Sometimes I just feel like a drive in the country, along relatively quiet roads, and to spend a bit of time over lunch in a peaceful spot. When I get in that frame of mind, one place I go is St Albans, to the Settlers Arms Inn.
St Albans is a small village on the edge of the Macdonald River, surrounded by forested hills. The Settlers Arms Inn was built in the early 1800s, from convict-hewn sandstone. It was a resting point for Cobb & Co coaches in the 1800s, travelling from Sydney to Newcastle.
Governor Arthur Phillip came across the Macdonald River in 1789 while exploring the Hawkesbury River. The area soon after was settled, mainly be convict escapees. The first official land grants were not until 1794, to James Ruse and Charles Williams. There’s some interesting details about the history of the area on the St Albans website.
It’s funny to think that this was once the main thoroughfare north from Sydney, but is now a quiet little backwater. That’s our gain, to enjoy a sojourn through the usually lush valley.
St Albans is about a 45-minute drive north-west from Wisemans Ferry, through the picturesque Macdonald River Valley. There are two main ways to get there, from the south, from Sydney, each going on opposite sides of the Macdonald River:
- On a dirt road. As you come down the hill on Old Northern Rd, keep on going down through the Wisemans Ferry village, to the ferry at Wisemans Ferry. After crossing over the Hawkesbury River, turn left into Settlers Rd, and keep on driving along that road until you get to St Albans.
- On a sealed road. As you come down the hill on Old Northern Rd, just before the Wisemans Ferry village turn left into St Albans Rd, and the ferry is just a few hundred metres along on the right. It’s called the Webbs Creek ferry (although it crosses the Hawkesbury River, too). When you get to the other side, keep on following along St Albans Rd.
The view along the dirt road is more rustic and rural, and my preferred road, but sometimes I do the loop, coming back the other way.
Along the way are groves of birch and other deciduous trees, looking quite different across the seasons.
I know you’re probably not expecting to see photos of a cemetery in a food and travel blog, but this cemetery is worth a look. The St Albans Old General Cemetery is on the Settlers Road, dirt road, route, not far from St Albans. It has graves there dating back to 1833, including a First Fleeter, William Douglass, and many settlers from the area. Wandering around the old tombstones It’s a quiet, peaceful spot, surrounded by tall trees.
For the return journey, you can go back the same way, or the other road you were not on back to Wisemans Ferry. Or, for a drive through some beautiful country, first through the St Albans Commons, and views across the Macdonald River, and through forested roads, all dirt, and muddy after rain, drive north. The road takes you through areas traversed by the Great North Road, to Bucketty, where you can see remains of walls on convict-built roads. From there, head over to the Central Coast to return to Sydney on the F3 freeway.
The warm sandstone hues of the pub looks so picturesque surrounded by old trees, overlooking the Macdonald River.
Although the sign says it was built in 1836, it is considered to have been built more like in 1842 or thereabouts (records at the time were sparse, and the “36” in the date seems to refer to an allotment number instead of a date). Anyway, it’s OLD.
The drive here is popular for bikers or others out for a drive in the country.
Out the back of the pub is a garden where jazz plays in the non-summer months.
I’ve seen garden decorated for a wedding one time, with lots of white ribbon and white ricepaper lanterns, and it looked so pretty.
There are also some rooms available for rent.
It’s dark inside, but full of character. Here’s the bar:
And the in winter there are two fireplaces, a welcome place of refuge to thaw out, and enjoy a meal and a drink.
This is a country pub, with hearty pub food, prepared on the premises.
The writing of the menu is the ritual occurring just before noon, changing day by day. Before then coffee and drinks and cakes can be ordered from the bar.
Items are crossed out from the menu as they run out. It seems that the pie or the steak sandwich are almost always on the menu.
Here are the details about Settlers Arms In at time of posting. Please check their web site for more current details.
|Address||1 Wharf Street, St Albans, NSW 2775|
|Phone||02 4568 2111|
|Open||Cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for people staying at the Inn.
Lunch every day.
Dinner Friday and Saturday nights from the menu, and Sunday night is pizza night.
|Menu||$13-28 for a meal|
What’s your favourite pub in the country? Where do you go when you feel like a drive, and get a bite to eat while you’re out?