Category Archives: Sydney With Kids

NSW Fire Station Open Day

Little Aussie, Sydney With Kids

A Visit To NSW Fire Station Open Day

Last year, I took Hushpuppy to her first movie – Fireman Sam: The Great Fire of Pontypandy (which, it must be said, was a lot like the other fires that infest Pontypandy on a daily basis, only longer and with popcorn). Ever since, she’s had a budding fireperson streak, conducting harrowing “rescues” and alerting about “emergencies” on the playground. So, when we heard about the New South Wales Fire Station Open Day, there was nowhere we would rather have been.

That time of year is coming up once again – this year on May 20, 2017 at participating fire stations across NSW – so I wanted to make sure that all of my fellow parents of Junior Fire and Rescuers had the skinny on one of our favorite events.

We found our local fire station in Crows Nest, and joined a few dozen other local families, most with young children who were generally fairly awed by the trucks, equipment, and the firemen and firewomen, who were making rounds of conversation, setting up demonstrations, and happily snapping photos.

Most important photo of the day. She’d be talking about this meeting for weeks…Fireman with child at NSW Fire Station Open Day

There were a few demonstrations while we were there, including the raising of the ladder truck (general aaaahs and amazement all around). And, they also put on a safety demo about preventing fires in your home, complete with a pretty impressive explosion that sent my 2 year old into tears, and the older kids into shrieking delight. (My girl will be 3 this year, so I’m sure she’ll handle any pyrotechnics like a professional). Fire Station Open Day Crane

We could walk inside the station and see the trucks, the uniforms, and the fire pole, which they wise had roped off to suggest, hey maybe don’t climb it, our insurance isn’t that good, alright? The station even got a call while we were there, so off one team went, sirens a-blaring, which was obviously the height of cool.

Not to worry, there were plenty of trained firefighters on hand, ready to take up a hose. Fire Station Open Day Mini Firepeople

The most popular attraction was the fire truck, which was open for the kids to climb on. Everyone displayed admirable order in queuing for their turn and keeping the pace moving, while parents snapped photos of their little heroes.Fire Station Open Day - Inside the Fire Truck

The line was only sightly shorter for the requisite sausage sizzle. It’s hungry work, keeping up with the awesome Fire and Rescue crew.Fire Station Open Day Sausage Sizzle


If you go…
New South Wales Fire and Rescue Open Day 2017
20 May 2016, 10a.m. – 2p.m. at participating fire stations
Full details on the website
Free entry. Bring a few gold coins for the sausage sizzle.
BYO firefighter costumes (highly recommended!)

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Sydney Expat Interview Series Part 11: A Sydney Weekend

Sydney, Sydney Expat Interviews, Sydney With Kids

Hey, Sydneysiders, what are you doing this weekend? For this month’s Sydney Expat Interview Series question, I asked the expats what they’d most likely be doing on a beautiful weekend day in Sydney. Let me tell you, none of them seem to have had any trouble getting into the groove of this city. Beaches, parks, cafes, BBQs and friends. It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it!

(This is the 11th in an 18 part interview series with expats living in Sydney. Please make sure to visit the fantastic websites of the participants linked below, and follow me on Facebook for much more on expat life in Sydney. )A Sydney Weekend

Question 11: It’s a beautiful weekend day. What are you up to, where are you going, and who are you spending the day with? 

Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years

I’m with my family and if I can roust them away from the X-box, then our first choice is always Fagan Park (Galston).


Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 6 years

At Balmoral Beach – we’d normally get there early and have brunch with friends getting a take-away bacon and egg sandwich and coffee from The Boathouse, picnic blankets out near the kids playground so our kids can run about – and just enjoying the beautiful views.

Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach – photo by Julia

Name: Dido
Country of origin: India
Lived in Sydney: 1.5 years

With family or friends – playing lawn balls, or going for a beer, or on my bike, or going for a bush walk, or going to a beach, or having a family picnic, or going for a swim, or having a barbie in a park … or grocery shopping…


Name: Mollie
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 4 years

In one of our many parks, with my husband and our dogs. Maybe Cafe Bones.


Name: “Bushranger”
Country of Origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5 Years

With my wife and daughter at Cremorne Reserve. It’s astoundingly beautiful.

Cremorne Point

Cremorne Point

Name: Melissa
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year

Melissa blogs at Leche Love

As we’re still pretty new, we’re still exploring. However, we’ve been to Sydney Park quite a bit. Usually my husband, 6 year old son, and myself, enjoying the lovely weather, playing, and having a picnic.

Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram

There are so many stunning outdoor places in Sydney. I’d be with my husband and 2 kids (5 and 7) We’d probably grab lunch at a cafe, find a playground, and just chill out. I’ve found there tend to be a lot of art exhibitions going on so those are always fun to check out as well!

Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 5 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers

I’d be doing the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk with my girlfriend Elaina finishing up at The Hill Eatery in North Bondi for a late lunch and good coffee. North Bondi

Name: Caitlin
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis

First I’d be going for a spin on my bike around Centennial park with the gang from Coogee Triathlon Club. This would be followed by relaxing in the sun on Bondi beach before an afternoon drink and snack at the Bucket List.

Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos

I’d love to be having a picnic and sipping wine in a spot in Kirribilli my friend used to live right by, overlooking the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, surrounded by my fantastic group of expat and Aussie friends.


Name: Rachel
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 4 years

I would probably be with my boyfriend and group of friends, relaxing and enjoying the sun either with a few schooners at our local, or with an esky of beers at the beach or a perhaps enjoying a bike ride with a few laps around Centennial Park.

Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

Strolling around the city, checking out the markets, street art and local beaches.
Don’t forget your sunscreen, there’s a hole in our ozone layer!

Sydneysiders, tell us, what are you doing this weekend?

Read Part 1: Expectations vs Reality
Read Part 2: The Most Memorable Sydney Day
Read Part 3: Your First Day in Sydney
Read Part 4: Drinking Like an Aussie
Read Part 5: The Birds of Sydney
Read Part 6: Australian Christmas
Read Part 7: Off the Beaten Path
Read Part 8: Questions About Your Home
Read Part 9: What People at Home Think of Australia
Read Part 10: Advice for Moving to Sydney


Wonderfully Odd: Our Brilliant Day at Sydney Festival’s Family Week 2016

Little Aussie, Sydney, Sydney With Kids

Family Week at Sydney Festival 2016Once upon a time, the Sydney Festival for us was about avant-garde theatre pieces, evenings on picnic blankets in the Domain, and discovering new musical acts. Those days are more or less on hold for us since becoming parents, but thankfully, the Sydney Festival rolls out a very worthy lineup of events for the mini connoisseurs, including Family Week at the Festival Village in Hyde Park.

I trotted Hushpuppy down today for the first afternoon, and we had the best time. I’ll hardly miss seeing The Violent Femmes or Robert Wilson’s Woyzeck (well, maybe just a little)

As you enter the Festival Village, the first stop is the City of Sydney’s Lawn Library, which has has a take-one-leave-one selection for all ages. We didn’t catch one of the daily storytelling sessions, but Hushpuppy did pick out a couple of books for us to cozy up and read together.

We’d brought a picnic lunch, so we sat and ate at a table in front of the entertainment stage, where singer Ana van Riel was beginning her set. She was energetic, getting the kids moving. Hushpuppy stayed to dance to a couple of songs, but was then ready to mosey along.

After a bathroom break (I only mention this because I thought you’d like to know that they were plentiful, mercifully clean, and even included actual sinks and soap), we went to work on some craft.

First, the colorful Post-It Note booth caught Hushpuppy’s attention. We were offered the chance to Instagram ourselves and get a print out copy (why not, heh?), and then we sat down to work on a large card where Hushpuppy could match the Post-It Note shapes with the pictures. She went into an intense concentration, and particularly loved the animal shaped notes. For the older kids, there were also cards for making a family tree and working out compound words. It was all colorful and, just quietly between us, even educational. We walked away with a party bag full of Post-It fun. (Can I say Post-It more times in this article? Well done, Post-It, marketing team!).

At the booth next door, The Australian Museum was hosting mask making. The recommended age was 5+, but we gave it our best shot. Thankfully, they had little stools so that Hushpuppy could reach the table. She was especially proud of her finished product, and was eager to make her Dad wear it when we got home.

Improbable as it might be, the biggest hit of the day was the boxes. First, we met “Boxy,” who I understand is making the rounds at the Sydney Festival this year. He was quite the cheerful cardboard ambassador.

Then, we found our way to the Super Box Friends, and we didn’t leave for at least 45 busy minutes. Mechanized and dressed up boxes rolled around the area, and the kids were instructed that they needed to look out for the boxes, as they don’t know where to go. Hushpuppy took this directive quite seriously, as she took under her charge a few boxes, though she was particularly drawn to care for one with bumble bee antennae. Three cheerful staffers guided the kids, and kept the mayhem to the level of fun, rather than chaos. It really was odd and wonderful.


We were hot and ready to sit after so much work keeping the wayward boxes in line, so we had to take the opportunity to visit Gelato Messina‘s stand. We were having so much fun, it just seemed like the sort of day to indulge in one of Messina’s decadent treats. They were running a carnival theme, and hence, we ordered the “Bearded Lady,” which was an ice cream bar on a stick, covered with cotton candy (or, fairy floss, as they say in Australia). This was Hushpuppy’s first cotton candy experience, and she was amazed. And, with good reason. This was a pretty mind-boggling desert.

