Yet another stunning beach in Sydney! Clifton Gardens is a suburb in Mosman, on Sydney’s north shore. The beach is where the suburb meets the sea, and it’s a gorgeous little secret that the locals have kept well for years.
Clifton Gardens features a gorgeous, sheltered beach, including a section with a shark net. There are minimal waves, making it perfect for kids. Large trees offer plenty of shade and there are BBQs available as well as picnic tables with shelter.
On the northern side of the beach is Bacino Café, offering coffee, juice and snacks. We brought out own and set up a picnic underneath the trees and next to the large, sheltered playground.
The beach has a big block of bathroom amenities for public use.
Driving is the easiest way to get to Clifton Gardens, but be warned that the metered parking is extremely expensive. On a Sunday it cost us $20 for three hours parking. If you can park further up on Morella Road parking is free, but it’s a bit more difficult if you have a kid in tow.
There is a flat path to ride scooters and bikes, and a walking trail from the south end of the beach that leads up into the bush-covered headlands and gives amazing views of the harbour.
Clifton Gardens Beach Get directions If you are travelling by bus, the best way to get there is by bus number 228 which stops near the entrance or alternative take bus number 233, 238 or 247.
One of the absolute best things about living in Australia is the stunning natural environment we live in. A hour and 15 minutes south of Sydney is a gorgeous spot called Wattamolla, located in the Royal National Park.
While it’s well-known as a spot to swim, snorkel, picnic and generally laze about, it’s also an historic area, with “Wattamolla” being the name the local Aboriginal people gave it many years before Europeans arrived.
“Wattamolla” means “place near running water” – a highly appropriate name for an area that is a cove, lagoon and beach. In 1796 Matthew Flinders, George bass and William Martin came across the cove while exploring, and recorded its name as “Watta-Mowlee”, but is today spelt Wattamolla.
Today, Wattamolla is a popular spot for families, as well as groups of all ages, due to it’s wide variety of activities to do there. The beach has sparkling clear water, edged by rocks that are fun for climbing.
Then there’s the lagoon deeper into the cove, which is perfect for little kids to swim in. It’s shallow and calm, so kids of all ages can paddle, swim and play at its shore safely. Adults love to bring giant floats and canoes to the lagoon and wile away the day floating around.
A pretty waterfall flows over the rocks at the back of the lagoon, and is a popular spot for daredevils to jump from into the water below, despite a large fence being erected and big warning signs cautioning people not to dive or jump from the rocks.
Tips For Visiting Wattamolla
Arrive early! Wattamolla is extremely popular and there is limited parking near the beach. We arrived at 10:30 and the parking lot was almost completely full. I would suggest arriving no later than 9:30 to enjoy the beach with few people there.
It’s a 250m walk from the car park to the beach along a narrow rocky path with lots of stairs.
There is no stroller access or paved path on the beach.
The lagoon is edged with plenty of trees to set up a blanket and picnic spot, but many visitors choose to bring their own tents with them.
There is no food available at Wattamolla, so bring a picnic with you down to the beach, or use the free barbeque areas near the parking lot to make your own lunch.
There is also no water available, so bring plenty with you.
While there are bathrooms at Wattamolla, they are located next to the parking lot so go before you walk down.
The beach is free to visit but entry to the Royal National Park costs $12 per vehicle per day and payment is cash only.
There is little to no mobile reception at Wattamolla.
The Royal National National Park is open 7am to 8.30pm but may have to close at times due to poor weather or fire danger.
Beaches in this park are not patrolled, and can sometimes have strong rips and currents.
Luna Park Sydney might just be the most gorgeously positioned amusement park in the world. Perched on the shorefront of Milson’s Point, the juxtapositioning of the old-world carnival colours against the stunning blue of Sydney Harbour makes it an incredible spot to visit, even if you’re not planning on actually riding anything.
While children and adults flock to the park to enjoy hair-raising rides, Luna Park is also an historical icon in Sydney, being listed on the State Heritage Register in 2010.
