Swimming Lessons in and around Ballina

I have tried three different places for swimming lessons in the area, and BallinaGirl has attended all three. For her, I found they differed and had positives depending on age, her swimming ability, and her developing personality.

Lennox Aquatic Centre ( 128 Newrybar Swamp Road, Lennox. Head )
They have a great set up for babies and young toddlers. BallinaGirl attended when she was a baby, and again when she was a toddler. It was really good when she was a baby, but we couldn’t afford to continue the lessons. They have a small pool that is extra warm so they stay comfortable the whole lesson and don’t get a rude shock with the water temperature (which can affect their relationship with the water). They do a similar pattern each week for learning, with lots of songs and “actions”. I would highly recommend this one for parents with babies. From their website, they start from 3 months old.

Ballina Swim N Gym (behind the cinema at Ballina Fair)
This is Ballina’s only indoor pools. We tried this when BallinaGirl was younger, but found the water to be too cold for our liking (although was fine for my aqua classes I did during pregnancy). We went back again for an Intensive Swim Program for the kids over the school holidays to help catch them up, and they were pretty cold by the end still. BallinaBoy particularly complained of the cold, although the air within the pool are was quite warm. It was quite good that the pool was a bit deeper than what they usually learn in, so were able to practice swimming without the ability to stand easily in the water, which was a plus, although BallinaGirl spent most of the lesson swimming around the platform in the water than actually paying attention to what was going on. These classes seemed to be the cheapest of all.

Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre ( 50 Oliver Avenue, Goonellabah )
Attending the swimming lessons at this pool were the best solution for us. Although I preferred the baby swimming lessons at Lennox, BallinaGirl loved the swimming lessons here (started about 2.5years old). They have games, she loved her teacher, and after a few lessons, was quite happy to go off with the teacher without us being in the class also. It also helps that the pools are a lot of fun to play at afterwards, with a dedicated toddler pool and slide, as well as the main pool having a slope to walk in to (similar to a beach) with access to the pool toys they use during their lesson to practice with in the shallows. She has wanted to stay there all day, she loves it so much there, we’ve had 3 of her birthdays there!
The travel time does make it a bit of a drawback, so I try to arrange for anything that might have to happen over that way to coincide with the swimming lessons.
As for BallinaBoy, he is still a bit on the fence with the lessons here, I think in part because of the timing of the lessons we had, as well as him not being confident in the water, nor away from me. I am contemplating trying him in the Lennox ones this semester instead, or as well as.
GSAC has also won awards for their swim school, swimsations, at a National level, which is pretty impressive.

Contact details for the pools are as follows:
Ballina Swim N Gym – (02) 6686 8299
Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre – (02) 6625 5370
Lennox Aquatic Centre – (02) 66 878 800 (or Tricia who runs the lessons on 0404156195)

Update: I have had a few friends attend and/or enrolled and waiting to attend swimming lessons in Bangalow. The pool looks like it has an amazing outlook, looking out over the Byron hinterland (a friend posted a photo of her child there which made me want to know more!) and is run as a private business. For more information here is their website and you can contact them on (02) 6687 2911. They have water babies classes through to stroke correction classes for older children. They also offer swim intensive programmes during the school holidays.

Free Bush Camping near Tabulam NSW

This long weekend we went camping. It was forecast to rain on the weekend, but be fine out west, near Tenterfield. So we packed up our stuff, including the dog, and off in to the sunset we drove.

We first went to Ewingar Forest Camp. We had been here before, and after doubting our GPS and how long it may take to get to another we had planned to visit, we thought we’d go with what we knew, as it was soon going to be dark.

We had been to Ewingar State Forest, and the Forest Camp, before, in our pre-kids days. We had found it in a 4wd weekender book, and tried to get there from memory, to find that our first turn off the Bruxner highway had a sign up saying the road was now closed indefinitely, so we had to go back to the GPS to direct us to the camp.

campfire at Ewingar

Toasting some marshmallows on the fire at Ewingar Forest Camp


We found the camp quite easily, and the road was in a reasonable condition. The camp had deteriorated since we had last stayed, the grass was long, the firewood shed had fallen down and the sign was broken in half, now saying “REST CAMP” on the sign, with “EWINGAR FO” on the cabin. It was a little surprising to have a few others arrive, who said they were staying in the cabin and camp kitchen (I believe it was built as a camp kitchen, but it really is just a room with a large open fireplace in it). They were fossickers from the Byron Shire.

