Adventure, baby!

Sydney Life

Pirate Fun at the Australian National Maritime Museum

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Swashbuckling fun for the whole family awaits at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Confession: I’ve never been to this museum before. I thought Cheese was way too young for it and as she’d showed zero interest in boats, didn’t think we’d be visiting till she was much older.

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I’m so glad we dropped by during the school holidays however, as their various pirate exhibition and themed activities were an incredible hit with my four-year-old.

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Kids on Deck: Patch-eyed Pirates
The entrance to this activity space is outside the main museum so we almost missed it completely. I’m so glad we didn’t, as it’s a fantastic area for kids aged 4-12. Kids can get busy crafting pirate ships, dressing up, building with Lego, reading pirate-themed books, playing games and making temporary tattoos.

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Daily, 27 December 2015–25 January 2016
Times: 10am–4pm (hourly sessions)
Ages: 4–12
Cost: Entry with any paid ticket

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Family Theatre Show: Calico Jack and the Pirate Cat
We spent a lot of time lining up to get into the theatre, and then waiting for the show to start. Possibly because we were there during school holidays, half the theatre was already filled with kids from daycares when we went in, meaning there weren’t enough seats for everyone. Lesson learned: line up even earlier if we want a seat! The show was a lot of fun, and our two four-year-olds and one 2-year-old were mesmerised the entire time by this lively and interactive theatre show.
Daily except Saturdays, 3–24 January 2016
Times: 11.30am and 2pm
Ages: 4–12 and adults

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Horrible Histories: Pirates The Exhibition
The main attraction this school holiday is the extremely well done Horrible Histories: Pirates The Exhibition. The brand-new exhibition is very hands on and interactive, filled with a mix of digital and manual activities for kids, ranging from knot-tying to discovering treasure, firing cannons (the most popular area in the exhibit) and “squishing” projected rats. Cheese could have squished rats all. day. long.

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The exhibit is based on the bestselling Horrible Histories series which Cheese is too young for, but that didn’t make any difference to her enjoyment of of the exhibit.

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There was just so much for kids to do, all packed into the one room, it was quite impressive. Particularly how the exhibit had been designed to appeal to kids of a wide variety of ages. Since I was with a very active four-year-old we missed all the interesting info about the history of pirates, the ships they sailed and the rules they lived by. Instead we fired canons, stuck giant magnets on walls and took funny pirate pictures of each other.

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At the end of the exhibit is the Passenger Theatrette, which shows episodes of Horrible Histories from 2:30pm daily. A perfect way to wind down after the frenetic activity of the Pirate Exhibition.

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Daily until 27th April, 2016
Adult $20, kids 4-15 $12, under 4 is free.

We didn’t even get to explore all of the amazing things for kids to do at the museum. Next time we will try the Under 5s Tour, which promises stories, songs and dancing through the galleries, and the Cabinet of Curiosities, where visitors can touch objects like weapons and navigational tools related pirates.

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There’s no eating inside the museum, but you only need to pop outside to the adorable Yot’s Cafe for waterfront dining with a pirate theme.

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Added bonus – toys for kids to play with an even a little kiddie-sized table and chairs to sit at.

Australian National Maritime Museum
2 Murray St, Sydney NSW

Open daily except Christmas Day
Hours: 9:30am-5pm (6pm in Jan)
Prices: Permanent galleries are free but still require a ticket to view them.
Big Ticket (Access to everything open on the day of visit including the ships), Adult $30, kids 4-15 $18, under 4 is free
Special Exhibitions Ticket (Access to major temporary exhibitions such as Pirates) Adult $20, kids 4-15 $12, under 4 is free.
Get Directions

 

Sydney’s Best Playgrounds: James Ruse Reserve Playground

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Super hot Sydney days call for playgrounds with water features! The James Ruse Reserve Playground is almost brand-spanking new (it was built in 2014), and has a fantastic water play area, which is under cover. You can’t beat that! Taking into consideration how important shade cloth is in summer, this could be my favourite playground in Sydney right now.

