When I was growing up, I lived in a house that backed on to a reserve. You could sit out the back and look at a line of trees marching off into the distance. I went for bushwalks with my friends, accompanied by our dog.
These days I live in a unit with my two kids (aged four and six) and husband, with a shared backyard. Not far away we have the beauty of harbour waters and east-coast beaches, but nothing like the wildness of nature that I knew as a child.
I’ve always wanted my kids to have this experience of the bush, if only because of the evidence that getting out in nature is good for their development.
Thing is, you can live in the city, and still get a taste of nature not too far away.
When you work Monday to Friday, you don’t always want to drive far for a break
Recently, my husband and I decided we wanted to get away for a weekend.
We both work full time, so upping sticks and travelling for several hours on a Friday night wasn’t an appealing idea.
Then we discovered Lane Cove River Tourist Park.
Lane Cove is about 40 minutes from the CBD in traffic, and 15 minutes when there’s none (trust me, I timed it). The Tourist Park sits at the entryway to Lane Cove National Park, with a few different walks – including easy ones that small children can enjoy.
We could leave on a Friday afternoon, get our supplies upon arrival, and be home by lunchtime after check out.
The perfect compromise for city slickers
I’m not a camper. I want my own bed, with a roof that doesn’t leak (maybe tents don’t leak, but I’m not prepared to test it out). If I’m going away for a weekend with my small children I want a break, with some of the comforts of home.
The Lane Cove River Tourist Park has studio and family cabins (as well as facilities for caravans and those who want to camp). There’s also a covered pool, with a baby pool at one end. Heaven already for two small children who could spend all day in a pool and not get bored.
When we arrived we decided to try the North Ryde RSL for dinner as it was only 5 minutes up the road. What suburban bliss is this? The RSL has a huge bird aviary out the front with a Rainbow Lorikeet and all kinds of beautiful birds. Inside there was a supervised games room. For $6 your child can play in this room while you actually have a conversation with your partner.
Easy walks along the river
As certified city slickers my children are more adept at walking to a park, playing like lunatics, and then walking home. They’re not so great at bush walks. However, the riverside walking track was super easy, with beautiful vistas of the river and surrounding bush. The kids didn’t complain until they had to walk back.
We walked around to the Lane Cove Boatshed, where my daughter spotted a swan pedal boat and all bets were off.
Being suckers we hired the swan pedal boat (it’s $50 for an hour, but I challenge anyone who is not gym-fit to last longer than 30 minutes on those things) and proceeded to work our glutes while the children enjoyed a leisurely trip on the river.
On the way home we must have seen at least four Eastern Water Dragons, lounging on fallen tree trunks or by the river in the mud.
Upon arrival home the kids wanted to go for a swim, so by evening that night, they were both completely pooped.
Would a staycation work for your family?
Admittedly you don’t have to stay the night to enjoy Lane Cove National Park. It’s an easy day trip. The benefit in staying overnight is to feel like you’re having a mini holiday, with all the excitement small children find in that experience.
For us, it was a wonderful sneaky trip to immerse the kids in the bush, without having to sacrifice the comforts of home.
What you need to know about a Lane Cove River staycation:
- Stay: Lane Cove River Tourist Park – Family Cabin ($170/ per night plus $10 for children over 5)
- Eat: North Ryde RSL, Cnr of Pittwater and Magdala Roads (don’t forget to find Tribal Zone- where your kids can jump around while you chill out) northrydersl.com.au
- Walk: Lane Cover River Walk
- Play: Paddle Boat from the Lane Cove Boat Sheds (swan is $50/ hr other hires vary in price)
Drawbacks: You’re still close enough to the ‘real world’ that you can hear planes overhead, and see roads and cars on parts of the bush walks.
Benefits: You’re still close enough to the ‘real world’ to access food and entertainment if it all goes to pot weather-wise. Plus it’s easy to pick up things you forgot to pack.