... a dreamer, freelance writer, massage therapist, naturopath, mother & drop-out social work student living, working and writing in the Blue Mountains. When not occupied with the real world, she writes fantasy.
Published March 27th 2013
Get them away from the computer
The simple joy of a pony ride and country atmosphere at Megalong Valley Australian Heritage Centre, Blue Mountains.
There's nothing like the wild outdoors for making one feel truly alive and burning out those little dynamo's of energy.
While theme parks have their place, the natural environment is not only more educational, but often a bit cheaper on the pocket.
The nature adventures listed below provide an experience of wild-life that is either free in its natural environment, or, as in the case of Dubbo Zoo, takes a more humanitarian approach to animals. Avoid the somewhat depressing sight of animals or sea-life in cramped cells.
Nature teaches children respect for the planet and its life forms, provokes scientific curiosity and an appreciation for the greater mystery of life.
Horse & pony riding at Megalong Valley Australian Heritage Centre
Ponies at Megalong Valley Australian Heritage Centre in the Blue Mountains.
Megalong Valley Australian Heritage Centre is a tourist venture designed to provide city people with an Australiana type country experience. Children have the chance to meet ponies, donkeys and alpacas or take a pony ride. Older children can enjoy escorted trail rides on horse-back through the Blue Mountains wilderness.
Children's pony rides cost $10 for 10 minutes or $20 for 20 minutes.
For all you need to know about Megalong Valley Australian Heritage Centre, including rates, location and horse-riding packages, click on this link to the website.
Megalong Valley is located in the Blue Mountains, west of Katoomba and is 126 kilometres from the heart of Sydney. To get to Megalong Valley Australian Heritage Centre by car, follow the Great Western Highway to Blackheath. At the main town lights, turn left across the railway track and follow the signs to Megalong Valley. You will drive down through fifteen minutes of rainforest into the valley. The Heritage Centre is about 2 kilometres past the fire station on the left. Look out for the old wool wagon and signs out front.
The Megalong Valley Heritage Centre can also pick up people from Blackheath station, but you need to make prior arrangement with them for this and conditions do apply.
Camping at Jervis Bay Marine Park
Jervis Bay Marine Park - coast to explore.
Jervis Bay Marine Park has three camping areas (Greenpatch, Bristol Point and Caves Beach) operated by Booderee National Park. Greenpatch is the most popular on account of its location to the main beach, accessibility and amenities.
This protected marine reserve is a particularly good spot to take children camping as it has fabulous calm bays, friendly roos, top snorkelling and 100 square kilometres of coast and adjoining ocean to explore - all literally just beyond your tent. There are no shopping plazas, Timezones or McDonalds here. Oh dear, nothing to do but learn how to make a camp-fire.
For those interested in snorkelling, the best beach for that is Hyams beach.
Forget Sydney Aquarium, its admission charges and cruel, tiny tanks. Check out the sea-life in its natural habitat.
Clovelly beach is probably the most popular snorkelling spot in Sydney. While snorkelling here I have had the pleasure of gazing upon schools of fish, sea-plants, sponges, an octopus and gropers.
This beach is actually a long, narrow embayment of water locked between two concreted projections of rock. The contained sea here provides a calm and safe channel for children.
Clovelly beach is located 8 kilometres south-east of Sydney CBD on Clovelly Road. There is parking in the residential streets surrounding, but there's also a designated parking area (accessed via Victory Street at the end of Clovelly Road) with spaces for 300 cars.
Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains
Stalactites at Jenolan Caves - wondrous educational experience of a staggeringly ancient natural phenomena.
With the distinction of being the oldest discovered open cave system in the world (a mere 340 million years old), this isn't just any old place. Every kid should have at least one trip to Jenolan Caves. Bets are on that they will love it. I've never known a kid who didn't. Apart from the caves themselves, there is the Blue Lake, surrounding walks and the slightly creepy atmosphere to enjoy. Take a picnic or eat at the onsite kiosk.
Admission to the caves will cost you - with a family ticket starting at $72. There are also children's tours during the school holidays. These cost from $21 to $26. For all ticket prices and all you need to know about visiting Jenolan Caves, check out the Jenolan Caves official website.
Long Reef Aquatic Reserve
Long Reef - lots of rock, reef and headland to explore and low on crowds. Don't forget the sunblock. There's no shade here.
Long Reef Aquatic Reserve is home to many rare marine invertebrates and species of plants. It's a nice place to wander about, walk and explore the rock platform and headland. Chocolate shale, claystone and ironstone give interesting colour to the cliffs and coastline.
If you do walk out on the rock platform to the rocky island, ensure you don't get stranded by the tide coming back in. This almost happened to me on one of my visits.
While Long Reef doesn't have the greatest beach, it is renowned as a great snorkelling spot. I would only recommend that for strong swimmers and adults. In my snorkelling adventures here I've seen many sting rays, a sea-snake, jellyfish, a turtle and of course fish. Cuttlefish are also common here, although I've not yet had the pleasure of spotting one.
Long Reef is located on the Northern Beaches on the other side of Dee Why Beach and is about 20km from Sydney. It extends from Collaroy rock baths to Long Reef Surf Lifesaving Club.
Enjoy a pie afterwards at the Upper Crust pie shop on Pittwater Road, Collaroy. It's one of the best pie shops in the country. Have a curried lentil pie on me.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo
Child and a friend at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo. Pic: courtesy of the Taronga website.
Run by the Taronga Conservation Society, the Taronga Western Plains Zoo provides a chance to see wild animals such as elephants and tigers, in larger, more comfortable confines. If you must go to a zoo it's definitely a better option than supporting zoo's that keep animals locked up in miserable tiny quarters.
Due to the large scale of the zoo, visitors commonly cycle or drive around the complex.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is located on the Newell Highway in Dubbo about 4 km out of the city. Admission rates to the zoo are as follows:
Children (4-15 years) $23
Children under 4 - free
Some short, safe walks that are suitable for children include the Scenic World Platform Walk, Leura Cascades, the Prince Henry Cliff Walk and Gordon Falls. However, I've known children to complete much harder walks, such as the Giant Staircase at Katoomba, so it depends on the fitness level and age of your child. Children particularly seem to like walks with water, flowers and things they can touch and feel.
Bush walks provide exercise, education and freedom to explore the natural world.