It’s Over

20 Dec

We spent the last ten days of our trip lazily heading towards our home in Ulladulla. We stayed at Tuncurry for a few days. Mif caught a nice big Flathead in the Kayak and Rosie caught a big Whiting fishing off the jetty at the van park so we had our last feed of fish for the trip. We spent our days checking out the beaches and developing our bombing technique at the pool. Rosie also did 732 bike laps of the van park with Mif and Darren tagging along.

We then moved on to Jimmy’s Beach campsite at Tea Gardens. This was a beautiful grassy campsite with a new climbing style playground.

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Rosie and Archie spent most of the time tearing down the hill on their bikes. This was occasionally interrupted by new vans rolling in or Rosie falling off.

We had a great time exploring the sand dunes in the Myall Lakes National Park.  There’s nothing more fun than racing down the hills and eating sand at the bottom.

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We then decided to venture away from the coast for a night to visit Mif’s friend Charlie at Dooraloong. Charlie and Mark have a beautiful 40 acre farm that has been set up to agist and train horses for equestrian events. It also has about 20 acres of nature trails out the back. The kids were more interested in the quad bike and the pool though.

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We were well fed and watered when we left here (ah so funny) and ready to spend a few nights at our last van park for the year!

Our last van park was to be the NRMA/Big4 at Umina. Another fantastic van park with a beach straight out the front, jumping pillows, water slides, (Rosie launches herself head first as all the parents look on in horror) games room (with the cricket on tv) spa and actual kid showers!

 
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It also has a great playground just down the road with a flying fox and a spinny thing. We spent the days beachcombing, boogie boarding (Archie is a supercool surf grommet now – he’s even got long hair) rock climbing, swimming, riding and sliding – like we have most of the year.
 
Our last day was spent cruising across to Palm Beach on the ferry, and catching the bus to the Newport Arms for lunch with the Roses and the Martins.

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Our last pack up was completed 7 seconds before it pissed down – a sure sign that our timing was right.

We had a quick stopover at Pa’s house on the way home so we could do all our christmas shopping and were treated to a beautiful roast – a rarity in the van.

We are now home! As Rosie calls it “our for real home”. We can walk out of our shower naked if we want, we can fit more than 4 beers in our fridge, we don’t have to wind the awning in when it’s windy and our house seems absolutely massive. We have been flat out catching up with friends and Christmas is just around the corner.

Thanks for following our journey, we love the comments people have made. This blog will be a fantastic memory for us and we hope it gives other families an insight into travelling around our beautiful country.

A very sad …….Goodbye!

 

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Some of our Favourites

4 Dec

As we are nearing the end of our adventure, everyone asks us about the best places. As so many places have been brilliant, its hard to pick a winner. So the following lists are an attempt to highlight some. To the great people we have met along the way, please feel free to add/comment.

Before we embarked on this road trip, we also got some good advice from fellow travellers. So for those of you who might follow us one day, here are our lists – hope they help you out.

Best Beaches

  • Greens Pool (near Denmark, WA) – if only the water was warmer!
  • All beaches around Esperance, WA
  • Gnaraloo Bay (near Carnarvon, WA)
  • Coral Bay (WA) – even more amazing under the water
  • Cable Beach (Broome, WA) – not the nicest beach but the nicest sunsets
  • Horseshoe Bay (Bowen, QLD) – almost perfect
  • Bunker Bay (Margaret River area, WA)
  • Port Smith – beautiful but for the sandflies
  • Horseshoe Bay (SW Rocks, NSW)

Best Caravan Parks

  • Big 4 coconuts (cairns, QLD)
  • Arno Bay (SA)
  • El Questro (Kimberley, WA)
  • Karinyup (Perth, WA)
  • Big 4 Howard Springs (Darwin, NT)
  • Discovery Clare Valley (SA)
  • Bedrock Village (Mt Surprise, QLD)
  • Duke of Earl Bay (near Esperance, WA)
  • Big 4 (Hastings Point, NSW)
  • Blue Dolphin (Yamba, NSW)

Best Free/cheap camps

  • Gregory River (near Lawn hill NP, QLD)
  • Windjana Gorge NP ( Kimberley, WA)
  • Parrys Beach (near Denmark, WA)
  • Spring Creek? (near Bungles, WA)
  • Waroora Station (near carnarvon, WA)
  • Lincoln NP (Port Lincoln, SA)
  • Sandy Cape (near Jurien Bay, WA)
  • Mission Beach (council van pk, QLD)

