hargraves Nursery at 630 Old Northern Road Dural, has everything any gardener or would-be green-thumb might need. Their range includes a vast range of plants, pots, soils, mulches, and garden ornaments. At the moment they're having a Spring Sale too.
Tea-house and nursery at The House of Herbs & Roses
3. The Coffee Shops - it's hard to choose a favourite. The House of Herbs and Roses is a quaint, quirky tea-room and nursery housed in a unique A-framed house. Their speciality is High Tea, and I highly recommend their scones and jam. They actually put real fresh tea-leaves in the pot too - something so rare these days. Café Botanica is part of Swane's Nursery and such a handy addition to the garden centre, as I'm always exhausted after trying to decide what to buy. The Wildpear Café is also part of a nursery, and oh so handy to combine brunch with a browse through a great range of pots and garden ornaments. There's many more that you'll spot just meandering around the surrounding streets (I've yet to try them all!)
4. Christmas Tree Farm - Start your Christmas experience by shopping for your own very special fresh tree, opening in November. Bring your camera as Dural Christmas Tree Farm also has reindeers and Santa sometimes pops in on weekends. You can pick up tree-stands and ornaments too.
5. Golden Ridge Animal Farm - milk a cow, cuddle a chicken, feed a goat, be a farmer for a day, and keep the kids entertained in school holidays - this place is just fantastic! There's a 'feeding shed', farm tours, and pony rides. Why not hold the next birthday party here and have the very best party games such as throwing the gumboot, sack racing, or musical hay bales? Fun for everyone? - who can resist a cute lamb or duckling? Golden Ridge has raised animals for over 30 years and is the only place in Sydney where you can really participate in farming life and get your hands dirty.