Visiting Forster, on the New South Wales Mid-North Coast

Forster, NSW, is a delightful coastal town ideal for families looking for a beach vacation, along with a variety of unique near-by local attractions and boating activities.

Forster Highlights and Features

Green lawns of a golf course with palm trees throughout, and sand dunes in the background
Looking across the golf course at Forster to the sand dunes at the end of the One Mile Beach.
  • The best time to visit Forster depends on the activities you are planning. Forster weather, according to my grandfather who lived there for about 40 years, is paradise all the time.
  • Summer average maximum temperatures are around 27 degrees Celsius, while winter temperatures range from around 8 or 9 degrees overnight, to an average of around 18 in the day.
  • Forster Main Beach and One Mile Beach are Forster’s main beaches. Both have car parks, toilets and BBQ facilities. Forster Main Beach also has an enclosed pool ‘nestled’ into the break wall, known as Forster Ocean Baths.
  • Families interested in camping can visit the Booti Booti National Park, where they can also bike and hike through some spectacular scenery.
  • Take a tour of the Great Lakes Winery to try some local wines.
  • Go on a morning dolphin watching cruise aboard the Amaroo and watch hundreds of common dolphins mass offshore. A spectacular sight.
  • Car enthusiasts will enjoy The Curtis Collection Vintage Car Museum. You can look at the first Australian car, artifacts from the two World Wars, vintage motorcycles and much more.
  • There are lots of boat charters in Forster for families interested in fishing for bream, whiting and salmon.
  • At the Ton O Fun park, kids can enjoy paddle-boat and train rides, exhilarating water slides and riding on quad bikes.

 

Forster’s One Mile Beach has good surfing at the Northern end, while it is patrolled (October through April) at the Southern end. It can also be hazardous for the unwary, with persistent rips.

 

Classic curvey beach photo, with a strip of people swimming in the middle where the beach is patrolled, and a beach umbrella in the foreground
Forster Main Beach is known for good surf, and has a patrolled area in the swimming months (October – April).

 

large rectangular pool built into a break wall with grass on one side and waves breaking just beyond.
The Forster Ocean Baths is at the end of Forster Main Beach closest to the change rooms and has a large grassy area on one side.

Guell Park, Barcelona. Photo Blog.

Mosaic lizard in Guell Park
Probably the most famous landmark in Park Guell is Gaudi’s mosaic lizard.

For me Park Guell was one of the highlights of Barcelona, though once again I was struck by the absence of park-like spaces the way we know them in Australia. You could sit on benches, including the beautiful mosaic benches shown below, but there were no big open grasses spaces to sit. There was plenty of garden space, but it was for looking at from the outside, not for sitting within. However, the structures were amazing, and we took a gazillion photos just here.

Of course, it wasn’t originally designed as a park. Gaudi was commissioned to design a fabulous garden city, in which individual plots were to be sold for houses to be built on. However, the plots never sold, and eventually Josep Guell, who owned the land, donated it to the city of Barcelona to be a public park.

Once again, before we were travelling with the kids, we didn’t spend as much time exploring the park as we might have on our own. They enjoyed it for a while, but eventually the need for ice creams outweighed the need to see more mosaics!

Guell Park View from up high
View from high in Park Guell
A wide path seen from above through greenery
Walking through Park Guell is mostly all about the paths – it’s not like an Australian park where you might spend more time running about on lawns or picnicing in the shade of the trees.
a statue of a woman made up of many small rocks
Not everything in Park Guell is made up of tile mosaics – this is one of a line of similar, but unique, statues.

 

people sell their wares in a square
There were lots of people selling cheap souvenirs like this in Park Guell, most of whom had to quickly pack up and run off each time the Policia came by.

 

middle aged white man smiling, holding up a series of hand painted bookmarks
This fellow, however, didn’t run off, though he did begin packing up. Not because he had a license to be there, but because he was painting and selling his paintings (as well as prints of his painting of the Sagrada Familia, which he said he was asked to paint so often he simply couldn’t do it anymore), which he couldn’t quickly wrap up in a piece of cloth and run off with, like fake rolex watches or genuine Spanish fans (made in Chrina). When the Policia did come past, while we happened to be standing talking to him, he said (translating for us afterwards), they said, “Why didn’t you run off with everybody else?” They also told him he should find a quiet, out-of the way corner to paint in – save everyone some trouble!

