Getaway with the Grand Parents – Markets and Mossman

A while back we came across cheap deals for flights and we decided, off the cuff, to book a trip to Port Douglas and convinced my parents to come along too. I haven’t been on a holiday with my folks since I was a kid, so we had a slight concern about how would we travel together? Luckily my parents are amazing with our kids, so as we’d hoped there was no issue whatsoever and we all had a great time! In fact I’d go as far to say the trip was improved by us all being together. So what did we do and how did it all work?

There is not a lot to cover for the first day (Saturday). We had a late morning flight from Melbourne, so we stayed at home, whilst my parents stayed at a hotel near the airport. Once we had arrived in Cairns Fletcher, now five years old and fully aware of what a holiday is, went crazy and hyperactive with excitement. The first 15 minutes of our drive from Cairns was him yelling on repeat, “WE’RE GOING TO PORT DOUGLAS YAY!” That tune was broken by the sudden sight of the first palm tree of the trip, to which he started screaming, “YAY SUMMER TREES!”

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Kids a bit excited to holiday with Grandpa

The kids were desperate to swim in the pool, so much so that Fletch plunged in with reckless abandon even though the water was freezing cold. Immy a little less reckless would only go waist deep. That evening was just setting up our respective townhouses, we were in No. 1 and mum and dad were a few doors up at No. 6. Pizza at our place from The Pizza Shop, which was a nice break for Dad who had the kids climbing all over him in their manic excitement. Needless to say it was difficult getting the kids to sleep this night.

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Port Douglas Market – Every Sunday

Day two was Sunday, so we walked to the markets to check out the craft and get some fresh food. The day heated up quickly, so morning ice-creams were in order, fresh mango flavoured sorbets, YAY Summer Ice-creams! Every market I visit I sniff out the hot sauce stands and thankfully there was one. If you are a fan of hot sauces get onto Michael at Fenglehorn Sauces these were some of the best I’ve tried. Even had a taste of my first reaper/ghost chilli mix sauce, which he has concocted brilliantly. The delayed burn gave me a real kick, but it was easily rectified with a frozen banana dipped in chocolate!

We stopped at the Central Hotel for a couple of drinks and to discuss our finds from the market and decided the day was too good to waste, so the beach was voted as the best option for the afternoon. Four Mile Beach was busy, but we found some free benches (as in unused they’re $20 a pair), where my parents spent most of their time lounging and enjoying the sun whilst we splashed with the kids. The kids are now getting much braver when it comes to the beach and aren’t flustered by the waves anymore, taking themselves out deeper, which in turn makes it more enjoyable for us not having to deal with anxious kids.

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Couple of lovely mermaids in the shallows
A simple BBQ at No.6 was a perfect finish to the day. A proper chance for the kids to rest after all the excitement of the previous 30 hours, but more importantly a chance for me to try my new hot sauces! Fletch still caught up in the excitement about having the grandparents there decided he was sleeping at Nonna’s this night, which he almost did until the very last minute.

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Mossman Gorge-ous!

Monday, day three, and the kids had now started a morning routine of heading to Nonna and Grandpa’s as early as we’d let them to wake them up. They insisted on going there by themselves pushing for as much independence as possible, of which we were happy to oblige. Off to Mossman Gorge today to walk the bush trail from the main Centre there, it was one of the highlights from our previous trip and we were keen to do it again. Fletch was very excited to lead the way with map in hand and when that boy is on a mission it’s best to get out of the way and let him go. We first stopped at the swimming hole where I had to climb over every rock with Fletch, whilst Immy, seeing water ripped her shoes off and slowly inched her way closer and closer to the water’s edge looking to see if we’d stop her before finally splashing into it with glee. Amanda went with her into the freezing water and Fletch soon joined them once we got back from the middle of the river traversed by rocks.

Our water loving lady and rock climbing lad

The main walking trail beckoned and we marched into the 2 km round trip track. Turns out the walk is likely a lot longer once you peel off to the many side trails, and even if it is only 2 km it feels further with the hills and uneven track. In saying that our kids walked probably 85% of the way, which was amazing! Adding to this Fletch insisted on climbing the many boulders and rocks along the way. With the kids it took us about 2 hours to finish, but we were in no hurry and we let the kids set the pace as they explored the sights, sounds and touch of the rain forest. Along the way we stopped at the large boulder overhang and many of the amazing strangler fig trees. The kids loved the “jungle” and had their imaginations in overdrive. They were in “dinosaur land.”

