Byron Bay to Melbourne – The Disastrous Drive Home

That’s all she wrote, or at least it should have been.

We woke to our last morning of our NSW East Coast trip and I dropped off Amanda and the kids at Ballina airport to make their flight home. I on the other hand had the long drive back to Melbourne with the Millennium Flamingo Camper in tow.

The plan was simple, drive to Nelson Bay / Newcastle area and free camp a night before heading back to Melbourne via a stop off in Benalla. I had banked up my favorite podcasts and penciled in a couple of stops along the way to stretch my legs, so it was at 10am I left Ballina for the highway.


One of the many antiques shops in Ulmarra

First stop was in the town of Ulmarra, where passing through on our way up I noticed half the town comprised of antique shops. Now I am not one for shopping, if ever I need anything I make the exception and get in and get out as quick as possible. Not the case with antique shops though. If I could, I would quite happily spend the whole day treasure hunting.  Alas I could not spend too much time, just enough to pick up a stack of classic records. Seriously though it’s worth a stop in Ulmarra if this is your cup of tea!

Onwards until about 6pm, leaving me about 1.5 hours until sunset to find a campsite. I parked just outside a packed caravan park and opened up an app that showed free camping in your area. Bingo! Karuah National Park apparently has a creek side campsite that is accessible in summer for 2WD and caravans. It was February and we’ve had bugger all rain, so into the national park I went.


Narrow, but still smooth and dry!

Onto the first dirt road, which was dry, wide and smooth, so wonderful, things are looking up. Onto the next road, hmmm this is quite narrow, but still dry, so onwards! Splash! Interesting, a puddle, oh well it’s not that big. SplASH! Oh, that one was bigger. At this point, I stopped and considered my options. I was almost at the campsite and I could not easily turn around on the narrow road so I decided to go on, but only to turn right back around and get out of there in case it rained overnight making things worse. That was until SPLASH!!

This puddle took up all the road and I tried to skirt the perimeter going half into the bush, but my back wheels with the weight of the camper slipped and settled into the middle of the quagmire. I was stuck and I had about 30 minutes of daylight left. I was furious, with myself, but overcome my embarrassment and quickly rang NRMA to organise someone to come and get me. But, I was in a national park and they don’t cover national parks.



So there I was stuck in the bush in the dark. Amanda, now at home in Melbourne, took up the task of finding a tow company that could come out and rescue me from the muck. In the meantime, I took it upon myself to try and dig my way out and at least get the car unstuck.

By the time Amanda called and said she thought she had found someone, over three hours had passed. I had been digging the whole time with the tiniest of garden spades (at best it was a glorified spoon), and was now covered head to toe in sticky clay mud. Oh and did I mention I had no shoes on…these were all in the camper and my thongs lasted 3 seconds in the sticky clay. However, I did manage to clear all the mud from direct contact to the car’s undercarriage and the same for the camper.


Hmm, nope! The situation looks just as bad from this side. 

Thankfully, Amanda did have success and an outback rescue guy was on his way. It took him an hour to arrive, so I spent my time coming down from a massive adrenaline rush, which culminated into an almost panic attack as my predicament finally dawned on me. Luckily, this passed quickly, so by the time I saw headlights coming closer I was ready for action again.

I knew I was out the moment I saw the rescue beast. A Landcruiser kitted out with every off-road accessory you could dream of, it was like something out of Mad Max. After chatting with the Peter (my hero) and sharing a chuckle we got to it, first pulling my car out of the muck, leaving only the camper to go. Where my car was stuck, his had no such issues. He backed into the mud, hitched up the camper and simply reversed it out, leaving me with some serious car envy.


Oh so close to the campground!

We managed to reverse the caravan into an opening in the trees about 100 metres back from where I was stuck and he towed it the rest of the way back to the main road. I had a ball driving behind him, slipping and sliding through the puddles that had earlier gave me pause. So he went on his way and the Millennium Flamingo and I were back together again on solid ground. It was now past midnight.

Too jacked up on adrenaline still, I had no need for sleep so I hit the highway again, stopping only at the first Maccas to wash up as best I could in the disabled toilets. After filling the sink with mud I almost walked out until I noticed the remnants of mud that remained looked ominously like something that was not mud, remember I am in a toilet. I quickly washed out the sink and hit the road again. The plan now was to get to Sydney and have a proper shower at the first site we camped at in Lane Cove, I only hoped that the code for the shower block had not been changed.


Nothing to see here folks, just a bearded man covered in mud, carrying clothes to a disabled toilet very late on a Saturday night.

Again, my plan was thwarted, as a dozen backpackers had the same idea as I and had taken up all the possible parks near the outside of the caravan park. Resigned to my fate I could only chuckle as I wound my way out of Sydney and back onto the freeway heading South. I traveled on until I needed fuel, which I pushed until only fumes were left in the tank. Turns out there are no road stops for about 100kms after Sydney. Luckily, one popped up at the opportune moment at Pheasant Nest and to my now bedazzle and delirious eyes I immediately saw out the back of the road stop a wide area for free camping. I immediately pulled in and setup before hitting the hay, still covered in mud. It was 4:30am.

