My husband, son and I have lived on the Northern Beaches for four years now and we are by no means Insular Peninsula ‘lifers’ but we chose to settle in this neck of the woods because of my husband’s love for the beach. Coming from England, the outdoor lifestyle is important to him and for me, I value a good, family-friendly community.
We have loads of beaches within striking distance but the one we always gravitate to is Narrabeen and I’d love to let you in on a few of its secrets…
Like all coastal areas of Sydney, the Northern Beaches is becoming ever more congested and getting a parking spot can be nigh on impossible. What I love about Narrabeen is that it somehow got lost on the tourist map between Dee Why and Collaroy and rather than just one beach that everyone flocks to, we are spoiled for choice. There are multiple access spots on the lake, a surf beach and calm inlets for little swimmers.
For mums with babies, a hot and sandy beach can appear an awful prospect, so the hotspot for mothers’ groups and sporty mums-with-prams is Narrabeen Lake. It's a veritable smorgasbord of playgrounds, calm waters, walking, running and cycling tracks, picnic areas and of course, child-friendly cafes for that take-away caffeine boost.
OK, so you want details?
There’s a great fenced-off playground, best for 3s and under, just next to Skip Kitchener Hall and for 5s and under, there is a bigger park to run around in (with more tables for parents and mothers’ groups) at Berry Reserve, with easy car park access by the lake. Make sure you bring your old stale bread too, as the ducks are always ready for feeding!
But what about good places for kids' parties, I hear you say?
Fun and challenging adventure courses for little putters
Well, you can’t go wrong with soft play at the terrific Sand Bucket Play Centre at North Narrabeen’s Pittwater Sports Centre. And for the brave at heart, there’s always great adventure and great deals at Pittwater Golf Centre'smini golf courses.
Is all this activity making you hungry?
When you have a young family, budget is often all- important. We are well and truly in this boat, so my best bets for feeding the family in Narrabeen are:
Take away coffee and snacks from The Boatshed Café and Bar (on the lake), coffee and cheesy baguette (for the kids) at Bread and Roses Bakery (next to Woollies), or eat-in at the family-friendly beach café in Lake Side Road, The Melting Room (bacon and egg roll and coffee special for $10!).
The Melting Room has great chippies!
Fish and chips by the lake from the extremely fresh Lakeside Fish Market (1489 Pittwater Road), or, a good value pub meal at The Sands Hotel, with kids’ meal deals with Club 4 Kids.
You’re joking, aren’t you? Well, if you are brave enough to take your kids out for tea, the recommendations I’ve given for lunch, work just as well for an early dinner.
After all that eating, you might want to burn off some energy and for those with primary schoolers and older kids, there are endless options for family exercise and water sports. The best news is most of them are free, or fairly-reasonably priced.
For something more activity-based, bike tracks go all the way around the lake and the locals know that Narrabeen Lagoon is one of the best places for bushwalking, with a beautifully paved and easy walking path circling the water ways.
Pedal Boating is such a fun to see Narrabeen Lake
And if you’ve got a bit of cash to spare and you want to get out on the water, there is good old-fashioned pedal boat hire from Pro Kayak next door to the Boatshed (up to $30/30mins) and for the best value paddle boarding, Jamieson Park Paddle charges $20/hour for rental. Bargain!
The bonus for Jamieson Park is that it is a great, quiet spot by the lake with calm, warm waters for the littlies and there are picnic and BBQ areas for that weekend family get together.
It's like walking on water at Jamieson Park
Like anywhere in Sydney, most waterside parking has time limits or meters to feed but if you’re a Northern Beaches local, council parking stickers provide more options outside of user-pay.
It’s taken me four years to feel like I’m really becoming a local and writing this post makes me realise how much I love my neighbourhood and all it has to offer. The Northern Beaches is such a popular place for residents and tourists but for me, it’s about finding those gems off the tourist circuit where I can relax, not feel ripped-off and know that my little boy will enjoy visiting time and time again.