5 experiences for kids that parents will love too!

When I was 6 years old, my parents took my siblings and I to New Zealand. It was my first big trip and I recall feeling very grown up because we were required to write a travel journal.

I remember feeling intimidated by the size of the Qantas ‘jumbo’ jet, excited by the novelty of aeroplane food, and worryingly asthmatic due to the constant haze of cigarette smoke (what were they thinking?). These were my first impressions, felt with so much emotion and pure wonderment.

My New Zealand travel journal, bulging with glued-in postcards and the wonky handwriting of an excitable 6-year-old, detailed travel stories from a snow-capped Mount Cook visit to a fjord boat cruise around the breathtaking Milford Sound. But, in the midst of all these bucket-list worthy adventures, there is one diary entry, one magical memory-making-moment in Queenstown that I wrote about in capital letters: WE PLAYED ELEVATOR TIGGY!

Family holiday in New Zealand 1983
Just a little excited about travel (I’m in the middle).

That defining moment speaks volumes about kids and travel. In all the places that we’ve taken our 9-year-old, both in Australia and overseas, he always surprises me with the things he loves the most. So, keeping that in mind, here are 5 experiences for kids that adults will love too.

Wilsons Promontory National Park

Wilsons Promontory National Park. Well worth the online application, every June, for the summer camping ballot. Surfing, hiking, kayaking, bike riding, wombat spotting, free junior ranger activities, sunrise/sunset beach walks, the activities go on and on. Invest in walkie-talkies so that the kids can take off on their adventures and regale you with tales of their triumphs. Be prepared for constant updates (over and out!) and don’t forget to pack extra batteries. One non-negotiable activity every year is watching a film at the Tidal River Open Air Cinema. Snuggle down in comfy bean bags, don the blankets and have a magical cinematic experience under the Milky Way.

Sailing with kids on Tidal River with Whale Rock in view
Sailing by Whale Rock at Tidal River, Wilsons Prom

Follow the sun on a family road trip

Escape winter and keep thesun company on a family road trip. We’ll never regret doing this last year. Our experience sailing in the Whitsundays was a favourite for all of us. The kids took on the important task of protecting the catamaran from pirates with gusto.

Catamaran capers with the kids
No pirates here

Vivid Sydney

Experience Vivid Sydney, especially the Vivid Taronga Zoo event. Larger than life animal installations are on display in a riot of colours. Take a one-way ride on the cable car and watch the show from above. That was our favourite part, watching Sydney sparkle across the harbour while listening to a cacophony of animal sounds fill the night.

Vivid-at-Taronga-Zoo
Sydney sparkling across the harbour

It’s play time!

A family that plays together stays together. Theme parks such as Movie World and Wet n’ Wild are great fun for everyone. We stayed at the BIG4 Gold Coast Holiday Park which was located close enough to ride our bikes to these amusement meccas. If you want to go further north, I highly recommend the BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort. This place is kid-heaven and boasts an incredible waterpark. Plus, don’t forget about that oh so pleasing tropical Queensland climate.

DSC02430
Barefoot beach adventures are the best!

The Great Barrier Reef

Take a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. My son still raves about his snorkelling experience with Cruise Whitsundays. During the boat ride, out to the reef pontoon, we watched whales breaching and dolphins diving through the wake. A rainbow of colours were on display as we snorkelled with an abundance of marine life. For those who don’t want to get wet, there is an underwater viewing chamber and semi-submersible ride where you learn all about the largest coral reef system in the world.

Snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef
We loved our Great Barrier Reef snorkelling experience

Note: This article was commissioned by BIG4 Holiday Parks August 2018.

 

Byron and beyond

Before we hit Byron Bay, for a much anticipated holiday with my parents to celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary, we spent 3 nights on the Gold Coast. This was a strategic decision on our part when ‘selling’ the idea of travelling for 2 months to our son.

Child  in a blue kombi

Yes, you guessed it. Theme parks! You see, the Gold Coast doesn’t just glitter for the glamorous, it also boasts a boisterous array of kid-heaven-stuff.

But before that fun stuff happened, the repetitious but rather necessary assembling of our home on the road had to take place. The drudgery of this procedure was lightened considerably by the fact that we were staying in the beautiful surrounds of the Big 4 Gold Coast Holiday Park.

Camping with a mob of kangaroos

Heated resort-style swimming pool with licensed cafe, tick. Huge camp kitchen with all the mod cons AND an aquarium, tick. Having so much fun that you have no time to take photos, tick!

So our 3 nights were a lot of fun. We spent a day at Movie World and another at Wet n Wild. It wasn’t a peak period but it was still surprisingly busy. An afternoon riding our bikes around and then lazing by the pool was very welcome after the colourful chaos of the theme parks.

