Monthly Archives: July 2014

Wyong Milk Factory


There’s always something fascinating about old buildings that have gained a new lease of life. So, when I read about Wyong Milk Factory in our local newspaper, I knew we had to pay it a visit. Although, if truth be told, the focus of the article was actually about the opening of an artisan chocolate shop on the premises. Now, who can resist such temptation on their doorstep?P1020283

As you zoom down the Pacific Motorway towards Sydney, you can see the factory tucked away below the security barriers. But the actual access route takes you along country roads, past rural properties and through the bushland. For someone with such a poor sense of direction as myself, and proudly GPS-less, this is slightly alarming; however, we got to our destination without a single wrong turn. Result.P1020310P1020327

The Milk Factory is home to a variety of small businesses including a bakery, café, cheese shop and, of course, the aforementioned chocolate shop. It’s a funny place, with its sprawling old industrial buildings that hark back to its past as a buttery and milk-bottling plant. And its semi-rural setting is interesting too. The factory is set on the banks of the Wyong River, but in the background there is the ever-present buzz of traffic roaring along the motorway.P1020290

We started our visit at Luka. The chocolate shop was set up by a Russian couple who only moved to Australia a few years ago, and who completely retrained as chocolate makers on arrival. The premises incorporates a rather austere space-age café, but the treats on hand add the luxury edge: waffles, ice-cream, real hot chocolate…mmm. A viewing window allows visitors to peek into the preparation zone, although, alas, no chocolates were being made while we were there. But there are dozens of beautiful hand-crafted gems on display for purchase. We escaped rather lightly with a strawberries-and-cream pink heart that Ickle had fallen in love with.P1020295P1020304

After a little break in the picnic area overlooking the river, we headed for the playground, located just by the main car park entrance. I hadn’t even realised it was there; only a chance meeting with another mum on the day prompted us to check it out. It’s not a huge site, but it is beautifully thought-out and original too, especially the colourful little cubby house wrapped around a tree; the giant pencils also proved a great hit. And we had the whole place to ourselves. Mind you, it was a particularly chilly day.P1020324P1020315P1020321

Our visit ended with a retreat to the Milk Factory café, where we defrosted over a very nice impromptu lunch.P1020287

Whale Dreamers Festival

It’s whale migration season here on the eastern seaboard of Australia, with thousands of these wonderful creatures making their way to the warmer waters up north to breed.

A few years ago when I was still a Sydneysider (or almost!) I went on a whale watching cruise with a friend. We were fortunate enough to see a number of humpback whales up close, and witness a variety of behaviours such as tail slapping and breaching. But I did feel that there was something intrusive about being so close to them on the water.20140706_113812


















The Whale Dreamers Festival at Norah Head* offers a completely different approach. Organised every year since 2006 on the initiative of a dedicated trio of women, it is an eco event and great emphasis is placed on whale conservation and protecting the environment. And the watching takes place from a distance. In fact, Norah Head provides the ideal location for this with its panoramic ocean views from the cliffs by the lighthouse.20140706_114137


















Icklegen and I decided to join in the action at this year’s festival. We turned up early, which was a good thing as there was no parking at the lighthouse and limited slots in our usual spot by the Rockpool Café. We didn’t have to walk forever, as I had feared (now that would have been a challenge with a little one!) Free shuttle buses trundled up and down the access road to the lighthouse throughout the event making life so much easier.P1020276

On arrival, there was a big crowd on the cliff-top, with people peering excitedly through binoculars and very long telephoto lenses. There had been a sighting of a southern right whale a few kilometres offshore. A number of the more common humpback whales were also observed during the course of our visit, as well as pods of dolphins. Alas, we didn’t get to see any whales or dolphins ourselves, but it was enough this time to know they were ‘in attendance’.20140706_102947

We toured around the various environmental stalls, where Ickle befriended a somewhat battered wooden pelican. Then we got creative in the Art Space, a great initiative where, for a gold coin donation, Ickle got to paint and colour in her very own mask. The highlight of the day, though, had to be face painting. My little girl sat very still as a local artist decorated her forehead with a rainbow, flowers and a ziggy-biggy (aka a ladybird), the latter being at Ickle’s specific request.20140706_11083420140706_111521

We checked out the excellent food stalls on-site later on when we got a bit peckish. I opted for a black bean burrito (delicious and very spicy) and Ickle took a fancy to the sausage sizzle. (Well, she is a little Aussie, after all). And we sat in the sunshine overlooking the lighthouse and the ocean, while live music played in the background. And I thought: this isn’t bad for a Sunday afternoon in the middle of winter.20140706_111558


















*The Darkinjung Aboriginal people refer to the Central Coast of NSW as ‘Whale Dreaming Country’, and the whale is their totem.