Our little cave dwellers and an ancient strangler fig

That evening in Port Douglas we stopped for dinner at the Central Hotel and the kids enjoyed running around the stage in front of the movie screen. At one point a little boy took a fancy to Immy and Fletch seeing that she was a little uncomfortable with the attention ran over and put himself between her and the advancing boy. Fletch held out his hand to Immy and she happily took it and he then lead her away back to us. It was so nice to see him looking out for his sister and that he wanted to help, especially as he had noticed before any of us. As a dad I can now rest a little easier knowing I have eyes on the ground for future boy control.

 

This is part one of three of posts covering our adventure to Port Douglas, so be sure to stay tuned for Part Two (The Reef and a Roadtrip) and 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.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

Our First Parents ONLY Weekend

Easter 2013, Amanda is about 30 weeks pregnant and we have a lovely couple of nights away staying in Bendigo, the town where we met and fell in love. Fast forward to last weekend and another night away this time down on the Mornington Peninsula. What’s the significance you ask…it’s been over five years since Amanda and I had a night away together alone since the kids came along.

Our parenting style has always been to not force our kids into anything, just to let them mature through the childhood milestones. Such things like sleeping in their own room, potty training, stopping breastfeeding, etc we left until the kids only needed a slight nudge rather than a push to adapt. In addition, we decided to wait before we went for a night away without the kids. Controversial maybe, I know a lot of parents will be screaming at their screen reading this saying “Your kids shouldn’t rule your life,” “You shouldn’t sacrifice who you are and what you want because of your kids.” With all due respect to those people I disagree, to an extent. We had wanted to be parents for a long time, so when we were a Mum and Dad we were happy to make a lot of sacrifices for the sake of our little ones.

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Ice cream treat thanks to chief babysitters Nonna and Grandpa

Our kids have brought us so much pleasure that the sacrifices became easier and easier and in the end the sacrifices were not nearly as significant as we first thought. Always in the back of our minds though we knew that as the kids got older and more independent we would be able to start doing a lot more for ourselves.

Which brings me back to a kids free night away. We were confident that the kids were ready for us to leave them for a night and we as parents knew that this was the right time for them and us. Only weeks ago we knew that the kids would be too upset if we left them for a night and in turn we would not have fully enjoyed ourselves knowing this would be the case. We had to bide our time through the early years and we were happy to.

Peninsula Hot Springs – Sooooo Good!

We had booked the Peninsula Hot Springs for the Saturday afternoon, so we hit up some lunch first at Red Gum BBQ in Red Hill, such delicious meats! The hot springs were huge with two sections, one that looked like a community pool area and another for us kid-less VIPs! As we had booked the bathe and massage package we had access to the Spa Dreaming Centre where we could choose from a selection of baths with varying temperatures and saunas. Much better than splashing in the pools with the common rabble. We enjoyed a massage after soaking for over an hour and returned after to soak some more, because why not.

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The moment we left realising how quiet a long drive can be!

We booked the night’s accommodation only the day before, so limited choice, but we settled on a place that was close to Rosebud with a good selection of restaurants. We are lucky that my parents have such a great relationship with our kids because they would surely need to be comforted in our absence…which from all accounts was not at all the case and we were not missed in the least. Testament to us waiting for the right time.

Also one important point, we breakfasted in Rosebud at a place called The Pier Cafe, I had the baked eggs; go there; eat them; you’re welcome!

I have to admit that I was a little nervous and sad about leaving the kids. I have been away from them before, but always with Amanda keeping the home base secure. Amanda on the other hand was so excited she barely slept the night before having never been away for a night. We had an absolute ball together, knowing the kids were fine at home with their grandparents. We were so refreshed, thanks to the hot springs, massage and sleep, but the best part was that we laughed a hell of a lot.

After more than 15 years, two kids and many bumps in the road, Amanda, the renowned super mum, will always be that hot chick I met at university that could make me laugh like no other.