During the ‘pack up, take down, move on’ scenario of our final morning, we had a spring in our step. We were heading to Byron to stay at the most delicious holiday home hidden under a canopy of vibrant, tropical foliage, surrounded by a bedazzling, heated swimming pool.

Fireside at Byron Bay Retreat

I celebrated New Year’s 1999-2000 in Byron. It was a very different town back then. It’s still beautiful, bold and full of energy but now there is so much traffic! We had camped in a friend’s backyard right in town. That little beach shack is long gone, replaced with boutique accommodation for its perpetual influx of visitors.

Whale watching at Cape Byron Lighthouse

This time around, my family and I enjoyed Wategos Beach, did the Cape Byron lighthouse walk, hit the town one night (thanks for babysitting mum and dad), caught up with old friends, swam everyday, played some serious table tennis and chilled out in front of the open fire at night.

Cape Byron Lighthouse, New South Wales

I’ve never known a town to truly embrace its motto as much as Byron Bay does. So next time you visit remember to Cheer Up, Slow Down, Chill Out

Till next time Byron!

 

 

Queensland’s Capricorn Coast

After our adventurous sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands, it was time to turn south. Homeward bound – well, with a few planned stops along the way of course.

To break up an arduous drive to Yeppoon, we plonked ourselves at the surprisingly fabulous Potter’s Oceanside Motel. This place, and its manager/owner, is seriously cool. He was very accommodating, giving us extra room to park our camper trailer and even driving Cam to the supermarket to get supplies. Sometimes it’s just the little things, a laundry to wash your clothes, airconditioning, a balcony to watch the sun setting over Mackay, and a story-telling ex-publican playing ‘host with the most’.

The rugged Australian outback

Kinka Beach, slightly south of Yeppoon was our next destination. We camped right near the Causeway and spent 3 days exploring Yeppoon, Kinka Beach and Emu Park. The weather was so beautiful and the view across the ocean to the Keppel Islands, just stunning. I’ve been to Great Keppel Island twice, so we avoided it this time, but if you ever get the chance to visit you won’t be disappointed. There are so many hiking tracks and you can find yourself on a deserted beach with not a soul in sight.

As the sun sets the moon rises over Great Keppel Island

Yeppoon itself is a gorgeous town to visit and it offers a unique water park right on the foreshore called the Keppel Kracken.

Yepoon foreshore

A notable mention of our time here was the Centenary of ANZAC Memorial Walk in Emu Park. It takes in enviable views of the beautiful Southern Great Barrier Reef and the Keppel Islands. The artwork pictured is strategically designed to blend in with the horizon so that it looks similar to the morning of the Gallipoli landing.

ANZAC memorial at Emu Park

For those of us whose relatives have served, it is a moving tribute and a sobering lesson in world war history.

My suggestions for any time spent here would be:

  • Ride your bikes around the area, especially Kinka Beach, it’s so flat and the scenery and fresh air is awesome.
  • Go to Great Keppel Island for a day trip or even for a night. The ferries leave from Rosslyn Bay daily.
  • Treat yourself to some ‘straight off the boat’ seafood! The seafood co-op in Rosslyn Bay is the best ever!

So, once again it was time to pack up our tiny home on the road – me leaving behind another hose connection on the tap in the caravan park – and set our sights on the glitz and glamour of the Gold Coast.

A beginner’s guide to sailing the Whitsundays…with kids

You’ve all seen the advertisements right? Calm, azure waters, sun drenched sails billowing in the breeze. Ah, the allure of sailing the Whitsundays. Wouldn’t it be relaxing. Stop. Right. There.

Welcome to Whitehaven Beach, where the wind is a fierce 25 knots, the waves are smashing against the catamaran, the kids are taking it in turns to vomit over the side and the toilet macerator has broken down. Yep this stuff can happen. There can be a mixed bag of weather conditions, including strong south easterly winds in winter, so be prepared to be unprepared!

To give some background to this tidal tale, we thought it would be a fabulous idea to hire a catamaran and barefoot sail around the Whitsundays. No biggy! We have a boat – no sails though – and Cam sailed when he was a teenager – does windsurfing count?

Sailing in the Whitsundays on a catamaran

It wasn’t until we were at Abell Point Marina, boarding Ruby Sunday that I realised that I really had no idea what I was doing and neither did our intrepid crew which consisted of 3 adults and 2 kids. Our dear friend Amanda, who was supposed to be sailing with us, was suffering from a serious case of 8 month pregnancy-itis and had to stay in port, for most of the time, at Airlie Beach.

After spending our first night on the boat in the marina, we had half a day of training. There was a lot to learn but, amazingly, Mike (our instructor) was happy to leave Ruby Sunday in our (somewhat sweaty) hands. Cam, Ant and I all looked nervously at each other as we powered out across the Whitsunday Passage.

