Happy Healthy Hazelbrook
A Guide to Hazelbrook in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales
“Hazo,” as the locals call it, is a small but bustling village in the Mid Mountains which is now mostly overlooked on the tourist trail, something I think most locals are quite happy about. However, there are plenty of great things to see and do, here are some of our favourites.
Brief History of Hazelbrook
The trick to moving around the Blue Mountains that the Europeans took so long to understand is to follow the ridge lines, rather than getting involved with the deep gullies. Hazelbrook is situated on such a ridge and has seen people moving through the area for thousands of years.
Archaeological signs of occupation of the Dharug and Gundungarra people throughout the Blue Mountains have been dated back 14,000 – 22,000 years, especially higher up at Kings Tableland. The oldest site in Hazelbrook to be surveyed is the shelter cave at Horseshoe Falls with evidence found there dating back at least 7,000 years. One might assume that the discrepancy in dates has something to do with the minimal amount of research having been done in this area as compared to other more prominent sites throughout the Blue Mountains, a theme that will be repeated several times in this article.
Another fascinating and fairly easily accessible site of archaeological and historical interest is the amazing Aboriginal Water Collection Wells on the highway above Gloria Park It is thought this series of rainwater collectors were constructed by burning fires on the wet rock and slowly after many hundreds of years of this, the cavities gradually expanded. European travellers in later years also knew about the site as a water source and there are pick marks showing their modification from this time as well. Parts of the site were buried under the widening of the highway but thankfully a small section remains in view. Access the site either from Gloria Park or from the highway. At Gloria Park you will see a track heading up the hill behind the small war memorial. Follow it to the top and you will be on the highway near the wells. From the shops, walk up the highway towards Lawson. Stay on the right hand side all the way, cross Oaklands Rd at the lights, continue up the highway for about 3-4 mins and you will see a special walk way/viewing platform.
The famous expedition of Blaxland Lawson and Wentworth of 1813 camped somewhere near Hazelbrook on the night of the 2Oth May. The site of that camp has never been definitively identified.
The next year, 1814, William Cox started work on his famous road through the Mountains, remnants of which can still be seen in the Woodford area, the next village down the hill.
The first land grants of 50 acre lots were given out in the 1870’s to help encourage people to join the Volunteer Forces being raised at the time to counter possible threats from Russia, who were at war with Britain. A lot of the volunteers who were granted land for signing up, were not financially wealthy and quickly sold their grants and the first wave of wealthier settlers started moving in, though to start with, there was more activity in neighbouring Woodford than in Hazelbrook.
The arrival of the train line through the mountains from 1867, really ramped things up. Prior to this, everything travelled up the gruelling road. Once Hazelbrook Station was built in 1884 , supplies and people could be taken to and from the area far more easily.
Tourism was very important early on and a number of holiday rentals, boarding houses and summer houses started springing up as more land was opened up or subdivided. There was even a Motor Park in 1930 with space for cars and caravans. There were also several smaller farms & orchards scattered around suppling the growing population and holiday crowds. Hazelbrook was thought to have an ideal climate for people wanting to escape the heat and grime of Sydney.
The health aspect was further enhanced when RT Hall built his large Sanitorium which was opened around 1908 to treat Tuberculosis sufferers. The buildings are great examples of the Federation Style. The site is currently occupied by Korowal School, so keep an eye out for any Open Days at the school and have a look around.
Hazelbrook Baths was opened up in the 1920s. Remnants of the baths can still be seen in the gully behind the Rural Fire Service Building on the South side. There are still steps leading down the hill and part of the wall structure can still be seen, though the whole site is now very overgrown. The RFS Building is actually on the site of the old Tennis Club. Built In the mid 1920’s this was the focus of much social activity in the holidays and weekends.
No wonder the original catchphrase for the Village was “Happy Healthy Hazelbrook.”
As in all our Blue Mountains Village Guides this can never hope to be a “Complete Guide.” Shops, Restaurants and Cafes for example, change on a regular basis. They also adjust their opening hours. We don’t have the capacity to list and review every place or keep up with opening hours. It’s best to check via Google or Instagram.
The whole park precinct, found off Oaklands Road, is a delightful spot for many reasons. The sports oval is picture perfect and well used for exercise, dog walking and organised sports like Cricket and Soccer. There are also a couple of tennis and netball courts, alongside the sports pavilion.
