MOONA MOONA CREEK | JERVIS BAY'S AMAZING FAMILY FRIENDLY SWIMMING SPOT

Crystal clear turquoise water, sparkling white sand and blue skies were what we discovered when we arrived at Moona Moona Creek on Easter Sunday morning. This stunning location is the perfect place for a family with little ones to enjoy the sun, sand and water of Jervis Bay. 

The expansive tidal lagoon where Moona Moona Creek meets the ocean waters of beautiful Jervis Bay is locate between Vincentia and Huskisson, along Burril St / Elizabeth Drive. The calm shallow waters and easily accessible beach make for the perfect, safe location to splash with young ones. It's also an amazing spot for kayaking and stand up paddle boarding - hours of fun for the whole family. 

Our best investment for this weekend getaway was the incredibly easy to set up shade tent from Anaconda. Taking a baby to the beach was never going to be possible without some guaranteed shade, and as Hallie can't get in the water at all due to her Pavlik Harness, it was great to have somewhere out of the sun to sit with her. I even managed to get her to have a decent nap! Winning! 

Parking off Beach Street is super close and there is a playground, toilet block and picnic tables on the edge of the beach closest to the Beach Street entrance. Moona Moona Creek is truly spectacular! The photos speak for themselves. We'd even go as far as to say it's the best beach / swimming location we've come across with Farley and the convenience of location the made bringing Hallie to the beach no problems at all. The water was so inviting, I even got in! And it takes a lot for me to actually go in the water

To find out more about what we got up to in Jervis Bay, head over to this blog post. 

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FAMILY GETAWAY | JERVIS BAY, NSW SOUTH COAST

We decided to take advantage of the Easter long weekend with another family getaway. We loved our trip to Nelson Bay so much that we wanted to do something similar. This time we were keen to head south and explore the area of Jervis Bay. Joining us was Braino's sister, Lauren or as Aunty Loz as she as come to be affectionately known as, and of course, Hallie was with us in this time. Plus how could we leave home without our lazy bulldog, Costanza. 

GETTING THERE: ROAD TRIPS AND BABIES DON'T MIX

On Good Friday, we packed everything, dog included, in to our Toyota Prius V and headed to the airport to pick Loz up. it was a tight squeeze and we had to pack light. But once on the road, we were very ambitious and somewhat foolish to think a 3 hour drive was a good idea with a 3 month old baby. As a baby Farley absolutely hated the car until she was about 5 months olds. Car trips with baby Farley were limited to very short, absolutely necessary drives. However Hallie as been a bit different, some days she's ok in the car while other days she will cry. This day was one of the bad ones. She slept from our house to the airport but for the next 20 minutes after the airport she just screamed! I was sitting in the backseat between the two baby seats but I don't think that helped much. There is nothing more stressful than a crying baby in holiday traffic so we pulled over to give her a feed somewhere in the Shire but that didn't seem to settle her much and Braino quickly came up with a plan B - 'why don't you catch the train with Hallie'. At first I was like 'what?!?' but it actually made perfect sense; I'd be able to hold her, let her sleep in the ergo carrier and breastfeed whenever needed. So we hightailed it to the nearest train station; Sutherland. Farley and Lauren joined us as well, while Braino and Costanza made the drive down the coast together. The train was actually perfect for Farley too as we were able to keep her occupied with sticker books and she was free to move around bit. Usborne Books have a really great Easter themed sticker book that kept her busy and the coastal scenery from the train was surprisingly amazing! The train hugs the coastline for a large portion of the trip, so we were able to take in a lot of the stunning beaches and headlands around Woolloongong. The whole trip, including the change at Kiama took around 2 and a half hours and Braino met us at Bomaderry train station, arriving only a few minutes after we did. We then drove the last 20 minutes to the suburb of Vincentia in Jervis Bay. 

ACCOMMODATION

As we were searching for a dog friendly accommodation on a budget, we were fairly limited for choices. The holiday house we booked through AirBnB was a quintessential beach shack, the outside was pretty run down, no doubt ear-marked for demolition down the track because the block of land has water views while the inside had been recently renovated in a tasteful, comfortable way.  It was fully fenced and perfect for both our family dog and a toddler. The house was in a great location - we were only a short walk from a quiet beach and also walking distance to shops and cafes. Vincentia is a smaller, residential suburb of Jervis Bay. There is a Coles and few other cafes and shops nearby. The suburb of Huskinsson is a short drive north and is slightly more built up with a wider selection of shops, restaurants and accommodation options. I'd probably recommended staying in Huskinsson over Vincentia, just based on the amount of facilities but Vincentia is a lovely option. 

