Shona | Sydney
SHONA, BOWEN, KOTA & HARLOW
Shona and Bowen are real sources of inspiration for families who want to create their own adventures. Scrolling through their Instagram feeds just makes you want to pack a bag and dive headfirst into the travel life. Bowen grew up in what is affectionately known as ‘The Shire’. His childhood was spent on the water, taking part in watersports and boating adventures. His wife, Shona, was originally from Melbourne before moving to Sydney when she was eighteen years old. Her early years were spent riding horses and exploring the land. While they both had vastly different upbringings, they shared a common interest, their sense of adventure. Ever since having kids, they have been making new memories through travel and adventures. About a year ago, Bowen decided it would be cool to start videoing their own little family on YouTube as a way to provide a digital time capsule for the kids when they got older. Also, having family and friends living far away, he thought it would be an amazing way to keep them all in the loop, and so they could see Kota and Harlow growing up. Today, they have a thriving VLog where they give tips on some of the more interesting things to do in Sydney and the Surrounding.
How do you organize your daily family life?
A standard day for us looks much like any other family in Sydney. While each day is different, most days Bowen will get up super early and head to work before it’s light. I get up with the kids, get them ready and take them to daycare then work, whether that be doing photo shoots or retouching. On non-daycare days, I will usually take the kids out early, we will pack up our bento lunch boxes and venture out to one of our many favorite local places.
What do you do in your free time as a family?
Every weekend we try to get out of the house, on a new adventure. We always try to find somewhere we have not been before, to explore as a family. During our adventures, I take the photos and some video content, Bowen takes the majority of video content and the kids also carry cameras (Kota especially love photography), while Harlow loves nothing more than running around interviewing people with the GoPro. During the week, we do a lot of research about where to go, places that are recommended for kids, and young families… and/or places to eat. We love food, being a celiac myself, I’m in a strict gluten-free diet and the rest of the family generally eat gluten-free too so we also try to find new places, that have lots of gluten-free food, to feature in our vlogs
Which family-friendly Restaurant can you recommend in the city?
Oh, there are so many choices in Sydney! Dough Box Diner (located in Enmore and Brighton Le-sands) this little retro diner has cute booths and 1950s memorabilia adorning the walls with pinup girl waitresses. They make the most amazing gluten-free crepes, my favorite is their savory options, but they also do delicious looking deserts and you can wash it down with a root beer or shake for a special occasion. It’s a relatively cheap eat, and great value for money. The relaxed environment and colorful decor make it a fabulous place for kids but it can get busy so occasionally you’ll have to wait for a table… However, it’s WELL worth the wait! While not in Sydney city itself, located on the south coast around an hour from Sydney, we also love GF Eats… a cafe dedicated to offering all 100% gluten-free food, it’s the one place I have eaten, where I haven’t had to worry about cross-contamination or having to specify ‘gluten-free’ when ordering. Offering a varied menu, they have lots of options to make healthy settled GF tummy’s, whether you choose the schnitzel with Gravy and chips, sliders, calamari or fish & chips… you had better leave room for dessert! Their dessert case has a wide variety of donuts, pies, slices, biscuits, and cakes… and while we have tried to get through ourselves during our many visits, we have yet to succeed! One thing is for sure though, they are ALL delicious. You can see a feature of our last trip there, in our Kiama blowhole vlog.
Tell us about local specialties/dishes from Sydney?
We take great pride in the multiculturalism of Australia. While we do have a few ‘Aussie specific treats/products’ (hello Vegemite & laminations) primarily, we make a lot of dishes based on those of other cultures, like Italian, Mexican & Asian. In Australia, we do a lot of BBQ’ing, especially in the warmer months. Sausages, prawn skewers & salads. Our laminations make an annual appearance around Australia Day, which is basically jam-filled sponge cake, covered in chocolate, rolled in coconut. If chocolate is your thing, we also have some great Aussie products like Tim-tams & Caramello Koalas. Vegemite gets polarising reviews, but if prepared the right way, it is a great breakfast option and very popular in Australia!
What do you like about the city as a family? And can you give our readers some tips about what to visit in Sydney or surroundings?
The thing we love about Sydney the most is that it really has something for everyone. Sydney (& surrounds) provides stunning beaches, luscious mountain ranges, epic shopping precincts as well as about a million cafes, parks & entertainment options. If you’re coming to Sydney for the first time, and you have already spent a couple of days checking out the usual hotspots, such as the opera house & the harbor bridge, take a day trip (or weekend trip away) to the beautiful Blue Mountains. The most popular means of transport to the blue mountains is by car however you can also catch a train from the central station to Katoomba where you can eat, shop, hike & soak up the stunning scenery as well as the iconic ‘3 sisters’.
Can you give us some tips on activities in the sunshine and rainy weather with kids.
When the sun is shining, you can’t go past a trip to the beach, zoo or nature play garden. While Bondi Beach is very popular with tourists, there are some much less talked about beaches, that we rate over Bondi. If you wish to get away from the crowds & wish to stay close to the city check out beaches such as Manly, Bronte & Clovelly or if you fancy a bit of adventure try some of our favorite Illawarra & south coast beaches such as Cronulla, Thirroul & Shellharbour. During sunny days, we also love to go to the Zoo, Taronga Zoo is close to the city and offers a good day out, but if you want a real treat head to Symbio wildlife park (located south of Sydney) or the newly opened Sydney Zoo (located in Western Sydney). You can get to Sydney Zoo by public transport, but it easiest to drive to Symbio wildlife park, which is around 1 hour away from the city…. Make sure you pack the kids swim gear for a mid-day cool off! One of our favorite parks to visit in Sydney on a warm sunny day is the Ian Potter Wild Play Garden. Located in Centennial Park, it offers city kids, the opportunity to immerse themselves in an oasis of nature-play & adventure. It’s completely free and open from 10 am – 5 pm daily. Again, bring the kids to swim gear as there is a water play section!
There is an abundance of things to do, even on rainy days in Sydney. If you’ve got little ones and you’re keen on staying closer to the city, you can check our Nubo Play Centre (AUD$20 per child for all-day play) located in Alexandria for a great day filled with unique and fun play experienced for ages 6 months to 5 years.
If you have kids ages 3 and up, Skyzone is located in the same business park and provides hours of fun in this amazing trampolining center. Next door, is Archie Brothers Cirque Electric, an arcade that will rival all others, offering bumper cars, laser tag, bowling, thrill rider & virtual reality. Strictly Adults-only after 8 pm, All under 18’s must be supervised at all times. Entry is free, but grab yourself a game card and load it with credit to use at any of the games or activities within.
If you’re keen to venture out of the city and have kids ages 0 – 10, take a trip UOW Early Start Discovery Centre in Wollongong (around AUD$15 per person). Its open from 9 am-4 pm Tuesday – Sunday and provides an abundance of daily experiences, sure to entertain any young mind. Here just some examples:
- The Camp Site – Come on a camping trip in the Australian bush, complete with a model campfire.
- Bricks & Clicks – Build your own mini world and stop-motion movie with thousands of LEGO® brick
- Discovery Garden – Step outside and explore our natural wonderland – an oasis that will excite all your senses
- Light Sound Action – The stage is yours! Express yourself with costumes, backdrops, and lighting.
- Marketplace – Take a trolley for a spin and collect your shopping before you start cooking in our Critter Café.
- Construction – Gear up with a hi-vis vest and tool belt, we’re looking for builders who are ready to help construct our tiny home.
How you get around in Sydney? What is the best transport for families who are on vacation in the city?
Getting around Sydney is pretty easy. If traveling to Sydney, we have an airport train line that takes you right into the city (Between $AUD15 – $AUD20 per person) and also out to the outer-suburbs. Uber is very popular and available everywhere in Sydney (costing approx $AUD45 to the city) …although if catching an uber from the airport, you just need to make sure you’re waiting in the designated ‘Priority Pick-up Zone’. Once in the city, we have great train infrastructure which will get you to almost anywhere you need to be, as well as a great bus system, trams & ferry services. Sydney’s Central Station provides a bag/luggage holding service located on the grand concourse, which can be handy if you are only around for the day. If you’re planning on staying for a while and aren’t staying in the city (where parking can be difficult), you might also look into hire cars (which are also available from the airport) but we suggest you book prior & ensure your license (if international) is recognized.
Can you reveal some insider tips for our reader that you can’t find in any travel guide?
There are so many stunning places to visit if you want to venture out of the city, such as Cape Solander, Figure Eight Pools, Boat Harbour, Bare Island. Many of which have been featured on our YouTube channel ’The Mercy’s’.
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