Best Playgrounds

  • Donnybrook, WA
  • Carnarvon, WA
  • Waterparks/slides in Darwin, NT
  • Waterslide in Port Lincoln indoor pool, SA
  • Yallingup maze, WA
  • Lake Tinaroo, QLD
  • Southport waterfront, Gold Coast

Most useful items we packed 

  • Annex Floormat (that you can land a helicopter on!)
  • Bikes
  • Coffee machine
  • Foxtel
  • Bucket loo
  • Engel as a freezer

Least useful items we packed

  • Jackets, jeans and ugg boots
  • Kayak
  • Annex wall
  • Chemical loo and shower tent
  • Electric Razor

Things we wont miss!

  • Showering with shoes on
  • Sand in our bed
  • Tiny fridges
  • Frozen beers
  • No bath mats
  • Emptying the night (wee) bucket

A Wet Week With Friends

1 Dec

It was with great excitement that we headed toward the land of the big banana – Coffs Harbour, well Sawtell actually just a little further down the road. We were going to catch up with an old mate Lanky and his surprisingly beautiful family. Surprising because he is a very ugly man. We pulled in to the caravan park to see an insurance assessor valuing the damage to many caravans after a hail storm days earlier. This was the start of a week revolving around water.

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Lanky put on a great feed for us Saturday morning before inviting us to his daughters day care christmas party, held at the water park of the big banana. It was absolutely pelting with rain but we hardly noticed. Archie went on the big slide about 37 times before running out of steam and Rosie went on it with dad, she was terrified but went on it again anyway.

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We went on a day trip up the water fall way while we were in Sawtell and trecked a few k’s down to a waterfall called the Crystal Cascade. Rosie and Archie both did us proud on another walk before we finished the weekend with a home cooked lamb roast and a bath – a real treat for a family in a caravan. Thanks Lanky and Maebh.

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lankys bath

We then headed a little further down the road to Crescent Head to meet up with the Louth’s. The Louth’s are great friends from home and Archie and Rosie had been counting down the days to catch up with Finn and Abby.

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They arrived in time for an afternoon thunderstorm to soak their tents. Luckily the sun came out soon after to dry everything before bed time. The next day we hit the beach for some serious boogie boarding from Archie and Finn at a beautiful beach in the National Park. DSC08770

In the afternoon we hit the inlet which had a nice little surge at times which saw the boys and Rosie graduate to the surf board. We drifted with the tide and snorkeled over the rocks and the fish below. This became an afternoon ritual for a few days.

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We also ventured up to South West Rocks to see the old Gaol at Trial Bay and hang out at Horseshoe bay for a few more waves and a picnic.

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We took a quick detour past the Smoky Cape Lighthouse and Smoky Cape Beach where Darren’s Grandpa used to fish for Whiting.

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Our down time was spent riding bikes and scooters around the van park, checking out the famous right hander off the point, having a few lazy drinks and playing lego and babies.

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The rain returned Friday and we found an indoor play centre in Port Macquarie. But it didn’t let up in the afternoon and the forecast did not look good so the Louth’s opted for a motel room because they did not fancy sleeping in snorkels.

The week ended far too quickly and we appreciate the Louth’s coming so far to hang out with us. A few of the Grey Nomads in the van park commented on how well all the kids got on and how lovely they were to be around. We think so!

The kids coped with the confinement in a small van – not sure about Jon? xx

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Australia’s Best Town?

23 Nov

We headed into our home state with excitement (for daylight savings)and sadness. We have been looking forward to so many places in Northern NSW but we are now very close to home and the end of an amazing year.

Our first stop in NSW was at Hastings Point, just North of Byron Bay. We stayed at the Big 4 because it had an inside play area and there was some bad weather predicted, and it also had it’s own water park and two water slides. Rosie was so excited that there was no man at the top of the slide telling her she was too small to go on it. She said “there’s no man at the top dad!” Rosie and Arch must have gone on these slides about 300 times each. Head first, feet first, backwards and sidewards.

We headed down to Byron Bay for a day trip. Byron was busy, just like everyone said it would be, but it is still a beautiful place. After a few laps of town and an illegal turn in the middle of the main street we found a park in front of a cafe that served Byron Bay coffee, cookies and advertised old fashion thickshakes.

