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Flowers, Ducks and Tea

By Robyn Parnell
30 August, 2017

What do flowers, ducks and tea have in common you ask? Local resident, writer and keen bushwalker Robyn Parnell has the answer…
The Camellia Gardens of course.

There’s not many places you can say there’s truly something for everyone, but the Camellia Gardens is one. On a recent visit, for example, there’s a group of teenage girls having fun in the mild afternoon sun with a picnic, some impromptu dance and lots of group hugs.

In the Teahouse, several groups were celebrating milestone events, including a 60th birthday. The Teahouse is also a popular venue for baby showers and kitchen teas. Invited guests look out over lush greenery from tables set with white cloths and flowers. You may be a little jealous if you’re not attending your own private function, but this will pass as you enjoy something special from the menu. Our haloumi, corn and zucchini fritters were beautifully presented and tasted amazing. Of course, it can’t be called a Teahouse without a selection of teas, and there are more than 15 different types on the menu. A cup of ‘licorice legs’ anyone?

Meanwhile, at the lower level of the Gardens, a special little person was celebrating her very first birthday with her extended family and friends – along with lots of pink balloons, cake and ‘bubble’ drinks.

If you prefer to show friends and family your barbeque skills, the Gardens have a couple of gas versions within the grounds, and there’s several older style wood barbeques located next to a bush reserve just outside the Garden’s fence, although you may need to supply your own wood for these.

The Gardens themselves are incredible, whether you’re a natural green thumb or someone who loves a garden that showcases the talents and skills of others. While there are many types of camellias here (it is the Camellia Gardens after all), there’s an amazing variety of native and introduced plants and flowers which come together to create a beautiful, even enchanting environment. From the border gardens with their colourful floral, displays, to the gigantic birds nest ferns, towering magnolias, and senses garden, it’s truly a treat to wander the paths that meander through the Gardens. And there always seems to be an overwhelming sense of calm. Maybe it’s the ever present sound of water gently cascading down the hill, or the seats dotted throughout that invite you to sit and reflect.

It’s no surprise that the Gardens are a popular location for wedding ceremonies. There are lots of wonderful photo opportunities for professional photographers and amateurs alike. Why not get the kids involved? You might be surprised what grabs their interest.

Just outside the Garden’s barbeque area there’s also a short walk through the bush which loops around in a circle bringing you back where you started. It runs along the edge of Yowie Bay, and there are plenty of picture perfect views along the way.

As the Gardens are situated on a sloping site, there are some steps which may make access difficult for some. However, the top of the Gardens adjoining President Avenue is flat, as is the bottom Garden area, and there’s parking available in both locations. Note the Teahouse is located at the top of the Gardens, while the barbeque area is at the bottom.

Now anyone who’s ever visited knows there’s more to the Gardens than flowers, plants, delicious food or high tea. The Gardens are home to ducks – lots of ducks! So you can understand why young families often make a beeline for the place. There aren’t many small children who don’t fall in love with the ducks, enjoy feeding them, or making sure they get their daily dose of exercise in fun games of ‘chasey.’ The teahouse sells duck food for $1 a bag. While stale bread may be cheaper, it’s no good for the ducks, or for keeping their water nice and clean.

There’s also one pond which the ducks share with goldfish. The fish are no longer as massive as they once were, which is good because there’s the safety of the cute little ducklings that bob on the water during Spring to consider!

Of course no family friendly location would be complete without a playground or two where the kids are happy to explore and challenge themselves. Choose from the ‘ship’ playground near the Teahouse or the bottom playground with its climbing net and rainbow shaped bridge.

One of the things I love about the Camellia Gardens is that, no matter how often you go, you can find something different each time you visit. One time I even got to share my Devonshire tea with an enthusiastic blue tongue lizard who came to bask in the sun beside my chair. Do you know they absolutely love eating strawberries?

The Camellia Gardens are open 9 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday and from 9.30 am to 5.00 pm on weekends and public holidays (closed Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day). You’ll find them at 104 President Avenue Caringbah South. The Teahouse can be reached on (02) 9540 2018.

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Robyn Parnell

Robyn Parnell

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