Review: Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman deliver a great day out

The stunning Hawkesbury is a haven for weekenders from Sydney, but many choose to live full time along the banks of arguably Australia's most famous river. The Riverboat Postman is Australia's last river postal service — and one that takes packages and passengers. Climb on board this true blue icon for a leisurely day cruise. Review: Joanne Karcz

Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman

Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman. Image courtesy of Hawkesbury Cruises

5 stars

Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman with Hawkesbury Cruises

Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman are a charming and historic way to explore one of Sydney’s most famous rivers. Climb on board the river postal delivery service and enjoy the magnificent scenery along the lower Hawkesbury, up to the river-access-only settlements around Brooklyn. A delicious ploughman’s lunch is included. Duration: 3 hours (approx.)

Living on Dangar Island an hour or so north of Sydney, I often see The Riverboat Postman passing my home – it delivers my mail!

Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman are now operated by family-run Hawkesbury Cruises. The Riverboat Postman began the mail run along the Hawkesbury River in 1910 and continues to deliver mail to properties that are only accessible by boat. It combines a three-and-a-bit-hour leisure cruise with its postal duties and today I climbed aboard to experience this Sydney river adventure.

I meet postmaster Catherine in her beautifully decorated ticket office (located in the back of a truck!) as she prepares for our cruise. I take in the historical photos on the wall as she ticks me off the passenger list and hands over my ticket.

The Australia Post contractor arrives soon after and Catherine signs for the boxes and parcels. There’s a lot today, mostly going to Dangar Island, our first stop.

Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman

Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman. Image: Joanne Karcz

With my travelling companions, I walk past the line of red, black and white flags down to the Brooklyn Wharf for boarding.

It’s obvious from the minute Bay Runner pulls up to the wharf that this is a very slick operation. Deckhand Natalie secures the lines, Luke steps off to get the mail, while Angela hold the ramp in place as we step on board. As Luke later tells me: ‘it works like clockwork!’

I find a place at one of the tables set up inside for morning tea (which, together with a delicious ploughman’s lunch, is included in the cost of the cruise) and settle in. Captain Randall introduces himself over the clear PA system, inviting passengers to come up to the wheelhouse for a chat at any time. Having worked the river for many years, his commentary on local history and river tales is both informative and entertaining.

Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman

Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman. Image: Joanne Karcz

We soon arrive at the Dangar Island Wharf. The island is home to over 200 permanent residents who collect their sorted mail from their mail boxes at the Café. The delivery completed, Randall heads upstream to cruise under the railway bridge.

The first bridge was opened in 1889 but after about fifty years it was apparent that a new bridge was needed. This was constructed in 1946 and explains the second series of sandstone-lined piers visible today, seemingly with no purpose.

Next stop on these Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman is Kangaroo Point. Occasionally a district nurse will board here for a ride upriver to see one of her patients. Today, passengers who missed the 10am departure time from Brooklyn are picked up here. A timely reminder to be on time for this experience. The post cannot wait!


 

We continue on past dense bushland. Sometimes a pair of sea eagles can be seen from here, soaring on the air currents. We pass large sandstone rocks weathered by wind and water, the colours of the rock made all the more beautiful by a recent shower.

In fact, it showers on and off all morning, but that does nothing to dampen the outing. Dry and warm in the comfort of the lower deck, I occasionally don my raincoat to venture outside or upstairs to the upper deck and wheelhouse.

Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman

Image: Joanne Karcz

Milson Island is the next port of call on these Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman, which is now used by the Department of Sport and Recreation for school and holiday camps. But it has a more unusual past. Apparently research into the biological control of rabbits was carried out on Milson Island and later it was run as a minimum security prison. Randall worked for corrective services at that time, ferrying prisoners and staff.

He tells of a group of prisoners who left the island in stolen canoes for a night on the town. Unfortunately, their escapade was discovered — after they had returned to their beds rather the worse for wear!


 

As we pass the river settlements of Bar Point, Marlow Creek and Milsons Passage, I wonder about the people who choose to live in such isolation. An early sandstone cottage and an oyster farmer’s home are among the dwellings that catch my eye. Some look like they need a bit of TLC, while others have been recently renovated. Many are used only as weekenders.

Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman

Image: Joanne Karcz

The challenges of living on the river are not for everyone, but life here suits me — and I thoroughly enjoy today’s cruise ‘in my own backyard’.

These Hawkesbury River cruises on The Riverboat Postman are a great way for Sydney locals and visitors alike to experience a seldom visited but very beautiful part of the greater city area.

Joanne travelled as a guest of Hawkesbury Cruises.

The Riverboat Postman departs every weekday (except public holidays) at 10am sharp. If driving, allow plenty of time as finding parking at Brooklyn Wharf can be tricky. The train from Central to the Hawkesbury River Station at Brooklyn takes about an hour. There is no lift at the station.

Additional images: Bigstock

 

About the writer

Joanne Karcz published a blog when she walked the Camino de Santiago some years ago and has been writing about her travels ever since. She is also an aspiring travel photographer and takes her camera wherever she goes. Joanne loves discovering new things to see and do in her own Sydney backyard, and blogs regularly about the city’s suburbs. She has travelled through Europe and South America and taken a group of friends on the trip of a lifetime to South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. Her visits to Cuba and India were bucket list items, but she still has a few destinations to tick off!

  1. Peter Bassett says:

    Is there a coach departing from Sydney to join the Riverboat Postman? The steps at the train rules this out.

    • Hi Peter. Not that we are aware of, but you might want to give the Riverboat Postman a call on 0400 600 111 and check. Regards Adam

  2. Joan Arbaci says:

    Are there any day tours from Sydney to catch up with The Riverboat Postman? Or 2 or 3 day tours? Please let me know. My husband & I would love to do the tour, but steps at the station rule us out.

    • Hi Joan. Unfortunately not. The Riverboat Postman operates independently, so there aren’t any day tours that include the cruise. Maybe give them a call direct and see if they can suggest anything re: the stairs. 0400 600 111. Regards Adam @ TBB

  3. Pete Williams says:

    Hi Postman. We were thinking of doing the cruise next week but just realised that will be school holidays. Is it too crowded then? Would it be better to put it off until after they go back. Thank you. Pete.

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