Sir Joseph Banks Reserve is not new, but when I mention it to other mums, a surprising number of them have never heard of it.
Maybe because it doesn’t have a playground it doesn’t receive the attention of other parks and reserves within the Sutherland Shire. Playground or no playground, there’s plenty of fun to be had here for little kids.
If you live in the Shire but have never been there, you’ve more than likely driven right by it as it backs on to Bates Drive at Kareela. You’ll find the main entrance and parking lot, however, at the end of Manooka Pl.
The nature reserve is an all-Native showcase of Australia’s diverse range of flora and its 2.2 hectares are divided into themed gardens like the scented garden, rainforest and Aboriginal food and medicinal plants.
Each one is signed so you can read to the kids about what you’re looking at as you stroll comfortably along the paved walkways.
There are plenty of different routes that you can take through the reserve. Some are pram-friendly and wheelchair accessible, while others involve stairs. There are maps at the front that you can take to navigate your walk but you’d be hard-pressed to get lost if you just keep following the path.
My kids and I have visited the reserve a couple of time. I printed out a “Nature Scavenger Hunt” and gave them binoculars, a magnifying glass and baskets for collecting interesting things off the bush floor to use in our crafts later. We made nature placemats by putting dried flowers and leaves between two sheets of clear contact paper. You can find many more inventive nature play ideas from Inspire My Play.
Doing the scavenger hunt got the kids to think about the different textures, colours, shapes and sounds of the plants, bushes, trees and flowers we were passing, as well as encouraged them to seek out insects and birds that call the reserve home.
We had packed a picnic lunch to enjoy at the tables provided, but there are also BBQ facilities (and toilets) here if you’re looking for a beautiful, convenient spot to enjoy a BBQ lunch.
Set the swings and slides aside for a day and get the kids to explore and experience some serious awe.
You can always continue your journey through the Sutherland Shire’s many wonderful playgrounds again on your next adventure out.