Hushpuppy and I are enthusiastic bus riders. I’m not a keen driver, and we’re lucky to have three lines near our home. We get along just fine thanks to Sydney’s most capable chariots. Opal Card in hand, we’re going to take you on a tour of a family-friendly day courtesy of the Chatswood to Mosman 257 bus line.
The 257 commences in Chatswood (accessible from the train station). There is plenty for families to do in Chatswood, including shopping, the library, a run around the lawn at the Councourse, and movies, but we’re hopping right on the bus and heading about 10 minutes south to Willoughby and the Bicentennial Reserve (Small Street and Willoughby Road stop).
The Incinerator is certainly your first port for takeaway coffee. The historic building, designed by Walter Burley Griffin, was once the city’s incinerator, and is now a family-welcoming cafe. They source their coffee from The Grounds of Alexandria, and the owner is a father, himself, so very congenial towards his littlest customers.
Then, just a few steps away is the earthy and wonderful Hallstrom Park playground. I feel like the equipment has just grown up from the ground like seedlings, and Hushpuppy gets such joy from climbing all the rocks and playing the “instruments” with sticks.
Tuck around the corner and find the welcoming animal sculptures, who will greet you with a recorded growl, alerted by a hidden away motion sensor. Then, take a walk down the shared walking and bike paths, which will soon turn bushland enough that you forget you’re just steps from the main road. Don’t forget to commune with the tucked away cave where poet Henry Lawson used to reprieve and write after a big night out.
We spend a lot of time in the Bicentennial Reserve, and I adore it for the way it sparks my tiny explorer’s creativity and interest in nature. We’ve wiled away many hours adventuring here.
Eventually, explorers need lunch, so find your way onto the next 257, and ride it two stops, getting off in Naremburn, right in front of Sprout Wholefood Cafe and Grocer.
I am forever coercing people into meeting me for lunch dates at Sprout for two reasons: the scrumptious, healthy food, and the fenced-in yard with a cubby house where children are welcome to play. I don’t have to rush through lunch because my toddler is bored or worry that her antics will bother other diners. I never have to resort to the iPad, either (not that I’m above that!).
My recommendation for lunch is the smoked trout bowl, which goes perfectly with either a fresh whole coconut or another cup of coffee. They’re also happy to “brew” up a soy babyccino for my dairy intolerant little hooligan, which is much appreciated.
After lunch, catch the next 257 for our final destination of the day. There are any number of places we might choose on the way through Crows Nest, North Sydney and Neutral Bay, but we’re taking the bus all the way to the end of the line to beautiful Balmoral Beach.
There are plenty of cafes and restaurants along the walk and a lot of grassy spots for picnics. There’s also a nice playground next to the beach, making Balmoral an option even in Winter. It used to be a favorite spot for my Mother’s group – we loved to set up a few picnic blankets and enjoy our babies in the easygoing sunshine.
It’s tempting for a family to wile away a few hours at Balmoral, and we have done so many times. The 257 leaves every 30 minutes, so plan your exit accordingly, keeping in mind timing for the beach babies who may be disinclined to bid this lovely spot adieu. But, after such a massive day of exploring and being outdoors, they’re nearly guaranteed to find the bus lulling them into a nap, offering you a quiet ride home. Leave the driving to Sydney’s finest.