6:30am the trucks started rolling in, but the two hours’ sleep felt like much longer, such was its depths. Thankfully, the rest of the trip was uneventful, except for my stop at Benalla, where I stopped at the in-laws for a long hot shower. I was finally home to Melbourne where the embarrassment of the ordeal had abated and already I was seeing the lighter side of this memorable return trip home.


Be sure to head back and check any of our more recent adventures, but most importantly those associated with this trip starting with Our Maiden Camper Road Trip, followed by Nelson Bay, Port MacquarieCoffs Harbour and Byron Bay.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.




Byron Bay – Our Final Stop

I’m such a fool. I am writing this after the fact, as I’ve just realised I never completed the write up of our NSW East Coast trip from February 2018. This was the penultimate destination of our 2 week long road trip, so be sure to head to the links below to check out the other places we stayed along the way. Or for those just looking to read about Byron Bay then thanks in advance for stopping by and reading up on our few days staying in this brilliant part of the world.

We arrived quite late in the day to the quaint little caravan park that is Byron Bay Holiday Park. We set up quickly then we went for a stroll spying the chook pen and swimming pool before heading into town for fish’n’chips on the main beach foreshore. The kids were the entertainment of everyone there as they chased the seagulls around, so they didn’t steal anyone’s chips. With the sun setting over the mountains across the beach to the west our first impression of Byron was, as expected, quite spectacular. I could not help but notice the multitudes of young backpackers kicking around though, I sound like such an old man saying that, but they were everywhere. This however, only added to the great vibe that is Byron Bay.


No seagulls were harmed in the eating of the fish and chips

The next morning was the Byron Bay Market and I am never one to miss a market! Of course there was a multitude of fresh food of all kinds and all things organic, as is the Byron Bay way. By happenstance this was a bigger turnout than usual as it was celebrating a milestone birthday (I can’t remember how old), but this meant more stalls than normal and a visit from my the kids favorite ABC TV character Dirt Girl. As someone who loves the outdoors and gardening I admit I was a complete fanboy whilst the kids couldn’t have cared less and just wanted to get out of the heat. We did not buy anything from the market, instead we just enjoyed the festivities with jugglers on stilts, folk musicians, watching the the hundreds of bats flying overhead and hanging with our mates from Melbourne who were also in Byron for the day.

dirt girl

I’m not gushing, you are! Shuddup!

It was super hot and thankfully we were able to leave our car on the oval where the market was, so we went straight to the main beach in town and for a swim. Amanda and I were not dressed for the water, so after a quick splash the kids spent their energy on the playground just off the main beach. Fletch was determined to master his surfing skills as Immy went after those pesky gulls trying to save everyone’s lunch. Speaking of lunch, we hit up Miss Margarita in town for some quality Mexican, only after buying ourselves matching straw hats to keep the sun out…such tourists!

hats margar

Nothing like matching hats and a family selfie to say ‘we’re not from around here!’

That afternoon we trekked from the caravan park across Tallow Creek to Tallow beach for a proper swim. Only this time none of us got into the water, rather we turned back dodging bluebottle jellys that had been washed up on the beach.

What was going to be an uneventful BBQ dinner at the caravan park turned out to be quite interesting with an unexpected visitor. A friendly kookaburra perched itself on a post near the BBQ, obviously looking for a meal to steal, so I went and grabbed the kids to come and see before it nabbed a sausage and buggered off. Still perched on his post he sat calmly as we got close and even let Immy and I pat him like a legend!


Oh Ho how we all laughed!?

Later that night Amanda and I were lucky to survive the onslaught of mozzies that came out of know-where to ravage any exposed skin! Not to mention the orb spider as big as my hand with its web spanning the road just in front of our camper!

Our final day of the trip we decided the get the touristing done early before it go to hot and so we could relax and enjoy the final afternoon. However, the evening before we got talking to one of the caretakers and he told the kids to find him in the morning, so they could help look for eggs and so before we could go anywhere it was off to the chooks. Alas, no eggs.


Some chooks and my Little Chicken

Byron Bay Lighthouse was the main adventure for the day making our way to the most easterly point of mainland Australia. After ticking that box, we trudged down the many many many stairs of the Lighthouse Trail. The views were amazing looking back into the town and out to the various inlets and rocky outcrops and the kids did great walking down all the many, many stairs, allowing us to enjoy it even seeing a water dragon just off the path. However, I could not help but think what goes down must come back up. As I may have mentioned there were many stairs and of course, upon the return trip the kid’s legs stopped working. Upon reflection, I’d say fair call, they had walked a lot, but at the time our legs and backs complained all the way back as we juggled the kids.

coast byron

A view like this makes carrying kids up stairs worth it!

Nothing a swim at the main beach couldn’t fix, so that’s where we headed. Only to find Amanda did not think to wear or pack bathers [facepalm]. So, whilst she walked to the shops to buy some, the kids and I enjoyed the warm, clear water and building sandcastles. By the time Amanda returned bikini clad I was buried up to my chin in mud and was glad for the reprieve, so I could swim out to the deeper cooler waters to clean off. As I made my way out I noticed all the fish swimming around the shallows, some bigger than a foot in length.

After the beach the kids had not swam enough, so we spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool chatting with some locals and letting the kids play with some newfound friends.


Even better buddies by the end of our trip.