The facilities include tank water, two long drops, 3 small separate inclosed “rooms”, a “camp kitchen” and a cabin. When we first came in 2009, firewood was provided, and the main cabin (a small house type cabin) and the long drop next to it were locked. We believed they were used by forestry workers. There is a large double bay shed that is still locked, most likely used for forestry storage.

Ewingar State  Forest Camp - Lizard

BallinaGirl with a skink we found, it was named Rosie. (Part of the main cabin, and it’s long drop can be seen in the background)


You can make a camp fire where ever you like on the site, as long as there is no current fire ban. We toasted marmallows, on a small fire before heading to bed. Dogs are also allowed in state forests, so BallinaDog got to have a good run around.

I checked out the cabin, once the occupants had packed up and gone home. It would have been a cute little dwelling at some stage. It, at one stage, had a shower installed in there, as there was gas water previously installed which had now been removed. There was a main area, with a big open fireplace, with the “bathroom” coming off this area, and a “bedroom” added on to the back. There are some random pieces of furniture in the cabin (chair, table, shelving, metal spring base of a bed), and some long shelf life food supplies left on a shelf. There is a few artworks on the walls, with some recommendations of leaving something useful, and making sure you take your rubbish. There was also a bowl of some “half crystals”, which leads me to believe that a lot of people go fossicking in the area, and use this as a base to stay.

There is nothing really too special about the site, not much view, and no “attractions” near by. But there are a lot of dirt tracks to take out your 4wd. We stumbled upon a few creeks, and had a quick “fossick” in a little one under a bridge. It would be a lovely place to splash around with the kids (who had fallen asleep by then). We also drove past a sign warning that there was some old mine shafts around. We were keen to try find them, but couldn’t see them from the road, so presume they were signs for hunters, or people who may go off the track.

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Driving through a natural ford, following the GPS on some crazy 4wd tracks. We had to turn around and go back the way we came in. We weren’t prepared for serious off road adventuring.

We moved on to the original place we had planned to stay at, on Hootens Road. We followed the GPS’ directions, and went past where it thought we wanted to go. We kept driving to see if we could find it, and just as we were about to give up, we saw where the creek met the river on the GPS, that we had read about on a camping app. There were quite a few people camping here already, but we were able to drive up the back and get a space to ourselves on the river.

As soon as we got out, BallinaDog was in the river swimming, the kids wanted their bikes and found a “sandpit” and we quickly set up camp, trying to figure out where we would be able to position our set up to be able to get dry before we left (an issue we didn’t think of at Ewingar).

Campsite at Hootens Road

Setting up camp at Hootens Road, Lower Duck Creek

We set up a camp fire in an area already set up, circled with rocks. It was cold, and strangely, we discovered that the Tabulam area must be in a flight path. While the planes were high up, the quietness, seemed to help amplify their sound.

This campground, found on Hootens Road, is just bare land that people seem to camp on. There are no facilities, other than some areas where people have made rock circles to have camp fires. The grass is low though, as I think it is grazed by cattle, and the river is lovely to look at (although looks a bit too weedy for me to swim in).

We found that there was actually a quicker way to get there than the GPS first sent us, and we came out right across from where we came back to the Bruxner from Ewingar, which was slightly frustrating! We definitely need a map so we can double check the GPS knows what it is doing, and where it is sending us!

By the river at Hootens Road Camp

Climbing trees for a seat to watch BallinaDog’s water sports in the river, while the sun came up over the surrounding hills.

We were really happy that we found the new camp site, and plan to come back another time, hopefully with some friends to accompany us. We also hope to go back to Ewingar, but maybe when we have better off roading capabilities.

Fawcett Park

Fawcett Park (aka Pelican Park) is in the main section of town, along the river on Fawcett Street (which runs parallel with River Street) with access from Cherry Street also. It is across the road from Cafe Twenty9, Baskin & Robins and the CookieMan.

