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Houses and Gardens of the Blue Mountains small group tour

New summer school course for 2021. 

For this small group Blue Mountains tour of Houses and gardens is offered only during the annual Summer school program in January. Based in Leura (close to Katoomba) at the iconic Fairmont resort this small group tour which is a day trip collection over a week. The group travels out each day to see and learn about some of the Historic homes and gardens in the UNESCO World heritage Blue Mountains region and beyond in Bathurst and Oberon often with a picnic lunch.

Over the course of the Week this guided tour for mature and senior travellers will visit some 13 houses and gardens throughout the National park and beyond. Each day trip is a collection of homes and gardens in close proximity with specific themes or interest. The group see some of the beautiful hidden places in NSW as well as some of the more popular great places to visit in NSW. Ranging from the contemporary Mayflower gardens in Oberon to the National Trust properties in Paramatta. Or the controversial art in the house and garden of Norman Lindsay at Faulconbridge within the Blue Mountain region. This is a great program to spend time out of Sydney with a small group of like minded travellers exploring the Blue Mountains region. The Blue Mountains tour is limited to 12 people each week based in Leura village.

Each day after breakfast the group will travel to visit 2-3 homes and gardens throughout the Blue mountain and surrounding areas accompanied by a program leader and supported with a local guide in the places visited for some interesting guided tour days across this part of New South Wales. Not only is there history to enjoy but the unique environment of the Blue mountains region with the pristine bushland of the temperate rainforest setting out spectacular views across each valley framed by Sandstone cliffs make a blue mountain tour something to enjoy. Spectacular lookouts as well as the Australian wildlife set the scene for the trips through the Blue Mountain region.

Early booking for this program is recommended.

Odyssey Traveller requires its nominated suppliers and all places visited to be Covid-19 Safe businesses. 

Summer School classes for mature and senior travellers

Odyssey offers a collection of week-long learning programs offered each January typically in Hobart, Tasmania. This year the program is temporarily re-locating to the Blue Mountains of NSW. Courses are refreshed for each year's programs. Odyssey's small group Blue Mountains tour are limited to 12 people.

Over the last twenty-five years, Odyssey's small group Summer School Program has given countless travellers an unforgettable educational and travel experience. Each summer, we prepare and offer fun and challenging special interest courses and programs designed to give travellers the options and opportunity to learn about history, religion, Australian culture, and the arts, among many other topics. These courses are designed in such a way that enthusiasts can deepen their knowledge of a particular topic or be initiated into new understandings on a subject.

We don't quite live on campus, but we will be staying in a very comfortable hotel in Leura. We will enjoy welcome and farewell dinners in between our seminars, as well as daily morning tea and often a picnic lunch is included on some of the day trip programs.

These programs offered are tailor-made for mature-aged and senior travellers who are eager to explore in-depth a particular topic. Summer school learning programs for mature and senior travellers who are and remain curious about the world. Read more about our philosophy of the Odyssey Summer Schools.

Tour Notes
  • The order of visits may change due to individual venue opening hours and Covid-19 restrictions.

PDF of Tour

Overview: The Summer school program begins with a welcome reception and dinner.

Accommodation: Fairmont Hotel or similar


Hydro Majestic Hotel – Meadlow Bath, 16 min / 11 km from Fairmont Hotel

Today we set out for Mayfield in Oberon. We stop though for a short guided tour of The Hydro Majestic. This hotel spans over a kilometre atop a breathtaking escarpment in Australia’s World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park with some spectacular views to enjoy. From this lofty watch post encircled in swirling winter mists, the famously historic Hydro Majestic has surveyed the pristine bushland of the Megalong Valley and surrounding ridges for over one hundred years. The Hydro Majestic was built by retailing magnate Mark Foy ; opening its doors for the first time in the bitter winter of 1904. Certainly its metaphorical positioning on the edge of a sheer cliff speaks volumes about Foy, who lived a marvellously grand life built on many a high risk venture. Today, Mark Foy’s presence lingers still: the Hydro Majestic a fitting homage to his daring creativity and limitless imagination.

We carry on to Mayfield to visit the two very distinct gardens of this property.

Mayfield was established in 1984, initially as a sheep farm. The heart of our property has been gradually transformed – with the help of talented local landscapers and tradespeople – from bare paddocks into one of the largest, privately owned cool climate gardens in the world.

Mayfield has been inspired by the magnificent gardens of Europe. Owned by the Hawkins family, Mayfield Garden and The Hawkins’ Family Garden, together, cover more than 64 hectares (160 acres).

While the garden represents one family’s dream, the long-term vision is that it will be enjoyed by people from near and far for generations to come.