Coffs Harbour – Big Tourist Time

As we left Port Macquarie we headed into our first spot of poor weather. We planned to stop in Nambucca Heads for much longer than we did, but the rain restricted us to exploring one of the board walks before heading to a cafe for devonshire tea.

We were praying to the great Mother for a moment of clear weather for when we arrived at Coffs Harbour. I did not want to be setting up in the rain. Turns out Mother Nature was listening as the rain stalled for exactly the amount of time it took to set up the camper. It was also nice to know that the camper could withstand a serious downpour with no leaks.

Boardwalk at Nambucca Heads

That night we dined at a nearby pub, where the kids got to watch TV for the first time since leaving home and were transfixed by the magic box. So much so that parents at another table, with similar aged kids, commented on how well behaved our kids were and asked what our secret was. Simple, no TV and massive amounts of exploring outdoors! Needless to say we were pretty chuffed and managed to enjoy our meal in smug peace.

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My helpers assisting with the setup in the rain…by playing Playdough 

We wanted to explore around the coast line in Coffs the next morning. Our mission was to walk to the marina and head over to Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve and stop at the Park Beach for some quality beach time. However, the wind this day was blowing hard but we persisted and tried to complete as much of our sites checklist as possible. We did not make it out to Muttonbird Island, nor did we stay long at the marina, but we did head out onto the huge pier where we saw a sea turtle. It was so much bigger than I thought a turtle would be. This thing was seriously mutant sized, but no ninja skills were witnessed.

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The pier and Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve

We did get to the beach too, but did not stay long as the wind was far worse out in the open. Thankfully all this was in close walking distance to the Big4 Park Beach Caravan Park where we were staying. A quick side note, this caravan park was amazing, the kids playground and pool were epic, especially the resort style pool. The playground had an intense jungle gym that Fletch scaled with ease and Amanda scaled with, well, she scaled it. We later found out that it is currently voted the best caravan park in NSW. It lives up to the hype.

The kids loving the Big4 pool and Fletch showing Amanda how to climb his spider web

That afternoon the weather calmed, so we made the most of it by first visiting the Big Banana. We did not do the fun park as the kids are still a little too young, so instead they enjoyed an ice cream whilst Amanda and I shared the most delicious banana split ever created! After savoring the delicious banana split, practically licking the dish clean, we took the tourist selfie with the big banana and went up the nearby mountain to the forest sky pier lookout.

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Just some little tourists at the big banana

It’s a relatively short drive up the mountain through banana plantations. We stopped where we could along the way to point out the bananas growing in the trees to explain to the kids about where they come from and how they are grown. The car park at the top was quiet and we went straight to the forest sky pier lookout, which is amazing how it stretches out over the forest. Fletch in his excitement sprinted towards the end, giving us a moment of panic as we pictured him slipping at the end and shooting straight through the gap between the base and the balustrade. Of course all was fine, we found him at the bottom in a pile of undergrowth, thankfully the trees and giant ferns had broken his fall…joking. He was never in danger of falling, the gap is tiny. Faux crisis averted and we were able to take in the spectacular view of Coffs Harbor and it’s surrounding coast and mountain ranges. Even just looking straight down into the forest was beautiful with the different levels in the canopy and native birds flying around.

Forest sky pier lookout

Prying ourselves away from the view we trekked one of the short loop bush walks from the car park. Fletch was very interested in the different textures of the plants and the shapes of the leaves. We found giant ant hills, tree ferns and many many stunning grass trees. By far my most favorite of all plants, these were all I could see walking along the track, some only ankle high, others towering metres into the canopy. Many had their unique tall flowers on display, but I had better move on and not bore you any longer about these beautiful and uniquely Australian plants.

As it was with every spare moment at the caravan park Fletch insisted on being in the playground and up the jungle gym and that evening was no different. We managed to pack in a lot of adventuring in Coffs Harbour despite the extremely windy weather. It is a great place to have stayed and explored, but I have to admit that we felt we got all we could out of Coffs and it is unlikely we would stay again, with so many other options along the coast for next time.

Now it was time for us to head of to our final and most eagerly awaited destination Byron Bay.