GETTING OUT AND ABOUT

On Saturday morning, we headed up to Huskinsson for the Easter Parade and Fete at the local showgrounds. It was a great way to fill in the morning, looking at market stalls, vintage cars, demonstrations from the local fire brigade. Farley loved watching the the pet parade that was sponsored by Paradise Pet Parks - she loves dogs! We then ate lunch at the The Huskinsson Hotel - great food and atmosphere but very crowded seeing as it was Easter Saturday. 

The best part about the location was that we were within walking distance to a quiet, dog friendly (but not off leash) beach - just next to the Vincentia Boat ramp on Holden Street. It was the perfect place to spend the late afternoons relaxing in the fresh ocean air. Farley loved exploring the rock pools and chasing us around. Costanza does not like getting wet so she was fine to just chill on the beach. While the water wasn't crystal clear like other beaches around Jervis Bay, the fact that it was within walking distance and very so low key was so appealing to us. It was so relaxing and easy with a baby, toddler and dog - although we couldn't have done it without Aunty Loz!

We spent Easter Sunday morning at another absolutely stunning spot Moona Moona Creek, which I'll dedicate a whole another blog post too. Jervis Bay is famous for one beach in particular - Hyams Beach. Since it's been advertised as the beach with 'Whitest Sand in the World', Hyams as fallen victim to being loved to death! I had read a few articles about how on holidays and popular weekend, the small suburb of Hyams Beach becomes a literal car park, you better have the patience of a saint to nab any sort of parking and then you'd still be walking a fair way to the beach. A drive-by while Farley was napping in the car, confirmed this - it was crazy! So we decided to forgo the Hyams Beach experience for our little local spot. Plus we really thought you couldn't get much better than Moona Moona Creek for a family friendly swimming spot. 

PLACES TO EAT

We had the chance to sample of the local cafes and resatruants in Vincentia and Huskinsson so if you are in the area and looking for somewhere to eat, here a few place we would recommend.

3 Gringos Mexican Restaurant - Vincentia

The Huskinsson Hotel - Huskinsson

Club Jervis Bay - Huskinsson

OTHER INFORMATION

Here are some amazing blogs and resources I used when planning our long weekend. 

https://www.hellosydneykids.com.au/best-things-to-do-jervis-bay-with-kids/

http://www.southcoastkids.com.au/jervis-bay-and-surrounding-beaches/

There is so much to explore in Jervis Bay, you could easily spend a week in the area and not get bored - beautiful beach, coastal walks and marine tours to name a few. But I guess the big question we kept asking over the weekend was; 'Is this better than Nelson Bay, Port Stephens?' In this round of Family Getaway Faceoff: Port Stephens vs Jervis Bay, we'd have to declare Port Stephens as the winner.

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GETTING OUT AND ABOUT: WHERE I GO FOR INFORMATION AND INSPIRATION

Finding family friendly things to do in a new city can initially seem very overwhelming and does requires a bit of research. But since moving to Sydney, there are a number of fantastic websites, blogs and resources that I'm constantly looking to for inspiration and information.

I've compiled a comprehensive list below and while many of these cater to families with kids of all ages, they have been a great starting point to find toddler friendly activities and outings. We're based on Sydney's Upper North Shore so if you're also on the northern side of the harbour, all the information you need is in this handy directory! 

visitnsw.com

If you're visiting from interstate or overseas, a great starting point, to give you an overview of what Sydney and New South Wales has to offer, is the Visit NSW website. It's the official government tourism site and has information for family friendly sights and tourist attractions 

Website | Facebook | Instagram

ellaslist

ellaslist started out in 2010 when one mum decided to create a family friendly local guide for parents, based on things to do with her daughter. It's now grown into a huge online resource of everything that is happening for families in both Sydney and Melbourne. It's so comprehensive and jam pack with information. 

Website  | Facebook | Instagram

Hello Sydney Kids

Hello Sydney Kids is another resource that has been created by an inspiring mum who has meticulously detailed her families adventures across Sydney. It's full of great articles on beaches and playgrounds and things to do in Sydney and surrounding areas. 

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Busy City Kids

Busy City Kids is my go to place to find out about current kid friendly museum and art gallery exhibits. It's also created and curated by mums and has reviews and guides for attractions and activities in Sydney and Melbourne. 