Numerous follies and features have been created including:

A breath-taking 80-metre cascade that leads to a walled kitchen garden; a stunning 2.5-hectare water garden, and the grotto within a cascading waterfall that you can walk behind. There are buildings too: a beautiful sandstone exhibition centre, a bluestone chapel overlooking the garden and the rolling hills, and a Chinese pagoda over Mayfield Lake. Not to mention the huge European inspired boxed hedge maze (easy to get in, harder to get out).

Mayfield first opened to visitors in 2008, for one weekend, as a charity event. The response was overwhelming. People were astonished by the scale and vision of the project. That enthusiasm lead to the creation of a dedicated visitor experience extending over 15 hectares (36 acres) that nine years later would be called Mayfield Garden.

To further enhance the visitor experience, the family now open The Hawkins’ Family Garden for 16 days, four times a year. Each 16 day period takes on a festival style atmosphere with entertainment in the Garden Centre and numerous experiences throughout the garden.

The Hawkins Family Garden The 50 hectare (124 acres) Hawkins’ Family Garden extends beyond Mayfield, is breathtaking in its design and expanse.

We return back to Leura village in the afternoon.

Accommodation: Fairmont Hotel.


Today we travel down through the temperate rainforest to Bilpin. This small group tour visits three houses and gardens on a day tour from Leura.

Not in any particualar order the group visits as a private tour group

Town and Country Gardens – Bilpin

Peta Trahar’s experience includes working as a landscape lecturer, writer, garden judge and selector for Australia’s Open Garden Scheme. Peta and Peter Trahar bought Woodgreen in 1986. Since then the garden has been developed and intensively planted. It is beautiful in all seasons and is open by appointment to private tour groups.

The Woodgreen garden is a product of Peta Tahar’s collecting plants since establishing a first garden in the 1970’s.

Kookaburra Garden

Set in an expansive 10 acres, this mature cold climate garden and parklands feature large open areas as well a traditional Japanese Garden, an orchard and a lovely Persimmon walk. There are also hundreds of roses which will be blooming in January when we visit.

Gardens is 10 acres and very different to Peta’s, ours is large with open areas and we have planted many interesting trees and shrubs. We have a Japanese garden and orchard and a lovely Persimmon walk. We have hundreds of roses which will be blooming in January. A bush land section of the garden was affected by the recent bush fires and after a lot of work clearing the land and removing debris, the area is reviving with tree ferns and natives regenerating near the waterfall and lovely creek.

The third garden we visit as part of today’s private tour is the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden which has included 186 hectares of sandstone woodland and gullies to be maintained as a conservation area. The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah, includes part of the original “Jungle” providing the visitor from Sydney and elsewhere as well as future generations an opportunity to experience and understand the stunning Blue Mountain temperate rainforest.

We return to the hotel in the late afternoon. This evening there is time again to explore the Leura Village or Katoomba should your wish.

Accommodation: Fairmont Hotel


Today this group enjoys a day tour of two historic homes and gardens in Parramatta, adjacent to the Parramatta river.

Experiment Farm Cottage – Harris Park

The site of the first land grant on the flat fertile river plains adjacent to the Parramatta river in greater Sydney, where James Ruse proved self-sufficiency was possible. He was followed by Surgeon John Harris, who built the cottage in 1835. Today it is furnished to provide an authentic insight into that time. By 1791 Ruse had successfully farmed the 30 acre site as an experiment in self-sufficiency, proving that a new settler could feed and shelter his family with relatively little assistance to get started.

The Indian-style bungalow there today was built by Surgeon John Harris, who purchased the land from Ruse in 1793 for £40. It is thought to have been built by c1835. It is one of Australia’s oldest standing properties and features in an 1837 sketch and subsequent watercolour by Conrad Martens.

The house is furnished to reflect the home of Surgeon Harris, with simple but elegant pieces from National Trust’s collection of early colonial furniture, the largest of its kind in Australia. Some twenty years ago the National Trust landscaped and planted the immediate grounds, using evidence from early paintings, plant catalogues and photographs to recreate, as far as possible, an authentic setting for the cottage nestled in the pristine bushland.

Experiment Farm Cottage is part of an historical precinct which includes Hambledon Cottage (1824), Elizabeth Farm (1793) and the Queen’s Wharf, all within easy walking distance of each other.

Old Government House – Parramatta.

Situated on the traditional lands of the Burramatta Darug, World Heritage listed Old Government House is the oldest surviving public building in Australia.