There’s also a fairly well-equipped children’s play area, War Memorial and a small public toilet block.
The Hazelbrook village does not have a Pub, so the Bowling Club situated above the sports oval fills that void and is one of the social hubs of the town. A well patronised bistro operates on some nights and the usual club activities like Member Badge draws, meat tray raffles, Trivia nights, some live entertainment and a raft of social activities including Bowling and Croquet on their well-maintained greens.
If you wander up the hill a bit you can see the old aboriginal shelter cave, now sadly graffitied & neglected and further up the interesting aboriginal well site previously mentioned.
The Village shopping centre is a bustling hive of activity, but not without it’s problems. The “Car Park” being the major topic of much angst.
The terrible drivers and atrocious parkers get a lot of blame, but the issues mainly lie in the fact that the village infrastructure wasn’t planned for the population that now exists in the village. While more and more land is sold off and Council approves higher density housing, they have also failed to keep up with the infrastructure required. Many locals believe Hazo is a somewhat “forgotten village” with Council preferring to spend their funds on tourist facilities in other areas rather than looking after the basic needs of the locals. Coupled with this there are some appalling signage and design issues around the carpark. Some locals even prefer to shop at Lawson for a more relaxed experience.
A couple of tips on the car park. It is a Shared Zone, so pedestrians actually have right of way. There are 3 separate one way sections, also clearly marked, but ignored by some. Parking is usually more available in the second lower section.
Food, Drink & Shopping
Once you have dealt with the car park, there are quite a few good things to be found.
The locals are justifiably proud of their local bakery and despair when the extended Cambodian family take their annual break. You’ll find it in the new section of shops at the top. Your tastes may differ but the Meat Pies, Asian Pork Rolls, Fresh Baked Bread and Lamingtons all work for me. They also make coffee and there are a number of well used tables set up in the courtyard that serve as a bit of a social hub.
Note July 2022 – The Bakery has just changed hands. Locals nervously wait for the new owners to get up to speed.
Head to the back past the bakery and you will find an award winning modern pastisserie! They built up loyal following at Farmers Markets in the Mountains for some time before opening in this location. Check out their Instagram feed for their amazing range of cakes, pastries and other assorted delights! They also do coffee.
Fruit & Vegetables
Todarellos is a small but highly efficient fruit and vege shop in the main section of shops. Their turnover of product is huge, so you are guaranteed to get the freshest available and plenty of choice. They also have a large Deli section with specialty cheese, pasta, nuts, cold meats, coffee etc, so great to stock up on supplies or get components for a picnic.
There are two cafes, practically next to each other.
Newcomer, Sweet Hazel is near the top corner and as well as coffee, they make Vietnamese rice paper rolls, Pho and Poke bowls.
Wikileaks, is further down and has a range of fairly standard café fare. Friendly service, a few tables and good coffee.
The Parade Café can be found on the Southside over the walking bridge. I’ve covered that area later in the article.
As well as the cafes and bakery already mentioned, the two Takeaway shops are always busy with locals and tradies so this is always a good sign.
On the Highway frontage you’ll find Kebabs and Pizzas who have a “friendly rivalry” with the similar shop in Lawson. Opinions differ on which is the best.
In the centre itself is a small and popular takeaway, serving up Fish & Chips, Rotisserie Chicken & Burgers etc. They also have a salad bar. The Fish & Chips are great as are the Rotisserie Chickens.
If you want a sit down dinner there are a few choices available.
There is a large Chinese restaurant in the new section of shops. It’s been there forever serving very classic standard Aussie Chinese fare.
Thai Square is also in that section. They run four restaurants through the Mountains at – Blaxland, Springwood, Leura & Katoomba. They also do Takeaway.
The Bowling Club also has a Bistro open on several nights. Once again pretty standard Club fare, but the surrounds of Gloria Park and the atmosphere of the Bowling Club make it a fun night out.
As well as an above average ratio of coffee machines to population number, Hazo is lucky to have 2 Bookshops.
In the top section you’ll find Morocco Books. Run by local author Craig Stanton, it is a mix of quality second hand and some antiquarian books and collectibles. About half and half Fiction to Non Fiction. Plenty of Sci Fi, art, history, gardening and cooking books the last time I was in. You can also check out his own book Mountain Deviltry: Chilling Tales of the Blue Mountains.
