When a sunny, summers day arrives in Sydney it is all too easy to head to one of the city’s stunning beaches. Problem is that often, the rest of Sydney has the same idea as you. You end up struggling to lay claim to your own piece of sand and often find yourself wedged between families with crying children getting sand in their eyes, teens playing ‘stacks-on’swearing and joking around and groups of lobster coloured backpackers baking themselves in the sun. That is only after you have had to park in the next suburb and struggle with your beach bag, umbrella/sun-tent etc on the long walk through the back streets from the car to the beach.
What if there was an alternative? What if there were an oasis in the Eastern suburbs, away from the hoards, that offered lush, green grounds and gardens to lay your picnic blanket with plenty of shady trees to relax to the sounds of the surrounding birdlife? What if there were farm animals for the kids and on-site coffee for the adults? What if there were soft, grassy hills to roll down and all of this was just a stones throw away from a harbour beach where you could loll about in the water dreaming of what life might be like if you lived in one of the harbour side mansions dotting the shoreline.
Well, there is, and you can.
Vaucluse House is just that. An oasis in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney, you feel a million miles away from the busy beaches. It is one of Sydney’s few 19th-century mansions still surrounded by its original gardens and wooded grounds. The grounds are well looked after with beautiful lush gardens, bushland and old stables.
There is currently a sound installation in the ‘Pleasure Gardens’ as part of the 2016 Sydney Festival. “Elegant audio design transforms the garden into a place of musical play, of repose and delight” the promo says, for me though it added a whimsical, dream-like soundtrack to our picnic.
You could easily spend hours here. We came prepared with a picnic and spent time exploring the gardens and the old stables. The children visited the farm animals including goats and chickens and ran around the grounds chasing each other while we sipped on our Prosecco.
Vaucluse House itself is open to the public for small fee ($8 for adults) and is full of history to learn and discover, however with the summer sun beating down we saved this for another day and packed up our picnic to head across the road to Vaucluse Bay to cool off.
Vaucluse Bay is a 80 metre strip of north-facing, sandy beach backed by sandstone rock outcrops and a low grassy reserve with plenty of shade. It has no waves and is primarily used to access boats moored a short distance from the beach, but was by no means busy on our visit. The water is calm and shallow and provided a safe, water playground for the kids. Adults need to walk a short distance before the water is deep enough to swim but it is a fantastic beach with crystal clear water that would be great for kayaking or stand-up paddle-boarding as well. It is also a dog-friendly beach for those with fur babies that like to tag along on family day-trips.
Pairing a picnic at Vaucluse House with a swim in the Harbour in Vaucluse Bay can provide a great alternative to a day spent on a busy Sydney beach in Summer and you don’t need to sacrifice the sun, sand or sea! Where is your favourite sunny day beach alternative to get away from the crowds?