We spent a quiet evening together enjoying each other’s company and reminiscing on our first big adventure away in the Millennium Flamingo. It was an amazing trip and I can honestly say it brought us closer together as a family. I seriously questioned what we were thinking travelling like this with a 2 and 4 year old in tow, but it brought out the best in them and by association us as parents. We got so many compliments from the grey nomads we camped with saying how great it is to see a young family out seeing Australia in that way.

The adventure was due to stop there, but stay tuned for the next installment as I recount the disastrous drive home!

Also be sure to head back and check any of our more recent adventures, but most importantly those associated with this trip starting with Our Maiden Camper Road Trip, followed by Nelson Bay, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

Lakes Entrance & Surrounds

Ahead of our trip to Lakes Entrance we referred to a lot of forums about travelling the Great Alpine Road over Mt Hotham with the Millennium Flamingo (Jayco Flamingo). Most of the posts were absolutely against taking a caravan or even camper trailer, but we decided to give it a go anyway. Turns out is was easy for our Nissan Pathfinder to pull the Millennium Flamingo over the ranges and we got to experience one of the most spectacular drives I have ever undertaken! The road between Harrietville and Mt Hotham was steep and winding in parts, but nothing extreme. Slowing down for the many corners allows you to take in the amazing views all around as you head up the mountain.


Danny’s Lookout Mt Hotham

After leaving Mt Hotham, we thought we may have passed the best of the scenery, but oh, how we were wrong. The rest of the drive is surprisingly flat and once reaching the point where the road follows the Tambo River the scenery goes to the next level. I had never heard of this drive before and it should be up there with the Great Ocean Road as a must for travelers. We have already decided to make a week long trip of the Great Alpine Road, but this is about Lakes Entrance so moving on.

We arrived at the Big4 Waters Edge and were presented with the smallest caravan site we have come across yet. Thankfully, there was an absolute legend of a bloke camping a couple of sites up who expertly navigated me into the site. Once I had finally set up the camper and was ready to settle down for my first beer, Amanda arrived back from getting dinner and said we were moving tomorrow! She had taken it upon herself to negotiate a new site with management after seeing our tiny site and that it was squashed up against the most foul mouthed family next door. Now I know not to challenge Amanda when she gets her back up and thankfully management was savvy enough not to either and we moved to a bigger site in a better neighbourhood the next morning.

From the gloomy shoebox on the left to sunny wide open site on the right

Therefore, day one was about exploring Lakes Entrance and with the BIG4 located in town, we had the freedom to do this on foot. Before moving sites, we headed across the foot bridge to the main beach, which was great except for the water. On the plus side, the beach was broad and covered in shells and sea treasures, enough to satisfy any nature collector (ie. Fletch and Immy), but the waves were breaking right at the shoreline, so no chance of any wading or splashing in the water for the kids. After the beach, we walked up and down town, with Amanda finding bargains in the Op Shop (as she always does) and me finding a great milkshake shack made from delicious Gippsland Jersey milk!


Quality Gippsland Jersey Shakes

It was the caravan park though that the kids were more excited about, so they could find their new buddies and luckily across from our new site was a couple of young lads of similar age to befriend. Fletch and Immy along with their new mates were inseparable and thankfully their parents were great to get along with too!

Day two we went to explore Metung, but first was a relaxing morning as the kids and their mates run a muck riding bikes and scooters around the park. Once getting to Metung we found a great playground in the middle of town with a water play area. We had a picnic lunch whilst the kids played in the water and then in the nature inspired play ground. The town itself had little to offer in the way of shops and cafes, but the walks on either side along the waterfronts were worth going there. On one side, we walked along the rocky beach looking for natures treasures and on the other we walked along the wharf’s boardwalk admiring the boats and swarms of jellyfish in the water.


Metung Monkeys and Wharf Piggybacks

After a quick drink at the Metung Hotel, we ventured back to the caravan park to once again relax and let the kids play with their new friends. By this stage, we had also befriended the campers on the other side of us and I immediately thanked Amanda for being her sensible self and getting management to move us to our much friendlier area.

The next day was all about the caves, Buchan Caves to be exact. Amanda and I were excited to see them and only hoped the kids didn’t need a toilet break half way through. We needn’t have worried as the kids were as mesmerised as we were, to the point where even Immy at 3 years old walked the whole of the Royal Caves and 90% of the Fairy Caves all the while agog at the amazing ancient formations. It was great to see their minds running in overdrive as their eyes were wide with amazement.  I am struggling to find the words to describe the two caves we toured, so instead I will leave it to the following select photos to show.


Fun Fact: The Stalactites grow 1cm every 100 years


Royal Cave’s dragon head formation

One thing I can articulate is that the tour guides were fantastic, especially making sure the kids were able to see and experience the caves to their full potential, which makes it even better for mum and dad! The Fairy Cave in particular had the kids spell bound thanks to the guide spinning yarns about fairies, even pointing out Tinkerbell who often helps him find his way out of the caves. I had both kids next to me staring in amazement and whispering with joy at seeing a real Fairy standing amongst the magic sparkling fairy dust rock formations. This all to the amusement to the rest of the tour, who melted at how cute our kids were being!


Lore has it Tinkerbell cast a spell so no clear photo can be taken!

