Where we’ve been #2…

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Travel Stuff

Wizard of Oz

Part 2 – Keeping the kids busy on a budget

As I said at the top of the last post, this year’s trip had to be made under a tight budget. This time wasn’t about creating a “trip of a lifetime” more, a trip to spend time with my sister. Who just happens to have settled in Oz.

So – none of the big hitters this time. Nobody felt a burning desire to re-visit the zoo, nor the Blue Moutains etc, when Manly has everything that makes the family happy. We had hoped to go to the ballet again at the Opera House as last time the Nutcracker was pretty darn special. Certainly one for the memory bank, but there wasn’t a ballet within our dates this time, otherwise I would have splashed out.

Otherwise, we had everything on our doorstep, with not too much outlay. At no point during our 3 weeks were the kids whiney or bored.

First up, the totally obvious, but a word about surfing…

When we visited in 2014, the kids learnt to surf at the Manly Surf School with Sean, their fab and incredibly patient instructor. It cost a fair bit as they shared one on one lessons, but he got them on their feet. We didn’t go for the full on group session as we all felt they were too small back then (age 6 and 8). (Group lessons are better bang for your buck if you’re wanting to learn as an adult, or have teens in tow) BUT it’s probably the best dollars we spent, as it was such an investment with initial, shaky and wobbly skills brought back to the UK – and they’ve continued to build on that initial grounding down in Cornwall.

So this time, we didn’t need to throw money at lessons. It would have been great to get Sean to up their abilities with some more technique, but they were happy enough and it did save some of our budget. Following quotes for extortionate shipping costs for our own boards, my sister rustled up 3 boards of different sizes from her mates via a Facebook call out – the generosity of others never fails to surprise me.  Another of her friends stashed them close to the beach for us (we know from experience that small arms, heavy boards and a bit of a walk normally leads to bickering, and at times all-out fights). So we were pretty sorted. There are however loads of places to hire boards if you’re not taking your own, including Manly Surf Hire

(and if you’re not on a tight budget, then maybe even a splurge on your own beauty from Aloha)


boy child finding his sea legs again

Safe places to swim…

If like us, you have water babies who will happily spend the entire day in the water – but you don’t fancy watching them in the ocean all day, there are several really safe places where they can cool down to their hearts content.

Little Manly

Little Manly is just up past the Wharf, by Manly Point.  It’s a gem of a cove for safe swimming and paddle boarding. We could safely allow kids to take in their menagerie of ride on inflatables, as the netted corner section meant that they can’t suddenly float away on a gust of wind or a sudden wayward current. As a result there’s a broad age range down there from the Manly yummy mummies chilling with their newborns and toddlers to school kids straight out of class, right through to teens and students on their summer break, endlessly jumping from the nets into the cool water.

(Bit of a heads up – just because it’s netted doesn’t mean the rest of ocean life can’t float in, the youngest did get a Blue Bottle sting there, and the rocks are covered with razor sharp molluscs, as my eldest found out when he went exploring off piste and shredded his feet. With the former, bathe in warm water immediately and try to remove any stingers, with the cuts, as always get them as clean as possible straight away, ocean corals and shells can introduce bacteria very quickly) 

Away to the left (as you’re looking at the ocean) there’s a stepped pathway up to Manly Point, which has a lovely shaded playground which gave some respite from the sun when needed.

There is very little shade at Little Manly, so we made sure we took our beach shelter on days we were parking up for more than a quick swim (more on those in the What We Take section coming up)

IMG_2808– Little Manly

Fairy Bower Rock Pool 

There are heaps of rock pools in Manly and its surrounding beaches further out too. Curl Curl has two, one, which is at the North end is less accessible, via a short walk across the headland and seemed to be mostly inhabited by serious adult swimmers when we were there….the more child friendly one down at Dee Why. Manly has two, one down at the far end at Queenscliffe and my personal favourite, the Fairy Bower pool. Built by locals who carved into the rocks back in 1929, it’s a perfect cool down at the end of a hot day, or an equally lovely way to start any morning, it became a firm favourite with its turquoise sparkling water, it’s iconic statue (the ‘Sea Nymphs’) and breathtaking setting. Find it on Marine Parade, walking towards Shelly Beach.  Other lovely pools can be found at Freshwater beach, which is the next cove round from Manly, and over at Palm Beach (yes, where Home and Away is filmed on that iconic beach)


