Live in Sydney or the Central Coast? This is a favourite run of ours... check out this scenic ride which will take you on some fun Punt Ferries just outside of Sydney! Words & Photos: The Bear.
There are six free car (and motorcycle) carrying punt ferries in the Sydney area. One, known as the Putney Punt, is at Mortlake and is not part of this story. The other five can be combined for an excellent day ride, with opportunities to stop for sightseeing!
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Our journey starts where Berowra Waters Road turns off the Pacific Highway opposite the railway station. A good place to meet is the Ampol station near the corner. If you need coffee, the Three Wise Monkeys café is almost next door. Follow Berowra Waters Road from here to the roundabout and turn right. The route to the ferry is well signposted. Once past the BP station, the fun begins. The ride down above Washtub Gully to water level ought almost to be illegal it’s so enjoyable. The only limitation is that is a bit narrow. The Berowra ferry awaits at the bottom.
“…the ferries actually add a degree of atmosphere to the place. If you’ve ever been to the Berowra ferry crossing on a nice sunny Sunday – it really adds to the character, of the place.”
It takes only three minutes to cross Berowra Creek, though you may have to wait 10 minutes. That’s no chore because the scenery down here is beautiful. The ferry runs for 24 hours every day except for the second Tuesday of the month when it’s out for maintenance from noon to 2.30pm.
Bay Road becomes Arcadia Road, which you follow to the T intersection with Wylds Road on your right. It’s straight with ninety degree corners and inhabited by horse floats. Wylds Road is also pretty straight, and takes you up to another T intersection with the Old Northern Road. Turn right and carry on with all the traffic for a few hundred metres to the turnoff on the right on Cattai Ridge Road. A pleasant ride; you even got a bit of forest. Eventually you will reach a Y intersection where Cattai Ridge Road veers left. Continue straight on Halcrows Road instead. After considerable twisting and turning through farmland and some more bush, you will reach the T intersection with Wisemans Ferry Road.
Try to get off the ferry before any of the cars or vans (trucks are rare) do, because the run up Bay Road, while it’s more open than the run down from Berowra, is even more fun.
Turn right and put up with some more traffic until you reach the Sackville Ferry Road turnoff on the left. More fun riding, mostly through open bush, until you get to the Sackville Ferry (predictably enough).
Like almost all the punts, the Sackville ferry runs for 24 hours every day except for the first Wednesday of every month between 12.45pm and 3.00pm. The crossing also takes three minutes, and you might have to wait up to ten minutes. Don’t worry too much about getting off the punt before the cars; the road splits just ahead and you’re taking the arm with less traffic. You might also like to continue past your turnoff to the right into West Portland Road and continue a couple of hundred metres to the motorcycle-friendly café Tractor 828 for coffee or food.
Return to West Portland Road and stay on it, first through farmland and then bush on an enjoyable and generally well-surfaced road. If you reach the bridge over the Colo River you’ve gone too far; turn around and turn down to the Lower Portland Ferry. This punt is unusual in several ways. It is the only remaining timber ferry on the river; it is owned and operated by the Hawkesbury and Baulkham Hills Councils not the RMS; and though it runs every day, it only operates from 5am to midnight. It is closed for maintenance on the 1st Wednesday of each month from 9am till 11am.
Almost all of the other vehicles on the ferry with you will turn right. Turn left instead and enjoy a wonderful run along River Road following the river, as the name suggests. Because the Hawkesbury River twists and turns here, so does the road. The surface is reasonably new and therefore good, but it is also very narrow. The Council must have done a special deal for FALLING ROCKS signs; they have so many of them that they’ve even put them up where there is no cliff for rocks to fall off.
At one stage you will encounter a new steel crash barrier on the river side of the road. Keep an eye out; just a little way along you’ll see the most amazing hollowed-out cliff on the right.
Eventually you will reach the Wisemans Ferry sign, and just past it the Webbs Creek ferry. You need to cross the ferry access slip and turn around to join the queue. The ferry runs 24/7; the crossing takes five minutes; you may have to wait 15 minutes; and maintenance is on the first Tuesday of every month between 9.30am and noon.
You probably know that the roughly 20km St Albans Road is one of the best bits of bike road in or around Sydney. Did you also know that the ranks of poplars you see along the way were intended to be turned into matchsticks? Then Mr Bic invented his lighter… The Settlers Inn at St Albans is probably the most picturesque little pub in Australia. It also has good (if expensive) food, and a good range of beers. Plenty of parking outside, and a sad little crippled dog inside.
Return the way you came and cross on the Webbs Creek ferry again or, if you don’t mind a bit of reasonable gravel there is the alternative of Settlers Road on the eastern side of the Macdonald River. No Maccas, though. It takes you to the Wisemans ferry, the last one on our list. It takes four minutes to cross the by now pretty wide river and runs 24/7 without a maintenance break because there is a spare punt. Waiting time may be ten minutes. If you’ve come back by St Albans Road and cross the river going the other way, don’t despair. You have the brilliant bike run through Spencer up to Central Mangrove ahead of you!