On the third Sunday of the month, the Peninsula Recreation Precinct at Umina Beach bursts into life with market stalls filling the grassy knoll from the surf club to the skate park.
It’s the monthly must-attend event for residents of Umina and surrounding suburbs, who stream into the beachside markets to pick up some fruit and veg, grab a loaf of artisanal bread, a bite to eat, or hang out with friends and family soaking up the colour and atmosphere.
On a sunny day, all streets leading to the beach pack out early but the parking craziness can be avoided with a free shuttle bus from Woy Woy and Ettalong Wharfs or Ettalong Diggers.
The markets are run by nouveau Coastie Ricky Simoes who moved to Umina from Sydney a few years ago. “Everyone is really friendly, both stallholders and customers, which makes for a relaxed and down to earth vibe at the markets,” he says.
That’s the consensus among the 85 stallholders who are all smiles basking in the community feel as they test out different products and try to grow their respective businesses. Buying local is something Coasties embrace with punters relishing the chance to support their neighbours while doing some shopping by the sea.
The first stop is often East Coast Coffee Traders for a Sunday morning caffeine fix. The coffee pop up offers to keep cups, which include a free fill, and vegan muffins like banana maple walnut or cherry ripe. Next door at Sugar High Creations, vegan cupcakes, glittery doughnuts, sparkly cookies and shimmering macarons rarely last the morning.
The markets are a shopper’s delight with everything from cheeseboards to cacti and cool threads on sale.
Market-goers can get decked out in home-grown streetwear label drom; float around the boho-chic havens that are Sea Vixen and Lemisee or buy some activewear with a hidden message from Choose Your Animal. The stall offers colourful tights, boardies and swimmers depicting elephants, rhinos, tigers, dogs and sharks among cool prints, with 10 per cent of proceeds going to a relevant charity for the animal whether its Wildlife Conservation Society India, Dog Rescue Newcastle or Fin Free Sydney.
Next to a second-hand stall overflowing with records and toys, there’s a mish-mash of handmade cheeseboards and homegrown herbs, while nearby dreamcatchers float in the sea breeze. The markets also offer local artists the chance to shine.
Pretty watercolours adorn Breezy Bird Goodies’ marquee, Headless Jess has striking artworks and vintage hand-painted denim creations while Mango Sea’s serene sea creatures aren’t just perfect adornments for a beach house but spread the message about conservation.
There are many stalls selling soy candles, succulents and soaps and lovers of jams and condiments are spoiled for choice at Jenn Jam’s and Soul Food.
If organic certified is your cup of tea, Jemidee is the place to be. Created by musician turned tea-maker Jake Sheppard, the natural teas are handmade on the Coast and include beautiful blends such as Sweet Cheeks to combat sugar cravings and a flowery detox tea, Ka Bloom.
As one of the growing tribe of vegans on the Coast, Ricky says his markets have a unique edge. “The variety of vegan and plant-based options makes Umina Beach Markets unique for the Coast,” he says.
The couple behind Earthly – Shannon Male and Dean Cattley – travel down from Newcastle each month because of the great vibe and the markets’ reputation among plant-based communities. Their stall is brimming with chunks of homemade, chemical-free, small-batch, cold-press, all-natural soap in flavours such as coffee, cinnamon and oatmeal for those with sensitive skin.
Even the body products on offer at the markets are plant-based with Boudicca’s Energising Lemon and Calming Lavender vegan scrubs full of natural goodness.
When shoppers reusable and recyclable bags are full – the markets are moving towards being plastic-free – they can take a moment to listen to the talented local musicians who busk throughout the day or grab a bite to eat at one of the food stalls.
Rice paper rolls are available at Viet Yum, burritos and nachos are served at Vantastic’s van, it’s all about vegan pizza at Alpha or perch on a cushioned crate and enjoys a colourful bowl of goodness from Pachamama.
For a refreshing bevvy, the Somersby orange juice, chilled or slushed, hits the spot in summer. There’s also kombucha, organic coconut water, iced tea, lemonade – sweetened with coconut sugar – and even aloe vera drinking gel and bio-fermented turmeric elixirs for health-conscious Coasties.
For those who are really game, the Sweet Betsy vintage van serves up the latest ‘it’ drink – a reishi mushroom latte.
To end the day on a sweet note, Just Raw Delights sells raw balls and a rainbow of raw cakes from cherry chilli slice to red velvet cheesecake.
Using a traditional recipe from the south of France, Chichi’s churros are vegan with no milk or egg in the dough, and absolutely delicious coated in cinnamon and sugar with some chocolate or caramel dipping sauce. There are even gourmet treats for four-legged friends doing the market rounds.
For mini market-goers, there are drums to dance to the courtesy of Rhythm Hut, slime to play with, colouring-in books, and stalls selling everything from bows to tutus.
The markets occasionally offer free outdoor yoga and meditation sessions on the grass.