Summertime and the living is Festive

Nielsen Park

After the coolest and wettest December in 51 years, summer has finally arrived in Sydney. Long,hot, still days that build to a hot blustery southerly buster. Days of lying on the beach, sticky peach juice running down a sweaty wrist, mingling with coconutty sunblock and the audio wallpaper of cicadas chirrupping and cricket commentators chatting over the 5 day long  test games.

It’s also the time of year when many families head off their annual holiday, taking the roads leading to the north and south of Sydney for quieter coastal retreats. But I love Sydney in the summer. Lounging on Nielsen Park, building sandcastles, floating in the safely shark-netted water and sipping a cappuccino. Watching the bats fly over the twilight sky over the moonlight cinema screen, catching ferries on the sparkling Sydney Harbour and just generally enjoying the laid back, relaxed summer ambience that infuses my city.

Me - entangled

And of course there is the Sydney Festival. The annual arts programme of theatre, performance, music and art. over the next three weeks, you can sample cabaret in the intimate and art nouveau styled Spiegeltent; symphony and opera in a large open air picnic  atmosphere (cost – free); take in the works of Picasso at the Art Gallery of NSW; listen to Holly Throsby children’s songs or maybe PJ Harvey is more your thing. If you can’t find something to enjoy at the Sydney Festival, you’re just not trying!

Interior of the Spiegeltent

Gubba - an Indigenous mythical bush creature

My festival kicked off on Saturday at the Festival First Night (in our case afternoon) at the free family day in the Sydney’s Hyde Park. We became entangled in a sculpture installation with Polyglot Children’s Theatre and listened to a band of gypsy musicians rehearsing at a bus stop and wandered around corner to just in time to watch a big band in rehearsal with a group of swing dancers. Our afternoon rounded off with stories from Indigenous folklore and lazing on a lawn to mellow music that perfectly captured the essence of a late summer afternoon.

Gypsy Music

More Gypsy music

Getting ready to Swing at the Trocadero

Over the next few weeks I will be refilling my depleted creative well by attending several performances. It’s an inspiring start to a new year. My days will be filled with sun, sand and sunblock and my evenings with dance, music and theatre. It doesn’t get much better.

Writing with a View

A few weeks ago, my online writing group, Write on Wednesday, set the task of sitting under a tree to write. Not only was it inspiring to be unleashed from the laptop, it was actually wonderfully calming. There was a breeze ruffling through the leaves, the sun seeping through the overhanging branches of the Moreton Bay Fig and the gentle slapping of water against the harbour’s stone wall. So, inspired by the great outdoors I’ve found 10 places that are great for writing at. Water features in all of my chosen spots, it’s hard to get away from in Sydney. Water can soothing, dramatic, lulling or noisy, but never boring .I love watching the play of light across water, the shadows of clouds skidding through the sky, the people, vessels and animal life associated with it.

I hope that where ever you are, this will encourage you to find some great outdoor venues and experiment with  some al fresco writing.

I’ve written about Wendy Whitely’s garden before. It’s a magical spot, nestled into Lavender Bay.  It combines great physical beauty with an artistic aesthetic. Grab a coffee from a local cafe and head into this oasis of lush quietness.

  • Into the Garden
  • One of several sculptures

Bondi – Bronte Walk. Amazing views up and down the coastline, but you need to pick your moment here. It can be very busy with local joggers, walkers and tourists. It also hosts the Sculpture by the Sea every November, which is well worth a visit. Cafes at Bondi, Tamarama and Bronte. Also, great bar at Icebergs, Bondi!

Sculpture by the Sea

Looking south along the walk

Bible Garden is another tucked away garden, but on the Northern Beaches at Palm Beach. This is a great spot during the week, always quiet. And if you’re Muse didn’t make it through the Bilgola Bends, there’s a bible in a Tupperware container you can turn to. No amenities, but plenty in Palm Beach or Avalon.

Along Palm Beach to Barrrenjoey

The Bible Garden

Centennial Park is Sydney’s equivalent of Hyde Park, London or Central Park, New York. At the Woolhara end of Oxford Street, it has open parklands, ponds, a fantastic playground and kiosk/cafe. It has large playing fields for football, a horse-riding track, walking/jogging track and you can also hire a bike. It’s always busy, but there are plenty of quiet spots you can retreat to.

One of the many ponds

The Duck Pond

The Botanic Gardens, alongside the Opera House and curving around Farm Cove, are fantastic anytime of year. Also close to the Art Gallery of NSW, which happens to be one of my favourite places in Sydney. Note of warning – don’t sit under the fruit bats. They are noisy, smelly and poo on people’s heads.

The Tropical Glasshouse

Waterlily Pond

Lillian Fraser Garden in Pennant Hills has only a trickle of a stream running through it, but it’s like a fairy dell. It’s small and has a quaint, English Cottage garden feel to it. Always peaceful but unfortunately, no amenities.

Lillian Fraser Garden

If you need  a setting for a ghost story, Cockatoo Island could be just the place for you. Situated off Balmain, it was originally a prison. It was also the location for a children’s Reformatory and eventually became the site for shipbuilding. Apart from the seagulls, it’s quiet during the week, but weekends, particularly in summer can be very busy. And if you’re up for it, you can go camping there.

through the old barracks window

These beautifully positioned benches look out onto ...


Balmain is my local community. It’s a peninsula jutting into the harbour and has plenty of foreshore parks and reserves. The houses are a mix of terraces, sandstone villas and cottages and weatherboards, lining the narrow streets and lanes. It has some great cafes and restaurants, two independent bookstores and some great shops. If you’re coming on a warm day, bring your cozzie and have a dip in the Dawn Fraser Pool, a tidal pool surrounded by a boardwalk overlooking Cockatoo Island.

Balmain East Wharf

The Little Marionette - my pick for coffee

Lane Cove National River Park is on Sydney’s North Shore and winds along the banks of the gentle Lane Cove River. There are parts of this park that are really quite densely bushy and  other areas that are more open with grassy picnic areas. But the river gives it a different attitude from the harbour or beach, quieter, more introspective. Take a picnic and when you’ve finished writing, hire a row boat.

Lane Cove National Park

The Boat Shed

Nielsen Park is another of my favourite Sydney spots. I’m not a fan of big surf so this harbourside beach is perfect. It offers a rolling swell that you can float over, sand to lie on, shady trees to recover under when the sun is too fierce and a great kiosk. It’s a fantastic spot to eavesdrop on conversations. But do not attempt to go here on summer weekends, it’s as packed as a thin strip of Mediterranean sand. Weekdays are perfect and it’s pretty good in winter too.

Nielsen Park on a winter morning

Across the harbour to Manly

I’d love to hear about your outdoor writing spots.