After a thorough cleaning for both of us (we looked like a crime scene), we took our chance on the Bubble Silent Disco. Each participant got a pair of headphones playing music, and were free to dance in the yard, which was graced with a steady stream of bubbles from a couple of bubble machines. It was the most fun of the day for me to watch Hushpuppy get increasingly comfortable with the construct, and then just lose herself in the joy. She made friends to dance with, reveled in the bubbles, and at one point, stood in the middle by herself singing away. It was gorgeous. 

Finally, we concluded the day with the musical performance, Inside the Loop! with Adam Page. I wasn’t sure if Hushpuppy would go for this one – a funny man in a beard playing electronic music – but she sat herself down right in front of the stage, and was captivated for the entire show. She laughed, danced, talked into his microphone, and was still talking about how funny he was at bedtime. We were in in agreement on this one. I thought he was great, quirky, amusing, and just genuinely charming.

Hushpuppy thought this beard on the face routine was about the funniest thing she's seen to date.

Hushpuppy thought this beard on the face routine was about the funniest thing she’s seen to date.


The Sydney Festival has gotten everything right with this event. Boxes, bubbles, music, crafts, food, and books – the toddler and I are in agreement about how special this day out was.

Sydney Festival’s Family Week runs January 12 – 16
10a.m. – 3p.m.
Hyde Park

Free admission


Cruising with the Mail on the Hawkesbury Riverboat Postman

Sydney Weekend trips, Sydney With Kids

A Ride With the Riverboat Postman Hawkesbury River NSWAssuming that we are going to become rather more selective with our travels once we have a little one in tow, Partner-in-Crime and I have been taking a few small trips around New South Wales. Our first adventure was a day trip to Brooklyn, NSW (which is significantly more quaint than the same-name New York borough where I went to grad school) to ride on the Hawkesbury Riverboat Postman cruise.Hawkesbury riverboat postman

This day trip had long intrigued me. Passengers get to ride along while the postal carriers delivered the daily mail to the remote and island settlements along the Hawkesbury River. I loved the sound of something both so old fashioned and unfussy, as well as resourceful on the part of the postal company – don’t just deliver the mail, but bring tourists along to help fund the operation. Capitalism at its cleverest!

On the day we went, we were glad we called ahead on the morning of because the postal boat was running an hour behind. Looking around the wharf at our fellow passengers, we could see that our presence was going to decrease the median age of passengers that day; though, I was happy to see a couple of grandparents/families with little ones in prams, as I am mentally marking all activities these days as can-do-with-children and cannot-do-with-children.

When we boarded, the skipper/tour guide announced that the late start that day was because the postman had been bitten by a dog (he was fine). The postman being bitten by a dog was a far too amusing story to not believe.

The ride was a half-day cruise, which included brief stops at various islands and settlements along the river where the postman would leave his gifts. The guide gave us a running commentary of information along the way, and we were free to move about the boat.

The largest settlement was Dangar Island (population just under 300). There, a couple of residents came out to meet the postal boat and collected the mail for the island. Some of the other settlements were quite remote villages with only a few houses, one was a camp for kids, and one island we passed was a former mental institution. Many settlers ran their homes on generators or solar and collected rainwater for their water needs. It is, apparently, amazingly expensive to build homes in this area because in many of the locations, building material actually had to be brought in by helicopter.

It is a pretty nice view.

Midway through the day, we were served lunch, which was a decent sandwich plate with actual plates, cutlery and the whole lot. There was even a cash bar onboard (this is Australia, after all). For $1, I purchased a card that was map of the route on one side and their recipe for the ANZAC biscuits served at morning tea on the back. It was too sweet to pass up.


Going under the Hawkesbury rail bridge.
It was also garbage day. This is one of the “garbo” boats that collects for the residents.
Lots of sandstone along the Hawkesbury. Sydney’s QVB was built from Hawkesburty sandstone. The one on the left is locally known by the descriptive nickname Boob Rock, or so we were told.


Oyster fisherman.


One of the rather nice looking settlements. Apparently, you can only get in and out of this  village during certain times of day due to the tides.
The postman making one of his drops.
A local resident and his dog coming out to meet the post. Dog got an ANZAC biscuit treat, apparently his favorite thing. Glad I got the recipe!

We did well with picking a beautiful day weather wise, and I do think that was important to the experience. It’s not an inexpensive adventure at $50 a head, but for the chance to spend the better part of the day on a boat, seeing a part of Australia that is otherwise inaccessible to us (and lunch and a cookie recipe to boot!), it was worth taking the punt and riding along.

If you go…

The Riverboat Postman (operated by Hawkesbury Cruises)
Leaving from Brooklyn Wharf
Weekdays, except public holidays

Departs 10a.m. and returns approximately 1:15p.m.
Adult: $50 / Child (4-14): $15 / Senior: $44
Call ahead to confirm departure time
Bring a hat and sunscreen