Winter Day Trips – Ballina

Well, we tried last week – loading scooters and bikes into the car for our Winter Day Trip to Ballina and despite having all our fingers and toes crossed,  we were conquered by the incessant rain which has lasted another week. We’ve had moments of sunshine – last Sunday and Wednesday morning but it wasn’t long before the grey crept back in and the rain started to fall.

However, we decided to give Ballina another go this Friday and hurrah!! We got a sunny morning so here you go – Ballina Winter Day Trip!

You can start this day trip at either end – or at any point along the way. For example you could do this trip in reverse, starting off at the skatepark/playground and working your way up to Lighthouse Beach and the walking / cycle trail from Shelly to Sharpes Beach.  I simply chose to start with the walk first and use the playground/skatepark as an incentive for later!

However, we began our morning at Ballina Lighthouse Cafe to warm up with a yummy  latte, babycino and a scone – why not!!

Lighthouse Beach Cafe, East Ballina

Lighthouse Beach Cafe – Ballina
65 Lighthouse Parade, East Ballina, NSW, 2478

Monday to Friday| 7.30am to 3pm (breakfast til 11am, lunch til 2.30pm)
for Breakfast, Lunch, Coffee and Drinks

Saturday and Sunday | 7.30am to 4pm
for Breakfast, Lunch, Coffee and Drinks (Breakfast til 11am, lunch til 3pm)

Located at Ballina Surf Club on Lighthouse Parade, Lighthouse Cafe has an enviable view over the beach and as its the season – you will probably spot a few whales frolicking  as they make their annual migration north.

We chose a balcony seat, not only for the sensational view but also because if you want to sit for a quiet moment, the kids can nip down to the sandy beach below to have a run around  and still be in full view.  The cafe doesn’t have a kids area as such but they do offer a colouring pad and pencils pack for $2 if you’re stuck.

Lighthouse Beach Cafe, Ballina

If you just want a hot drink and are happy to be with the kids down the beach, below the cafe is the Kiosk which is open from 7am to provide you with takeaway coffee for that early morning walk on the beach.  Hot food can also be ordered through the Kiosk.  It is cooked upstairs in the cafe and brought downstairs to you.

There are a number of GF and Vegetarian options. No vegan choices but they were most willing to swap some things around to make it so on request.  Eg They offer a Breakfast BST  served on a Panini roll w bacon, fresh baby spinach and tomato and they were happy to substitute the bacon for avocado. There is also a kids menu with a number of options from egg on toast to pancakes. Click here to view the breakfast menu.

There’s plenty of  FREE parking either in the car park for the Surf Life Saving Club or street parking if the car park is full. However, we chose to park around the corner on Shelly Beach Drive in the car park where the old SLSC used to be and the reason for that was…lunch!  You can park at Lighthouse Beach Cafe for a cuppa and beach play then drive up to the entrance of the cycle/ pathway which is pretty much opposite the iconic lighthouse & windmill house near the top of Shelly Beach road. Upon your return,  you can either put your bikes/scooters etc back in the car and walk down to the lunch venue or drive 500m and park your car in front of The Belle General. Whatever works for your family… and this generally dependant on their age and how tired or not they are!

So off we went with bike (me) and scooter (son) to ride the Shelly Beach to Sharpes Beach coastal bush Cycle / Pathway.  Perfect for walkers, joggers, runners, scooters, bicycles, trikes, pushers and strollers;  this wide, meandering pathway is more or less 5km in length – it only took us 30 mins one-way and that’s with frequently stopping to take photos en route.

Part bitchumen, part grated mesh, there are frequent intersections along the way where it can be easily accessed from numerous points along Angels Beach and Flat Rock.  There are look outs, beach access points with showers, a separate heritage walkway (we haven’t done this yet)  plus plenty of seating along the way and large colourful and informative signs sharing local aboriginal history and culture.

Sharpes to Shelly Beach Pathway

Its a mainly flat-ish pathway. There’s a bit of a hill near the beginning (Shelly Beach end) so slow on the scooters/bikes there; the rest has very mild inclines/descents but it is worth noting that it is winding so should not be taken at speed.

At the other end, Sharpes Beach is an uncrowded beach far enough away to relax and unwind but if you fancy a snack or even just a water, don’t forget to bring your own refreshments as there are no shops or kiosks nearby. Also worth noting is that although dogs are allowed on this beach, they are required to wear a leash at all times and we found owners to be respectful of this condition.

Sharpes to Shelly Beach Pathway

So, after a scoot/ride, some water and a fossick around on the beach, we headed back the way we came for a well-deserved lunch at The Belle General and it did not disappoint!

The Belle General Cafe
12 Shelly Beach Rd, East Ballina NSW 2478

Open Monday to Sunday | 8am to 3pm
Breakfast: 8am – 11.45am
Lunch 12pm – 2.30pm

This cafe is the perfect treat after a nice long walk. The staff are friendly and helpful and the menu is divine! Check it out here! There’s gluten free, dairy free, paleo and vegan options plus a great kids brekkie and lunch menu too!  I simply can’t go past their avo on organic sourdough with housemade coconut feta (outrageously yum!!) and herb salad. My son loves smoothies and was red hot – or as he said – “I’m a bit sweaty mum!” –  after his scoot so he opted for the Super Smoothie made with banana, cinnamon, dates, coconut cream, chia, honey and almond milk.  He couldn’t get enough of it!  We sat outside to enjoy the sunshine however it wasn’t long before my son sneaked inside to make himself at home in the gorgeous little kids corner with huge comfy floor cushion, books and soft toys.

The Belle General Cafe, East Ballina

From here you can jump back in the car – if you have little ones, or if you have bigger ones with bikes or bubs in pushers and you want to continue walking, then it’s around a 2.5km mainly flat walking / cycle route  along Lighthouse Parade and North Wall until you reach Shaws Bay. Then it’s up the aptly named Hill St and across Missingham Bridge to the skate park and playground.

As my son is only 5 years old and still wanted enough scooter energy for when we got to the skatepark and playground we drove around there after lunch.

I talked about this playground in a Facebook/Instagram post last week when we first attempted our Winter Day Trip to Ballina. And that was actually the perfect time to check it out as it was pouring with rain and the playground is covered by an enormous vented colourbond roof.

Missingham Park, Ballina NSW

The equipment was dry and fun to play on and about half of the seating (benches around the edges) stayed dry too! There’s a climbing frame, flying fox, swings, rockers and a large spinning wheel which seems to be everyone’s favourite.  Accessed either via a wide, stroller and cycle friendly beachfront pathway dotted with picnic tables and barbecues on the grassy verges or via the ample carpark; this park is a popular spot. And, just across the grassy expanse behind the amphitheatre (where the amenities block is located) is Ballina Skate Park.

Situated in a scenic location on the south side of Missingham Bridge with a fantastic  view of the river, Ballina skatepark boasts rails, ledges, a manual pad, stairs, a succession of half pipes and a great full bowl (6-8 ft.) so there is a lot on offer for skaters (or scooters) of all levels.

A large covered seating area provides spectacular views of both the skatepark and the river beyond.

Ballina Skatepark NSW

Once again, we enjoyed a very special day together discovering some of the wonderful family friendly delights Ballina has to offer. We hope you have a fun time visiting too and don’t forget – there are plenty of other great children’s playgrounds you can visit in Ballina and if cycling is more your thing, there’s some lovely cycle and shared pathways to enjoy. Click here for a PDF of Cycleways and Shared Paths along the Ballina Coast. (Note: this leaflet was produced in Dec 2014 so does not include the Shelly to Sharpes Beach shared cycle/pathway we completed on our Winter Day Trip.)