 

mosaic benches wind like a snake
These fabulous mosaic serpentine benches surround the central plaza, shown in the photo above where the people hawk their wares.

 

close up of mosiac tiled bench seat
Detail of the moasic benches

 

Round blue and green mosaic tiling surrounds a yellow-orange sun shape on a textured ceiling
The ceiling in this cave-like part of Park Guell has numerous of these round, textured mosaic sculptures. This area is under the central plaza, and was orginially intended to be the marketplace of the ‘garden city’ Park Guell was initally designed to be.

 

Top half of blue and white tiled tower with white cross at top
This is one of my favourite pics, and is the tower of the main gatehouse, shown below (but when I took this one, I couldn’t see the rest of the building). You can just see all the individual tiles that make up the squares and the cross.

 

Gaudi building with tiled roof and tiled tower in Park Guell
This building, the main gatehouse, reminds me somehow of the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretal, but with tiles instead of sugar for the roof.

San Francisco with Kids – Golden Gate Park

We picked a fabulous day to visit the city, with blue skies and a warm sun. Although San Francisco is famed for being warmer in the fall than in summer, usually by November the chill is setting back in. Not today.

landscape photo of the children's playground on a sunny day, blue skies, lots of children playing, and a few people picnicing on the grass.
What to do with kids in SF? Bring them to this gorgeous children's playground at Gold Gate Park, with sandpit, climbing wave wall, bridges, swings and climbing frames, surrounded by tall, tall trees and a beautiful blue sky. That's our blue picnic rug in the front on the left, with my best friend sitting on it.

We spent most of our time sitting in the sun at the childrens playground, which is a fairly large space with everything from a climbing web to a long slide, and a sandpit for the littlies.

It also has four bucket style baby swings, three big kid swings (the flexible kind that even my hips can fit in), and a full chair style swing with back. Since the swings are always such a hit with my girls, both if whom could swing for hours, it’s always good to find the rare place when there are enough of them.

A large blue and green mosaic lizard edging a large sandpit
The sandpit was pretty big, and had this awesome lizard (or dragon?) guarding us, inevitably reminding us of Barcelona and Gaudi's lizard.

I actually spent most of the time we were there sitting on our picnic blanket on the grass chatting to my friend, keeping half an eye on the kids, while chris was good enough to follow Elli around. But, we placed ourselves near the sandpit where she was happy to spend a lot of time.

a large map of golden gate park, mounted on a sign
Click to enlarge

When we’d eaten our picnic and judged that the kids had had enough time playing not to stage a mutiny (a bit over 2 hours) we packed up and went exploring. The Japanese Tea Gardens were our goal, but we didn’t tell the kids that at first, just in case we didn’t make it – there are maps around the park, including one right next to the children’s quarter, but we weren’t quite sure of our bearings, nor of how far it was.

In the end it took us about an hour and a half to get down there, though only about 20-30 minutes to get back (we’d driven, and parked up at the children’s playground), and without meandering five year olds I reckon it could be about a ten to fifteen minute walk.

We walked via the flower conservatory, which we didn’t go into since you had to buy tickets, but we stopped outside and bought hot chocolates and coffees all round. They weren’t terribly good, but they were warm and the guy was kind enough to give me an extra cup half filled with whipped cream for Eliane, which made her very happy.

The kids also had fun climbing trees, running around like fairies, and generally exploring as we went, so I was happy to take the time.

In the end we got to the tea gardens with only an hour to go before they closed, which was okay, though we could easily have spent more time there. The kids enjoyed exploring the paths, crossing the streams on bridges and stepping stones, and admiring the fish in the large pond and the water falls. We enjoyed all that and the serenity of the atmosphere besides.

large pond with trees and autumn foilage reflected in it, and stone bridge or path to one side with a small boy in it
Tea Garden Serenity

There is a Japanese tea house in the gardens which sells four kinds if Japanese tea, various small Japanese dishes including a very good miso soup, and some small cookies and soft drinks if you need something ‘regular’ for the kids.

We had a pot of tea which Liam and I shared (they brought two cups automatically, though the other three teas were all sold by the cup for the same price), and a plate of 9 little Japanese cookies which the children shared, and Chris had the miso soup. By the time we finished there they’d locked up the front gate of the Gardens, and we had to go out a side gate.

Japanese style gate house structure
This was the front gate - the side gate was a little less imposing.