The drive to Buchan was about 40 minutes from Lakes Entrance so we stopped at the local pub, recently rebuilt and reopened after a fire. The place is beautiful and the food delicious, a great spot to eat if you’re in the area, but there is little else in town to occupy the tourist, so it was back to the caravan park for some socialising.

Our last few days where spent relaxing around Lakes Entrance. Our time was split between a few games of mini golf (there is three to choose from in town), an expensive paddle boat ride on the lake, more milkshakes and of course hanging about the caravan park chatting with our neighbours and letting the kids loose on their bikes. We did venture out once more to Lake Tyers Beach on our last and only true beach worthy day.


Lakes Entrance Paddle Boats $25 per boat, but lots of fun.

On that day, we parked at the Waterwheel Beach Tavern and it was a five minute walk to the beach through the low tide lake and the sprawling sand dunes. The water again was a bit rough for a proper splash in the sea, but calm enough for the kids to get wet and enjoy it to about knee deep. The beach itself was covered in shells and Immy was extra keen to find shells to make necklaces. The previous day our neighbour’s daughters had started a ‘shell jewellery gang’ and gave a necklace to Immy, so now she wanted to join the gang! We had dinner that evening at the Tavern, the best meal of our trip, looking over the lake and the sand dunes and listening to the waves.


Lake Tyers Beach was stunning!

Lakes Entrance could do with a couple of nice bars and/or restaurants as we had to go out of town for a decent meal (Buchan and Lake Tyers). Otherwise we found the place a great spot to take the kids and were relieved in the end that we moved sites as we come away with friends as well as wonderful experiences.

P.S. Lakes Entrance and the surrounding areas had the cleanest beaches I have seen for a while. I did not have to pick up one bit of rubbish for the whole trip!!


The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

Park Play, a Pub and Plodding through the Past

A very lazy day planned for today started with Immy climbing out of bed, walking straight out the door insisting that she has to go and visit her new friend that she and Fletch played with yesterday. Thankfully, we convinced her and Fletch to wait until they had eaten and got dressed before heading to the other side of the caravan park to find their little mate. Little did we know at that same early time that this mate (also named Fletcher) woke and said to his mum “ok I need to go find my new friends Fletcher and Immy now.”

The rest of the morning was spent hanging around and enjoying the caravan park. The kids were off with the other Fletcher and his siblings, whilst Amanda and I kicked back and relaxed. There was a bit of rain overnight, so I was not surprised to see them come back with clothes soaked through from splashing in muddy puddles. They demanded we dry them up quickly as they had to get to the indoor play area to meet their friends, and it is here I met their parents and discovered we could have let them all meet at 6:30 this morning and have a sleep in ourselves.


Already a better putter than me!

We played a spot of mini golf next door to the Big4, which usually costs to play, but the owner let the kids have a casual hit thinking they would get over it quickly. This was the case with Immy, but Fletch was determined to get a hole in one on as many of the holes as he could. After the golf was the jumping pillow again. Immy has impressed us with how brave she has become with being in and around the bigger kids. Previously Amanda or I would have to hold her, as she demanded that we bounced for her, but now she flies up, being bumped and bounced by the bigger kids without even flinching. Just as it got to full capacity with kids, the heavens opened and it began to pour with rain. All the kids scattered off, back to their respective campsites, with the exception of our two who seemed reinvigorated by the rain and having the pillow to themselves. Eventually the rain got so heavy they could not get back up to the top with the water flowing down making it to slippery to do so.


More like a Slip’n’Slide than a Jumping Pillow!

Thankfully, the weather turned for the best and we went into town and enjoyed a warm and pleasant afternoon. We walked around town admiring the historic buildings all with a plaque stating the year of construction and what it was originally built for. We went back to the record and bookshop and I decided not to buy the record player as I think it had since been glorified in my dreams. From there we walked along the boardwalk at the wharf looking at the sailboats and fishing trawlers. It is quite a nice spot and would benefit from more cafes or bars along the river for people to stop and enjoy the scenery.


Port Fairy Wharf Boardwalk

The next stop was one I had locked in before we even left home and that was to have a beer at the oldest licensed pub in Victoria, The Calendonian Hotel. It has been kept mostly in its original state from the outside, still a simple single story building with white wash walls with a couple of tables outside, so it was not hard to imagine folks rocking up on horseback for a couple of drinks back in the mid 1800s. It helped that Immy was fast asleep and that Fletch had a new puzzle to complete, so that Amanda and I could relax and ponder not if, but how many times her Poppa Tommy would have drank there as a young bloke growing up in Port Fairy.


A brew or two at ye olde Caledonian

After that, the adventuring was done, but the holidaying continued. As we drove back into the caravan park we passed the kid’s new friends as they left making me feel a little guilty about having that second beer, so that they were not able to say a proper goodbye. Fletch being a trooper says “don’t worry I’ll just go off again and find a new friend.” Sure enough for the rest of the afternoon we found him talking with other kids and playing with them. In the evening, we kicked the footy around and had another play on the jumping pillow before bed.

