Tag Archives: playground

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

Lakeside Playground

On our little stretch of Lake Macquarie, the waterfront reserve hugs the shoreline for a good couple of kilometres, allowing dog walkers, fishermen, joggers, parents with prams, and anyone else who fancies a stroll, the chance to get off the road and take in some magnificent views.P1010789

The unmarked pathway includes some wonderful shady spots with majestic gum trees towering overhead, access to a strip of sandy beach, and plenty of opportunity for Icklegen to run around in the great outdoors just a stone’s throw from her front door.P1010763P1010785

There are often kookaburras cackling in the trees, giant fish leaping out of the lake and occasionally pelicans foraging for fish at the water’s edge, Natural beauty a-plenty. And also some man-made touches.

In some areas, the lakeshore seems like an informal open-air boat house: tinnies are chained to trees at certain key points and a few catamarans find temporary moorings on the grassy banks. And then, of course, there are plenty of craft on the water, some in better condition than others.P1010752P1010764

And when you take a closer look at some of the trees, there are some surprises in store. Like ropes and beams to climb up. (Icklegen definitely likes the look of this one – yikes!)P1010738P1010746

Or a homemade swing.P1010779

And then quiet spots to rest for a while.P1010758

Or play on.P1010757

A playground with a difference.

Norah Head

Norah Head – what a beautiful, beachy place at our end of the Central Coast. An historic lighthouse, tidal rockpool, nature trail, great café, playground in the shade of the trees, and heaps of golden sand…why haven’t we been for so long? I’ve no idea, but we certainly made up for it with our most recent visit.P1010591P1010579

Daddy Ickle was in sporty mode and set off from home on his bike, while Icklegen and I opted for the more leisurely car journey. The route includes some of my favourite stretches of road up here. Elizabeth Bay Drive cuts through some fabulous bushland on the way to Budgewoi, after the Lake Munmorah residential zone. Then, come the rugged sand dunes on Budgewoi Road, as you skirt parallel to the seashore, the ocean itself tantalisingly out of sight. The dedicated cycle track from Budgewoi to Toukley gets the thumbs-up from Daddy Ickle, too.P1010539

First stop on arrival at Norah Head: the rockpool. The trick here is timing, as the water level and ‘bumpiness’ varies with the tides. We didn’t get it quite right on this occasion. The tide was still in, waves were breaking over the surrounding rocks and sweeping through the pool. Hit the right moment, however, and your toddler can happily frolic around in beautifully still water up to her waist.

It’s a popular spot and there were people camped out like sardines along the narrow strip of sand, so we headed around the corner where the beach was virtually deserted. Loads of space all to ourselves, and just a quick clamber over the rocks from the pool. Don’t tell anyone we told you! We made sandcastles, buried ourselves in the sand, dipped our toes in the many little pools hidden in the rocks, and relished being outdoors on such a beautiful day.P1010572

We then had an obligatory stop at the Rockpool Retreat one of those places we’ve been to before (several times) and know we’ll go back to again and again. Great menu, good coffee and cakes, kiddies’ corner, arty feel and décor, relaxing atmosphere…need I say more? It was busy, so we went for a takeaway, which was a little on the disappointing side (chips were undercooked, plus you don’t get the benefit of their presentation when you eat out of a box). But it hit the spot all the same.P1010531

Bursting with renewed energy after his lunch, Daddy Ickle hopped back on his bike and headed for home; Icklegen and I chose to stay a little longer. We looked at the start of the wonderful little nature trail that links Bush Street Reserve with the lighthouse. At around 1 km one-way, it’s a tad far for a young toddler, but easily manageable with her in a baby-carrier, or backpack. Being short on time (i.e. it was almost nap o’clock for Ickle), we got in the car for a quick look at the lighthouse – a stunning landmark dating to the early-1900s, and a great way to end our fun-packed morning.P1010587P1010595P1010593


Murrays Beach

On Friday, Icklegen and I headed to Murrays Beach. It is a top spot tucked away on the Wallarah Peninsula just out of Swansea, perched on the sparkling waters of Lake Macquarie and surrounded by national park. It’s a short windy road off the Pacific Highway to get there but worth every twist and turn of the steering wheel.P1000841It is so peaceful, or at least it was on the morning that we chose to visit. For the first hour after our arrival, we only saw a handful of people: three men fishing off the jetty that juts out into the lake and a lady out for her morning walk. Bliss. And yet, this is a residential area and it’s still very much under construction. There are signs up informing you of Land for Sale, and extolling the various key selling points of the development. But, when you are down on the lakeshore, the human aspect seems to blend inconspicuously into the surrounding bushland.


We had brought Icklegen’s little trike with us, so our first stop was the “racetrack” to give it a bit of a spin. Well, it’s not really a racetrack so much as a concrete pedestrian circuit that runs parallel to the lakeshore, before looping back to the main settlement. The surface is smooth, so perfect for everyone, including this mum, her toddler and our little set of wheels. On this occasion, Icklegen opted to ditch the trike for most of the way and walk and run along the circuit, retracing her footsteps several times and giggling as she launched herself across the grass towards the lake. She expended so much energy in her excitement that we soon had to stop for a snack or two so she could recharge her batteries.P1000863

Next, we headed to the kiddies playground near the village green. It’s not huge, but the equipment is good quality and well thought-out. There’s a slide complete with runged ladder and fireman’s pole – I found it alarmingly high, but I’m probably being over-protective; Icklegen loved it, and so did her teddy! The two swings cater for all ages; the baby version is like a space-age reclining car seat with multiple straps to keep even the wriggliest child safe. There are wooden beams to run along and clamber up (a bit beyond Icklegen at the moment). And finally an abacus and noughts-and-crosses combination for little hands to move along and and spin around.P1000889P1000884

We were feeling a bit peckish after all of this, so headed to the Lakehouse Café. The café is what first brought me to Murrays Beach. I love cafés, especially ones that serve decent food, coffee and cake. I found this one on Google as I hunted around for decent places to hang out and chill near our new home. The café is light and airy, with a wrap-around sheltered veranda and fabulous lake views. It may be a bit on the pricey side, but worth a visit for a treat now and again.P1000913

Icklegen had her first babycino here one Saturday, and it was presented to us like this. Colourful and fun! And she polished the whole lot off too, marshmallows, sprinkles and all.Babycino

Today, we ordered a ham, cheese and tomato croissant from the breakfast menu. It was delicious – the croissant was buttery and flaky on the outside, the cheese melted through and tomato warmed to release its flavour. And it came with a decent side salad of mixed leaves, cherry tomatoes and cucumber. We shared it, although Icklegen possibly got more of the ham than I did.

The coffees alas did not compete with our last visit. The babycino was good, but not a patch on the dotty multicoloured froth Icklegen enjoyed last time; however it did come with a marshmallow on the side. My flat-white was disappointing: it lacked the silky smooth texture and slight sweetness of a really good coffee. And there was no heart or leaf design on top either – a travesty for someone like me who loves the emphasis on coffee art and presentation in Australian cafés.

My coffee aside (and I’m no real expert), we still love this place! It’s a peaceful, safe location, ideal for kids, and the café is an added bonus. You can also walk to the ocean (Caves Beach) from Murrays Beach, along the Wallarah Peninsula track. At two hours one way, Icklegen and I didn’t tackle it this time. We’ll have to look into the logistics and rope in a few extras before we set out on that adventure – watch this spot!

Do you have a favourite café? What makes it special?