It cost $7/adult to enter the Tea Gardens, and $2/child of five and over. That seemed reasonable, but still added up to $20 for us (we had an extra five year old with us). They do have three periods of free entry during the week however, though all at morning times on week days.

Monterey Daze

Small child paddling in a shallow river with a footbridge in the background
Our friends took us to this lovely river spot in Carmel Valley on a perfect sunny fall day.

(Actually, we’re staying in Seaside, not Monterey, but it all runs together…)

One of the great things about visiting with good friends is that even when it’s been nearly eight years since you last saw them, once you get together it just seems like yesterday.

It’s weird in a way. You spend so long building up to this big trip, it seems like it should feel more intense somehow when you get there. Like you should feel everything a little more strongly. Instead, it just feels normal, making it hard to comprehend, at the end, that it’ll likely be another several years before you see each other again.  I’ve had this same sense of unrealness with all the good friend’s we’ve visited, where it seems so normal, but by it’s very normalcy, somehow seems surreal.

We’ve just spent a lovely three day weekend with some good friends who I used to live with when I was at university in Santa Cruz. They have three children of similar ages to ours, their eldest just about to turn eight and their youngest just six months old. Last time we saw them they had only a three-month-old baby, and we had a nearly two-year-old Liam.

What makes the time until we see them again seem more poignant, and more real, is knowing that next time we come, the elder children will likely be teenagers, and the youngest two will have skipped right through the toddler and preschool years and into grade school.

Whirls and bumps on planes and airport shuttles

One of the nice things about traveling with kids, is the laughter that bubbles up when boring adults would be dozing or staring into space.

We left our hotel in NYC via an airport shuttle at 6am today, when it was still dark, and also rainy. Ours was the last stop at the airport and as we swished around the various terminals, Eliane – and therefore Mikaela and Liam and then Chris and I too – whooped and laughed as we went over the bumps of joining ramps and whirled around corners. They also exclaimed in pleasure to see the airport train in action (we caught an airport train between terminals in Madrid, but you simply can’t get enough of such joys).

It’s a cliche to say that being with children can renew your own pleasure in simple things; that taking a child’s view of the world can give you fresh joy and excitement, but it is no less true for all that.

Karpathos Day 3: Meeting the Neighbours, plus Photo Blog of Lefkos Beach

Pomegranates on a tree
There were pomegranates on a tree just near our house.

There is a house right next to ours in Pyles, with a large courtyard out the front, where the children and I have just been entertained with pomegranates, chocolate wafer bars and stories of the owner’s grandchildren and his renovation woes. He is currently renovating the house (and not, I think, living there), and was waiting there today for someone  to come help him with the kitchen, but he had not arrived.

He told me that getting work done on Karpathos is very slow. “Greeks in Greece don’t like to work,” he said. He said the Greeks in other countries – Australia, America, Germany – work very hard. But here in Greece they want to play cards, go to the cafeneio, talk.

He also said that the economy here on the island is not too bad, but in Athens, in the cities, very bad. Lots of people without work. Of course, that’s what then launched him into his spiel about Greeks in Greece not liking to work, but then I’ve frequently heard people in Australia complain about ‘dole bludgers’ who (supposedly) don’t really even want jobs. It was interesting to hear his take on things though.

He broke up two pomegranates for us to eat, scraping all the segments into a bowl, and cut up two or three small apples – all grown by him I think. I gorged myself on pomegranate because the children didn’t eat much (Mikaela tried only one tiny segment), and I suspect the polite thing here is to eat everything you are served, though I must look that up the next time the internet cafe is open. When I had to go to get Elli to bed (when we could hear her crying – she and Chris were still at home), he made me take the rest of the pomegranate with me, tipping it into my hands, and said to leave the kids who were busy playing on his grandchildren’s toy pedal quad bikes. They came home not much later though. I hope they said proper thank yous!

Written later on:

Today has been filled with gifts of traditional or homemade Greek food.

First there was the visit next door, with the pomegranate Liam had been so wanting to try.

Later, while I was nursing Eliane to sleep, I heard someone come to the door. It turned out to be someone Chris had met at the mini market the previous evening, bringing some of his homemade wine, that he thought had come out too dry, but that Chris might like, since he didn’t like the sweet wine they sold at the shop.