If you have just found our adventures via this post, I encourage you check out the previous stops of our trip in Nelson Bay and Port Macquarie. Or even better you can start from the beginning of this trip and read about our purchase of the camper and our first leg to Sydney in Part 1.

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 or following #adventuresofduth.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

 

 

 

Port Macquarie – Leaving a mark

We felt a little sad to be leaving Nelson Bay, the place had left such a good impression on us all. Reflecting, post trip, we classed Nelson Bay as the little sibling to Port Douglas, with very similar marina, town centre, beaches and chilled vibe. We weren’t sure how we could top our stay there, but we had to move on and Port Macquarie was our next destination.

The day we left was super hot and we found a great location to stop and break up the drive at a little place called Johns River, which had a playground covered by large sails for shade. Nearby there were calves, which Fletcher ran to see, but in his excitement scared them off into the paddock. After another uneventful trip, which with the young kids is a blessing, we arrived at the Port Macquarie Breakwall Holiday Park, our home for the next two nights.

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Halfway along the painted rocks

The weather was less than pleasurable and we had to set up in the heat and wind, our first real challenge with the awning. Rather than wait around for the weather to calm we jumped into the pool to cool off before heading into town along the renowned painted rocks by the waterfront. Visitors for years have been painting pictures or leaving their mark in one way or another. Some families have been coming for decades adding something each year, whilst tourists from all around the world leave a piece of their homeland in art form. It was great to see, bringing some life to an otherwise drab rock wall.

Each Saturday evening the food trucks come down to the beach front and we were keen to grab some grub. However, the few that arrived then quickly left again as the weather turned for the worse with the wind picking up significantly. This forced us back in to the camper to cook our first meal on the stove.

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Town Beach hangs

The next day the weather was perfect! We spent most of the morning at the nearby Town Beach, which was abundant with shells for the kids to hunt and amongst these we even found a number of small crabs and sea snails. At one point a dozen yachts sailed out past the breakwall giving us a spectacle by happenstance. Five days into our trip now and we were all completely relaxed having shed all the weight and expectations of day to day life and this morning, specifically, was the first time I’d been living in the moment for a long time.

Sandcastle empires were raised and felled and after almost 3 hours on the beach we went into town to meet a friend and get some lunch. Plenty of options in town for lunch, but of course we picked a place that had food we knew the kids would eat! Our friend met us at the Westport Park where there was room for the kids to run and, you guessed it, a playground. Other than the water front itself the main feature of the park was a large tree at it’s centre. Kids were clambering all over it and Fletcher, who lately has been obsessed with copying what the ‘big kids’ are doing, insisted he climb it too. However he was a bit short to do it himself, so I lifted him into the tree and he was able to make his way around from there.

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Just a couple of monkeys

Not thinking it completely through we realised he could not get down himself, nor could I reach him where he was. So into the tree I went. I can’t remember the last time I climbed a tree, but it was a lot of fun to be doing it again with Fletcher, who thought it was hilarious. As we sat perched on a branch together I suddenly felt the decades since my last tree climb and I looked to the ground and wondered if it would hurt more to jump from the branch or to try squeeze and stretch myself to get back down the way I came up. I did ‘Dad-up’ though and we both got out of the tree easily.

Port Macquarie Lighthouse

That afternoon we went to the lighthouse and took in the views with rocky outcrops and a secluded beach to one side and the long stretching beach to the other side. It was a quaint lighthouse with little grandeur to speak of, but the views were spectacular. On the way back to the caravan park we stopped at the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre and went around the rain forest boardwalk. It was near the end of the day so we rushed around the forest, but we were there by ourselves so it was quite peaceful, especially when it started to drizzle with rain through the canopy. The kids loved the koala sculptures scattered around the boardwalk all painted in a different styles, but the highlight would have to be the large striped goana we saw climbing down a nearby tree.

To finish off our stay here we went to the rocks and painted our names whilst the kids painted big blotches of colour. Leaving our mark gives us something to look for when we visit again, as Port Macquarie sure left it’s mark on us.

Hmm too corny to leave it on that note, so stay tuned for Part 4 of our trip as we next head to Coffs Habour.

