In 2019, journalist Jonica Bray made a spontaneous decision to move her family from a flat in Cronulla to Booker Bay on the Central Coast. As co-founder of The Wash Online, Australia's No.1 online reality magazine, writer for Woman’s Day and New Idea, and mother of social influencer twiblings, The Wander Twins – she’s now enjoying the freedom and friendliness of life on the Coast. To get the latest gossip from the Peninsula, we spoke to Jonica on her way to her son Hendry’s “job” with Country Road...
What do you love most about the Coast?
“I love the community feel and unique sense of belonging we’ve found here as a family. Being from the UK where villages are close-knit, I missed that in Sydney, but we’ve been welcomed to the Peninsula by local families. We now enjoy the same coastal lifestyle as the Northern Beaches, but for an affordable price, within a supportive community.”
What first drew your family to life on the Coast?
We were living in a Cronulla apartment and went on our first, big family camping trip to Patonga. My husband was working in Willoughby as a cameraman and during our trip he did a couple of days work. When he returned to our camping spot, I casually asked, “How’s the commute?”, he said it was actually the same as from our place in Cronulla…So I told him, “Great, because I’ve just bought a house here!”.
You must have felt such a strong instinct the Coast was the place to be?
You know when you go on holiday and say, “Wouldn’t it be great to live here?”. In our case we’d already discussed how great it would be to live on the Central Coast and had a list of prerequisites. It felt like a big deal to leave the city. Our list included things like walking distance from the beach, places to go out in the eve, a pool and enough bedrooms for our kids. We found this place at Booker Bay that ticked all the boxes. So he went to work, I went to see the property. When the agent asked if I liked it, I said “Yep, I’m gonna buy it!”, which he followed up with, “Do you need to ask your husband?”. Obviously, my answer was no!
Tell us about The Peninsula’s famous twiblings, Jonty & Hendry – The Wander Twins?
We have two boys, Jonty and Hendry, born just 5 months apart. Our “twiblings” and they are well-known in the local community as Hendry is a Pacific Islander and Jonty has ginger hair and blue eyes, but they often wear matching outfits. We adopted Hendry when he was 7 months old after spending some time on my maternity leave in Vanuatu. Since moving to Booker Bay, we’ve got plenty of space for the kids plus a spare bedroom, so we’re now also a foster family.
What’s a highlight of raising your kids on the Coast?
I want to give my kids the kind of life I had growing up in a seaside town. To ride their bikes to school, go down to the wharf and jump off at the weekend, meet all their friends at the beach, town centre, skate park or netball courts. It’s lovely for them to have that freedom.
Describe your typical Central Coast weekend?
The Peninsula is hugely social! There’s almost always something organised on weekends by the Mums of Ettalong, Umina and Booker Bay, from birthdays to all-day BBQs and picnics. The local Dads have a community Facebook group and a basketball team called ‘Dad Bods’. We enjoy long evenings socialising in neighbours’ backyards while the kids play, and just push the prams home at the end of the night.
Your favourite place to grab a coffee?
On a hot day, where do you like to chill out?
Coming from Cronulla, we’re used to never getting a parking space at local beaches! We love Anderson’s Boat Shed in Booker Bay where we hang out by the wharf where it’s flat and the kids can play safely.
How do you entertain the Wander Twins on a rainy day?
We go to the ‘Cucumber Play Centre’, (what they call the Kincumber Play Centre!). It’s hectic, but they love it. There’s bouncy castles, mini cars, basketball and slides all set inside a huge indoor space. It’s limited just for younger children, so they don’t get bowled over by bigger kids.
What’s your family’s favourite outdoor playground?
We love the Peninsula Recreation Park at Umina. It has a gated playground for the little ones, which helps when you need to keep your eyes everywhere. It also has a skate park, flying fox, climbing wall and areas to ride bikes or scooters. There’s even a café for us parents and local markets every third Sunday of the month.
Where do you shop for cute things for the kids?
Zarlak Kids in Terrigal, and Kala & Kai at Ettalong whose tie dye range you will see on kids right across the Peninsula! They also specialise in beautiful, natural toys that encourage sensory play.
Do you have a favourite bushwalk on the Central Coast?
The Pearl Beach to Patonga hike is pretty kid-friendly and has some amazing views across to northern Sydney once you reach the top.
It’s a girl’s night out minus the kids – where do you go?
Dinner at La Fiamma in the Galleria Ettalong with their delicious woodfired pizza, followed by a few cocktails at Bar Toto right next door, then Margarita Daze just around the corner in Ocean Beach with its gorgeous view of Broken Bay.
Your three unmissable places to take a visitor to the Coast?
- Patonga pub for lunchtime wine with an amazing view and playground nearby
- Bushwalk to a secluded beach in Bouddi National Park
- Hire a BBQ Boat from Anderson’s Boat Shed and anchor up in the bay to play