In the afternoon we went to Lefkos Beach, but then in the evening we went down to the local cafeneio, owned by one of our host’s nephews (the father of the woman we met yesterday who lives behind us). It appeared to be a bit of a boys club, with the nephew who had met us at the airport sitting outside on the veranda with a group of men, including his brother, the owner, and not a woman in sight, however they invited us to sit down and chatted on.

After a while their sister, who we had met a couple of days earlier, but who had only a little English, came by. She didn’t sit down but stood on the stairs chatting animatedly with her brothers and asking us what we’d been doing and how was the water (at the beach) and making much of Mikaela, in particular, with her ‘beautiful eyes’, which Mikaela withstood stoically.

She then brought out a plate of small cakes/biscuits smothered in icing sugar, and passed them around, insisting on giving Eliane a second one, then getting a wet cloth to clean her up as the icing sugar spread all over her! Her brother explained to us that her daughter had been accepted into law school today so she was treating everyone to these cakes in celebration. While she was there our backdoor neighbour came by and gave us a bag of baklava her aunt had made that day ‘for your breakfast tomorrow’ – when we got home we discovered there were 20 of these treats! Luckily they have no nuts or sesame paste, just the pastry with the sugar/honey syrup, otherwise it would probably just be me and Elli eating them! (Edited to add: we managed to get through them all over the next couple of days, and they were Yum!)

Next thing the mother of the law student (another of our backdoor neighbours aunt’s, now I think of it) wrapped up the remaining cakes and told us to take them for breakfast too, but not before taking back any cakes she had made the men take that were still uneaten, which she then also pressed on us!

Luckily Liam, Elli and I all liked them, but I had to quietly eat Chris’s when no-one was looking, because it had nuts in it, and Mikaela had two lollies (off the same plate), but didn’t try a cake.

While I am sitting here writing all this on my iPhone, drinking the (I’m sorry to say) pretty awful homemade wine we were given, I’m listening to a bazooka player who is just across the lane way from us and feeling properly grateful to be here. It seems like half the town are related to our friends back in Canberra, and the rest all know who we are. They have been incredibly welcoming and have gone out of their way to take care of us. It’s been really wonderful. Only two days left!

Kefkos Roman Cisten
As well as eating a lot we took ourselves off to another beach today, this time at Lefkos. On the way we saw this sign to some Roman Ruins, and couldn't resist investigating.

 

dry stone walls, falling down
Unfortunately, the signs kept directing us to go further, eventually on foot, and all we found were lots of these falling down dry stone walls - definitely not from Roman times!

 

Lefkos beach, seen from the road above, lots of beach umbrellas, but not many people.
Eventually we decided it was too hot, and headed down to the Lefkos beach.

 

Two children play in the sand on a seemingly empty beach, the water behind them.
Once again the water was crystal, and the beach practically deserted - a completely different experience to being here a few weeks earlier, when the beaches were all packed (or so we are told).

 

The sunset colours the waters of lefkos beach, as seen from above on the road coming in.
By the time we left the sun was setting...

 

Looking up at the moon just above a rockscape
And the Moon was rising.

 

Two goats walking along the side of the road above pine forests
On the way back from Lefkos we passed these two goats walking along the side of the road, the bells around their necks clanging in time with their steps. It was a lovely end to the afternoon, as we headed back to Pyles to have dinner and then head down to the cafeneio.

Pigadia & Small Amopi Beach, Greece Day 2

Today was our second full day in Greece, and the 12th day of our trip, and the tension was a little high. The kids were a bit ratty – grumpy and fighting – on and off all day, and perhaps we were too. I think part of it, especially for Liam, was probably that they’re missing the kids we were staying with in Barcelona. It’s like the typical first week of school holidays blues.

Nonetheless we had a great day. We went into Pigadia, the capital of Karpathos, which is also called Karpathos itself and which is really quite a bustling town by comparison to the surrounding villages, like Pyles, where we are staying. Plenty of cafes and lots of shopping, though it was all a bit empty at this time of year. There are 7000 people on the island (more like 35000 in the summer months!), and I’d guess a lot of them either live or at least work there.

Looking back to Pigadia from part way around the bay
Pigadia, looking back from part way around the bay.

We went in there primarily to buy some washing line and sunglasses, since I broke mine on the plane trip here. We got some for both kids too, who have been complaining of the glare a lot. We walked around a bit though, down to the harbour, and around some of the tourist shops.