Also if you have just found our adventures via this post, I encourage you check out Part 2 of this trip covering our stay in the even better Nelson bay. Or you can start from the beginning of this trip and read about our purchase of the camper and our first leg to Sydney in Part 1.

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 or following #adventuresofduth.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

Nelson Bay – Dolphins & Dunes

With our first night in the camper a success we reflected on how fantastic the Lane Cove River Tourist Park in Sydney is located being only a 20 min drive to the city, but still located in a quiet bush land setting. Also conveniently located near the major freeways for getting in and out of Sydney.

That morning the ladies slept in (Immy had a late night, way too excited to settle), so Fletch and I went for a walk around the park where we found some large black bush turkey tail feathers, so started our daily morning ritual of hunting for feathers. These bush turkeys were at all the caravan parks, the bin chickens of NSW muscling out the ibis that we commonly have in Victoria.

Successfully avoiding any peak hour traffic we hit the road at around 10am and were out of Sydney in no time. We only had the one stop at Ourimbah rest stop where I had the best hot chocolate of my life and saw a very large python in a palm tree. There was a little play ground there that the kids went crazy for after being trapped in the car. Before long though we were in Nelson Bay, with little fuss from the kids making for a pleasant drive.

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Python at Ourimbah Rest Stop

In Nelson Bay we stayed at the Middle Rock Holiday Resort who slotted us near the pool and kids play area, which was great. We were able to get the awning out for the first time and it was a challenge trying to set it up, I got a little frustrated, spat out a few four letter expletives until I finally relented and watched an instruction video. What is it with blokes and not reading the instructions!? Amanda very smartly had decided to leave me to battle with the awning and took the kids for a walk around the park. At the camp kitchen she was startled to see a two metre long goana just cruising through. Fletch sprinted back to get me and I admit this dude was massive!

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The goana

Now with the camper and awning all set up (it was so easy) we went into town to check out Nelson Bay. We found the marina and walked around, watched a yacht being launched from the dry dock to the delight of me (Amanda and the kids couldn’t have cared less). We booked a dolphin watching cruise and the kids played on a little beach and playground there. That night we settled in even more relaxed than the night before ready for a big day of exploring in Nelson Bay.

With only the dolphin cruise booked, we took our time in the morning and with the ladies sleeping in, because Immy still loves a late night wake up or two, Fletch and I decided to find the beach from the caravan park. The beach track was probably only 500 metres long and was through some nice bush land that eventually opened up to some large and expansive sand dunes. The beach itself was gorgeous! Seriously one of the most picturesque places I have visited. Fletch was pumped to finally be at a beach, the kid loves the water! We took it all in quickly and headed back to see if our ladies had risen, which they had.

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Fletch on One Mile Beach at dawn

In town we went straight to the Moonshadow TQC cruise boat, which had an all female crew, something you don’t often see and of course they were absolute legends.  Specifically one lady named Evie who was amazing with our kids. It took awhile to find the dolphins and we didn’t get overly close to them, after all we don’t have control over what direction they swim, but the cruise was nice and Evie spoke to us and the kids about the dolphins and the other wildlife in the area too. Part of the cruise was being able to go into the water in a drop down net so you can “swim” with the dolphins. Surprisingly Fletch and Immy were pretty keen to get in and of course we were the first and for a time the only ones on the boat who jumped in!

In the net cruising back to the docks

One thing we didn’t anticipate was that they drive back to the marina with the net still down and you in it. It was fine for the most part as they were going slow and we only had a couple of swells that bashed us. Fletch and Immy clung on tight as we tried to keep ourselves positioned high in the net making sure not to get too low and be swamped by the swell. I did have a moment of questioning “are we good or bad parents for doing this to our kids?” But it was only a fleeting thought as Amanda and I are all about putting ourselves and our kids out of our comfort zones. After all, no great tale starts with, ‘Staying on our couch’. It made for a really fun trip and the kids had an awesome story to tell, especially as the dolphins came in pretty close at one point.