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Kid Size Living

Kid Size Living is another local guide and directory for all things kids friendly in Sydney. It has a handy breakdown by area - ie: inner west, northern beaches, inner city

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Adventure, Baby

Adventure, Baby is a blog by travel writer Christine Knight. While she has travelled extensively around the world and shares lots of stories, guides and international travel tips, she's based in Sydney and always has a great articles on things to do in her home town with her daughter.

Website | Facebook | Instagram

The following are websites and social media accounts that focus on a specific area of Sydney. Created by local parents, they are handy resources for finding out whats on closer to home. These are the ones I refer to regularly - they are a great way to discover new playgrounds and kids friendly cafes! 

Hills District Mums Website | Facebook | Instagram

Northshore Mums Website | Facebook | Instagram

Ryde District Mums Website | Facebook | Instagram

ParraParents Website | Facebook | Instagram

Another great, free resource is Child Magazines - you can pick them up monthly at libraries, shopping centre and cafes; they have some informative articles and a list of what's on for kids that month. Plus the website has even more parenting related content - check out their mini mags! 

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Hashtags  

I'm a big fan of Instagram and recently discovered that you can follow hashtags! It's an ingenious way to see what other people are up to and perhaps even connect with like minded parents. A few of my favourite ones to get you started are #sydneywithkids #sydneykids #sydneywithbubs #sydneymums

Subscribing to Newsletters

All the websites listed above have the option to subscribe to their newsletters which is a great way to received ideas and inspo directly to your inbox! I've also signed up to the newsletters for many of the museums and art galleries around Sydney, to stay up to date with upcoming exhibits and activities. 

Good old fashioned face to face conversation

Asking other local parents what they got up to on the weekend is an obvious way to get new ideas and recommendations. It's a great conversation starter and you'll get an honest review of things. It's my go to question for small talk at playgroup and playgrounds. 

I hope this list inspires other parents to find new adventures for your little ones and create some wonderful family memories.  If you're not a Sydney local, it only takes a bit of web searching to hunt down similar online resources for your own home town. 

Have I missed anything? I'd love to hear your tips and suggestions! Feel free to leave your comments below. 

STOCKTON SAND DUNES WITH A TODDLER | PORT STEPHENS

When researching for our weekend away at Nelson Bay, I was so excited at the prospect of visiting the Stockton Sand Dunes in the Worimi Conservation Lands. My childhood memories of exploring sand dunes at Double Island Point and Rainbow Beach in Queensland came to mind, only the Stockton Sand Dunes appeared to have much more on offer for thrill seekers. You can go sand boarding, do a quad bike tour, 4WD tour, camel or horseback safari, which would all be amazing ways to take in the scenery. However, I had to reel in my adventurous spirit somewhat; as adrenaline activities in your third trimester may not be the best idea. Plus Braino reminded me that we always have the most fun when we just chill out and let Farley explore and splash in the water. So we still headed to Birubi Point at Anna Bay, which is a 15 minute drive from Nelson Bay, and found that keeping it simple was the best way to enjoy the beach, rock pools and sand dunes with a little one. 

First, we headed down to the lower car park, where the tours leave from, including the camel safari. One of Farley's latest animal obsessions, second only to octopuses, is camels. One day, while I was searching for something in the garage, she found an old camel souvenir I had purchased in Egypt nearly 10 years ago and ever since she has been fascinated - we call it Zamel the Camel. (There is a camel on the Wiggles called Zamel and it always frightened her whenever it was on, so thankfully the new Zamel helped her overcome her fears) So I knew that she would really get a kick out of seeing some real life camels. The camels from Oakfield Camel Ranch wait right next to the car park in between safaris so it's really easy to get close and have a look. While children over the age of two are able to ride with a parent, Farley was technically two months too young and beside, sitting 7 foot in the air on the back of a camel isn't really ideal if you're heavily pregnant :( But Farley love just being able to see them - I'd say it was the highlight of her trip. 

After climbing up and over the small dunes between the lower car park and the ocean, we headed over to the northern end of the beach where we found some tidal pools amongst the rocks. This is a great place to take your little one for a swim and a splash - the beach is generally pretty rough with waves however around the rocks there were some clear, warm pools; shallow enough for a toddler to stand in while deep enough for a parent to lay back and relax. There were a few other parents who had the same idea. 

The amenities at Birubi Beach are fantastic too! There are large clean public toilets and showers, a kiosk and a restaurant - Crest Birubi Beach. There is also plenty of parking. The only thing it did, understandably lack was shade. So be sure to pack plenty of sun protection. 

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FAMILY GETAWAY | NELSON BAY, PORT STEPHENS

Back in late November, with the silly season creeping up on us, which would only then be followed closely by the arrive of babybrain#2, we realised that if we wanted to have a relaxing family weekend away, it was now or never. 