So not a lot of adventuring today, but a great day none-the-less as we relaxed and enjoyed seeing the kids mingle and play with other caravan park kids. Obviously, this too enabled Amanda and I to chill out and even have a cuppa and read our books in peace. The Big4 here in Port Fairy is a ripper for kids, small enough to let them loose with confidence and plenty of things to do for all ages. As someone who loves history Port Fairy is a mecca of historic buildings and rich in aboriginal history throughout the surrounding area. However, the history that struck us most was finding Amanda’s Poppa’s home, where he was born and grew up, still standing and one of the heritage listing buildings.

This was the final post covering our adventure to Port Fairy, so be sure to head back and check out Part One: Foul Weather, Family Heritage and Footing it Through a Volcano and Part Two: Lady Island Lookout, Lighthouse and a Lava Flow Beach to get the full story of our getaway.


The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

Lady Island Lookout, Lighthouse and a Lava Flow Beach

A traditional early start of 6am, thanks to Fletch, so he and I went for a quick walk around the park only to return and find that the Immy had woken early too. After breakfast, the kids and I went for a proper feather finder walk. It was quality time with the kids chatting away about everything and nothing, but alas, no feathers had presented themselves until I saw one just out of reach on the other side of a fence in a paddock. As I gripped the fence to slink through the wires I was given the shock of my life, literally, as it was an unsigned electrified fence. We did end up finding a few feathers as well as some tiny blue eggshells to add to their nature collection.

The Crags gorgeous rocky coastline

The morning was a rainy cold 10°C as we made our way west of Port Fairy to visit The Crags. The Crags themselves were pretty neat with the Lady Julia Percy Island, flat as a pancake, off in the distance. The weather didn’t perturb us as it produced high waves and sea spray that swirled into the air improving the view of the jagged rocky coastline. We didn’t linger long and decided to head back into Port Fairy to check out the lighthouse.

cofPort Fairy Lighthouse on Griffith Island

The lighthouse is located on Griffith Island and if you take the track to the left, as we did, you will find an easy walk half way around to where it is situated at the southern point. Fletch was full of energy and insisted on pushing Immy in the stroller for most of the walk, at least when he wasn’t distracted by the striped fish swimming just off the track. Immy on the other hand seemed exhausted and quite unimpressed by the whole endeavor. I have an affinity for lighthouses and love seeing new ones, so I was just as excited as the kids to see it when it came into view. We lined up to go into and up to the top of the lighthouse, only to find out there is a charge of $5 each per adult and $1 each per child to enter. We didn’t have our wallets with us as it is not signed anywhere about the charges, so we had to turn tail and head back.

Griffith Island

It was nice to stop at the lighthouse though and watch as the waves, some quite high, smashing into the rocks and imagining a tall ship making its way east through the carnage in ye olde times. Luckily, we got talking to one of the locals and she advised against continuing around the island, as the second half of the trail was not suitable for prams, or tiring kids. I’m glad we came back the same way though as we saw a wallaby just off the track snacking.

IMG_2790_editedKilarney Beach exploring the volcanic rocks

After lunch in town, we came back to the camper for a play at the indoor playroom, whilst I set up the bed end flys ahead of the forecasted storms for the next day. Ironically, the sun was shining down at this stage, so to make the most of it we headed to the beach. East Beach was rough with the tide almost completely in, so we went for a short drive to Kilarney and visited the beach there instead. This was must nicer for the kids with a long rocky outcrop about 20 metres out to sea parallel to the shore breaking the waves. The rocky outcrops also littered the beach, to which Fletch spent most of his time climbing and jumping around, whilst Immy scoured the beach for treasure for her nature collection.

That evening, we went for a swim in the indoor pool at the Big 4 Port Fairy Holiday Park where we were staying. Afterwards the kids went off cutting laps around the park with Immy in her push trike and Fletch pushing her. This was the highlight of the day, watching them from our camper chatting and running around with the other kids and even bringing one back to introduce to us as their new friend. Coincidentally his name was Fletcher too and together kept doing laps of the park chatting away, giving Amanda and I a much needed spell!

cofCaravan Park Pals

I find camping is the best way to put yourself and your kids out of your comfort zone. Immy is a confident, tough and brave little lady and will have a crack at anything, but Fletch on the other hand is a conundrum. He tends to over think things far too much, which at times holds him back. So when we asked him to go for a bike ride he was so anxious of falling off he refused to even get on, although he has ridden it many times before. Yet he is happy to jump into a pool without floaties and swim and charge into the water at the beach as it crashes into him, without a second thought. It is encouraging though to see his courage grow, which is why I love caravan parks as it gives him and Immy more opportunities to grow as they mingle with other kids.

This is the Part Two covering our adventure to Port Fairy, so be sure to head back and check out Part One – Foul Weather, Family Heritage and Footing it through a Volcano to see how we started our adventure.

Continue reading Lady Island Lookout, Lighthouse and a Lava Flow Beach

Foul Weather, Family Heritage and Footing it through a Volcano

Our first trip for months in the camper and we were champing at the bit to get on the road, even with the weather forecast being raining and windy. Port Fairy was the destination a place neither of us has been before, yet very high on our list of places to stay. The trip was broken up into a few segments with our first stop at Hoppers Crossing to meet our friend’s new baby, to Immy’s maternal delight. We stopped only at Mortlake thereafter before arriving at Big4 Port Fairy Holiday Park late in the afternoon.