Whether rides are or aren’t your thing, Luna Park is a fascinating piece of Australian history. The fist Luna Park opened in St Kilda, Melbourne, in December 1912, with a second opening in Glenelg, South Australia, in 1930. The later, however, encountered push back from the locals, who thought the park was a haven for unsavoury types – as a result, the park was packed up and shipped to Sydney.
Sydney’s Luna Park was constructed at the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1935, and, once open, ran for nine-month seasons until 1972, when it was opened year-round. The park closed in mid-1979 following the infamous Ghost train fire, which killed six children and one adult.
The park has been partially demolished, renovated, re-opened and closed again several times since due to various problems – the most recent being the noise pollution complaints from locals surrounding the Big Dipper rollercoaster that caused the ride to be heavily restricted and, as a result, saw a drop in attendance that lead to the park’s closure in 1996.
After further redevelopment, the park re-opened in 2004 and has been open ever since.
In 2010 the Luna Park Face was listed as an item of national heritage by the National Trust of Australia, making it one two amusement parks in the world that are protected by government legislation; several of the buildings on the site are also listed on the Register of the National Estate and the NSW State Heritage Register: most notably Luna Park’s Coney Island Funnyland, which is the only operating example of a 1930s funhouse left in the world.
Coney Island was built in 1935, and although there have been some changes made over the years, the layout is almost identical to when it opened, including the rotating barrels, moving platforms, long slides and arcade games that line the walls.
I recently took the little Cheese to experience Luna Park for the first time and have some tips if you’re intending to go:
Luna Park Tips
Buy your tickets online
They are cheaper to buy from the Luna park website than in person at the park. You will also avoid the queues this way.
Look for special deals
Take a look for even better deals before you buy them directly from the park. For example, try Groupon, or Telstra and Optus perks. I received the best deal through Optus.
Adult accompanying rider tickets cost some serious money
If you’re not planning to buy an adult ticket for yourself but your child isn’t tall enough to ride everything on their own, you will need to buy an accompanying adult ticket. These are not available for discount purchase online at all – they must be bough at the park, full price, and they are EXPENSIVE! They are also only valid for rides where accompanying the riders who are too short to ride by themselves – so you can’t ride without them, either.
Pack your own food
There is basic food available at the park, like hot dogs, burgers and chips kinda stuff, and they are expensive. I suggest packing healthier food for lunch and bringing it with you to save money.
Prepare for the weather
There is very little shade in much of the park, particularly in the little kids’ area out the back. Pack wide brimmed hats and plenty of sunscreen.
This is my mantra for theme parks in general. Go as early as possible when the queues are shorter and the sun isn’t as hot.
Be aware of height restrictions
Make sure your kid is big enough to get the most out of the cost of park entry. You can find a list of the height requirements for each ride here
Know how much money it’s going to cost if you buy tickets at the park
Unlimited Rides Pass – Yellow (130cm+) $52 (vs $48 online)
Unlimited Rides Pass – Green (106-129cm) $42 (vs $38 online)
Unlimited Rides Pass – Red (85-105cm) $22 (vs $22 online)
Accompanying Adult – Green $42
Accompanying Adult – Red $22
The cheapest day to go is Mondays
During the school holidays this is an excellent deal for school kids
Mini Money Mondays – Yellow (130cm+) $40
Mini Money Mondays – Green (106-129cm) $30
Mini Money Mondays – Red (85-105cm) $16
Other ticket options A Coney Island Pass ($12) lets you access just Coney Island all day. Coney Island was our kids’ favourite of the whole day, and is blissfully indoors!
How to get there
Luna park is so easy to reach by public transport. Catch the ferry or train directly to the park, or, if you have to drive, park in their car park. Either way, there is very little walking involved, so great for little ones.
Luna Park 1 Olympic Dr, Milsons Point NSW 2061 Hours: The days and hours Luna Park opens varies. Please check the website before going. lunaparksydney.com
Sculpture By The Sea is the largest free public sculpture exhibition in the world, and in 2016 celebrated its 20th anniversary. The exhibition runs for two weeks every year in October/November, along the cliff top walk from Tamarama Beach to Bondi Beach.
