I first discovered Laguna when driving to the Big Red Bash near Birdsville. Laguna is a little locality about an hour and forty minutes north of Sydney. Today I’m driving there for a day trip and will pick up some fresh fruit and veggies along the way.
Getting to Laguna
Leaving the M1 at the Peats Ridge turn off, I drive along Peats Ridge Road which meanders through bushland and small holdings enclosed by wooden post and rail fencing.
The bushland closes in again. Scraggly eucalypts line the two laned bitumen road. From higher points I look across the thick tree canopy stretching for miles.
Large trucks carrying building materials and agricultural supplies barrel along Peats Ridge Road. Preferring to take my time, I pull to the side and let them pass. Horses, wearing heavy blankets nibble at the grass. Cows graze in a distant field and I pass the long low sheds of a chicken farm.
Royale Orchid Farm and Other Plants
I keep a lookout for rows of greenhouse plant tunnels to my left. They mark the turn off to Brieses Road and the Royale Orchid Farm.
Having bought numerous orchids there over the years, I won’t stop there today, but if you’re into orchids, do take a look.
Two trailers filled with plants stand in an open grassy area on my right. Yellow signs indicate the plants are for sale. I always stop here in case there’s something interesting on offer.
Carrying small change for the honesty box, I pick my way carefully across the wet and mushy ground. A cow lows gently in a nearby field. Neither the pots of aloe vera nor the scraggly plants with little lilac flowers appeal to me, and I drive on.
Roadside Fruit and Vegetables
Signs for fresh fruit and veggie stalls appear regularly along Peats Ridge Road. Many stalls are closed. Some have seen better days and appear abandoned.
At the sign for strawberries and fresh vegetables, I turn left and drive down the long driveway. I know and like this stall. The first time I stopped here, I bought a punnet of fresh strawberries from a small fridge set on a table. Another time, I followed the farmer trudging down the rows of leeks as he pulled some out of the ground for me.
These days there’s a shed with sliding glass doors, a fridge and a warning that security cameras are in use. Today there’s a reasonable stock of veggies. It’s not always so. I take a bag each of eggplant, zucchini, carrots and potatoes and put $10 in the locked blue metal box at the door.
I often stop at the Corrugated Café at Peats Ridge Village. They make a good coffee. There’s a saddlery there too, but today I’m going on to Kulnura.
On to Kulnura
Following George Downes Drive and the signs to Wollombi, I chuckle at the sign for Double Strength Chook Poo. A lone biker rides towards me. The road with its twists and turns is popular with motorcyclists. It’s also hazardous. A large billboard warns bikers to “Plan your corners”.
Letterboxes stand to attention in a row. Many are made from old barrels or plastic containers. Others are more fun. The Ned Kelly and a rusty pink pig ones stand out.
Bikers often stop at Jerry’s Gourmet Kitchen in Kulnura. Even though it’s a weekday, today is no exception. Bikers decked out in protective leathers sit at the picnic tables enjoying coffee and a chat. They leave with a roar. I hope they heed the billboard and ride safely.
Sculptures by Peter Rush
Peter Rush created two sculptures here in the last couple of years. He’s quoted as saying of his Laughing Owl, “I made it using the dead leaves and stems I pulled out of the roadside Gymea lily bushes”.
The second sculpture is a giraffe grazing with a little girl looking up at it. A red poppy rests in her hands. Perhaps the poppy was added to commemorate ANZAC day.
Suitably refreshed by coffee and carrot cake, I drive the short distance to Sciberras Fresh for more veggie shopping. Noticing that the red car parked next to me has a flat tyre, I seek out the driver and give her the bad news. She thanks me, adding “That’s all I need today. It must be from all the potholes”.
I haven’t seen such fresh fruit and vegetables for a long time. It’s all reasonably priced too. Note that Sciberras is closed on Tuesdays.
Driving down the winding road into the Wollombi Valley I slow down round the U-bends and curves. No wonder bikers enjoy riding here.
The Convict Trail on The Great North Road
This road follows sections of The Great North Road. I pass three historic features of the “Convict Trail”. They were built by re-offending convicts between 1826 and 1836.
It’s easy to drive straight past Fernance’s Crossing Culvert as it’s past a bend in the road. The muddy wet ground prevents me from exploring. I don’t want to slip. Someone has carefully placed three mugs on the Convict Trail sign at Murray’s Culvert. I do walk across Thompson’s Bridge. I’ve have read that the stonework may not be original.
A warning sign with a picture of a wombat reads “She wanted to get home too”.
The rusty full-size rhinoceros seems out of place here in rural Australia. Named Russell he’s become a familiar landmark at the entrance to Laguna.
Described as “A Pioneer Village on the Great North Road”, the little village sits amongst green fields. There are alpacas and horses in the paddocks.
The “commercial hub” of the village is busy. Most people are stocking up on supplies at the Providore. At the Great Northern Trading Post café/ pub a young woman dressed in boots and a flannel shirt recommends the Reuben Sandwich.
Sitting at an outdoor table, I’m entertained by a tiny fairy wren, chirruping and showing off his bright blue features. He hops along the balcony, his upright tail vibrating as he trills to his dowdy mate.
I browse through the gift shop before driving on to Wollombi. Known as the “Meeting Place of the Waters”, it’s only seven kilometres further on.
When I discovered Kurri Kurri, I explored Wollombi on my way home. Starting at the cemetery, I walked through to the other end. Although, I didn’t have a copy of the 1km Wollombi Historic Walk, I found a few markers along the way.
It was a Monday and most places, including the museum were closed but I pottered in the gallery, was surprised that the leadlight windows of the Catholic church depicted rural rather than religious scenes and enjoyed a superb thick shake at the General Store.
Today I visit the Roadside Gallery which has some lovely pieces by local artists.
I’ll Come Back to Laguna
I’ve had a relaxing day trip to Laguna and Wollombi. It’s one I’ll repeat sooner rather than later.
- Laguna is about 1hr 50min from the Sydney CBD
- Royale Orchids is located at 70 Brieses Road, Peats Ridge
- Jerry’s Cafe is at 1154 George Downes Drive, Kulnura
- Sciberras Fresh is closed on Tuesdays. Find them at 1213 George Downes Drive, Kulnura
- Wollombi is seven kilometres from Laguna
- The Wollombi Valley Sculpture in the Vineyards is held in September