It had been blowing a gale the whole four hours from Lilydale and Port Fairy was consistent to say the least. Gusts of up to 50km/h made for a fun time setting up the camper and the annex. With difficulty and I’m sure great hilarity to those nearby watching, we finally beat the weather gods and thankfully had the annex setup. With the two young kids of 5 and 3 the annex gives us a nice space in the evenings to relax, so it was important for us to get it setup. The evening we spent in the caravan park with the kids playing on the jumping pillow, catching up with other travelers and settling in for an early night.

img_2725.jpgAir in a big bag = The best invention

The early night intentions of then waking fully rested for the first day of adventuring did not eventuate. The wind through the night was even worse and although Amanda and I obviously slept we both felt we were up all night with the banging and flapping of canvas and random paraphernalia being flown around outside. Thankfully for us though we had the annex setup so all of our belongings were sheltered and even better the kids were none the wiser to the weather’s foul temper during the night!

With the exception of Fletch spilling a whole bowl of cereal onto the camper couch and floor, the morning was uneventful and relaxing. We eventually made our way into town to the local market, which didn’t have any hot sauce, so we left quickly and walked around the centre of town to check out the place. Our eyes are always drawn to opp shops (thrift shops) and antique stores, but what I did not expect to find was a record/book store. I spent far too long in there sifting through boxes of records and chatting with the owner about all manner of music and literature and was amazed that I did not spend any money…at first. There was a record player that called to me as well as a series of Tin Tin comics that I serious need to have!


Amanda at her Poppa’s childhood heritage listed home

About town there is a number of historic buildings, which I absolutely love, but none better than the home Amanda’s Poppa Tommy grew up in. Number 1 William Street is now a lovely heritage listed Air BnB, but to her it was the house he was born and grew up in. A number of times as we walked past a street of old bluestone houses we commented how little Tommy would have been running past these houses as a young fella and now our kids are doing the same.


Blustery South Beach

With the wind still blowing, albeit a little less than the day before, we settled for a quick drive around the waterfront and coast stopping for a couple of pics looking out to the raging south sea. Lunch, then a play back at the caravan park and I left to visit a garage sale across the road. I managed to pick out some kids books and a wicker basket I knew Amanda would love because I am a great husband and had nothing to do with a record player and comics flooding my every waking thought.


Tower Hill Crater Lake

In the afternoon we decided to visit the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve as the kids have been obsessed lately with volcanoes in there imaginative play. In their mind, I know they would have imagined a conical mountain with a lava flow spilling over the top, so it was hard to convince them that the lakes and surrounding hill rim was the volcano. Even I was amazed at how big the crater was as we drove our way around it to the visitor centre.

Plenty of animals to see on the many walks at Tower Hill

It is extremely picturesque, which is a testament to the work that’s been done there since restoration started in the 1960’s. We went on a couple of the walks, first the Lava Tongue Walk through the wetlands. I was not expecting to see much wildlife as it was overcast and cool, so when we found not one but two copperhead snakes just off the boardwalks we were all pretty excited. As we returned back to the visitor centre we saw the first of many emus, which was exciting enough until we then saw two koalas nestled up in some nearby gumtrees.

cofThe view from the top of Peak Climb Walk

The other walk we did was the Peak Climb Walk up to the top of the centre hill of the crater. Fletch ran ahead with Amanda in toe and they disappeared to have some bonding time together, leaving Immy and I trudging along at 3-year-old pace. This gave me some quality time with my little lady and also slowed me down enabling me to take in the surroundings in a lot more detail. A great example was spotting a kangaroo off in the scrub that I would have otherwise missed. She surprisingly walked the whole way up the steep inclines telling herself how strong and good she was and that Santa would be so happy with her! Naturally, I emphatically agreed, as I did not want to have to carry her up to the top. The view was worth the climb, with the lakes, volcano rim and coastline in full view.

cofBambino’s awesome woodfire pizza.

Back at the caravan park the kids loved playing in the indoor play area for the 5 and unders’ before enjoying some woodfire pizzas by Bambino [Side note: if you see these guys, stop and get the Damo’s Special! You’re welcome].


This is Part One covering our adventure to Port Fairy, so be sure to stay tuned for Parts Two and Three to see what else we got too.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.



Getaway with the Grand Parents – A Round, Reptiles and the Rail

Day six in Port Douglas was Thursday and Dad and I rose early to get in a round of golf at the Mirage Country Club. The normal club rules applied of course with one addition…to forget about your ball if it is in or near the water as the crocodile warning signs are deadly serious. His emphasis on the word deadly was enough to make me buy extra golf balls as I knew I’d be saying goodbye to a few! The course was fantastic and being first to tee off that day gave us the freedom to just cruise around at our own pace and take it all in. The round finished up with me winning, Dad played a shocker and I playing only very bad, but it was nothing that a few late morning beers couldn’t fix back at the clubhouse.

cofGolf – The more shots you play the more value for money the round.

Meanwhile Amanda had taken the kids into town with Mum and did a spot of shopping. Mum treated herself to a massage and we met Amanda and the kids back at our townhouse for lunch. The afternoon was open so we spent the rest of the day at Four Mile Beach in town. This time we explored the rock pools at the near end of the beach finding crabs and fish galore as well as many shells for the collection.

