There are very few Australians who wouldn’t have read May Gibbs’ Snugglepot and Cuddlepie books while growing up. The stories of the Gumnut Babies and their friends are classics, populated with native flora and fauna. However, what many people don’t realise is that the house in which May Gibbs wrote and illustrated her stories still stands, and is preserved as a tribute to the author for fans to visit.
Every view of Nutcote is a pretty one
Located in Neutral Bay, May Gibbs' Nutcote is nestled in amongst ordinary residential dwellings. It’s hard to notice it’s there, which is why the house is something of a hidden gem. Visitors are recommended to begin their self-guided tour in a downstairs room, where a short documentary on the life and works of May Gibbs is shown on a loop. This is definitely a good idea, as you’ll find yourself learning many new and interesting facts about the author; and what you see in the house and garden then takes on a greater significance.
Whether inside the house looking out, or outside looking up, you'll fall in love with this house.
The house is just as charming as one would expect from an author like May Gibbs. An old-fashioned cottage, it has the most extraordinary views out on to Sydney’s harbour from many of the windows. You can stroll through May Gibbs’ sitting room; stare out the window in her bedroom, and see where she created the adventures that Snugglepot and Cuddlepie went on. In her writing room, you’ll even find a glass case housing some of her actual paints and brushes which she used to illustrate her stories.
A collection of paints and brushes that brought the images of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie to life.
A particularly fascinating room for historical buffs is the kitchen, where you really feel the passage of time. Here, you’ll also find such oddities as the glass rolling pin May Gibbs used when she was baking. As you continue on out, you’ll find another glass case - this time holding a precious collection of first edition books.
A sitting room so cosy, you'll want to curl up in it.
The gardens are just as much an attraction as the interior of the house, and it is easy to see where the British-born Gibbs garnered her inspiration for her stories. Banksia trees remind you of the villainous Banksia men, and an abundance of native Australian flora leads you gently down the rather uneven paths to a view that is literally quite breathtaking.
A Banksia Man terrorising a Gumnut Baby in the gardens.
Everywhere you look, you’ll find a touch of whimsy that is so in keeping with the authors style of writing, that you’ll almost feel as if you’ve met her. From the dog kennel with the name ‘Nubby’ printed on it, and a sign that reads ‘Bark to enter’ - to the statues of her characters dotted all throughout the garden - there is something to find everywhere you look. There’s even a hedge shaped like a caterpillar and trimmed at one end with two giant eyes - a favourite with all children who visit.
Nubby the dogs colourful home.
If you feel like having a nibble or a drink, the ‘Bib and Bub Tea Room’ which overlooks the gardens are usually open. However, as it is run by volunteers - they can not guarantee that it will be open for your visit, but welcome people to call ahead and find out first.
The caterpillar hedge which always brings a smile to faces
Parking at Nutcote is difficult. There is no dedicated car park, and you’ll have to find street parking somewhere nearby. You may need to prepare for a little walk to get to the house itself, but it is well worth the effort once you get there.
One of the stunning aspects from the back garden.
Visitors are recommended to plan on their visit, of which normally takes around two-hours. Unfortunately, Nutcote is not suitable for those in a wheelchair - as there are stairs and steep slopes to negotiate. A gift shop is located at the entry/exit should you want to purchase some souvenirs of your visit, and children's parties or group visits can be arranged.
Nutcote, home of May Gibbs and the Gumnut Babies is truly a special place.
If you want to step back in time and relive a part of your childhood, May Gibbs’ Nutcote is certainly the place to do it. Children will love it, and adults are guaranteed to feel like children again themselves.
Where: 5 Wallaringa Avenue Neutral Bay NSW
Why: To be a part of Australian literary history, and to get back in touch with your inner child.
Cost: Adults $9.00. Concession (student or seniors card) $5.50. Children $3.50. Family (2 adults & 2 children or 1 adult & 3 children) $20.00.
When: Open Wednesday to Sunday 1:00am to 3:00pm. Will be closed from 23 December 2013 to 1 January 2014.
Good for kids: Yes, kids will love it - especially if they've read the books.