Eco-friendly Road Trip

We take Audi’s new E-Tron for a leisurely drive from Sydney’s North Shore to an unusual alpaca farm in the peaceful Dooralong Valley.

As the family climbs into the brand-new spacious Audi E-Tron, we check our route on the NSW road trip planner from the northern suburbs of Sydney. Heading out from our home in Turramurra, we’re on a Central Coast road trip. Our final destination is Iris Lodge, an alpaca farm with homestays just 76 kilometres away in Jilliby, but we have plenty to do along the journey.

Cruising up the Pacific Motorway, the Audi E-Tron SUV 55 Quattro is whisper quiet due to the finely tuned and engineered wind tunnel modifications and a windscreen made from noise-insulating glass. The aerodynamics of the E-Tron are not just aesthetically pleasing; they play a key role in the top speed of the vehicle and the low drag coefficient increases efficiency and allows for the maximum range possible.

As we head north, we continue along the ridge that forms the spine of the highway, we admire the many extraordinary sandstone formations and caves, along with varieties of eucalypt, angophora and our beautiful, resilient Australian grass trees. These wonderful plants burst into flower after bushfires and are known to live up to 450 years. Not just beautiful, the grass tree had a number of uses for Aboriginal people; the flowers soaked in water provided a sweet drink, parts of the tree are edible and the resin from the flowers was used to make tools.

Descending to the Mooney Mooney Creek Bridge, we gaze at the small river town of Brooklyn, noted for its oyster farming community. We can’t stop today, though. We’re due for lunch at The Springs at Peats Ridge, just off the Calga interchange. Although The Springs is nominally a golf course, today we’re headed for The Sitting Duck, their rural restaurant where Chef Dan sources fresh produce for his farm-to-plate menu. Open from Friday to Sunday, the restaurant can be booked online through The Springs website.

With so many delicious options, it’s hard to choose but we eventually decide on the rabbit terrine with shaved fennel salad and chorizo vinaigrette and some sourdough bread to share while we wait on our mains. The Hiramasa kingfish with seaweed salad, dashi potatoes and Wasabi mayonnaise and the roast lamb rump with white bean puree, spiced carrots and lamb juices are worth the trip. The kids are happy with their grilled chicken and chips and pasta with Napolitana sauce. All is quiet as we devour our food in the peace of this rural escape from busy Sydney.

While the dessert menu (that includes delights such as apple tart with miso butterscotch and sour cream, Nutella sandwich with bacon praline, dolce and sea-salt ice cream and the cake of the day with whipped cream and coulis) is tempting, we’re on a mission today.

However, come the June long weekend (June 12-13) and the Harvest Festival, we’ll be back to sample the harvest trail menu and take advantage of the activities on offer. The Springs is just one of the many venues participating in the 2021 Harvest Festival trail, which takes you through

Dooralong, Jilliby, Yarramalong, Kulnura, Mangrove Mountains, Peats Ridge, Somersby and Calga. The two-day event includes fresh food and country markets, food and wine events, factory tours, pick your own experiences, bush tucker tours, working farm tours, ‘pick your own pecans’ and tree-shaking demonstrations.

We’ll try to get to all of them to support our local producers after the disaster that was 2020. For more details nearer the time, see visitnsw.com and navigate to Central Coast, Gosford area, events. 

Leaving The Sitting Duck, we head north again along the highway. We’re early for our final destination so we turn off the highway to sleepy Wyong, home of Little Creek Cheese (Building 12, 141-155 Alison Road). 

We look for the old Wyong Milk Factory and pull in to rediscover the award-winning gourmet cheese factory and outlet. We’ll stock up on the BBQ haloumi (winner of three gold medals and two silver at the Sydney Royal Easter Show and numerous other awards around Australia), some handmade goat feta marinated in Aussie bush lemon myrtle and mountain pepper (that contributed to Little Creek being a champion in the Dairy Industry of Australia non-bovine dairy products three years in a row) and the totally delicious fig and walnut Cheddar. The kids settle for Little Creek’s bacon Cheddar. We pop all our treats into a cooler in the roomy boot. We have plenty more space in the front end – an additional 60 litres – due to the E-Tron’s electric drive system freeing up space.

Back to the highway and turn off shortly to Jilliby, a rural village with many grand homes on large acreages. Our quiet Audi E-Tron doesn’t disturb the tranquillity (or the many thoroughbred horses spotted along the route). Travelling along Hue Hue Road, we veer left into Jilliby Road until we come to Watagan Forest Drive and Dunks Lane.

We arrive at our final destination, Iris Lodge Alpacas, in time for afternoon tea with the alpacas.

Iris Lodge is a labour of love for its owners who have a passion for alpacas and want others to share the experience of living and looking after alpacas. ‘Afternoon Tea with Alpacas’ is a beautifully curated animal experience. We meet Billy, the guard alpaca, who must be bribed with a banana before he’ll allow you to pass. Billy’s best friend is Ellie, a wiltipoll sheep. The wiltipoll has unique sheep characteristics but we won’t give the secret away here. We were asked beforehand to bring bananas for the leader animals and sliced carrots for the other alpacas. Alpacas have a high degree of cuteness and if you visit in late summer you’ll get cuteness overload as the crias (baby alpacas) come into the world.

Once we finish with the alpacas, it’s the horses’ turn (apples and carrots) before we go into the stables with them while they have their dinner. After the horses come the sheep, then we’re off for a walk over the farm to visit the cows and possibly some calves. The end to tramping around and feeding the animals is afternoon tea. We had to head back to Sydney but had we not had plans, we could have rented one of the reasonably priced cabins and woken with the farm animals. Sadly, it was not to be on this visit so back into the E-Tron for our home run.

Luxury Yarn

Alpaca yarn is recognised worldwide as a luxury fibre, being softer than wool, lighter and more durable. Consumers look for purity of product and they are prepared to pay a premium. Alpaca fibre, however, isn’t as luxurious as vicuña, the fleece ‘worth more than gold’. Vicuñas, considered now to be the wild ancestors of the domesticated alpacas, are known for being providers of the most luxurious fibres in the world, with a black market price of nearly $1,000 per kilo. After being hunted and killed for their fleece, by 1960 there were fewer than 5,000 animals left in the wild.

 

Trish Arnott

Trish Arnott

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