That night Amanda and I had a date night, which is a rare event for us. We started back at the marina at Hemingway’s Brewery (for some more of that porter) before moving to Zinc for dinner. It was delicious and we had great service. I highly recommend dining there.

sdrFeeding the wallabies

On Friday we were a week into our trip and in the morning we visited the Wildlife Habitat. We walked around the different habitats feeding the wallabies and the pesky ducks, found the crocodiles and cassowary before going back for the koala talk and photo. Amanda got to hold the koala (for a price) although for only a brief moment, but she said it was worth it. We also went to the crocodile talk and the kids got to pat both a baby fresh water croc and an amethyst python. It was at this point Fletch decided he wanted to hold a croc for himself.

After lunch we went back for the 1pm photos and he and Immy both got to hold the baby croc. Fletch surprised me that he didn’t get overwhelmed and was great at following the directions of the keeper and photographer. I love snakes and decided I wanted to hold the python and the kids excitedly joined me as Amanda kept her distance. Luckily it was not as busy as it was for Amanda with the koala and the kids and I both got to hold our respective reptiles for a little longer.

Kid loving reptiles Reptile loving kids

At lunch one of the eclectic parrots came up to Dad, climbed his arm and sat on his shoulder. With his sun baked farmer skin he would not look out of place in a pirate movie conversing with his little green mate. Also walking around was a lady with two lorrikeets and they sat on Amanda and then Dad’s arms. Fletch and I unfortunately missed all this from being stuck in the toilets, the less said here the better.

Pirate Grandpa and Croc watch Immy

The kids were wrecked and we tried driving around to get them to sleep after dropping Mum and Dad back at the townhouse. They were heading to the beach and we just wanted the kids to sleep. As irony would have it they always fall asleep when you don’t want them to and they will never sleep when you need them to. So during our drive, whilst looking at local real estate, we found a playground and stopped there to let the kids loose.

The playground had a beach entrance so Amanda went back to get bathers and we ended up spending the rest of the afternoon exploring the far end of Four Mile Beach. This looked more like a beach for the locals rather than us tourists, so much quieter and also more treasures to find. As we walked along the water only ankle deep you could find plenty of fossilised coral as well as hundreds of crabs. We also found a hermit crab in an amazing shell, as well as a starfish. The kids happily splashed and chased some fish too.

IMG_2224_editedImmy loving the water

For dinner we spent our last night at Hemingways, our favourite. Drewboy was playing an acoustic set, a mix of originals with some killer covers, whilst we enjoyed the epic sunset with some drinks and pizzas. After dinner the kids ran around the marina checking out all the boats.

sdrPort Douglas Marina from Hemingways Brewery

Our eighth and last day we got away a little later than we would have liked, I think we were too reluctant to leave as a whole. We had decided to go to Kuranda up the Skyrail and back down on the Heritage train as Mum and Dad had not done this before and last time Fletch really liked it. The views from the Skyrail are great as you sail over the rain forest. On this occasion it was much drier than before, obviously the drought stretches as far as the tropics! As we’d hoped the kids enjoyed it, but Mum could not wait to be rid of the Skyrail (I don’t think she could see the forest from her sudden plummeting demise into the trees).

cofImmy sees a jungle whilst Nonna sees her crash landing site

Because we left so late we didn’t allow enough time to get around and explore Kuranda properly and from memory we had the same problem last time we visited. The town is great with its markets and bazaar, but we only saw these at a glance on this occasion.

The train back down was great for Fletch as he looked out the window at the amazing views and the occasional glimpse of the diesel engine and carriages as we rounded a bend. Immy on the other hand was a bit bored and so were the rest of us I think. I put it down to being the last day of the holiday and being tired and a bit somber about having to leave.

The airport and flight home were done without drama, which is nice to say. We were all in the same row on the plane so Immy slept between Mum and Amanda and Fletch between Dad and I.

It was a great trip and a place I feel constantly drawn to. One local we spoke to, who had moved from Sydney years ago, mentioned that people only visit Port Douglas three times and on the fourth the move there. We have been there twice now and we were already looking at real estate. All I know is that we have to go back there, especially with my parents!


This was the final post covering our adventure to Port Douglas, so be sure to head back and check out Part One (Markets and Mossman) and Part Two (The Reef and a Roadtrip) to get the full story of our holiday.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

Getaway with the Grand Parents – The Reef and a Roadtrip

Day four (Tuesday) of our holiday in Port Douglas and Amanda and I went out scuba diving on the Agincourt Reef with Calypso Reef Cruises, leaving the kids behind with Nonna and Grandpa for the day. Amanda and I have dived before, including once already with Calypso, but this time it was only a few of us intro divers, which made it more personable. In the middle of the safety briefing, also mid-way to the outer reef, we stopped for a bit of whale watching as some humpbacks made their way across the front of the boat. Pretty exciting even if they were a distance away, but it was the first time I’ve seen whales and when they flicked up their tails I was even more pumped for a day of swimming and diving.

sdrCalypso Reef Cruises

The first dive, I have to admit, is always a bit stressful until I’m in the water. It took me a few breaths underwater to cool the nerves before I could do the prerequisite tests. On this dive, I couldn’t take my camera, which was a bummer as we came across a sea turtle which we swam with for a while as it went from coral to coral looking for food. There was also a lot of colour in this section of the reef with as fish as far as the eye could see. I’ve always wanted to swim with sea turtles so it didn’t matter what happened after this dive as this alone made the trip worthwhile.