Built by convicts, it became the decision-making centre of the colony and served as the ‘country residence’ for the first ten Governors of Australia. Today, this elegant Georgian house stands in 200 acres of parkland, overlooking the Parramatta River. It is home to the National Trust’s premier colonial furniture collection, early textiles and significant homewares from the time of the Governors.

This small group tour departs after these visits the outskirts of Sydney to return back to Leura for the evening.

Accommodation: Fairmount Hotel


Our Blue Mountains day trip today taskes first to Bathurst and then two places in Lithgow.

Abercrombie House

Abercrombie House was built in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia in the 1870s by the Stewart family who were Bathurst pioneers. William Stewart came to Australia from England in 1825 as part of the colonisation of the penal colony.

Abercrombie House, a heritage treasure of the region and private home of the Morgan family, is open on many days during the year for guided tours and self-guided tours. The heritage experience includes the 50 room Scottish-baronial mansion of the 1870s; exhibitions, displays, collections, grounds and gardens, outbuildings and property walks around 18 hectares.

Hartley Historic Village – Hartley

Step into this historic inland settlement among the sandstone buildings of Hartley Historic Site, on the western edge of the Blue Mountain landscapes. Set among pastures, orchards, native plants and nineteenth and twentieth-century cottage gardens, the village’s lovely sandstone buildings preserve an important piece of history: the settlement of inland Australia.

Seventeen buildings tell the story of the village, from the 1837 Greek Revival courthouse to Corneys Garage, built in 1945 of timber and iron.

Eskbank House and Museum

Eskbank House was built for Thomas and Mary Brown c.1841 – 1842 and has been at the heart of Lithgow’s industrial development ever since, being associated with the influential industrialists James Rutherford, William Sandford and the Hoskins Brothers. Eric Bracey purchased it from Australian Iron and Steel in 1948, and with the Lithgow District Historical Society, opened it as a museum on 21st November 1966.

We return to the Hotel passing the Megalong valley and the Hydro Majestic hotel as well as Katoomba for the last time this week.

Accommodation: Fairmont Hotel


This small group Blue Mountains tour today heads back towards Sydney and visits three properties close to Leura for a private tour. Each property adds character to the overall program.

The Woodford Academy is the oldest complex of colonial buildings in the Blue Mountains and is of state heritage significance.

Built originally as an Inn in the 1830s, the property has had a multi-layered history, also operating over the years as a gentleman’s residence, guest house, boarding house and from 1907-1936 under the ownership of John McManamey as an exclusive school – Woodford Academy.

Norman Lindsey Gallery – Faulconbridge

The former Lindsay home in Faulconbridge has so many stories, and all of them weave into the rich fabric of Australian post-World War I identity, cultural heritage, art and literature and the story of the Blue Mountains. Never one to shy away from controversy, artist and author Norman Lindsay shared this beautiful sandstone home with his wife Rose and their children.

The house now showcases Norman Lindsay’s many paintings depicting Bohemianism and Arcadian pantheism, his sculptures can be found in the sprawling gardens that wrap around his former home. You will see sculptures, illustrations and see the cheeky characters of the children’s classic, The Magic Pudding, were created.

Discover the stories of Lindsay’s scandalous rejection of Christianity – with his works deemed blasphemous and his novel, Redheap, banned in 1930.

Our final visit is a local house the Everglades Historic House & Gardens

The Moderne-style 1930s house is set amongst 5.2 hectares of gracefully designed gardens. From Everglades House & Gardens, you can enjoy sweeping views over Jamison Valley and to Mt Solitary.

Named ‘The Everglades’ by the original owner of the house, Georgina Stonier, in 1923 the architecture was complemented by its world-renowned gardens in the 1930s. Designed by Danish-born landscape gardener, Paul Sorensen, Everglades treats its visitors to the most spectacular example of inter-war period designed gardens in Australia.

At the conclusion of this day tour we return as a group to Leura Village in the early afternoon. There is a farwell group dinner this evening.

Accommodation: Fairmont Hotel

Overview: The course will end after breakfast.

Visit key National Trust houses and gardens in the Blue Mountains region
Travel to Oberon to visit the contemporary Mayfield gardens of the Hawkins family
Visit the Majestic Hydro for a short history tour of the hotel
Tour the Blue Mountains Botanical gardens in Mount Tomah
Visit the controversial home and gardens of Norman Lindsey

What’s included in our Tour

  • 6 nights in full en suite accommodation in Leura.
  • 6 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 2 dinners.
  • Lectures and handouts as indicated.
  • Services of a study leader and lecturers.
  • Complimentary wifi.

What’s not included in our Tour

  • Transport to and from Leura, Blue Mountains.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance.
  • Costs of a personal nature.