With the summer school holidays upon us, I’m posting a series of cool outdoorsy things to do with kids, highlighting some of our favourite local spots. Our stomping ground is the Sutherland Shire, in our fair city’s southern outskirts, and while living down here (in north Melbourne, as my Northern Beaches bro-in-law calls it) can be a right royal pain in the you-know-what when it takes an hour to get into the city, it also has its perks. Exhibit A: this is our backyard. Literally. From our back deck.
Now, the Sutherland Shire has had a bad rap over the past few years, with the Cronulla riots, and the infamous ‘reality’ show The Shire that (thankfully) only lasted a couple of episodes. Rest assured, we’re not all racist rednecks and bogan bimbos. (Keep a look out, though; you’re bound to spot one or two examples of this very special form of local wildlife.)
Reputation aside, with beaches, waterways, and bushland to explore, it’s an outdoor-lovers’ paradise, and rivals anywhere in Sydney for its kid-friendly outdoorsy activities. If you live in ‘The Shire’, as we affectionately know our little corner of Sydney, you know there’s a bunch to do in our backyard. If you don’t, then why not pop over the bridge for a visit? We promise to behave.
I thought I’d start my series with the beaches – Cronulla‘s beaches are a definite favourite with the kids – and then head bush. Local friends, I know it’s stating the bleeding obvious, but I couldn’t blog about outdoorsy things in the Sutherland Shire and leave out the beach, could I?
Where do we go?
When we head to the beach at Cronulla, we tend to choose Wanda to get away from the crowds, traffic and craziness around North and South Cronulla Beaches (plus, it’s just nicer). Don Lucas Reserve behind Wanda Beach has an excellent playground with one of those massive basket swings, a top bike track, and a double slippery dip that’s perfect for twins. There’s also usually more parking here than the other local spots. The council has just put in some much-needed shade sails, too.
The surf club cafe is not far away if you need a caffeine hit, or a milkshake, and the waves are just right for jumping, swimming, or surfing; whatever takes your fancy. Did I mention that we love wave jumping?
Other good playgrounds are at North Cronulla (pluses: closer to shops and food; minuses: busier and more difficult parking), and Shelly Beach (pluses: excellent fenced playground, Nun’s Pool across the road for good coffee, lovely ocean baths; minuses: can be busy and parking difficult).
If you’re after calmer water, there are a multitude of spots along Port Hacking with sweet little beaches.
Darook Park, on Gunnamatta Bay, is one of our favourites. It’s family-friendly, with nice shallow water and sand that’s perfect for castle-making. It’s a good idea to get there early to score a parking spot (parking is in the residential streets on the hill above the park, and is really limited) and grab a shady piece of the beach. (You know you’re getting old when you want to sit in the shade at the beach.)
Be aware that there is a walk downhill to the beach from the street, which means there’s a walk uphill when you’re done. Be prepared. I find a race uphill keeps the kids’ minds off the climb. You’re at the car before they realise they’ve scaled the hill. Genius.
We always collect some rubbish while we’re at the park or the beach. It’s such a simple idea to take a bag with you, and do a little cleanup. The less plastic in the bellies of our marine creatures, the better. Check out the Two Hands Project and Take 3 if you need some inspiration, or read my post on marine plastic pollution. Here’s our stash from last week.
More good news: there are still no parking meters in Cronulla, so a visit to one of the beaches really can be a free day out.
Who needs Bondi or Manly, when you have the ‘Nulla on your doorstep? Enjoy the sunshine, Sydneysiders! I’ll see you at the beach.
Oh, and visit my next outdoorsy things to do with kids post – Bundeena Ferry.