I am a passionate traveller, foodie and explorer mum and love discovering new hot-spots, family-friendly cafes and hidden gems.
Published July 25th 2019
A hidden paradise with a brand new action-packed playground
There's a hidden piece of pure paradise nestled in Sydney's East. To be honest, us locals have, for many years, tried to keep this place hush-hush. But after seeing the brand new playground that has freshly been installed, this heavenly spot is just too good not to share (I'm sure my neighbours will be cursing me though for letting the cat out the bag).
Parsley Bay Reserve is nestled in a harbour-side bay in Vaucluse close by the super popular Nielsen Park. You can find it at the bottom of a winding hillside road (which you need to drive down super slowly in case cars are coming up). There is a small car park which can only accommodate about 20 cars so you may need to find street parking if it's really busy.
Pack a day bag, a picnic, sneakers and your swimmers (once it hits Spring and Summer). There's so much to do here that you can easily spend the whole day enjoying what Parsley Bay has to offer.
The first thing you'll notice is a brand spanking new incredible playground that literally opened days ago. Then there's a wide expanse of grass, plenty of shade under the large trees and a sheltered beach with a relatively flat enclosed swimming area.
There's also a white suspension bridge which you can walk across and a short bushwalk trail where you may be lucky enough to spy an Eastern Water Dragon sunning itself on the boulders.
Thrilling New Playground
But let's focus on the playground. I love that the equipment has been designed for kids of all ages and abilities. It has springy royal blue, green and caramel coloured soft-fall on the ground and the apparatus is widely dispersed so there is plenty of space for kids to run around.
There is a swing set with a baby and regular swing as well as a large flying saucer swing which can easily fit three kids. I even had a go and had to yell at my kids to slow down as I was getting dizzy staring at the leaves above…. but it was fun.
The wooden ship was built to be a play-replica of Kainan Maru, which apparently was part of the Japanese Antarctic Expedition in 1911. To be honest, I am absolutely baffled why the playground designers chose to highlight this ship as it doesn't seem to hold any significance to Australians (maybe I've missed something though!). It's a great play zone for the kids, but I guess if you're going to make a big deal about the name of the ship, I personally would have picked one that was part of our local history. That aside, the actual structure offers a large net climbing wall up to the ship, a hidey-hole underneath and a hidden ladder in the centre of the deck. There's also a toy telescope on board so the kids can play sailors and watch out for pirates.
There are two big structures for older kids, which are packed with challenging obstacles. A large curved climbing net is the way to get up to a platform which leads to a slippery dip. Once on top, the kids can clamber through the net bridge and down the rope ladder or else put their dexterity to the test by stepping on the round platforms, using only the rope for balance. My five year olds loved this apparatus, even though it was quite tricky.
The second, more advanced structure featured a ladder, which the kids could climb to get up to a wobbly platform. From there, you could then travel along the curved monkey bars and at the end shimmy down the fireman pole. The monkey bars were too high and confronting for my little ones (and I wasn't tall enough to reach up and help them) so we didn't attempt these. But my daughter loved climbing up the one end and sliding down the pole.
Probably one of their favourite activities was the low-lying tight rope which they attempted over and over again until they could cross it without falling. Really great for balance and encouraging perseverance.
After all that activity, we were in need for ice-creams. So we strolled over to the well-equipped cafe which is run by a friendly local family. There is a wide variety of ice-creams on offer plus a full menu of sandwiches and hot food (apparently their fish and chips are delicious!). You can also get your coffee fix right here. Next time, we'll leave our picnic at home and treat ourselves to lunch at the cafe.
We then headed for the beach and had lots of fun collecting shells and making sandcastles. It was too cold to swim but Spring and Summer this is the perfect (and safe) spot to cool down.
After an amble over the bridge, it was time for another play in the playground before dragging the kids away. They just couldn't get enough.
It was one of those magical days where you just feel privileged living in such a beautiful city where we have such magnificent places so close by. And now with its action-packed new playground, Parsley Bay is unbeatable! But don't rush off altogether now - leave a parking spot for me!
Great article and photos Lisa. Playground photos need kids playing, but it's not recommended that we photograph other peoples, so you do what I do - take your own. In my case, grandchildren. We once did four playgrounds in one hour. It cost me a small fortune as their 'payment' was lunch at McDonalds. Neil.
Hi Lisa, Thanks for your great review of Parsley Bay and our brand new playground. We’re so glad you and your family enjoyed their time! It really is a beautiful place. The Kainan Maru has special significance in Parsley Bay and the wider Woollahra community. In 1911, the Japanese Antarctic expedition team spent many months sheltering from bad weather in Parsley Bay before they continued their journey to Antarctica. The team developed close friendships to many of the local families. The current Japanese Antarctic expedition team continue to visit Council every year. You can find out more via our local history team if you like. Interpretative signage explaining this history will be installed at the park very soon. Thanks, Bree (Woollahra Council)