While the majority of the sculptures are not able to be touches, each year there are several that are designed to be interacted with by visitors, be it walking through them, on them or climbing over them – the placards in front of the sculptures lets people know which ones are able to be touched and which ones are too fragile.
A big hit this year was the ship with wooden blocks that were able to be manipulated, so visitors were able to change the shape of parts of the ship.
Please enjoy the photos of this spectacular exhibition, and scroll down to the bottom for tips on attending.
Tips for attending Sculpture By The Sea
Go early, like 6am early. We arrived at 7am and it was already really busy. If you arrive at midday, forget about being able to get near a sculpture without 20 people right on top of you.
Parking is a nightmare. Go early and look for a spot around Tamarama or Bronte.
Bring lots of water, sunscreen and a hat. The sun is brutal on the walk and there is no shade.
Bathrooms are located at Tamarama Beach, Mark’s Place and Bondi Beach.
Food is also located at Tamarama, Bondi and Mark’s Place. In 2015 and 2016 The Grounds of Alexandria had a pop-up cafe at Mark’s Place.
The walk is not stroller friendly at all. If you cannot bring your child in a baby carrier, walk/drive to Mark’s Place – it’s the only stroller accessible point of the walk.
Try for dawn or sunset for pictures with truly stunning light and less people around.
There are two kids’ playgrounds on the walk – one at Tamarama Beach and one at Mark’s Place.
Week days are much less busy than weekends.
Keep an eye on small children. Not only is the walk crowded, it runs along the cliff tops where there are no guard rails or barriers to stop children from falling over the edge.
Not all scuptures are designed to be touched. Please respect the signs and only touch those that are designated for interaction.
Photography tip: It might look like we were pretty much by ourselves on the walk but this was thanks to careful shooting and editing. For pics like these, be extremely patient and wait until other people leave the frame, or step around them and find an angle with no-one in it. If you can’t do either, then crop in close.
The Parramatta CBD River Foreshore Park is a great spot to run off steam with kids if you’re taking in a show at the nearby Riverside Theatre or grabbing lunch at one of the restaurants on Church street.
Built into the slope of the hill on the river’s foreshore, it’s got some really cool features like a 4 metre slide and rock climbing. In summer, water features are turned on near the sand play area.
Be aware that the playground is not fenced, not does it have any shade cover or bathrooms.
Parramatta CBD River Foreshore Park
Elizabeth St Footbridge Parramatta NSW
Halloween has been taking off slowly over the years in Sydney, with more and more families like ours wanting to mark the occassion with fun activities. This year Cheese was finally old enough to try the Swamp Monsters program at Centennial Park.
Swamp Monsters is a Halloween trail through Centennial Park, starting at the Eduation Centre. The event often sells out far in advance so buying tickets before the event is highly recommended. The day is broken up into time slots to start the activities. Arrive any time during your time slot, sign in at the desk and pick up your trail map, then take as long as you like.
The trail has five activity stations for kids to complete, with each spot spookyily themed and requiring kids to complete a task. The kids loved the (fake) spiders and cobwebs, and screamed with delighted terror at the “zombies” as they darted through a course that included navigating their way thorough a giant spider web, feeding a giant venus fly trap, guessing the ghoulish item in the mystery boxes, shooting zombies with nerf guns and bolting through a swamp infested with creatures from the dead.
After completing the five activities, the last stop is the completion tent where kids get their maps stamped and can choose a treat. While that marks the end of the trail, they are welcome to repeat any part of the course that they like.
At the start and end of the trail, back at the education centre, a pumpkin patch is set up for kids to make their own scarecrows. Our kids didn’t care so much about making the scarecrows – they were more enthused about pretending they were ponies munching on the hay. Great imaginations.
We chose the 11:30 time slot and found a tree to sit under for a picnic lunch at 12:30, thinking we would take a break and then do one of the activities after our lunch break, not realising that the whole course stopped for a lunch break between 12:30 and 2pm. I would highly recommend if you’re planning to do the activities again that you choose an earilier time slow or the one after lunch break.
