It’s an unlikely love story: when he was a child, Australian banker and millionaire Garrick Hawkins took a family holiday in the central west of NSW, and was completely mesmerised by the landscape. He returned as an adult, purchased Mayfield at Oberon, and spent the next three decades transforming 64 hectares of a 2023-hectare working farm into a stunning horticultural playground, and one of the world’s largest privately owned cool-climate gardens.
The gardens are three hours west of Sydney, in the Blue Mountains, and have been open to visitors since 2008 – but one weekend a year. Then last year, Hawkins gave fans of flora the chance to stroll around the grounds 363 days a year.
The word “big” doesn’t do Mayfield justice – these gardens are mega. You’ll need to dedicate the better part of a day to walk around them, although thankfully there are minibuses operating on the property, too.
Of the 64 hectares, 15 are open to the public. You can wander through a serene grove of silver birch, picnic amid deciduous woodland planted with maples and oaks, walk embankments covered with rhododendrons, get lost in a boxed hedge maze, stop to smell the roses in a garden dedicated to the bloom or row across a lake.
Then there’s the Monet-inspired water garden, with its lily-covered ponds and bridges; birch trees; and fountains. Mayfield may be inspired by the great gardens of Europe, but you will also find impeccably manicured fields crafted with Chinese and Japanese sensibilities.
If you time your visit – usually once a season, for a total of 16 days – you’ll also be able to visit Hawkins’s private garden, which surrounds the family house. It’s impressive – there’s a waterfall, an aviary, a croquet lawn, nut terraces and sunken parterre, amid other follies.
The next opportunity to glimpse this special part of the farm is during Autumn Festival (April 14 to 29), when the deciduous trees begin to change colour, transforming the grounds into a patchwork of russet and gold.
The grounds are also home to three acres of veggie gardens with beehives and a palatial village of chicken houses. Small wonder that the Mayfield Café can claim that 80 per cent of produce used in the kitchen is grown on-site – most of it within a 35-metre radius of the dining room. The adjacent Produce Store sells jams, condiments and pickles using goods plucked from the veggie patch and orchard.
There are a number of events happening this year, including the White Party (February 24), which sees the lawn above the Obelisk pond and alley of plane trees transformed into a world of fairy lights, long white tables, wine, food and live music.
There’s Glamping in the Garden (March 23 to April 30), a luxe pop-up camping experience allowing you to bed down on the blissful Mayfield grounds and Autumnfest (April 7), with music by local artists.