All crews need a grounding force, a capable commodore that will take the lead, Captain Cam was our saviour. His only worry was berthing the cat at the Hamilton Island marina while dodging multi-million dollar vessels, but of course he sailed through the challenge (pun intended). It was happy days for him there on in.

Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays Queensland

Now, it is true that I’ve been known to add a touch of drama to my tales, but that could be because I’m a worrier. Just like my mum and her mum before her. It goes down the line. I think we could safely say we’ve mastered the craft of anxiety riddled thoughts. So imagine, my precarious predicament during our second night at sea when we were moored in Tongue Bay. I woke up to pelting rain, howling winds and what felt like the spin cycle of a washing machine. Yep, we were spinning. Round she goes.

I had always thought I could live on a boat and master the art of sailing the seas, but a salty dog I am not! That storm, which apparently was considered minor, and that everyone else slept through, nearly broke me but the good news is, I got over it and ended up absolutely loving the adventure.

Nara Inlet

This adventure was like an organisational team building exercise on steroids. There was a lot to do and it took a team to do it. We had morning and afternoon radio calls with Mike to track our position, get weather updates and plan our itinerary. There were navigational charts to decipher, tidal times to monitor, sails to tame and everything else that it takes to sail a catamaran.

Our intrepid crewThe beautiful thing about the adventure is the fact that the kids were so cruisey. Their biggest concern was finding the best coral to snorkel around, so they clearly had an inflated sense of confidence in our abilities. They would laugh and scream while lying down on the trampoline mats while the water splashed onto them, dress up as pirates and defend our boat from invisible foes and stare in wonder at the amazing marine life we were sharing the water with.

No pirates here

Here is my list of ‘must do’ things while sailing the Whitsundays:

  • Go to Nara Inlet and visit the Ngaro Cultural site.
  • Hire a stinger suit for piece of mind AND go snorkelling.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for whales, turtles, fish and bird life.
  • Berth for a night at the Hamilton Island marina. It was around $120 and is a good mid-point break where you can use all of the resort’s facilities, stock up on supplies, have a hot shower and do your laundry. Also, hire a golf buggy and whip around the place like a character out of Fantasy Island.
  • Watch the sunrises and sunsets.
  • When you actually get those sails up for the first time, play Rod Stewart’s ‘Sailing’ on the stereo.

 

The sails are up and we are actually sailing the catamaran

I guess the obvious question is would I do it again? That is a resounding yes! This is bucket list stuff people and is so transformational in terms of personal growth. So if you do get a chance, go for it!

Note: This article was commissioned by BIG4 Holiday Parks and appeared in Kidspot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yamba and Wooloweya

So we came to be at a place that offered an embracing calm. Wooloweya, just a 5 minute drive out of Yamba (Northern NSW), is a watery land full of lush national park forests, glistening inland lakes and pounding ocean surf.

View from the Yamba Hotel

Is it any wonder our friends chose to live here? What a reprieve from the camping life! We were welcomed with open arms and hearts into their home. After the bright lights and big city festivities of Sydney’s Vivid, Wooloweyah’s chilled energy was just beautiful.

Inland lakes at Wooloweyah National Park

It also just so happened that it was Cam’s 40th birthday the following day so celebrations were on the agenda. Think seafood feasts, beach jaunts, laughing children (and adults) and drinks at the Pacific Hotel which takes in beautiful coastal vistas – and a world renown surf break which has seen the likes of many local and international surfing heroes. It is also home to the Yamba Surf Life Saving Club, the second oldest in Australia (founded in 1908).

There is a more sobering story to this place and its people (like many areas in Australia). The Yaegl and Gumbaingirr people who come from this land are said to be some of the last to be ‘discovered’ by the white man. I’m certainly not the authority on all of the details, as I haven’t had a chance to do much research being on the road and all, but I think it’s a story that is worth sharing. If you want to learn more please go to the NSW government website.

Sparkling waters of Wooloweyah's inland lake systems

After we’d experienced just a taste of beautiful Wooloweya, the road was ready to meet us. So we packed up and returned to the highway that goes on and on, and to those dreams of adventure – until the moment we chose to stop again and take it all in – all of it. That’s when we are really travelling.

So, we’re hitting the road

In early June, we are hitting the road. We’re taking our 8 year old son out of school and taking leave from work for 2 whole months! This is something we always said we would do but as the years flew by with a quickening intensity and an impending holiday to the Whitsundays drew closer, we decided to take the leap.

Ocean sunset at Wilsons Prom National Park

I travelled the Australian east coast in my 20s, after my first trip to Europe. I stayed in backpacker digs and used the bus as my main mode of transportation. This time we will have our much loved, old school Jayco pop-top caravan as our home base with family caravan parks on the agenda.

Young boy jumping for joy at Sorrento back beach

So, freedom from the routine of work, school and home life. The travelling life. To quote the venerable master of imaginative adventures – Dr Seuss – Oh the places we’ll go!