While the day is recommended for kids aged 5-12 there were definintely some younger kids there. The littlies enjoyed several of the stations but were also scared of a few, so it all depends on the kid.
Age: 5-12 years
Times: Start times are available every 15 minutes between 10am to 12pm and 2pm to 4:30pm
Meeting Point/Venue: Start at The Learning Centre in the Education Precinct, off Dickens Drive, Centennial Park
Price: $17 per child Online
Show your online ticket on the day to receive your Trail Map. Tickets can be shown on mobile devices or printed out.
Event will go ahead in all weather. No refunds will be given.
Children must be accompanied by an adult. Adults do not require a ticket
One Trail Map per ticket and all participating children require their own trail map.
Coffee, ice cream and small snacks will be available for purchase from food vans.There is plenty of free parking usually available in Centennial Park, or you can take public transport.
With hundreds of stunning beaches running up and down the NSW coast, it’s hard to choose which one to visit.
On a sparkling Sunday we chose Palm beach, the northernmost suburb of Sydney, for a day trip. It’s an hour’s drive from the Sydney CBD, making it the perfect spot to get away from the hustle of the city without an epic drive to get there.
Palm Beach is often called the “jewel” of the Northern Beaches. Situated on a peninsula it has a gorgeous combination of lush evergreen bushland, beaches with soft golden sand and surrounded by the bright blue Pacific Ocean on one side, and calm Pittwater waterway on the other.
The beach might look very familiar if you watch a lot of soap TV – in particular Home & Away. The show has been filmed on location here since its beginnings in 1988. As a result the beach has been a popular tourist attraction, particular for Brits.
There’s plenty to do at Palm Beach to spend a gorgeous day outside. The main beach is soft and inviting – be sure to swim between the flags, or take kids to the south end to paddle where the water is most shallow.
If swimming in the waves isn’t your cup of tea, try a dip in the 35m ocean pool. It’s perfectly designed for both lap swimmers and also paddling with children in the shallow end.
For more exploring, follow the path around the pool where there are rock pools to be found. Be careful with the timing of your rock pool walk, however, as it can be unsafe when the tide comes back in.
When it’s time for lunch there are a few cafes to try. We enjoyed a late breakfast at 2108 Espresso, with an Aussie standard dish of toasted sourdough, avocado, fresh tomato and feta for $14 (eggs an additional $3). For the kids there is a grilled cheese toastie and babyccino with a cute blue marshmallow.
For dessert, we decided to give the cafe next door that serves scooped ice cream a miss and go old school with Gaytimes.
To walk off the ice cream there are a few options for the afternoon. Nearby is a large grassy park with a sprawling playground. While there were picnic tables in the park we didn’t spot any bathroom amenities, and the playground equipment didn’t have much shade.
The more athletic option for the whole family is to take the scenic 1.2km walk from the beach to Barrenjoey Head to visit the historic lighthouse that sits on Sydney’s most northerly point. It’s a 25 minute walk each way so take water and go to the bathroom before hand (no bathrooms at the top!). From the top you’ll have a great view of Broken Bay, the Central Coast and the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Have you ever wondered where the famous caldron from the 2000 Sydney Olympics ended up once the games were over? The answer is it didn’t go very far at all.
After the magical opening and closing ceremonies (who can forget Cathy Freeman lighting the cauldron and it rising through the air simultaneously dripping with fire and water?) the cauldron was taken down and moved just a few hundred metres to its permanent home – in the appropriately named Cathy Freeman Park.
Located very conveniently next to the Allphones Arena, Cathy Freeman Park has 2 playgrounds – one for young kids and one for older – huge shady trees and easy access to bathrooms and cafes.
We often end up in the park when attending a show at the Allphones Arena – it’s great to burn off energy after a long drive before needing to sit still for a long time while watching a show.
The cauldron is a popular feature for tourists and kids, who particularly love running underneath it in the puddles, and trying to judge when the fountain is about to turn on. There’s always one kid who times it poorly and gets absolutely soaked. Bring extra clothes in case this is your kid!
