Island paradise, an hour from Sydney

A weekend on Dangar Island, a small forested dollop of land on the Hawkesbury River, is an idyllic escape.

If an escape from the daily grind is what you're after, no place would be better suited for a quick getaway than Dangar Island. Photo / Wikimedia Commons image
If an escape from the daily grind is what you're after, no place would be better suited for a quick getaway than Dangar Island. Photo / Wikimedia Commons image

I'm going to an island where wheelbarrows are the main form of transport; where Governor Phillip camped in 1788; and where mullet once leapt out of the water and into fishermen's boats.

Dog and all, my family and I pile into a water taxi and scoot James Bond-style across the Hawkesbury River from the fishing village of Brooklyn, one hour north of Sydney, to a small, green dollop of land.

"Welcome to Dangar Island," Rick, the boat driver, says as he stops in front of our accommodation for the weekend: a two-storey, absolute beach-front property.

First impressions of Watermark, a self-contained cottage, are excellent: the timber house is surrounded by an expansive lawn and has its own small beach, jetty and pontoon.

I open the front door and it swings ajar to reveal a virtually all-white interior that has a touch of the Hamptons about it.

We all exhale a sigh of relief - we haven't done our dough, this two-bedroom place is better than we expected.

The kitchen is modern with a fancy stainless steel fridge, a fan-forced oven and drawers packed with utensils. In the timber-panelled lounge room there's a wood-fired heater, comfortable lounges and plenty of seaside-inspired decorations. There's also a colour TV and a CD player, with a small library of discs and DVDs.

We would be hard pressed to find a more idyllic location so close to Sydney to celebrate my 35th birthday.

Mum has done her research and discovered that the only places to eat on Dangar, home to about 200 residents, are the Dangar Island Cafe and the Bowling Club. We've decided to self-cater and Mum has brought along a boat-load of tupperware containers full of cake, beef stroganoff and cheese and crackers to get us through the weekend.

On Saturday afternoon we stroll around the island, which is barely a five-minute walk across, and discover a post office, general store, two beaches and some roads. At the ferry wharf there is a row of wheelbarrows: the island has a no-car policy so residents use barrows to transport their groceries.

This 30-hectare island was originally called Mullet Island by the first Governor of NSW, Arthur Phillip, who camped here with his party at Bradley's Beach on a summer's night in 1788. The group reportedly caught a large quantity of mullet during their sleepover and thus named the island after the greyish-silver fish.

It was renamed Dangar in the 1860s by wealthy pastoralist Henry Dangar who purchased the entire island from the Crown and built a weatherboard house here several years later to serve as a holiday house to entertain important officials. Unfortunately, the house burnt down in 1913 and all that remains of the home is the water tower, which is easily visible from the Community Hall.

The island also has a rich indigenous history, having been a gathering place for the Guringai language group for thousands of years. Evidence remains of their history in engravings, middens and rock shelters on the island.

In the Second World War the island was used for a very different purpose: the armed forces were stationed here to protect the iron railway bridge across the lower Hawkesbury as it was a strategically important asset.

I know all this because at Watermark I have found a booklet on the history of Dangar Island. I spend the rest of Saturday reading about the island, eating cake and watching the dog fall in love with this beach-side retreat.

After a deep sleep on the first night, I spend my Sunday trying out the fishing rods and the kayaks, which I find underneath the house.

Everyone looks most concerned as I push off from the shore (I'm eight months pregnant) and set off to circumnavigate the island. Five minutes later I'm back on land, puffing and exhausted.

The most strenuous thing I do for the rest of the weekend is walk from our house to the Dangar Island Cafe to eat fresh raspberry muffins.

On the way back from the cafe I pass several houses for sale and decide that I like the island so much I'm going to move here: the only thing I'm lacking is $1 million.

Back in Sydney on Sunday evening I pop into a newsagent to buy a lottery ticket. I'm hoping that NSW Lotteries will support my plan to own a slice of Dangar Island paradise.

IF YOU GO

Getting there: Dangar Island is an hour from Sydney by car or train or 30 minutes from Gosford.

* By car from Sydney: Take the F3 expressway and take the Brooklyn-Mooney Mooney turn off. Follow the signs to Brooklyn and park at the Hawkesbury River Marina. By car from the north: Follow the signs to Brooklyn and park at or near the Hawkesbury River Marina.

* By train: Alight at Hawkesbury River Station and walk across the road to the Dangar Island Ferry Wharf.

* Ferry: Dangar Island Ferry Service runs seven days a week and leaves hourly. The trip is 10 minutes on the Sun. No bookings are required and the fare is $5.50 one way. Animals may only be carried if they are leashed and muzzled or caged.

* Water taxi: A private water taxi service is also available (Rick on 0448 101010). Rates start from $20 per trip for up to two guests from Brooklyn to Dangar Island.

Staying there: We booked Watermark via Stayz for $650 for two nights (low season). There is a range of Dangar Island weekenders available for rent.

- AAP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 20 Sep 2014 07:38:11 Processing Time: 1091ms