From late May until about October (normally) you can drive up to Watkins Family Farm and pick your own mandarins until your hearts content. Well as many as you can carry and the kids are happy to pick anyway! In 2018 however the season has finished very early and the Watkins Family Farm closed on 15th July with all fruit picked!
The farm is located near Wisemans Ferry and is just over an hour north of Parramatta. Driving along the Hawkesbury River, with water on one side and steep rock faces on the other, you do start to wonder if you are going the right way….surely there can’t be an orchard here! Well there is a lovely one tucked away in a valley. With the fresh country air and birds chirping, it is easy to feel a million miles away from the city.
Now there are actually TWO Watkins Family Farms….which we only discovered on our way to check out Fords Farm in 2018. You reach the main farm first on your right hand side. But if you go a little further along, you will see another sign for Watkins Family Farm on your left. This is actually the original farm and run by the ‘retired’ Watkins Family members. This orchard is on the river side of the road and is in full sun, which is lovely in winter. It’s a LOT quieter here and has the same prices for fruit. There is however an entry fee to this smaller orchard but not everyone needs to buy a bucket. The set up is much simpler but there are still picnic tables, parking and yummy fruit. It is definitely a quicker option if you just want to grab mandarins. The rest of this review is about the main farm.
We have visited the Watkins Family Farm to pick mandarins for the last two years. When we visited on the opening week last year, the trees were ladened with fruit!
Supposedly, they grow Imperial, Hickson and Emperor mandarins but I must say I didn’t notice different types nor can I tell which we picked. But they still taste delicious!
There are no entry fees, but all adults entering the orchard must have a bucket. The buckets come in two sizes – large for $12.50 and small for $7.50 (2018 prices). Whichever you choose, you fill it with as many mandarins as you would like. I have found the large buckets hold about 4kgs of mandarins. You can also ‘hire’ scissors for $5, which is refunded when you return them, and they come in adult and kids sizes. We have found it works best to get the scissors as you are a lot less likely to damage the mandarins when picking them.
NOTE: no prams are allowed in the orchard.
Apart from eating the mandarins au naturel, we love making moorish mandarin cupcakes – using a recipe we adapted from Nigella Lawson for clementine cake.
You can also purchase honey and eggs from the farm shop. Unfortunately the pick your own mushrooms and mushroom growing bags weren’t available in 2017. But they have said they are trying to get some for 2018.
There are sheep and chickens on the farm which is a kid pleaser. For a $1, you can get a bag of animal feed, though they were already rather full when my boys went to feed them at about 11:30am.
There is plenty of free on-site parking in a open field next to the orchard. It can get boggy after rain so take extra care. Walking over the little bridge to the farm, you will see the animals, picnic shelter and farm shop. There are port-a-loos and lots of grass to spread a picnic rug out on. You can bring a picnic lunch to enjoy here or head back to Wisemans Ferry for a bit to eat. Keep in mind that there are no BBQs, but you can bring your own small one.
There is also no power/electricity available at the farm so it is cash only. The nearest ATM is back at Wisemans Ferry at least a 15min drive away.
The farm gates are open for 2018 pick your own mandarin season until about October. The farm is open every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm during the season.
Finding Watkins Family Farm
Head north along Old Northern Road until just before Wisemans Ferry, where you turn right and travel along Singleton Road for about 10kms.
Places of Interest Nearby
- Fords Farm – another farm you can pick your own mandarins
- Wisemans Ferry Inn – review by Little Munch
- Wisemans Ferry Park
- Punt at Wisemans Ferry, which is free and you can travel on by foot or car.
Other Pick Your Own Farms
- Anderson Farm – mandarins and oranges from June to October.
- Fords Family Farm – mandarins from May until June [currently CLOSED]. Re-opens for cumquats and Satsuma mandarins on 14th July 2018.
- Schofields Orange Orchard – oranges from May to October in North Richmond (CLOSED for 2018 for pick your own. Only farm gates sales).
- Bilpin Fruit Bowl – apples in April and May.