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Cape Byron is the most Easterly point of Australia and the walk from the lighthouse to Watego Beach is beautiful.

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From Hastings Point we headed down to Yamba. On the way we went through Ballina. The Bunnings store in Ballina has adopted the Big Prawn and restored it and it has pride of place out the front. So I guess that makes it a better Bunnings than the one in Ulladulla Finn!

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Yamba is actually voted Australia’s best town! We were both excited about going to Yamba but were worried we would be disappointed. Thankfully it was sensational. Beautiful beaches, great creeks and estuaries, a fantastic van park and two great pubs. 

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The Blue Dolphin Tourist Park had a deal on ocean view ensuite sights so we settled in for a week. We battened down the hatches as there was more bad weather on the way. It rained, hailed and blew hard on and off for a few days but we hardly noticed it, which says a lot for the town. We pumped yabbies right out the front of the van park and watched the trawlers roll in and out while Archie and Rosie caught a few small Bream each from the Jetty.

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We caught the ferry across to Iluka and rode our bikes through the rainforest to Iluka Bluff.

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We drove down to Angourie to check out the Blue Pool and Green Pool created at some disused quarries and watched the school kids jump from the rock walls. We then did some rock climbing with Archie leading the way and coaching Rosie to Level 7 in his own rock climbing ranking system?

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 We had lunch at the Pacific Hotel, which must have one of the best views in Australia. DSC08465

We also had dinner at the Yamba Shores Tavern out on the Clarence River with a different outlook as we watched the storm roll in.

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We finished off the week meeting some new friends from Perth and collecting hundreds of soldier crabs for crab races. We never actually had the races as the kids were having a ball chasing crabs and digging them out of the sand. An easy arvo as we sat near the van drinking beer.

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We are now on our way down to Sawtell and Crescent Head to catch up with some more friends.

 

The Goldy

11 Nov

We have spent the last 9 days living it up on the 27th floor of the Focus Apartments in Surfers Paradise. Focus is on the Esplanade and right across the road from the beach, so we had a magnificent view of the ocean. We could check surf conditions by rolling out of bed every morning and looking out the window. Focus also had a beautiful pool and a nice little spa to bring the body temp back up after hours in the water. We have to thank the Masons for organising this week and putting up with us and a special thanks to Tina’s Uncle David who owns the 3 units we stayed in.

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 As relaxing as this all sounds it was still a pretty hectic few days. We managed to fit in 4 days of theme parks, Melbourne cup festivities and Kris’ birthday.

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Kris is a quiet, sensible and mature father……NOT! He still thinks sluggoes/budgie smugglers are appropriate beachwear and he is quite happy to strut around in them for hours after swimming. A least he wears a subtle colour.

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Kris’ birthday fell on Melbourne Cup Day this year so it was quite a celebration. We did our best to indoctrinate the kids into gambling with a ‘winner takes all’ sweep. The Italian Au Pair took the winnings so the kids hated her for the rest of the week. (Not really – thanks Robby, Rosie misses you)

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We hit Sea World first. The shows were pretty impressive and we had a fairly heated pirate war in Castaway Bay. Mason’s 1 – Stevos 0.  It was actually fantastic fun. Archie and Darren took on the whole crowd and came out absolutely soaked. The kids then played on the massive pirate ship for ages.

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Next up was MovieWorld. Mif took Archie on the Scooby Doo ride first and it was that scary that Darren doubted we would get him on another ride all day. So we headed to the little kids section to get his confidence and trust back. Archie loved the pathetic little Dodgem cars and we got him on the smallish-but fast enough roller coaster.

rose and wonderwoman

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 Last of the parks was Wet and Wild. This has heaps of different water slides, wave pools and a water park. We spent all day here. Archie went on whatever he was allowed, he patiently queued for 45 minutes to ride the Constrictor with dad and went backwards for most of it. He went on the 8 lane racer about 6 times and commandeered a high pressure water cannon for about an hour until forcefully removed by Mif. Rosie also went on one of the huge green water slides after queueing for 40 minutes then almost backing out. She was encouraged (with a gentle hand in the back) by Mif, but loved the ride. A very brave girl. We ended the day with a good family soaking on the log ride.

There are some great rides at these parks but the queues are ridiculous at times. We only went on weekdays but there were kids everywhere. We would hate to see these places on the weekend or worse school holidays! We actually went back to Movieworld twice in the afternoon so the kids could go on a few more rides.