IMG_2176_editedWally the puppy of the reef

On the second stop we snorkeled and this gave us another highlight to add to the turtle, which was getting to pat and swim with Wally. Wally is a wrasse that lives in that part of the reef and is as big as our 5 year old Fletcher. It surprised us when the photographer signalled for him to come over with a wave of her hand and for him to obey. He was so awesome just going from group to group for a pat. On this stop, whilst the fish and sea life were amazing, it was evident that the bleaching of the coral has seriously affected the reef. Our previous trip to the outer reef was only 4 years ago and there was a significant difference with the level of bleaching and lack of colour. The crew of Calypso reassure me that it is now starting to regenerate again, which is a promising sign.

DCIM100GOPROGreat Barrier Reef

On the third and last stop we scuba dived again and unfortunately it was a bit lack lustre. Whilst you don’t get a lot of colour down that far, we had next to none as it was overcast and probably due to the bleaching too. There were very few fish, which was the first time I had been to a section that didn’t have a lot of activity. It was still exhilarating, Amanda and I love diving and we have done multiple diving trips now. Our experience must be starting to show with the feedback we got from the master divers and consequently we were able to stay down for over 30 minutes each time, when most only get about 20 minutes diving time.

DCIM100GOPROCouples who scuba together look silly for scuba selfies together

A couple of beers and some travel stories with some of the other people on the cruise and we were back at Port Douglas in no time. As we approached the marina Mum had messaged saying they will meet us at the marina with the kids and we were able to wave to them from the boat. The kids loved seeing us out on the water on the boat and made their way down the pier to where we were coming to dock. We stayed at the marina to enjoy some drinks at Hemingway’s Brewery and recounted our respective day (side note: one of the best porters I’ve ever had and I’ve had a few).

We left Mum and Dad there to dine out by themselves and get a break from the kids, while we went back to enjoy a quiet night at our townhouse.

sdrMount Alexandra Lookout

Wednesday, day five, had rolled around way too quick, so to make the most of it we rose early. However, in reality this was thanks to Fletch again wanting to go straight to No. 6 townhouse to wake Nonna and Grandpa. He loved the independence and freedom to do so and of course the fact that his grandparents are only a couple of doors down.

We did need to rise early though to hit the road up to Cape Tribulation. We had no real plans other than to stop where we liked and to get to Cape Tribulation for lunch. We drove straight through to the ferry, which in itself was a highlight for the kids. They jumped out of their car seats and climbed around the van to get the best view of the ferry and the river crossing.

Marrdja Boardwalk

On the other side our first stop was at the Mount Alexandra Lookout, which was a little busy so we didn’t stay long. We next stopped at Marrdja Boardwalk, a short walk through the mangroves. The kids loved the chance to stretch their legs and run around the boardwalk above the mangrove roots. We got to watch an army of ‘green bum ants,’ as coined by the kids, and them making a webbed nest out of leaves in the tree.

Noah’s Beach all to ourselves

A mate from work gave me a tip to stop at a beach near Noah’s Camping grounds and we may see a crocodile on the beach sunning itself. So we did this and although there were no crocs there were also no other people. We had the whole beach to ourselves and Fletch ran wild up and down the beach from Amanda to me to Nonna and Grandpa. Immy on the other hand was preoccupied drawing in the sand. Noah’s Beach is very beautiful with one end of the beach cut off by a large cliff and at its base is a little estuary leading to a creek into the forest. The water was very clear, but we still didn’t go into the water, it was just great to admire the scene.

cofExploring Cape Tribulation Beach

The kids were tired after the beach so we went straight on to Cape Tribulation and stopped at PK’s Jungle Bar/Pub for lunch. Once fed, the kids sparked up and we made our way to Cape Tribulation Beach. The tide was still out and there was a couple of sand banks, which of course Fletch wanted to venture out as far as possible. He and I made our way out to the farthest sand bank, whilst Immy chased the fish in the shallows. There were mud skippers amongst the rock pools, which the kids found hilarious. Immy and I later explored the mangroves, weaving and crawling our way through the roots.

cofFletch, Jack and Immy (post ice creams)

On the way home we made just the one stop at the Daintree Ice Cream Company and enjoyed the seasons fresh flavours, wattleseed, soapsop, daveys plum, coconut and passionfruit. We walked around the fruit trees and the kids were fascinated with the Jack fruit tree that was one of the only ones in fruit. Immy had a little sleep on Amanda, but was very happy to wake up for some ice cream!

IMG_2189_editedFish’n Chips on the Beach

Fish and chips on the beach for dinner from Dave’s Takeaway. The shop was great with them taking a photo of all the Daves that come into the shop from around the world displaying the hundreds of them on the wall. The kids spent a lot of time splashing around the warm lapping water as the sun set behind them.

This is part two of three of posts covering our adventure to Port Douglas, so be sure to head back and check out Part One (Markets and Mossman) and stay tuned for Part Three (A Round, Reptiles and the Rails) to get the full story of our holiday.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.