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Fawcett Park, is only partly fenced (along the riverside) and has tables, barbecues, seating and lots of grass. The playground is designed as a castle, with two slides a drawbridge, “stage” and a jail (or “shop” in some play experiences) and a crocodile (which recently lost its tail).

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This is one of my favourite playgrounds for toddlers. The steps are great for climbing, wide enough for a crawling baby to rest of each step, or sit to look around. It has a small slide for them to happily climb up to and navigate themselves too, and other little obstacles for them to navigate without it being “too challenging”. As toddlers grow, they can climb up to the bigger slide and play in the high tower of the castle. But one of the favourite things in the playground for both my kids has been the crocodile, which they climb on, scale, sit on and sing “cheeky monkeys” to.

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And sometimes the water fountain is more entertaining than the playground.

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It can be a lovely place to watch the sun set, look for dolphins, turtles or fish, or watch the boats zoom past. But beware, there is no fence along the riverside walkway, and it can be a scary looking drop!

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And after a big play, we can go grab something to eat or drink across the road.

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Party at Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre

Recently we had a party for Ballina Girl’s birthday at GSAC. We hired the slide for an hour, which ended up being a flop for the rest of the invitees, but Ballina Girl and the parents loved it! We cooked a barbecue on the outside barbecues. The sun was shining and in certain areas, out of the wind, you could’ve sworn it wasn’t winter as you soaked up the sun on the grass.
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It cost us $50 to hire the slide for an hour, and we paid for all our guests entry fee (optional). They also offer packages where they can do the catering and have staff members designated to your party.
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Ballina Boat Hire

While looking for things to do while we have visitors, we often book a BBQ boat from Ballina Boat Hire in River Street, Ballina.
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The idea is that you can cook what you catch, but our fishing talent means we have a barbecue while attempting to catch something, or as BallinaGirl prefers, feed the fish. This works for me, as I don’t like catching fish, but love eating food.
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Sometimes, we end up organising a cold and or rainy day, which isn’t too bad. You have cover, but also, you can drive the boat to find shelter from the conditions.
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There is a sticker in the boat with the legal size limits, we rarely catch anything of limit, but every catch is exciting for BallinaGirl
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Even if you don’t catch a fish, or like fishing. It is a good day out and way to see Ballina from a different view. Putt around and find your little patch of serenity in the river, cook up a feed, sit back and relax, chat and enjoy the sea (river?) air.

… It even has a toilet.

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Our Saturdays at Goonellabah Gym & Aquatic Centre

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Our Saturday mornings are now filled with swimming lessons! For both of my littlies. BallinaDaddy does both the lessons with them, while I mind the other one. BallinaGirl really wanted to have her lesson first, with her little brother, and was a bit tired by the time her lesson rolled around, not to mention unfocused, as she had been going down the water slide with her dad just before her lesson started.

The kids loved our morning there, but it seems to take over our weekend. If nothing is planned, it is a great way to kick off the weekend. But committing to Saturday morning may mean there will be no camping trips for a while.

Camping over Australia Day

We went to Flanagan Reserve Bush Camping over the long weekend with some families we knew.

We heard it was going to be wet, so invested in a big tarp and an “annex mat”.
We got there before it started raining, but as it had a big down pour previously, we could see where the water had run. My partner chose a spot, that I had whinged about as it made us far away from our group, but as I later found out, was in the most ideal spot.

The kids had a lot of fun playing in the mud, and we even took our dog, who I think enjoyed just being so close to us all the time (as well as her swims in the creek).

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My partner took our daughter for a few bike rides too, resulting in them coming back very muddy and jumping straight in to the creek to rinse off, much to our daughter’s delight.

Our son loved the water running off the tarp, and splashing in muddy puddles. Once he discovered this, it was hard to keep him out with his new found crawling skills

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It may have seemed like a bad weekend to go camping, but I really enjoyed myself, and so did our kids. And we luckily decided to leave a day early as we had heard it was going to get worse by midday Sunday, and packing up as a group enabled us to pack up and get out with an hour to spare.. And it would seem the prediction was correct, looking at the weather stats later.

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