   – the smallest at Fairy Bower Pool   


Transporting skateboards is, it turns out, a right pain in the proverbial. You can’t take them as hand luggage for all the obvious safety and security reasons, so you have several other options, including removing the trucks and taking them as hand luggage, and packing the decks, or putting the whole lot in the hold, which is a hefty chunk of the luggage allowance. Throw in a dog with a skateboard phobia, and we decided it probably wasn’t worth taking them this trip. But there is a place that you can hire skates and skateboards by the hour, down past North Steyne at Skater HQ. Manly promenade is the most perfect place for an hour’s skate.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP)

Never tried paddle boarding? It doesn’t matter – the water around the wharf is safe and calm. Experienced SUPpers have the world as their oyster though, with heaps of coves and ocean life to explore. The thing with SUP is you can happily let your younger kids take control – either share a board with them, or if they’re confident swimmers then can handle them relatively easily as they’re quite stable, giving them a nice bit of independence. Again, a tight budget meant we didn’t hire boards as often as I’d envisaged this time – but it’s a great activity to keep them off the streets and gain some confidence, whilst having a good laugh at the same time. Hire here. http://www.manlykayakcentre.com.au/sup-hire

Manly Kayak Centre also run kayak safaris for confident kayakers as well as lessons and individual hire. A great way to see the coast.


– SUP yoga from the girl, whilst the boy paddles safely near-by in Manly Wharf


It was very, very hot and humid this trip, so hand on heart, we did little in the way of hikes or long walks. But a really decent one, that the kids enjoyed enormously was the Spit to Manly hike across the headland. It’s a decent 10k, and very hilly, so probably not great for littler legs. But having said that, there are numerous joining or exit points along the way too and the opportunity to see the coastline from high up, as well as stopping in the smaller coves and inlets along the way do mean its both relatively accessible and worth the effort. The path is clearly marked out, and much of it has iron walk ways and handrails. There are points of interest along the way such as the aboriginal rock engravings, the kids spotted loads of the protected Water Dragons, it was great to see them up close and personal…we also had a possible sighting of the Fairy Penguins as we approached Manly Wharf. The views are breathtaking. Seeing the Manly Ferries crossing each other’s paths to and from Sydney Harbour was the stuff of postcards.

We made sure we took heaps of water and sunscreen, and wore sensible shoes for this one as there are some parts where you need to negotiate slippery rocks and mossy ledges. Much of it is covered as we meandered in and out of bush, but there are parts where we were very exposed to the searing sun. It’s also worth noting that during Whale migration (May-November) the walk is an excellent vantage point to spot pods of whales swimming past.

We started at the Spit Bridge in Mosman, and gave ourselves some self congratulations at the end with a drink and nachos at the Wharf Bar in Manly.

Another gentler walk is up and over from Manly to Freshie, the next cove around.  There’s a good pit-stop at the point that you tip back down towards the beach at Freshie, where we stopped for a coffee and sorbet for the kids, which morphed into a quick lunch of avos on toast as a reward for the climb, which is practically vertical, after all.

Finally, another fine walk is Narrabeen Lagoon which is a State Park. Much flatter than the Spit to Manly hike, this is still a good couple of hours, and right back in the heart of nature. There were sections of the walk when the cicadas were deafening. Several lovely cafés en route, which were handy when any whining for banana bread or a pit-stop were picked up from the smalls.


– Spit to Manly Hike

Manly to Sydney Ferry

A crowd-pleaser for locals and tourists alike, the iconic green and yellow Manly Ferries run every half hour to Sydney. They’re a super comfortable ride, taking you breathing distance past the Opera House, and then swinging into the harbour with the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the right. Once off, you can tour round the Opera House and then head to the bars and restaurants along the Harbour side, up to the Rocks, as well as the Sydney CBD.


There are number of other ferry options available, for example, boat trips to Taronga Zoo which leave every half hour from Circular Quay with Sydney Ferries. As I said earlier, we didn’t visit the zoo this time around, but it’s well worth a visit, not least to view the majestic giraffes with the Opera House in the distance. When we visited last time we were there at Christmas again, and grandparents gave the kids “experience vouchers” for the zoo and the aquarium instead of traditional gifts, and these are well worth exploring if a trip coincides with Christmas or a birthday. Feeding a giraffe some carrots is surprisingly fun.

So that’s my round up of how we kept the kids busy, and spent some quality family time as a result. Next up – what we took with us and what we got when we were there, plus my personal recommendations for health and body care when traveling long haul.

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