Braino managed to wrangle a long weekend from his busy work schedule (some weeks, he’s lucky to get a Sunday off) and I began the somewhat ambitious task of booking family friendly, last minute accommodation somewhere on the Central Coast. Oh and dog friendly too because the thought of also finding a kennel / dog sitter seemed impossible and I'd feel too guilty leaving our British Bulldog Costanza behind. 

We were looking for somewhere within a 2.5 hour drive, near the beach, with a relaxed vibe and eventually decided on Nelson Bay. Braino had actually been there almost 10 years ago with his mates during a New Year's Eve roadtrip to Newcastle. Not that he remembers much other than going to a rave in the bush, hustling an old guy at pool and having to sleep in their car (my my, how life has changed!)

I have to say though, we absolutely loved Nelson Bay, and the Port Stephens area in general. It was exactly what were were looking for. We booked a modest holiday house through Stayz - nothing luxurious but within our budget and totally toddler and dog friendly. It was only a 5 minute walk from Stockton Street, the main street of Nelson Bay, where you’ll find a wide variety of boutiques, cafes and a Woolworths. A little further on foot is the marina, where there are more restaurant options and a very popular playground that is fantastic for toddlers. It's right along the waterfront so you can see some beautiful yachts and have a splash in the crystal clear water as well. 

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A bit further along Victoria Parade but still totally walkable, is Little Nelson Bay. An ideal beach for families, it has calm, clear water and gorgeous white sand. We had a wonderful morning splashing in the water, digging holes and filling them with water, building sand castles and of course, knocking them down. For older kids, there is Splash Waterpark between the marina and the beach. It's a modular inflatable water play area that looked pretty fun! You can also hire bikes and ride along the water front. We were keen to do this as the bikes do come with baby seats, however we just ran out of time. 

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When the weather looked a little rainy, we decided to check out the Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters, where you can feed small sharks and sting rays. We thought this might be an interesting experience for Farley as she has recently become fascinated in underwater sea creatures, however, unless your toddler is obsessed with sting-rays, I'd probably give it a miss. There was a group of kids around the age of 8 - 10 years old who were having a birthday party and they appeared to be having great time, so I'd still recommend it to a family with older kids. At best, it's a unique experience if you're keen for a close encounter with a select few sea creatures. At worst, it's a hot shed filled with sting rays. All was not lost though, we found a cute octopus toy in the gift ship which has quickly become one of Farley's favourite toys.  

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A trip to Port Stephen's wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Worimi Conservation Lands, especially the other-worldly Stockton Sand Dunes. While there is so much to see and do at the sand dunes - everything from sandboarding to 4WD and quad bike tours to camel and horse back tours; this may not seem very toddler friendly. However we had an amazing afternoon there, so I've put together a separate blog post to share more photos and and tips on what to do at the sand dunes with a toddler. 

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Mums - if you're able to steal an hour or so to yourself in Nelson Bay, I'd highly recommended a bit of shopping along Stockton Street. There is some fantastic fashion and homewares boutiques - I think Braino panicked a little when he saw what was on offer and started to calculate how many cushions and scented candles we could fit in the car :)  Grab a coffee from Ethica Coffee House or a fruit smoothie from Passionfruit Juice Bar and check out Homebody, Boho Luxe Trader, Crows Nest Home Traders and Entice U for homewares and gifts; Covet Couture, Hula Hut and Else and Me for coastal inspired fashions. Bellarose Boutique had some adorable children's fashion and gifts and I also really loved browsing in Earthquirks, home to some amazing locally made art. 

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As for our dog Costanza, she had a wondferful time! We took her on many walks down the main street and to the park at the marina. She loved all the attention she received from the friendly locals. The house we booked was ok to have dogs inside and the yard was fully fenced with no neighbouring dogs, which is always a win! We were fairly close to the Bagnall's Beach , which is a designated off-leash beach, although Costanza hates water so we didn't get down there ourselves. 

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I would describe Nelson Bay as family friendly, budget alternative to places like Noosa and Port Douglas. It has everything you could possibly want in a family holiday destination while still retaining a relaxed, undiscovered vibe. It was very easy to drive to from where we live in Northern Sydney but even if you were traveling from interstate, it's only an hour drive from Newcastle Airport. We only just got a taste of what Port Stephens has on offer during our long weekend there, so we'll definitely be back to explore more of the beaches and beautiful natural scenery.

Additional information:

Vist NSW - Port Stephens

Welcome to Port Stephens