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Secret Sydney: Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden

Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me

Sydney’s Lavender Bay is the perfect spot to enjoy the spectacular Sydney scenery and let time pass by. If you turn your back to the gorgeous view and walk a up a stealthy flight of stairs, you’ll find yourself somewhere a bit magical – Wendy’s Secret Garden.

Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me

The garden was created in 1992 by Wendy Whiteley, wife and muse to artist Brett Whiteley, following her by then ex-husband’s death. Before Wendy turned the patch of land into the whimsical retreat it is today, it was a dumping ground, overgrown with weeds. The lot is officially owned by NSW State Railways, but after Wendy’s incredible efforts to turn it into a treasure to be enjoyed by the general public, the government has agreed lease the land to North Sydney Council on a 30-year renewable lease, securing it for hopefully generations to come.

Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me

The garden lies beneath the home Wendy shared with her husband and their daughter, Arkie. What started as a therapeutic way for Wendy to channel her grief following Brett’s death turned into a creative outlet for her, and a sanctuary for locals and visitors.

Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me

Wendy invested millions of her own money into the project, with the resulting garden filled with tall Moreton Bay figs, flowers and shrubs.

Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me

We took Cheese to visit the secret garden recently, and she, like the many other children we encountered along it’s winding pathways and steep climbs, was enchanted by the hidden trails, secret sculptures and beautiful plants. Many families we encountered had brought a picnic and whiled away the afternoon at the various tables, chairs and benches set up for general use, while their kids enjoyed discovering the secrets contained in the special garden.

Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me Wendy's Secret Garden, Sydney via christineknight.me

Wendy’s Secret Garden
Lavender Bay
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Tips for Bushwalking with Preschoolers

Tips on bushwalking with preschoolers via christineknight.me

I recently took Cheese, aged four, on her first proper bush walk in Katoomba. We had an amazing walk to the Minni Ha Ha Falls (you can read about it here). It got me thinking about how different it is bushwalking with little kids – not better or worse, but different.

Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me

Tips for bushwalking with small kids:

Over estimate the time it will take
The walk we did was 1.3km and should have taken an adult 15 minutes, it took us over an hour. Make sure you have plenty of time when you set out so there isn’t any rushing involved on either end of the walk.

Go slow and enjoy the journey
When I do bush walks on my own, I tend to rush through the bush to get to the waterfall at the end. When walking with Cheese, however, the walk is about the leaves and skinks and butterflies we encounter along the way. She enjoyed all the elements of the bush just as much as she did the waterfall at the end. Don’t set a time limit, just enjoy the journey.

Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me

Pack extra clothes
Particularly pack extra shoes and socks in the car (or backpack if you travelled by public transport) and shorts/dress if your child is like mine and won’t wear anything else. Even on days when it hasn’t rained in weeks, we often find mud on the trails, and are always glad to have spare shoes to change into.

Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me

Prepare for swimming
If there is the potential for a dip, bring swimmers and a small quick-dry towel, plus a wet bag. Waterfall pools can be incredibly cold, even in the middle of summer, so there is a high chance of swimmers being worn and no actual dips happening. Do be aware of slippery rocks when there is water involved.

Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me

Stock up on food
Bush walks make for hungry kids. We stopped at the base of the waterfall for a picnic so Cheese had energy for the return trip. We packed a sandwich, rice crackers, banana, apple and many bottles of water.

Get ready for the elements
Don’t get caught out – the bush is a dangerous place. Wear closed-toe shoes, a hat and a short that covers your shoulders to prevent sunburn. take plenty of water even if it’s only a short hike. Also take wipes or tissues incase a bush wee presents itself!

Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me

Conserve strength for the end
There is always carrying involved for us. Our daughter was a champ on this walk and did most of it on her own, but still needed to be carried for the last three-quarters of a kilometer. We often bring a baby backpack carrier that takes kids of bigger weight for this exact reason.

Have you been bushwalking with your kids? I’d love to hear your favourite walks.

Sydney Day Trips With Kids: Minni Ha Ha Falls, Katoomba

Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me

The Blue Mountains are full of insanely beautiful waterfalls, many of which are well known and full of tourists, like the Katoomba and Wentworth Falls. We like to get off the beaten path a bit and avoid selfie sticks, so took a stroll one fine summer’s day out to the adorably named Minni Ha Ha Falls in North Katoomba (and yes, I wanted to visit them just so I could say over and over again “Minni Ha Ha”!).

Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me

The Minni Ha Ha Falls (also known as Minniehaha Falls and Minnihaha Falls) are just past the main Katoomba city centre turn off, on the opposite side of the road. From the Great Western Highway turn onto Civic Plaza, then turn left to the Station Street and follow Victoria Street until South Street, where you need to turn right. Turn left onto Minni Ha Ha Road and drive until you reach the small car park at the end of the road. This is Minni Ha Ha Reserve – a large park with a small playground and a few picnic tables.

Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me

The 1.3km trail to the Minni Ha Ha Falls begins in the reserve. There is only one trail to follow until right before the falls come into view, so it’s very easy to find, although the path is very steep in the second part, very rocky, and, if it’s been raining, like it had been just before we visited, very slippery and filled with muddy puddles. Right before the waterfall are several sections with steep stairs and handrails. Cheese was a bit scared to do down them but, with a bit of encouragement, she descended them successfully.

Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me

Don’t be put off by this description. While the walk was hard with a preschooler, it was absolutely do-able and Cheese had an amazing time. We helped her over the hardest bits, or where the path was flooded, but she otherwise walked the entire route there and back again on her own.

Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me Minni Ha Ha Falls Katoomba Australia via christineknight.me

The trail leads right to the base of the falls, which are a pretty impressive 20-metres tall. If you’re brave enough (and don’t feel the cold!) you can swim in the pool at the bottom, right underneath the waterfall.

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Be warned: there are no bathrooms nearby, so go at the service station on the highway or be prepared for bush wees.

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More things to do in Sydney

Find a list of the best things to do in Sydney with kids here.

Find things to do in Sydney for free here.

Get a list of the best kid-friendly beaches in Sydney.

Find the best animal experiences in Sydney here.

Visit the best kid-friendly restaurants in Sydney here.

Find the best high teas in Sydney here.

Head to one of the best museums in Sydney here.

Check out things to do in Sydney on a rainy day here.

Enjoy one of the best ocean pools in Sydney here.

First time visiting Sydney? Get tips for first time visitors to Sydney here.