RoseyRavelston Books is located in the Nauti Studio located at the top of Oaklands Road, across the road from the petrol station. There is parking, but probably easiest to just park at the shops and walk over. Open Fri, Sat, Sun. A mix of excellent new titles plus quality second hand. They also run a bookclub, poetry nights and donate 50% of all profits to a refugee charity.
You’ll also find – Hairdresser, a Barbershop, Beauty Therapist and a Tattoo Parlour! Who would have thought Hazo needed such pampering?
Mixed Asian Groceries is also a fairly interesting newcomer. Great for all those hard to get supplies, mysterious ingredients, assorted noodles & sauces plus freezer’s full of dumplings, spring rolls etc.
NF Mechanical Repairs – is tucked away under the Service Station and is well regarded by the locals.
The Medical Centre in Rosedale behind the shops is also worth a mention. It’s a big practice with many doctors and is very busy. It can be hard to get a booking at times, but they are recognised as one of the best in the Blue Mountains.
Other standard supplies available – Supermarket, Bottle shop, Butcher, Chemist, Post office, Real Estate Agents, Accountants, Solicitor
South Side of Hazelbrook
In the early days almost all of the activity in the village was on the Southside. Once the small new shopping center on the North side opened, Council prefered all activity to be over there and the small precinct languished for many years. It’s now bouncing back.
Head over the Highway via the footbridge or through the tunnel opposite Oaklands Road and there are some interesting spots. In the old section of shops by the Station you will find the Parade Café, open 9 – 3. It’s small and popular with the locals to have coffee & light meals, without having to go into the sometimes chaotic surroundings of the Hazo Carpark. They also currently do a great take home meals service.
Head east along Railway Parade for a 100 meters or so and you can see some great examples of some of the early buildings if you are interested in architecture and social history. Selwood House is a fine example, being built around 1890. Head west a similar distance and you can find Hazelbrook Cottage Antiques one of the best antique shops in the Blue Mountains. They specialise in Country Furniture, Kitchenalia, Victorian Clothing, Signs & Garden ornaments, but expect to find anything as they have a big turnover. They are also very keen on the history of the mountains and have a range of unique postcards, books etc.
Two Walks of Interest
North Side – Horseshoe Falls
This is a little gem of a walking track that was barely visited until a few years ago when it was featured in a prominent internet bushwalk directory. It’s gone from possibly one or two cars on the weekend to now up to 20 or so. It’s much quieter during the week.
The narrow track down to the falls is quite steep and after rain it can be very slippery. I would estimate that Police Rescue, Ambulance or Rescue Helicopters attend an accident on average once a month.
You’ll find the Start of the walk at the bottom of Oaklands Rd and you can visit a series of small but pretty waterfalls. The shelter cave site is awesome and very atmospheric, and allows you to walk behind the waterfall which is always fun. Watch out for Yabbies in the creek and Lyrebirds in the drier areas above the falls. If you are equipped for it, there are several spots with Glow-worms at night.
Note – there is only limited parking at the entrance to the walk and it is situated on a busy blind corner. Please take care accessing the parking spots and please ensure you take any rubbish away with you.
On the South side – Terrace Falls Walk
As mentioned, in the early years this was the main focus of activity. Terrace Falls and The Lake (now known as Bedford Pool) being the main attractions. Terrace Falls as the name suggests are a series of smaller Terraces with cascading Falls. The whole area is cool and shady, making it a delight on a hot day.
You can access Terrace Falls from Terrace Falls Rd which runs off Railway Parade. How close you can get to the Falls depends on two things. The access road is sometimes closed off at different spots and the road does require 4WD. However, it’s not a huge distance if you do have to walk in.
I suggest getting a copy of Veechi Stuarts book Blue Mountains Best Bushwalks for a good description or check out this webpage for full details of the walk and some great photos.
The Post Office also usually has a small selection of Walking Guide books.
If you are interested in the area I can’t recommend highly enough Ken Goodlets book Hazelbrook & Woodford, A story of two Blue Mountains towns. It came out in 2006. Ask Craig at Morocco Books or Zac at RoseyRavelston if they have a copy, at the Post Office or perhaps Turning Page in Springwood.
You should also keep an eye out for Hazelbrook Heritage published in 1989 by the Hazelbrook Public School P & C Association. Mary Campbell’s book was used by Ken as the basis for parts of his. Mary lived most of her life in Hazelbrook, born just after the first World War, so she lived through and experienced much of the development of the area that you see today.