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.
As much as you try to recreate the feel of travel in your own city, when you have to return home the holiday is over and you return to the same chores and routine you had when you set off for the day. There is something special about spending the weekend away from home- even if you are really still only down the road.
So, when my brother and his family asked us to house-sit (more specifically dog-sit) their place in Mosman, we saw it as an opportunity for a mini staycation. Housesitting is a great inexpensive way to get a mini-holiday with all the the conveniences of home including toys and kitchen basics, and all for the price of walking and feeding the dog!
Finding things to do on weekends can be challenging enough, but throw in two straight weeks of school holidays and it can be hard to keep coming up with new and fun things to keep the kids occupied- especially ones that don’t cost the earth. So, here are my top 10 things to do in Sydney these school holidays to give you some inspiration.
1. Check out one of Sydney’s fab winter festivals. Whether you choose to don the ice-skates or simply soak up the winter sun whilst sipping on a hot chocolate and checking out all the free entertainment on offer, these festivals are certainly a grew way to spend a few hours on a winter’s day. Read here for more details on winter festival locations in Sydney this school holidays.
2. Go Paddle boating in Lane Cove National Park. Paddle boating brings back great memories from my childhood, and you can now create these same memories with your family in the gorgeous surrounds of the Lane Cove National Park. Check out this blog for more information.
3. Ferry to Parramatta. A trip on Sydney’s harbour coupled with an adventure down the Parramatta is a great way to keep the kids entertained. Couple it with an exploration of Parramatta Park, lunch at Jamie’s Trattoria and maybe a show at the Riverside Theatre and you have an action-packed day of fun. Check out this blog for more details.
4. Build a campfire at Manly Dam. When I was a kid I was fascinated by campfires and I loved foraging for kindling and working hard to get the fire started. I also loved cooking marshmallows over the open fire. A day-trip to Manly Dam lets you do just that and there are plenty of bush walks as well. This blog will give you the full low-down.
5. Be Tourists in Circular Quay. There is always plenty to see in Circular Quay including an array of buskers providing entertainment along the boardwalk. Take the time to stop and watch their shows rather than rushing past. Check out the exhibitions and activities at the Museum of Contemporary Art, visit the Sydney Opera House and run up the stairs, rediscover the Royal Botanic Gardens or get a round-trip on a ferry. There’s loads to see and do and you can check out this blog for more.
6. Food & Cultural tour of Cabramatta. Join with the kids and discover all of the great Vietnamese and South East Asian food in Cabramatta. You can get the train right to the city centre and there are temples and a range of cheap Asian food stalls scattered around which are great fun to explore. It’s South East Asia in a day and you can read more about it in my blog.
7. Learn about our WWII history at the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway. This is a real suburban gem that I only recently discovered. It is a great way to get outside and engage the kids in learning about an important part of Australia’s history in beautiful surroundings. Read more about this great, free attraction here.
8. Go whale spotting. It is still whale migration season so there is no better time to pick your favourite viewing point, pack the binoculars and try and spot some whales. Check my blog for some popular viewing points around Sydney.
9. Go to a farm and pick your own mandarins. Forget about Coles & Woolies, take your kids to one of Sydney’s great ‘pick your own’ farms and help them get a greater appreciation of where our food comes from. Gorgeous surroundings and great fun for everyone! Check out the second section of this blog for more.
10. Pack a picnic! Picnics are great fun. Get the kids to help with making up the picnic food (check out these tips for how to pack an easy picnic) and head to one of the great parks Sydney has on offer to enjoy your spread. You could try the Shire’s Camellia Gardens, Clarkes Point Reserve near Woolwich, or get the ferry to Watsons Bay– there are endless possibilities of beautiful picnic spots in Sydney.
There are times that even the simplest of everyday tasks can lead you to discover a part of Sydney that you never even knew existed. This morning was one of those times. We needed to return a car to our friend’s place in Concord after having dropped them at the airport. Not wanting to waste a trip, I did a quick google to see if there was anywhere to explore nearby and stumbled upon the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway. To be completely honest, I had low expectations but, I was wrong.
The Walkway covers more than 800 metres from Rhodes Station to Concord Hospital in Sydney’s inner-west, and runs along the mangrove-studded shores of Brays Bay on the Parramatta River. It is a living memorial and a principal site of commemoration honouring all those who fought for Australia during World War II. The focus is on the sacrifices made during key Papua New Guinea battles which took place in 1942-43 along the Kokoda Track, at Milne Bay on the south-eastern tip of Papua, and at Buna, Gona, and Sanananda on the northern coastline. Continue reading A Suburban Gem in Concord→
Campfires are my favourite things. I have strong memories from childhood on the North Coast of visiting public parks with wood-fire BBQs that previous picnickers had left with burning embers and I would make it my mission to reignite the fire with my gathered dry leaves and sticks. But, there aren’t many places where you can have a campfire in Sydney without driving for miles out of the city… or so I thought.
Travel is addictive. For anyone who has spent any length of time travelling overseas or around Australia, the constant learning, new experiences, being exposed to different lifestyles, and meeting new like-minded people can be like a drug. When you begin to feel more familiar with a place, you know it is time to move on to the next destination to seek out that thrill again. It can be exhausting, but you feel so enriched and exhilarated by it that stopping in one place to ‘rest’ and take a break from the constant travel can quickly make you feel bored and longing for that next travel ‘hit’.
For some, travel is something they are happy to leave behind as a fond memory from their twenties and fodder for dinner party storytelling. They find comfort in the routine and security of suburban family life.
I couldn’t be more happy and grateful for the life we have created with our family here in Sydney but, travel is something I miss. But it is not travel for travel’s sake. It is the real-life learning, the new experiences, and meeting like-minded people that I often long for. I quickly get bored with routine and familiarity and while I like to visit the comfort of ‘normality’ from time to time, I prefer to create a life that recreates the features I love about long-term travel.
Hundreds of thousands of families across the country will celebrate Mothers’ Day this weekend. For many, it is a day to spoil our mums but it is also a time to spend together as a family. So, with that in mind, here are my top 5 ideas for things to do as a family this Sunday.
1. Sculpture at Scenic WorldFans of ‘Sculpture by the Sea’ on the Bondi Coastal Walk will love Sculpture at Scenic World in the Blue Mountains. Thirty three sculptures by a range of Australian and International artists are dotted alongside an elevated boardwalk among the Jurassic rainforest.
The sculptures keep the kids interested along the thirty minute walk along the Scenic Walkway and the ‘rides’ add another level of excitement for them. For mums, it is simply a chance to escape the stresses of the city.
2. Picnic & Paddleboating in Lane Cove National ParkIf you are looking for an escape without the long driveLane Cove National Park is perfect. There are great picnic spots by the water and plenty of parking. Aside from a little kiosk selling chips, drinks and ice creams, there are no food outlets here so be sure to pack a full picnic with everything you need. The paddleboats are great fun and there are short bush trails to explore. Check out this blog from 2014 for more.
3. BBQ at Camellia GardensThe Camellia Gardens in Caringbah are a gorgeous spot for a relaxing picnic surrounded by gorgeous landscaped gardens, with ducks wandering the grounds searching for excited children ready to feed them with their bread scraps.
There is a BBQ area, picnic tables dotted around the grounds and plenty of grassy areas to lay down a picnic blanket. There are plenty of walks through the gardens and a babbling brook cascading through the grounds to keep it interesting for the kids as well as two fenced in kids playgrounds. There is also a teahouse onsite for a special treat although on days like Mothers’ Day it is often busy.
What are your favourite Mothers’ Day activities in Sydney or surrounds?