Byron Bay to Melbourne – The Disastrous Drive Home

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

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

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

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One of the many antiques shops in Ulmarra

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

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

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Narrow, but still smooth and dry!

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

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

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Bugger! 

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

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

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

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

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

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Oh so close to the campground!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

 

 

 

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

Park Play, a Pub and Plodding through the Past

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

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

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Already a better putter than me!

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

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

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

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Port Fairy Wharf Boardwalk

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

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A brew or two at ye olde Caledonian

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

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

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

 

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

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

Lady Island Lookout, Lighthouse and a Lava Flow Beach

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

The Crags gorgeous rocky coastline

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

cofPort Fairy Lighthouse on Griffith Island

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

Griffith Island

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

IMG_2790_editedKilarney Beach exploring the volcanic rocks

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

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

cofCaravan Park Pals

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

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

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

Foul Weather, Family Heritage and Footing it through a Volcano

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

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

img_2725.jpgAir in a big bag = The best invention

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

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

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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 – 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

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