Then we went to the beach recommended by a woman in the supermarket (who had lived in Geelong, Australia for many years!), Small Amopi, which was awesome. The water was clear and turquoise – it was exactly the sort of beach you expect from a Greek island. There were umbrellas on the beach, many with banana lounges set up under them, and most of the people on the beach were sunbaking on similar lounges. It was only after someone came down and asked us to pay fit sitting under one (€2) that we realized the umbrellas were someone’s business (what did we think? We didn’t, I suppose), and also realized that the empty banana lounges could have been ours for the asking too – €5-6 for two, plus an umbrella. Next time, maybe.

It was a small beach and just lovely for the kids. Quite a steep drop from toe deep to knee deep, but gradual after that, and no surf at all. I took Eliane in for a good swim, then I spent the rest of the time swimming out deeper with Liam, while Chris supervised Mikaela and Elli playing at the edge and in the sand.

Looking along the small amopi beach - umbrellas on the sand, water crystal clear
Small Amopi Beach. Large Amopi is just around the bend, in the direction the camera is looking.

Tonight the great-niece of our absent host popped in to visit us and see if we need anything. She just lives right behind us, with her husband and toddler, but she works in town (Pigadia) during the day. She said we should have a family meal with them on Sunday night – she’ll consult with her mother and let us know the details. Most everyone we’ve met here in the village knows the family who own this house, and I think a good half of them are related!

Karpathos, Greece, Day 1 (or, Hopping to a Greek Island)

Two little girls, one a toddler, , seen from behind on a blue and white balcony.
Eliane and Mikaela on 'our' balcony in Pyles

We spent the entire day yesterday in travel, leaving our friend’s house in Barcelona just before seven in the morning, and getting in to the house here in Pyles on Karpathos a little before 10pm.

I was a little dismayed to find the mattresses still in plastic when we arrived – I’d been warned, but had completely forgotten. The house is still a bit of a work in progress, its master having spent three months here last summer (he lives in Australia, but grew up here), which turned out to be not quite enough to complete renovations.  However, we had sheets and quilts (some sent over with us, some already here), and we had all the children tucked in bed by around 11pm, with ourselves not far behind.

We were met at the airport by the lovely godfather of the friend who ‘lent’ us this house (the latter being the son of the ‘master’ I mentioned), and he has now taken Chris and the big kids to hire a car and hopefully do a little shopping, showing them what’s what. He gave us a little bit of a tour on the way from the airport, but it was dark and we were tired, so we didn’t take much in, though it was exciting to see all the tavernas and the boats on the harbor at a little Greek fishing village and think “Wow, we are really in Greece!”

colourful boats in clear blue water with mountains in the background
This is not the little fishing village we saw that first night, but the busy harbour in Pigadia, the Island's capital, often itself just called 'Karpathos'

This morning we’ve been able to get a better look at the house and the view – the house we are in is the traditional Greek white with blue trim, surrounded by similar houses. The view from the balcony is of a church immediately below us and the sea in the distance, in one direction, with rocky mountains in another. Pyles is not a seaside village, but like most Greek islands Karpathos rises steeply from the sea. I suspect we will drive down to a beach this afternoon.

White church with red rooves
The church we see looking down from our balcony.

The tourist highlight of Karpathos, aside from the beaches, is Olympos/Olymbos, which is still very much a traditional  Greek village, where most of the women, at least, still wear traditional dress. However Olymbos is on the other end of the Island, which almost makes it like a separate island altogether. Access is by ferry (some two hours) plus bus, or by four wheel drive, as there is still no paved road joining the two ends of the island (though they’re working on it). The car hire company said we could swap over our family car for a four wheel drive for one day for an extra €15, but they are only four seaters. We could take the ferry, but expecting the kids to sit through a two hour ferry ride each way for something that will be, let’s face it, at best of passing interest to them, is probably not really the best use of one of our five precious days here. So no Olympos for us.

Happily, I think there will be no shortage of things to do at this end of the Island, between the beaches and the capital, Pigadia, and the people here in town, half of whom seem to be related to our absent hosts.

white two story house with blue door and shutters, partially obscured by neighbouring buildings, with terraced laneway leading up to it.
Because the houses are so close together with only these narrow lane-ways between them in some cases, it was impossible to get a clear photo of our house in Pyles. This was the best I could do, but it does show the lovely crisp blue and white paint-work.