What’s your favourite Wiggles song? Mr LP and I pretty much know them all by heart after a 1000km road trip with our toddler from Sydney to Kingscliff.
Travelling with small children is full of challenges but at least I can say, after years of doing this trip, we have finally worked out some of the better places to stop and recharge along the way.
Here are a few of my picks (all introduced to me by my ever-roving Mum) for those heading north from Sydney, with or without little grommets in the back:
The Other Side Gallery Tea House
Moto Rd, Ghinni Ghinni (just north of Taree)
It looks like a little hobby house from the highway but inside it’s a light-filled gallery with interesting pieces of local art lining the walls.
There are a few tables inside among the paintings, but on a hot day it’s much cooler sitting at one of the shaded tables by the river.The menu is solid and ranges from chunky toasties, burgers and salads to more serious options like pastas and daily specials.
As well as serving good coffee, the cafe has the kind of home style touches I appreciate, like real chicken breast on my chicken and avocado toastie, melting the cheese properly on said toastie, and serving kids’ milkshakes in kid sized cups.
For the sweet tooths, ie. me, the cafe’s cake display is usually heaped with homemade goodies. My tip is the lemon slice.
It was quite busy on the day we last visited but the service was good and the waitress helpfully brought out a sweet little book for Master N to play with. My favourite pearls of wisdom from The Little Book of Happiness: “Happiness is having friends to share lots of yummy things.” So true.
There is also a swing set and an old boat to keep little minds occupied until lunch arrives.
Town Beach, Port Macquarie
We always break up the drive with an overnight stay in Port Macquarie.
This trip we stayed at The Observatory, opposite Town Beach, and discovered a new cafe underneath called Milkbar which does a sensational brekkie.
It’s definitely one for The Breakfast Club favourites list.
Mr LP tucked into the Milkbar Brekkie of baked eggs with basil tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach and sourdough, served in its own fat little tapas pan. I thought there might be too much going on, but no, it was just really tasty and zingy with fresh ingredients.
This is probably because the cafe sources as much as possible locally, from the organic eggs and sourdough, to the tomatoes (from Ricardoes).
I found the same with my own breakfast. There was a satisfying crunch to the baby spinach served with my scrambled eggs, avocado and sourdough. It was lovely and fresh. No wilting or fridge slime in sight. The eggs were as silky as any served at Bills and the avocado was fresh and soft to cut.
As for Little Chops, he was very happy when a bowl of bircher muesli with yoghurt, berries and hazelnuts landed in front of him. I tried this too. Actually I shared it, because I couldn’t stop taking cheeky spoonfuls. I could taste grated apple, shredded coconut and blueberries, all topped with a creamy thick yoghurt and a kind of nutty crumble. Yum!
The coffee was also great and judging by the constant line of locals queuing up for it, along with organic sourdoughs, bagels and homemade muffins and tarts, Milkbar is a stayer. Good news for Port and good news for us travellers.
Old Pacific Hwy, Newrybar
This cafe, set in a charming, historic cottage in the Byron hinterland, is a bit more serious than a cafe even though it calls itself one.
If you’re staying around Byron or the Gold Coast, it’s a destination in itself. But being just one turn-off away from the Pacific Highway, it’s also an option for those heading further north, offering great coffee, some lighter lunch options on the menu and sourdough from the adjoining bakery’s 99-year-old wood fired oven.
It was hot and humid on the day we visited and although our table on the shady and spacious veranda was lovely, we could have used some extra fans to help the breeze along.
First up, we shared a serve of freshly baked garlic sourdough which was just enough to compliment my Harvest Salad of witlof, baby cos, Persian feta, asparagus and poached egg with truffled walnut dressing. A glass of Riesling made for a delicious lunch.
Mr LP and Master N had fish and chips. We sent the junior serve back because it was raw inside but it was quickly replaced by a fresh serving, cooked nicely.
I especially liked the light, crispy tempura batter on Mr LP’s fish and the shot glass of chardonnay vinegar on the side. Vinegar on salty hot chips is the best!
The heat was getting to our little one so instead of dessert we decided on takeaway coffees and a house made strawberry friand (for research purposes of course) which was rich and buttery, if a bit on the thin side.
Also in the bakery display were croissants, pain au chocolat, banana and choc-chip muffins and a range of organic sourdoughs.
Tip: if you’re stopping for more than coffee and cake, it’s worth booking ahead for lunch to avoid disappointment.
And another: after lunch, browse the quaint antique stores along the tiny main street of Newrybar to find gems like old wooden fruit crates, lamps and vases.
The final destination:
To those going away for Easter, safe driving and happy stopping!
Have I missed one? What's your favourite road trip stop?