The playground was named after James Ruse (1760-1837) who arrived on the first fleet and was said to be one of the first convicts to be sent to Rosehill (now Parramatta) who had an understanding of agriculture. After his time as a convict was up, he became a self-sufficient farmer. James Ruse Reserve now occupies part of where is property, which he called Experiment Farm, used to be.

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James Ruse Reserve Playground
Harris St, Parramatta
Bathrooms: One portable only
Picnic tables: Yes
Shade cover: Yes
Cafe: No
Skatepark: Yes
Off-street parking: Yes
Children’s playground: Yes
Water features: Yes
Water park hours: September – May: 9am-8pm, June – August: CLOSED
Get Directions

Tips for Bushwalking with Preschoolers

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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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”!).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Summer at the Sydney Opera House

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This January, the Sydney Opera House is jam packed with free fun for kids. Drop by the House to enjoy this free fun (you don’t need to be seeing a show to play – just pop on in!).

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Creative Play: The Unbroken Line
January 2016, 10am-4pm
Kids can try to break un unbreakable digital line on a massive interactive digital wall. The line twists into patterns as it is pulled and pushed by participants, turning into a glorious array of colour and light. I visited with other kids aged from 4-6 and it was torture removing kids from this play area to take them home. This play space is a wonderful respite from the heat on hot days, so take advantage of it!

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‘Salsedine’ Summer Playground
January 2016
This month, the Western Broadwalk and Foyers at Sydney Opera House have been transformed into an Italian Riviera. Enjoy alfresco dining and family-friendly entertainment by the Hot Potato Band, Kiki and Pascal and The Jitter Bugs, set against, stunning Sydney Harbour views.

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Food choices included fruit cups $7 and pastries from $5, or Italian dishes like antipasto, panini and pizza cooked in a coal oven from 12pm till late.

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Lounge in the sun (or, like us, under a shady patch) and enjoy free family-friendly performances, or take a breather while kids build castles in the sand pit. We caught Kiki and Pascal’s performances and were very entertained. Suitable for kids and adults, their comedy/magic/acro act was light and uplifting.

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Kids can also get close to nature with Nature Play at the House. The nature corner lets kids use all their senses in play, from smelling plants in the garden, building with wood and decorating garden-themed colouring pages.

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Stick Man: Sydney’s Best Shows For Kids

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This January, the Sydney Opera House has a cracker of a program for kids. Today we saw Stick Man, a musical stage show based on the best-selling book of the same name.

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Stick Man the stage show has been adapted from the rhyming picture book created Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and has arrived in Sydney fresh from its successful UK tour.

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The show is aimed at kid aged three and over, so my four-year-old was the prime target market. We haven’t read the book (what?!?!) so came to the show with no idea of the storyline or themes the show would present. Sometimes it’s a good way to see a show adapted from a book – it’s nice to view a performance as its own unique entity rather than comparing it to the text it originated from.

In this case, we found Stick Man to be a delightful romp about the titular character, who “lives in the family tree with his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three” (can we talk about how adorable it is that Stick Man lives with his lady love and not a “wife”, by the way? I want to be referred to as my husband’s lady love!).

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Brought to life by innovative puppetry and bubbly songs, we followed Stick Man on his rollicking adventure as he gets dognapped and taken far from home. We can all relate to his discovery that the world is a big and scary place when leave our comfort zone. Stick Man’s bravery and determination to return to his family is a beautiful message to sow in your minds who are just starting to adventure beyond the known safety of their own homes.

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STICK MAN
Dates: 6 – 17 January 2016
Venue: Playhouse, Sydney Opera House
Ages: 3+
Website: http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/whatson/kath_2016_stick_man.aspx
Bookings: 02 9250 7777

Additional photography thanks to Jacquie Manning

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.

Sydney by Sea: All Aboard the Sydney Ferry

sydney-opera-house

The best way to see Sydney is by sea. I love to hop aboard an iconic Sydney ferry and enjoy the sea breeze in my face as we sail through the iconic harbour. Circular Quay is the hub of the ferry network (right next to the train station). Take your pick from 37 other wharves to sail to, ranging from Manly at the northern end of Sydney Harbour, through to Eastern and Lower North Shore suburbs, suburbs adjacent to the Parramatta River, the Balmain peninsula and Darling Harbour.