With lunch and ice creams finished at the marina, some guy with a bucket of pellets came over and explained they were about to feed the fish off the jetty. We followed him the the water’s edge and the kids got to feed the swarm of fish and the seagulls who were fighting them for the food. We spent the remainder of the afternoon in and around the caravan park. First taking the ladies to the sand dunes and the beach (One Mile Beach) we found that morning. Unfortunately the beach was windy and choppy so we didn’t spend very long there, instead going back into the sand dunes, which were more sheltered. The kids ran a muck and we climbed one of the higher dunes opening up even better views of the beach and surrounding area. Nelson Bay is renowned for its sand dunes and we were both taken back by how large and expansive they were and these at One Mile Beach were not even the main attraction!

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The sand dunes of One Mile Beach with a rare photo of me (on top of the dune).

The rest of that day was spent in the pool and eating at the restaurant/bar making it feel more like a resort than a caravan park. Our first meal dining out was one of the very few times the kids properly sat and ate quietly leaving us to enjoy our dinner! I could have packed up then a happy man, but alas there was much more to see.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of our trip as we next head to Port MacQuarrie.

Also if you have just found our adventures via this post, I encourage you check out Part 1 of this trip as we set off on our first ever trip with the camper trailer.

 

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 or following #adventuresofduth.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

Why do WE Adventure

My wife Amanda and I have always been the adventuring type, through our twenties exploring various parts of the world, trying to cram as much as we could into every year before we decided to start having kids. Not that we thought kids would put a stop to this, but prioritising places we thought we wouldn’t like to take young kids. In our minds’ the perfect trip is to go to new places and see and experience as much as we can, often pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone.

I’ve always categorised getaways into either holidays or travels. A holiday being a relaxing trip that is usually to a single destination where you can recharge the batteries by doing almost nothing (this includes even just staying at home). Then there is travelling where your trip takes you from place to place with the aim to take in as much new sights/sounds/tastes/etc in the time you have away. It is obvious to us that we are definitely the traveling type more than the holidaying type.

Growing up my family went on the quintessential yearly road trips more often than not to the same destination. In addition, my friends from school would often end up at these destinations too, which at the time was great, but in hindsight probably lead me into the travelling mind frame I have now. Don’t get me wrong though I loved those family holidays, we always did awesome stuff and I have great memories associated with those trips, but I have this obsession now with seeing as much of our world as possible rather than visiting the places more than once.

Most important now for us as parents is to expose our two kids to the world, starting with our own backyard taking them to all the cool places around Victoria and Australia. We recently bought a secondhand Jayco Flamingo Camper Trailer that will allow us to escape more regularly and to show the kids a more basic way of living, which is an awesome experience in itself not only for them but for us too!

In short adventuring is about making the most of your time off work, it is about learning new things from the place you go and the people you meet. It’s about educating ourselves and our kids about the real world, not just the one we create in our little bubble and getting back to nature and the basics to get perspective in our day to day life. It’s about bringing us closer as a family as together we experience all the amazing things this world has to offer. It’s about real life problem solving and working together to find a resolution to a unique issue that is completely outside of anything we would have to deal with in normal life. In all though it’s mostly about how happy and free we all feel when we are adventuring together, which is one of the greatest feelings in life!

Our Maiden Camper Road Trip

Late last year Amanda found an online deal for cheap flights and booked a holiday to NSW flying into Sydney and out of Byron Bay. The idea was to test run a camper style holiday in caravan parks to see if we really wanted to buy our own camper trailer. Questions such as, would the kids handle the road trips; could we handle the kids on road trips; what would we really think of staying in caravan parks; how difficult is it to tow and setup these campers and can we be bothered? After all Airbnbs are everywhere and so cheap! Hence the test run was booked.

As the date closed we were still constantly looking up camper trailers. Two weeks before we were due to leave Amanda finds one that we just had see in person. To cut a long story short we said screw the hired camper, we have to buy this one and we did! Yikes did we do the right thing? We would find out soon enough in a baptism of fire as we were now due to leave one week from the time I picked it up.

The travel plans obviously had to change. We could not refund the plane tickets, so Amanda would still fly, as this would be easier for the kids and now I was to drive to Sydney and pick them up from the airport. The night before I got a head start travelling to Benalla, staying at the in-laws’ house with our new Jayco Flamingo where I was to leave at 4am the next morning to get to Sydney airport in time.

