If you are looking for an idyllic outdoor location for lunch, then go no further than Dangar Island on the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney. I have always known about Dangar Island and have cruised past it many a time on my way to Peats Bite, or to Patonga, but for some reason, I have never stopped there even though it is closer than both. I'm glad I finally did! Dangar Island is just off Brooklyn and is a residential island where there is also a no-car policy. Apart from the residents it is also popular for holiday rentals, but the prices for this have always seemed too steep, especially when technically it is "just up the road" from my place! Anyway, it was a sunny day, and spring has sprung so instead of doing our usual day out just to Brooklyn, we decided to do something different and take a 15 minute ferry trip to the island. I had read that the cafe owners had retired after many years running the only shop on the island. As it was integral to the day to day life, and was a social hub, the residents voted to take over the shop and run a roster to keep it open. What a great community spirit! The whole day was great - laid back and relaxing. The ferry leaves once an hour during the week and is $11 return for adults and $5 for kids. I was with the lad today but the silver haired ferryman didn't charge me for him even though he has turned 5 only a week ago..so grown up. We hopped on board with only one other passenger and enjoyed the rustic old lady "Sun". Pulling out of the sparkly waters of Brooklyn Marina, the lad inched his way up to the wheelhouse to watch the captain driving the boat. He had great humour and jolly'd the lad along telling him what he was doing and why. Once we arrived, the gangplank was wheeled out and we hopped happily on to the wharf. The first thing we passed was the chalkboard roster for the residents running the cafe, then was the bicycles and prams left by residents who had taken the ferry to the mainland that morning (it was a weekday after all). Nothing locked up, all just higgeldy piggeldy under cover from the elements. Its nice to see that they all trusted they would be there when they returned this evening. The cafe is right next to the ferry pier, so as it was still a little chilly we popped in to check out the wares and had a hot choccie. Perched at the front door was the cutest little white fluffy dog curled up cosily in his red coat, and doggie bed. All was good until we approached to pat him, and had a very short and sharp snap that made sure we kept our distance. Once inside though, the other locals were friendly! Two ladies setting up for the day, cooking and setting the tables. As you walk in there is the nice display of locally grown fruit and veg, with assorted groceries set out on shelves. To the left was the counter with the menu on blackboards, and the fridges of specialist meat ordered in for last minute dinners. Above the counter was a huge and modern looking painting that suited the light and airy room. To the right was a view to die for. Teak tables, casually set with local flowers, comfy chairs and summery striped cushions backed by a wall of french doors that were closed today but in summer would be open to the coastal breezes. The view of the water was spectacular. The cafe also had outdoor seating but the building itself was so close to the waters edge, you felt like you were on the beach as you sat in what felt like a sunny loungeroom in a beach rental. We had out hot choccie quickly before setting off up the road leading from the wharf. Lined with wheelbarrows, the road rose lazily in to the bushy surrounds. The barrows all had cute names or the name of the houses on the island and were parked there for carrying shopping and luggage I guess. As there is no cars, there must be times when you arrive laden with more than is able to be carried by hand. Great idea, also not chained up, and again re-inforcing the casual nature of the island and the acceptance that all would be left as it was. As we left the cafe, the postman was sorting the mail for the island into the many letterboxes on the outside wall of the cafe. The island doesn't look too big, but I was surprised by the amount of boxes available so there must be more houses tucked away amongst the trees that you can't see. We took a road to the left as the sign said the bowling club was that way. We came out at a reserve with some kids play equipment, public toilets, a community centre and a bowling club and green. Surrounded by houses, I could imagine it being a great meeting place for the locals in summer. I'd love to do barefoot bowls there one hot summer night with cicadas drumming and to complete the night by having dinner at "Sheila's" (the bistro attached to the basic clubhouse). Cold beer in hand, with a walk to the holiday house...it would be heaven! From here we spotted an oddity. A stone turret nestled amongst the palm trees. I had no idea what it was, but knew that this island has quite a historical story. The houses facing on to the clearing were an interesting assortment of modern, old fibro, the turret and interestingly there was a "front door" and frame used as the front gate to a very quirky looking house with chickens free-ranging around the overgrown garden. I noticed a plaque on a rock just at the base of it which said it was the only remaining part of Dangar's house which burnt down in 1939 and was now heritage listed. It looked fantastic as a front gate I have to say. Apparently gentlemen used to smoke cigars and I'm thinking that maybe the turret has something to do with the grand house that was on that spot? Anyway, with that on my mind, we wandered down a grassy path to the water, lined with jasmine the smell was irrestistable. The sun had warmed up and we stripped down to shorts and t-shirts. The lad hopped straight in the clear water, and played in the sand while I just sat on the stone sea wall dangling my feet and soaking up the rays and the view. Now my week had been a little fraught, so this was the perfect tonic to bring me back to a nice quiet state. We spent hours here, then decided to wander back to the cafe and shop for lunch. The menu is not large, but includes a Ploughmans Lunch, Island Pies, Kids sandwich boxes with little rolls and a tiny pot of jam, Bacon and Eggs (they do a weekend breakfast), and we decided on the Wagyu Beef Burger. We decided to share as it was apparently quite substantial. We had the choice of turkish bread or bun. I'm glad we did because when it was plonked down in front of us, it was pretty daunting! Two milkshakes in the old fashioned aluminium cups and the meal was complete. We chose the sunny corner with the best view, and chattered easily with the ladies in the shop. The burger was delicious, the beef pattie was juicy and moist, there was a base of avocado mash, caramalised onions and salad which I was tickled pink to see included good old fashioned tinned beetroot! DELICIOUS! We shared the bits we wanted (I got all the beetroot), and worked our way through the burger. I think it was about $12.00 so was well worth it. They had a great range of cakes on display and also had boxes of chocolates labelled "a taste of the island". The milkshakes were great and afterwards we wandered around the nick nacks and t'shirts and had a chat before skivving off to the little sliver of sand close to the cafe to play until the ferry returned. The pace was perfect, the weather was perfect, and I think as a day out it is well worth the effort. We saw the ferry coming so ran to the pier only to find it was the postmans boat, doing the rounds. You can buy a ticket on this and take a longer trip around the basin and to Patonga, but this was purely a stop to pick up the mail. The Deckhand leaned out of the door and scooped up the mail, before the driver expertly manouvered the boat back out towards Brooklyn. So, back to the beach we went....only to have 10 minutes of play before the real ferry arrived! On we hopped, the same driver took us cheerily back, and we happily picked up our bag, towel, bucket and spade and went home. What a great day, what a great Australian experience, and to top it all off, hapi eating!