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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Fun Fact: The Stalactites grow 1cm every 100 years

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

 

 

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.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

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.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

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