A freelance writer living and loving in the northern beaches of Sydney...travelling, writing, outdoor activities, gardens, and Pilates are a few of my favourite things. Visit me www.potpourritravels.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/potpourritravels/
Published May 19th 2017
A triple-treat of activities for the whole family to enjoy
In Small Street, Willoughby, the forces of the universe have aligned to bring a unique tri-fold venue to the north shore of Sydney. A children's playground complete with cycle paths, a coffee shop, and a creative art space all within a few paces from each other certainly make this a 'triple-treat' for the family. It's practically impossible to visit one spot without wandering into the others, so allow a couple of hours to really enjoy this green space on the lower north shore of Sydney.
Hallstrom Park Playground Hallstrom Park was set aside for recreation and sporting use in 1946. Sir Edward Hallstrom donated 3,000 pounds towards its establishment, based loosely on the layout of Taronga Park Zoo, where he was Trust Chairman for ten years. The children's playground was added in 1998, and recently renovated. Facilities include barbeques, picnic tables, park benches, water fountains, level lawn, plenty of shade trees, and public toilets.
Some wonderful features of the space include the continuous bike path, complete with mini road signs and both straight and undulating surfaces, making it a great practise site for tiny-tots on their trikes. Carved sandstone animals, with interactive sound features, make you jump as you pass by. A sand-pit, imaginative play areas based on the theme of a zoo, slides, a turtle-dome climber, basket swings, climbing ropes, fort structure, carousel, see-saw, flying fox, and some climbing look-out areas really add an adventure atmosphere to the space. If your children are a little older, there's a nearby oval which can be used for cricket or soccer. Plus, the path links to the Griffin Federation Track, Flat Rock Gully Walking Track, and are part of the Sydney Harbour and Coast Walking Network. For more information, click here.
The Incinerator Cafe On a chilly sunny autumn day, this suburban find was a delight. A variety of seating outside under towering gums, plus vaulted ceiling furnishings inside, make this 1930's building designed by Sir Walter Burley Griffin, an atmospheric experience within itself. And I hadn't even tried the coffee yet. There's plenty of parking on the street right out the front, or next door in the Willoughby Leisure Centre (which also has a swimming pool). The menu has gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian options. It's licensed, offers loose-leaf tea (which is such a rarity these days), and is open from 7am - 4pm, plus dinner on Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm. There's even a take-away menu so you can grab something then wander over to the park and playgrounds and let the children run free. The service was efficient and very friendly, and the menu changes seasonally. I sat outside in the afternoon sun sipping my Earl Grey tea and felt a world away from the busy roads of the north shore. Outside under the trees would be such a fab spot on a long summer evening. Phone 02-8188 2220 for bookings or click here for their menu.
For their 2017 Exhibition Calendar, click here. The gallery takes up the lower ground floor underneath the café. Housed in this fabulous heritage-listed building designed by Walter Burley-Griffin, the surrounding reserve was designated a garbage dump in the 1930's. Griffin designed the incinerator to burn 80 cubic yards of refuse per day. It ceased operation in 1972. A restaurant opened upstairs in 1980, but the remainder of the building was unused for nearly 20 years. In 2007 its refurbishment and extensive structural repairs began, before finally opening as a community art space in 2011. The contemporary and quirky lift facility at the front door is unique and fun, and certainly makes a focus-piece that you can't miss as you drive by. The current exhibition is 'From the Ground Up', a collaboration of ceramic artists celebrating the diversity of clay. Entry is free, running from 17 May - 4 June, 2017. Opening hours are 10am - 4pm.
stairs and an elevator take you downstairs to the gallery
After a busy day in the city, this little turn-off onto a quiet suburban side-street really rejuvenated me for the drive home. Sans children it was restful and quiet, but I've made a note to come back with the push-bikes and explore the paths that lead off in all directions to Chatswood, the Harbour and beyond, to see a 'backyard view' of parts of surburbia that ordinarily are missed as we whizz by.