Tag Archives: environment

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.

Catherine Hill Bay

Icklegen and I have been waiting for a window of opportunity to hit the beach, but what with her hectic social schedule and the topsy-turvy weather of late, we never seemed to get around to it. So, on Sunday morning, when the cloud cleared and the sun started to beat down, I seized the moment and ran around the house frantically packing morning snacks, swimmers, nappies, bucket and spade, and all the other paraphenalia that makes up our seaside excursions. And off we set…into the cloud, which had reappeared out of nowhere, I swear it.07-P1010077

The forecast wasn’t too bad for the morning, so we carried on, and soon arrived at our chosen destination: Catherine Hill Bay. This beautiful spot boasts a 2-km-long sandy beach with an iconic old coal-loading jetty at its southern end (great for photos!) There is a small local community, whose residents mainly live in the 100 or so ex-miners weatherboard cottages that line the access road on both sides. It’s a little slice of history in our neck of the woods, relatively untouched by time. That though is all set to change with a 556-lot residential development already underway, and another large building project on the horizon.03-P101006304-P1010068

We parked in the dedicated area just before the Surf Lifesaving Club. Access to the beach from there is fairly flat and direct (and free, too). Less distance to stagger with a wriggly toddler under one arm and all the beach stuff dangling off the other. Icklegen only has to smell the sea to get fired up with enthusiasm and today was no exception. I had no sooner dropped the bags on the sand, than she took off at high speed towards the water.

We had a wonderful time: dipping our toes in the ocean, building sandcastles so they could be stamped on immediately afterwards, beachcombing for goodies, and running up and down the sand. But the weather was not on our side; the sun had all but disappeared within 10 minutes of our arrival, taking with it some much-needed warmth, and then it started to drizzle, just a touch at first, and then quite heavily, so we beat a hasty retreat. Well, as hasty as we could with all the clutter we had taken with us.09-P101008610-P101009211-P1010093

And we went to the pub, “The Catho”, just up the hill. This rambling, slightly ramshackle affair can get quite busy at peak times on a nice day, when you are presented with one of those awful your-food-is-ready-come-and-get-it-buzzers; at 10.30 am on a grey, drizzly Sunday, however, there was only a handful of customers. We settled in the “dining” area overlooking the bushland that burnt so terribly during the recent fires in our area. Icklegen tucked into her first ever chocolate milkshake (just a half, but that was more than enough) and I had a flat white (not the best in the world admittedly, but it hit the spot). I did eye up the big brekkies the elderly couple behind us had ordered, so that’s something to bear in mind next time we’re that way and ravenously hungry.14-P101010712-P1010103