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A few destinations the Sydney Ferries can take you to: Balmain, Double Bay, Manly, Parramatta, Taronga Zoo, Darling Harbour and Cockatoo Island. Honestly though, with a view like this, the journey can be even more beautiful than the destination.

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A note about accessibility:
Stroller and wheelchair accessible wharves:
Circular Quay* wharves 2, 3, 4 and 5, Abbotsford, Balmain (Thames St), Cabarita, Chiswick, Cremorne Point*, Darling Harbour Terminal, Garden Island, Kissing Point, Manly, Meadowbank, Milsons Point / Luna Park, Mosman Bay, Neutral Bay*, Parramatta, Rose Bay, Rydalmere, Sydney Olympic Park, Taronga Zoo and Woolwich.

Wheelchair accessible wharves are also indicated on the Sydney Ferries network map.

* Assisted access may be required at low tide.

Get more info on Sydney Ferries.

The Best of Sydney with Kids: Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary

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*** Please note this aquarium is closing down *******

Beautiful Manly, on Sydney’s northern beaches, is a great day trips not just for a swim in the sea. The Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary has been a popular place for families to get up close with ocean life since its opening in 1965. The sanctuary is located 200 metres from Manly Ferry Wharf, making it a super-easy outing using public transport.

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The focus at Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary is animal conservation, with their rescue, breed and protect program. They are passionate about rescuing sick and injured wildlife, nursing animals back to health and releasing them back into the wild, as well as protecting their natural habitats.

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One of the reasons I really enjoy this aquarium is because it’s small – you can see everything in about an hour, including at least one of not two feeding demonstrations or keeper talks. I also like the conservation message the aquarium teaches its visitors.

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Entering the sanctuary there is a stroller bay just inside to park your buggy. The middle level is stroller-friendly, but there is no elevator-access to the lower or upper levels.

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On the entry level of the sanctuary is where you’ll discover some of the incredible and bizarre animals that call Sydney Harbour home.

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Seahorses, cuttlefish, lionshish and clown fish, to name just a few, can be found on this level. There are more species of fish found in Sydney Harbour than in the entire Mediterranean Sea – and this is the place to meet some of these beautiful creatures up close.

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Keep a look out for the aquarium’s baby Port Jackson, Bamboo and Epaulette Sharks who were all born at the sanctuary.

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One of the biggest hits on this level with kids is the interactive rockpool, where visitors can touch a shark egg, hold a crab and explore other animals such as star fish.

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A stroll down to the lower level takes you to Shark Harbour. A 4 million litre oceanarium with massive stingrays gliding overhead. Cheese’s favourite was ‘Sea Biscuit’, the rescued Green Sea Turtle. We all watched in awe as stunning Grey Nurse Sharks with very pointed teeth swam past.

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Join a free daily tour to learn the animals’ stories, or, if you’re feeling particularly daring, you might want to jump in with Shake Dive Xtreme and meet a shark face-to-face.

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The very top level of the sanctuary is home to 20 adorable little (or fairy) penguins. We were just in time for the penguin talk, where we learned that the sanctuary is very involved in conserving Sydney’s penguin colony in Manly, where there are 60 breeding pairs of little penguins needing protection from dogs, cats and, of course, humans.

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A fun fact about penguins: they have a salt gland under their beaks that enables them to sneeze out the salt from salt water. What genius in-built water filtration.

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The exit is back on the middle entry level, right next to the new Shipwreck Shores experience. What a fantastic idea to place an enclosed soft play area within the sanctuary for kids to be able to safely run around like maniacs for a few minutes.

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The play area is in the shape of a sunken ship and even has a surprise on the inside with a few undersea creatures waiting to be discovered.

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A note on accessibility: Please note pram and wheelchair access is limited to the mid-level of the sanctuary. Access to Penguin Cove and Shark Harbour is via stairs only.

Buy tickets online in advance and save between 10 and 30% off admission prices.

Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary is CLOSED
W Esplanade, Manly NSW
Prices: Adult $25, kids 4-15 $17

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.

Sydney’s Best Family Day Trips: Watson’s Bay

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With stunning harbour views and gorgeous beaches, Watsons Bay is a great place for a day trip with kids.

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Where to eat: Doyles on the Wharf Seafood Takeaway & Bistro

Doyles is famous for their seafood. Being vegetarian this isn’t a great option for me, but if you do like your fish and chips, Doyles is the place to go in Sydney.

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At Doyle’s on the Wharf, you can get fresh seafood in generous portions at reasonable prices – and enjoy a world-class view inside Doyle’s al fresco seating areas or picnic in Robertson park. A basic fish and chips is $13.80.
Doyles on the Wharf Seafood Takeaway & Bistro
Hours: Daily from 10am until 5pm.
Fisherman’s Wharf, Watson’s Bay

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Where to play: Robertson Park
Right in the middle of Watson’s Bay is Robertson Park. A very large park with large trees and wide green spaces, it’s a popular place to picnic and for visitors to play games. The park has a breathtaking view of the harbour, too.

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Families love the gated playground with shade cloth on top, positioned right next to bathrooms.

Sydney's Best Family Day Trips: Watson's Bay via christineknight.me Robertson Park
Marine Parade, Watsons Bay

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Where to swim: The Beach or Watson’s Bay Baths
Sydneysiders have been bathing in this harbourside tidal pool since 1905. After a significant renovation in 2010, the baths now include a new Olympic-size pool with two floating turning board/sunbathing pontoons, boardwalk, better seating, Australia’s first deep water wheelchair access to a tidal harbour pool and increased views of the harbour.

Head to the adjacent Teagardens for shaded outdoor kiosk seating, toilets and change room facilities.
Watson’s Bay Baths
Marine Parade, Watsons Bay

 

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Where to indulge: Gelatissimo
Gelato made fresh in store every day from an authentic family recipe. Flavours include Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Mango, Chocolate Truffle, Burnt Caramel & Pecan and Lychee. Ask for a tiny scoop for kids – it’s not on the menu and is slightly smaller than a regular single scoop and a bit cheaper, too.

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Gelatissimo
Military Rd, Watsons Bay

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Watson’s Bay
Limited on and off street parking
Get there by car, ferry or bus

Sydney’s Best Beaches For Kids: Parsley Bay

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Parsley Bay Reserve in Sydney’s east is a tiny little slip of a beach at the very pointy end of Vaucluse. It’s right next to the very popular Nielsen Park, and yet has remained under the radar thus far. We dropped by on New Year’s Day, as is not only our custom, but most of Sydney’s, by the looks of how popular some of the beaches were that day.

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The bay is popular with local families due to the enclosed swimming area, picnic facilities and children’s playground. I also enjoyed the cafe that was happily open on New Year’s Day and the clean changing facilities.

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While most families set up their rugs and picnic chairs and bunker in for a day on the beach, if you’re more athletically inclined there is a short bushland circuit (15-20 minutes return), that takes you to a waterfall at the head of the gully. We did try to find it from one direction, but ended up back on the main road so I think we accidentally took a scenic exit rather than the circuit that leads to the waterfall. In any case, there are no signs to tell you where to go on the bush trails.

There was, however, a sign to also let us know that in summer Eastern Water Dragons sun themselves along the watercourse. We sadly didn’t see any water dragons, but that wasn’t too surprising considering how many small children were out that day.

 

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Parsley Bay: Sydney's Best Beaches For Kids via christineknight.me
Most people drive as it’s the easiest way to get to Parsley Bay. Parking in the eastern suburbs, however, is an entirely different matter. We were happily surprised at how quickly and easily we found unmetered street parking in the shade, right next to the stairs that lead down into the bay. There is also a small carpark available from Parsley Road (Horler Avenue).

If you park on the street like we did, there is pedestrian access available from The Crescent, Hopetoun Avenue and Horler Avenue.

Parsley Bay Reserve
Parsley Rd, Vaucluse NSW
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