IMG_0513The official Duth’s Adventure Apparatus

Without the kids to stir me I slept like a rock! That was until the house phone kept ringing eventually waking me up. I checked my phone for the time and, oh no, It was flat! Hence no alarm. In a time that would have impressed Usain Bolt I sprinted around the house getting all my stuff and jumped into the car and sped out of the driveway. It was 6am.

Finally I was able to speak to Amanda, who was thankfully not angry and just happy to know that I hadn’t crashed! After all I should have been on the road for two hours and ironically was supposed to have called her to make sure she hadn’t slept in. Amanda’s start to the day was not as simple as first planned either as she struggled to find the car park place we’d booked. Turns out it had moved and was not signed, making her super close to missing the flight. This trip was off to an ominous start.

There was some amusing things along the way though to alleviate the pressure. When getting to the Melbourne Airport, Fletch all wide eyed and excited says to Amanda “I love this holiday! Sydney is great!” They were also directed to board the back of the plane that meant he had to go on the tarmac and could see all the plane, which blew the kid’s minds. Once actually in Sydney they had to catch the train into the city (because their driver was now two hours late) and with the exception of Fletch falling into the gap and getting the fright of his life, they loved the whole travelling experience!

IMG_6421Immy & Fletch seeing the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the botanical gardens

They made it safely to Sydney and spent time in the city and the harbour where I eventually met them after dropping off the camper. We meandered around the harbour and botanical gardens, but left soon after I arrived with the kids exited to spend the night in the camper.

Back at the Lane Cove River Tourist Park we were able to settle in as a family, setting up the Jayco for the first official night away. It wasn’t until we left that we discovered that this caravan park was the film location for the Home and Away TV show, remember Pippa had the caravan park?

IMG_0526Our first overnight stay in the Jayco

The kids took to caravan life pretty quickly, chasing the bush turkeys through the trees, all barefoot of course. That night the kids took forever to get to sleep, both absolutely hyperactive with excitement.  Eventually Amanda and I were able to settle outside and enjoy a glass of wine. We realised pretty quickly that we had probably made the right decision, getting this camper could be the best purchase we have ever made for our family.

Stay tuned as I recount the coming days of our holiday and our quirky family tales.

Next in Part 2 is Nelson 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 or following #adventuresofduth.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

Our Easter Long Weekend

Easter this year had fallen close to my Dad’s 60th birthday and the birth of my new niece, so we wanted to get together to celebrate with the family. Keeping the location closest to my brother and his newborn, we locked in a trip to Horsham staying at the Horsham Riverside Caravan Park. There we met with my parents and siblings and the afternoon was spent relaxing together around the camper an later enjoyed fish and chips for dinner, along with a few too many red wines.

The morning’s walk sunrise and the corella’s Party Tree.

The Saturday morning Fletch and I woke early and decided to go for a walk along the river to see if we could find any possums. It was still dark at this point, so I held out hope we would chance a sighting, which luckily came through with two jumping from tree to tree and climbing into one of the old riverside huts. As the sun began to rise (an amazing sight over the river by the way), the corellas started to get more vocal to which Fletch commented “the parrots are being very loud, they must be having a party!” With the sun up Fletch decided it was passed time to go around and wake up everyone, firstly my sister and brother in their tents and then my dad in his cabin (my mum never one to sleep in we found on the river trail going for a run).

The hike through the valley to Fish Falls

By 9am we’d hit the road heading to The Grampians to check out some walks and lookouts before heading to Halls Gap for lunch to meet with my Aunty, Uncle and Cousin. First stop was Zumsteins, a small area (carpark) with multiple walks from it. We wandered around the creek running by the carpark before hiking the 2.3kms to Fish Falls. Now for some reason us blokes decided thongs would suffice for the day ahead, which at 1.5kms into the hike I had utterly regretted. I think we all at some point muttered that these falls better be worth it as we shared carrying the kids on our shoulders or backs.

Fish Falls and my brother and I taking in the view

The hike itself was actually pretty easy and the views amazing, whether it was through the bush following the creek or along the mountain’s edge looking down into the valley. Eventually we rounded one last bend and the falls presented themselves and thank the gods they were spectacular. It was a relief to know the hike was definitely worth it upon seeing the water cascading down three levels in the rock face with crystal clear pools all around. My brother, sister, Fletch and I were first to arrive, with the others lagging behind thanks to our little hiker Immy and her little legs. By this stage, we had climbed all over the massive boulders and rock faces up and around the water falls. It was an great spot to explore with the kids and would be even better in summer cooling off in the pools and creek below the falls.