The wild times continued at the Focus Apartments with a Gangnam style dance off (somewhat lamer than last time Miff was there for schoolies week!)

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 Archie and Rosie fell in love with Maisie and have requested their very own toddler.

It was a great week of luxury but it still feels good to be back in the van!

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Brisbane

31 Oct

On our way down to Brisbane we made a slight detour to visit the Big Pineapple. This was once a thriving tourist attraction but is sadly now on its last legs. We had some pineapple ice cream and some milkshakes before moving on.DSC07995

We continued on to Everton Hills in Brisbane to catch up with some family friends. It turns out it had been ten years since we had seen the Mathiesons. It was great to catch up with Nicole and Iain and meet their kids Finley and Freya. The kids seemed to get on well although Rosie did throw a punch at Freya when she wouldn’t let her play with Benny her Koala. We set the van up out on the road and had our first night sleeping on the road. Not sure if it is legal but we did it anyway, we will take any freebie.

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We left the van out the front, packed up the car and headed for Couran Cove on South Stradbroke Island. We had stayed here before for one of Mif’s work conferences and we were excited about returning. It is still fairly beautiful but there are parts that look like pretty run down and tired. We spent most of our days cruising round on our bikes, swimming in the pools, playing Wii, beachcombing and playing at the playground. Another great few days with Joan.
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We then headed back to Brisbane for a couple more nights at the Mathieson’s. We spent a day in at Southbank, hanging out at the Science centre in the museum and at the lagoon before hiding from the rain in Max Brenner.

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We are now in a van park in the Gold Coast. It’s good to be back in the van but not for long as we are meeting up with the Mason’s at Surfer’s on Saturday. Living it up in another Hotel room. We spent today fossicking for Thunder Eggs and visiting the Glow Worm Caves near Mt Tambourine. Archie loved his new weapon – the pick axe and Rosie loved her OH and S issue Gum boots.DSC08194

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Tonight is Halloween, we  sent the kids out to trick or treat . They had a great time, met all our neighbouring vanners and are still on the sugar high.

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A Bit of Luxury

31 Oct

We rolled into Rainbow Beach and managed to squeeze into the van park there. We had heard a lot about the tight spaces and bizarre practice of putting vans into position with a tractor. We did not need the tractor but someone opposite us did. He unhooked waiting for the tractor and then we watched him slide down the hill holding on to the front of his van in a panic. Darren rescued him with some blocks under the wheels. Rainbow beach has a famous sand blow about 1km up the beach so we checked that out first. It was amazing and the wind was perfect for the paragliders who put on a show right in front of us. We had dinner at another amazing surf club with a beautiful view and the park over the road from the van park had some great equipment.

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We went for a drive along the beach to (illegally) collect some different coloured sand and Archie tried to save a Shearwater that was too tired to fly anymore. When it rejected our tasty pilchard we knew it was doomed

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From Rainbow beach we moved on to Noosa. We were ready to be spoiled by Joan in a fancy townhouse in Little Cove. Noosa is absolutely beautiful but we would not recommend driving down Hastings Street with a caravan or driving up the hills of Little Cove with the van either. We did, and had a laugh after some stressful moments.

Our apartment had two showers, 3 bedrooms, two baths, a washing machine, 3 toilets and a great pool, so we were very excited. It was also 150m to Little Cove beach, and very close to the Noosa National Park. We walked to both a few times and had some great days at the beach away from the howling easterly’s that were blowing. Archie’s Boogie Boarding is coming along nicely and Rosie is soldiering on even after a few “swipe-outs”.DSC07860

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We ventured to Australia Zoo from our base in Noosa and had a good day out. The best bit for the kids was the trolley we towed them around in though.
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We loved Eumundi markets and they were really child friendly. The kids could have spent hours in the free craft tent or jumping on the jumping castle. The best bit was catching up with some travelling friends there. We had not seen the Newton’s since they left us in Geraldton but the kids continued their friendships with ease.

Our little girl also turned 3 during our time in Noosa. She ripped into her presents and pigged out on pancakes. Joan gave her a mermaid outfit that she cruised around in all day. We gave her a bike and after a lovely morning at the playground on Noosa river, she is riding very well. She just needs to work on the starts and stops now.

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We had a pool party for her in the afternoon. A princess castle cake, party food, games and friends. Thanks to the Newton’s for making the journey across town to help us celebrate. And the kids always love having their Mardi with them too!

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