Vivid Sydney is an annual outdoor lighting festival featuring immersive installations and projections all around Sydney. The festival has grown over the years from humble beginnings to the largest light festival in the world. Each year Vivid grows a bit bigger: this year new additions include the Royal Botanic Gardens, who are celebrating 200 years in 2016, and Taronga Zoo, as part of their 100 year celebration this year.
Vivid installations can also be found in Darling Harbour and Chatswood – both smaller outposts of the festival that draw smaller crowds and hence are ideal for families wanting to experience a taste of Vivid without heading to the larger venues.
We hit up Vivid at Taronga Zoo as a family on the first night it opened. Taronga has emerged as the perfect Vivid experience for families due to its crowd control (it’s tickets so there are limited numbers), large, interactive and kid-friendly animals lanterns, stroller-accessibility and family facilities, and it’s size – long enough to make a night of it but not too long to exhaust parents and kids alike. Lights turn on at 5:30pm at both Taronga and Chatswood, making the time just that bit more family-friendly.
Circular Quay has long been home to the bulk of the Vivid installations and is still the best place to visit for the full festival experience. I like to catch a bus or train to Town Hall station and walk down through Pitt st Mall and Martin Place to experience the dispersed installations long the way. These areas have a few lights to see, but aren’t big enough to go out of your way to discover if you’re pressed for time, or with kids in tow.
Down in Circular Quay, the light show projected onto the Sydney Customs House is an entrancing highlight. This year’s theme is “Sydney’s Hidden Stories”, and it’s worth having a seat and enjoying the entire show.
A walk around the foreshore to the Sydney Opera House reveals the stunning “Songlines” display on the sails of the Sydney Opera House. The light display showcases Australian indigenous art. I would recommend getting up close to a speaker so you can listen to the Indigenous music that is paired to the display.
Quite a few of the Vivid exhibits are interactive, making them super popular with kids. They’re dotted around the foreshore here and there, in a path that leads to the Sydney Opera House, and, this year, the Royal Botanic Gardens.
The Royal Botanic Gardens has been a Instagram hit this year with its “Cathedral of Light” installation emerging as the most selfied exhibit of the festival. While the lights are indeed just gorgeous, I would suggest arriving before the lights turn on at 6pm and positioning oneself in the cathedral when the lights go on for an experience with minimal people (thanks Jayne at Girl Tweets World for the tip!). I arrived at about 7:30pm and it was the busiest exhibit we came across.
Other projected light displays in the Circular Quay area include the Museum of Contemporary Art and Cadman Cottage, both on the other side of Circular Quay.
A short stroll up this side of the harbour takes you to the perfect spot for watching the show on the Opera House sails, too, as well as past some other fun interactive exhibits, such as the heart that lights up when you scream “I love you” into the speaker.
If you’re taking the kids, my best suggestion for enjoying the main area of Vivid is to get there BEFORE the lights turn on, with the kids already well-fed. I also highly recommend going Mon-Thurs as the weekends get the most crowded. Parking and driving in the city can be difficult so take public transport if you can, or pre-book a parking spot at a larger car park if that’s not possible.
Vivid is completely accessible for wheelchairs and strollers, and if visiting on a week night you’ll have no trouble navigating through people either. If you’re tackling any of the Vivid spots on a weekend, consider a carrier (we use the Ergo performance carrier for Cheese – it has a weight limit of 20kg). A carrier is also a great way of keeping you – and the kid! warm during the frosty nights.
This is the first year Taronga has participated in Vivid, as part of the Zoo’s Centenary Celebrations. Quite simply, Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo is the perfect way to experience the excitement of the Vivid festival with young kids:
1. It’s ticketed
Yes that’s right, you have to pay to get in and I think that’s a huge positive. On the one hand, it’s nice to go to free events because costs do add up, but then crowds are usually out of control as a result. Vivid at Taronga is $17.95 Adult, $11.95 child entry fee, all of which goes towards conservation efforts.
As a result of the event being ticketed, not only are the crowds kept down because people rather do things that are free, but they are also kept smaller as there are only limited numbers of tickets available for sale. We went on opening night and while there was a decent amount of people, it never felt crowded. We had no problem getting up close to any of the exhibits, and were often the only people at that particular display.