On the walk back we were again in two groups. The first lead by Fletch, who now had a stick in hand helping him walk faster like Nonna, and Immy leading us in the rear guard, not concerned with pace instead checking every rock and stick along the way. Eventually we made it out and went on up to Halls Gap to have lunch in the park. Wowee, Halls Gap is busy at Easter! People everywhere! Not a spot I would like to stay on a long weekend if I can help it, but definitely would stay a random weekend to see more of the town and the Grampians.

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The view from near the car park at The Balconies lookout (Amanda and kids to the far left)

After lunch and ice creams, Amanda and I decided to take the exhausted kids back for a sleep, whilst the others stayed to check out the Venus Baths (which were dry and underwhelming by all accounts). The kids were still awake by the time we reached the Balconies Lookout, so spontaneously we decided to check it out. Just a quick note first, if you can try and get a park up top as it looked like a far slog to walk up the hill from the main road, luckily we managed to get a park in the top car park. One of the visitors told us the actual Balconies Lookout was a similar view to that from the car park, so we stayed close rather than walk the indicated 1 km. We bypassed the viewing platforms, climbed through the boulders to the cliff’s edge and found ourselves seated at one of the highest points around with an unimpeded view. We would have loved to spend longer there with the kids exploring in and around the boulders and taking in the amazing views, but tired two year olds’ need to sleep.

That night we all ate at the Victoria Hotel in Horsham for Dad’s 60th. It was there I met my niece for the first time and ran to get the first cuddle for the night. It wasn’t to last though as Fletch and Immy stole her from me every time I got my chance. It was really nice to see them take an interest and fall in love with their new cousin.

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The Easter Egg Hunt

On the Sunday, after the Easter egg hunt (always fun!), we all drove out to Natimuk, about 20 minutes out of Horsham, to visit a farmers market on that morning. I love markets, even if I don’t buy anything, it’s just nice to wander around and talk with the stall owners about their produce or crafts. Immy became obsessed with a specific stall that had various hair paraphernalia, wanting the yellow bows so she can be “like Emma Wiggle” and the clips, specifically the “Elsa and Anna one!” With grandparents, aunts and uncle doting on her she left with five clips and ties in her hair, a walking advertisement for that stall. On the way out of town we stopped at a couple of garage sales, picking up some bargains and chatting with one of the home owners who lived in a renovated church and was selling unique antique kitchen ware.

That afternoon we were all spent from the previous day in the Grampians and relaxed by our camper enjoying each other’s company and some drinks. Amanda and I managed to get away for a walk without the kids, a moment of peace that was an absolute gift. It was also a chance to catch up with some of the other campers, who praised our kids at how well behaved they are “a credit to us as parents” I think were their exact words. We were completely surprised by the compliment as we felt they had been rather difficult, especially the two year old Immy who has now been promoted to the big leagues as a professional two year old, full of attitude, tantrums and stubbornness!

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An alleyway in historic Beaufort

On the way home we stopped off at Beaufort, a cute little town with many historic buildings and plenty of cafes  and nick-nak stores to chose from. Immy and Fletch are really showing that they have very different personalities developing with Fletch a mirror of Amanda and Immy more like myself. When overtaking a truck Fletch worriedly exclaimed “too fast Daddy!” Immy a second later yells “again Daddy faster!” Seems great now, but as a father I’m worried about what that girl is going to put us through.

This was our second official holiday in the camper at caravan parks and it is becoming clear about how much our lives have lost that personal interaction and communication. Many times you will walk passed a stranger at their site and stop for a chat. You learn about them, their camping setup, the places we should go, the tips and tricks with travelling they have learnt. Yes for the most part you can Google all this, but nothing beats having a chat with someone face to face. What was so normal 10-20 years ago feels so foreign now and makes you realise more and more that you should just put your phone/tablet/laptop down and chat with the people around you. You never know who you might meet or what you might learn.

 

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.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie