We obviously go to loads of cafes in an attempt to find you the best kid friendly cafes all over Sydney and beyond. But it's not very often that every member of team Little Munch walk away from our outing raving about how awesome our experience has been. However last Sunday we did. Because we have found one lovely cafe that is set in an absolutely perfect location - that you could quite easily spend quite a few hours exploring. Little Munchers, let me introduce you to the Coal Loader Cafe in the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability at Balls Head Reserve in Waverton!
The Coal Loader Cafe can be found in the grounds of the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability and its community garden. The centre is run by North Sydney Council and is open from Mon - Sat. The cafe is open Wed - Sun from 7am - 3pm. When you arrive you can either park on the street or in one of the small car parks located around the area. You can even walk there from Waverton Station if the whole family is feeling fit - it would take 10 minutes depending on how fast you can all trot! There is easy access for a pram to enter the cafe and also enough room to park it near your table. There is seating both inside and out - with the outside being a perfect spot for Mother's Groups to meet up for a coffee date on a fine day.
The outside seating is also the perfect spot to soak up the view! The area is surrounded by water and you are looking right across Balls Head Bay. The interior of the Coal Loader Cafe has a rustic design, with sandstone and corrugated walls - apparently the building it is housed in used to be the mechanics workshop back when the area actually was a coal loading facility. There isn't any heating in the Coal Loader Cafe, but there are plenty of blankets to wrap yourself in! When you arrive, grab yourself a seat and once you have checked out the menu, go up and order at the front counter. If you need a high chair for the little person in your life, there is a decent stack of them and the loos are very close by but do not contain a baby change table.
Whilst you are eating or reading the morning paper, the kids can be running around on the lovely patch of grass in front of the cafe or they can climb the jacaranda tree or stone blocks that are on the side of the grassed area. Be warned though - the tree is very slippery first thing in the morning, and can cause kids to have a mishap. Just like my eldest did when he fell out of the tree and landed heavily on the ground screaming that he had broken his arm - he had not. His dramatics although, startled quite a few diners and my sincere apologies if you were one of them!
At breakfast time there are quite a few things on the menu for kids to eat, such as toast, banana bread, porridge and freshly baked muffins. To be honest with you, I didn't get a chance to check out the lunch menu to see if it would be suitable for kids, as I was waylaid playing Nurse Betty to my son after his fall. But don't worry we will definitely be visiting the Coal Loader Cafe again soon, as we loved it so much there, and this time we will road test the lunch menu. There are babycinos (50c), hot chocolates, juices and kids size milkshakes for kids to slurp on. If you would prefer your kids to have water there is a self help water station at the front of the cafe with melamine cups.
The menu is simple and very reasonably priced. Smashed avo on toast, eggs on toast, BLTs, egg & bacon rolls and that sort of thing with all of these items being less than $13.00. However if you have a hankering for a big breakfast, that too is available for $20.00. As the cafe is located in a centre for sustainability they are very concerned about their green footprint, so they make a huge effort to source all of their produce locally, and they turn most of their kitchen waste, including their coffee grounds into compost! Oh and their Adore Estate coffee is brilliant and perfectly brewed by the perfectly charming barista - this guy was awesome! I think perhaps he was the owner/manager/Mr I'm In Charge, and he was super friendly, especially with the boys.
As per usual we had arrived at the Coal Loader cafe nice and early, and there were hardly any other diners. However by the time we left the place was packed with both diners and the take away coffee crowd. So I do highly recommend that you plan your arrival outside of peak times so that you can score a table and also receive timely service as they appeared to only have a small number of wait staff working the morning we visited.
After your meal you can choose to either check out the community garden and then go for a walk or vice versa. We chose the walk first, only because the boys had scampered off towards the direction of water and we had to try and catch them. There are loads of walking tracks around Balls Head Reserve, however we only did the walk that went down from the cafe and looped back to the community garden. This walk is not pram friendly - so pop bub into a baby carrier, as you won't want to miss out on the walk.
The walk is really fascinating - it meanders along the harbour's edge (not of all of which is fenced, so be careful with the kids) and passes by some really cool sculptures (the snake made out of streets signs was the boys favourite) and then you can wander through an old coal tunnel!
Now for a quick and very basic history lesson - from 1920 to 1992 this area was where large ships containing coal docked and dumped their load so that it could be picked up by smaller vessels. The coal was poured through the green holes in the photo above and landed in coal trailers (pictured below). The trailers then transported it by rail to the smaller boats. There are four tunnels and only one is open to the public. You can walk all the way through and when you come out on the other side you can continue on your merry little bush walk.
If you want to continue on to the end of Balls Head Reserve, it won't take you very long. Apparently there are caves and historical Aboriginal sites to be explored along the way. The views too would be superb. At the top of the head there are another set of toilets (with a baby change table), picnic and BBQ facilities, (no, there isn't a playground). We headed back to towards the community garden and the boys had great fun checking out spooky looking trees and other nooks and crannies in the bush.
From vegies to herbs and pretty flowering plants , this is one flourishing community garden. There is even a herb patch when you can pick herbs for free to take home. The garden is run by a group of volunteers and if you live in the local area you can donate your green fingers too. Whilst we were there, a lady was weeding and tidying up the vegie patches. We saw a sign for the chook pen so we went to find it. The hen house is located down the bottom of one set of very steep stairs! If you suffer from vertigo beware!
The chooks are so cute and so happy. Imogen, the Plymouth Rock (picture below) was my favourite and the most inquisitive. There was even an old chook named after me! But Becky the big black Australop was a bit moody and wouldn't pose for a photo (she probably just needed her morning caffeine fix). Whilst we were down there, the lovely lady working in the vegie patch up above, came with some food scraps for the chooks and asked the boys to feed them for her! I can't guarantee that this will happen for your kids, but maybe if you find someone working in the garden just ask them nicely if your kids can help feed the girls.
Besides the chooks there are so many other cool things to check out in the garden - the bee hive and insect hotel are great examples. The centre for sustainability run courses throughout the year as well as hosting artisans markets, if you like their facebook page you can keep up to date with all the cool things they do. Wouldn't it be awesome if all the councils throughout Sydney had a centre like this - with a kid friendly cafe of course!!
Can you see now why we loved our morning so much? The Coal Loader Cafe is just lovely, the surrounds are picture perfect, the garden and the chooks are so cute and the walks - well lets just say we all need to be out in nature much much more. So Little Munchers go and check it out next weekend!
2 Balls Head Dr, Waverton
Open Wed - Sun 7am - 3pm