Additionally, less people makes it safer to take little kids. We went with friends and their two kids, so we had three kids aged 6, 4 and 3, all running wild. At no point were we worried about losing the kids in a crowd.
2. There’s food
A huge complaint from families about Vivid elsewhere is the lack of easy and reasonably priced food to grab when you’re out with kids. The cafe remains open throughout the evening with a variety of basic food like hot chips, chicken tenders, sandwiches, yogurt and snacks to refuel small tummies halfway through the walk.
3. It’s educational
Taronga features 10 giant, multimedia light sculptures representing ten critical species from Australia and Sumatra that the foundation is committed to protecting, plus a bunch of cute critters speckled in trees and bushes and thousands of lanterns created by over 4000 local school kids.
Each exhibit has a large placard next to it with important info about the animal on it. Expect to see a Sumatran tiger, sun bear, pangolin plus crowd pleasers like the platypus, echidna and pygmy tarsiers.
4. It’s an interactive adventure
The trail itself is fun for kids, as it winds down through the bushy paths of the zoo with the exhibits popping up in the bushes along the way. Several of the displays are also interactive, such as the chameleon, where kids can move a light onto its spots to change its colour, or the cicadas who respond with noises when you yell at them.
5. It’s completely assessable
I would absolutely not take a stroller to most of the Vivid locations due to the sheer volume of people present, making it really difficult to maneuver with a stroller. By comparison, strollers and wheelchairs had no problems I could see at Taronga. Wide paths with lower amounts of people = an easy outing.
6. Family amenities
Simply: plenty of clean bathrooms with changing facilities!
7. Parking is easy
While you can get the ferry and then a shuttle bus up to the main entrance where the light trail begins, it’s super easy to just drive there and park for a flat fee of $7 after 4pm. We arrived at about 5:20pm and there was a lot of parking available.
8. It’s the perfect length
I find Vivid in the main city areas to be hugely overwhelming with it’s crazy number of locations, and wide distance to be covered. It’s pretty exhausting, even more so when you add young kids to the mix. Vivid at Taronga takes about an hour and a half to walk the trail, stop for a snack, ride the Sky Safari and even watch the light show out the front a few extra times before you leave. If you start at 5:30pm like we did it means you’ll finish up at 7pm, which is still on the early side, and not too tiring for anyone.
9. It starts early
Lights go on at 5:30pm! In the CBD lights go on at 6pm. That 30 minutes earlier made the difference to us between getting our daughter home around bed time vs half an hour after – it might seem like a lot, but it sure makes bedtime easier in our home!
10. Animal sneak peeks
While most of the Taronga residents are happily tucked up in bed during Vivid, a few curious creatures come out to say hi – in particular the giraffes. I was a bit concerned about the effect of the event on the animals, but the giraffes looked pretty chill, even curious about what was going on after bedtime.
11. You can ride the Sky Safari
When you buy a ticket you can select an ANZ Blue pass for no extra charge. These tickets include a round trip on Taronga’s Sky Safari cable car experience, which is a fab addition as you can take a break for a start and sit in an enclosed area where children can’t escape, and also get a stunning view of the harbour all lit up, as well as ride over Taronga’s Vivid light’s, too.
12. The light show will get them dancing
At the entrance to the Zoo a spectacular light display is projected onto the historic entry gates, telling the story of the Vivid theme: “Don’t Let Their Lights Go Out”. This important conservation message is told through a mesmerising show that entertains as well as driving home the importance of saving our endangered animals.
Kids possibly loved this display the most (ours thought it was the show we had come to see in its entirety and were content to just watch it over and over again!), and could be seen running through the lights on the ground, dancing to the music, and squealing with delight as animals they recognised swam, hopped and wriggled their way across the gates. Just magical.
Vivid Sydney at Taronga Dates: 27 May – June 16, 2016 Hours: 5:30pm – 9:30pm nightly Prices: $17.95 Adult, $11.95 Child (4-15 years)/Concession. Children under 4 years of age are free. Parking: Entry after 4pm flat rate $7