with kids 2020 READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS WINNERS REVEALED
MUNGO MAGIC Outback adventure awaits
CAPITALS OF COOL
Awesome experiences in and around Australia’s cities
Issue 63 • RRP $7.95 63 9 771832 331006 >
CANBERRA • DARWIN • GIPPSLAND • GOLD COAST • GREEK ISLANDS • PACIFIC PALMS SRI LANKA • THAILAND • THE WHITSUNDAYS • THREDBO • TWEED
contents AUSTRALIA 42 Capitals of cool
Awesome adventures in and around Australia’s capital cities, writes MEGAN HOLBECK
54 COVER STORY: Mungo magic
KATRINA DENOUX and her family embark on an Outback road trip to the NSW Riverina, Broken Hill and Mungo National Park in NSW
60 Ten things to do in the Tweed
An abundance of family fun awaits in northern NSW
64 Seven awesome family experiences on the Gold Coast
Image: Tourism Fiji
From beaches to theme parks, discover the top things to do in Australia’s holiday playground
68 Crossing the Outback
74 Toddler time in Canberra
Fiji has been named best international destination for families
6 Reader Instagram photos
Our readers share their travel adventures
7 Editor’s letter 8 Moments
Parrtjima – A Festival of Light in the Northern Territory
11 What’s new
The latest accommodation, experiences and sustainable travel developments
22 Out & About with Kids 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards Winners and runners up revealed!
40 Ten thoughts mums have before a road trip with kids
ALEXANDRA WHITTINGTON from Stay at Home Mum reveals some of the million things that run through her head before and during a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney.
LAUREN HAAS JONES reveals what an 1,800km journey across the Outback, with her professional adventurer husband Justin ‘Jonesy’ Jones and toddler, taught her about parenthood
ANGELA SAURINE and her toddler uncover plenty of fun activities for littlies in Australia’s capital
78 Harvesting happiness
MEG LAW finds a farm stay holiday with her family in Victoria brings back memories of a simple childhood
84 Motorhome away from home
DANIELLE NORTON takes three teens on a road trip in a motorhome to Victoria’s Gippsland Lakes, and lives to tell the tale
Abseiling at Kangaroo Point in Brisbane with Pinncacle Sports
88 Five best family activities in Thailand
100 Celebrity Q&A
Whether you are seeking cultural experiences, fun outdoor adventures, or a little bit of everything, Thailand offers something to suit every family.
92 Backpacking bonds
EVIE FARRELL revisits her backpacker days in Sri Lanka during a life-changing adventure with her six-year-old daughter, Emmie
96 The ultimate odyssey
FLIP BYRNES and her family make the most of being stuck in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic and visit the Greek Islands without the crowds and cruise ships
The Project co-host Peter Helliar and his wife Bridget love travelling with their kids so much they have written a book about it
Flip Byrnes and her daughters in Santorini
The OAWK team reviews Thredbo Alpine Hotel, Tiona Holiday Park and Mantra Pandanas Darwin
108 How to... prepare for a camping holiday with kids
Our tips to help make your summer camping holiday that little bit easier
112 Must haves
The latest products travelling families need to know about
114 Insider interview
Tourism Whitsundays CEO NATASSIA WHEELER shares her top family travel experiences 5
READER INSTAGRAM PICS Our readers have shared some awesome photos of their adventures on social media. Tag your family holiday snaps #oawk for the chance to see them republished here. 1. @niccasella Riddell Beach, Broome, Western Australia 2. @jodymurchie Gibraltar Peak, ACT 3. @kb4travel Patterson River, Carrum, Melbourne 4. @our.everlasting.adventures Spoon Bay, NSW 5. @TheNeagles14 Sarina Sugar Shed, Queensland
Angela and Oliver at Tiona Holiday Park at Pacific Palms, near Forster in NSW
EDITOR’S LETTER What’s that smell in the air? Could it be – dare I say it – hope? After a rough few months for many of us (especially those in Victoria – we feel for you!) talk of easing COVID-19 restrictions, and of borders reopening, is extremely welcome. Not to mention promising vaccine trials, which will hopefully see us fulfil our overseas travel dreams a little further down the track. In the meantime, we’ve once again focused on Aussie destinations in this issue. And we think now is a great time to plan a trip to the outback! We may have dismissed places like Broken Hill and Mungo National Park as “too far” in the past, or somewhere we will get to one day (possibly not until we are grey nomads!). But with international travel off the agenda for the time being, they are great options for a fun and educational family holiday, as demonstrated by Australian Regional Tourism ambassador Katrina Denoux in her cover story about a road trip with her husband and 11-year-old twins. We also love the story by Lauren Haas Jones about her ambitious 1,800km outback journey (on foot!) with her hubby Justin (aka Jonesy) Jones and their toddler, and what it taught her about parenthood. I’ve been a fan of Jonesy since seeing him and his former sidekick James ‘Cas’ Castrission at a tourism conference many years ago, talking about kayaking from Australia to New Zealand, so I found it interesting to read how his adventures have evolved now he’s a dad. Of course, there are lots of awesome adventures you can have close to home – thank goodness! Megan Holbeck has highlighted some of the best our cities and surrounds have to offer in our 12-page Capitals of Cool feature. It’s been an extremely challenging period for our friends in the travel and tourism industry, so it’s been great to do our small part to help raise their spirits with our annual Readers’ Choice Awards. We were particularly thrilled to see Melbourne recognised as the Best Capital City Destination in Australia for families. If anyone needed cheering up, surely it’s those who live and work in the Victorian capital. We can’t wait to return to this vibrant metropolis and catch up with friends down there. Big congrats to all the worthy winners of these awards! Road trips, motorhome holidays, holiday parks and camping are certainly the most popular family getaways right now – so we’ve given them all some love this issue. But we’ve also thrown in some aspirational stories about Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Greek Islands, the latter of which regular contributor Flip Byrnes took the opportunity to visit after finding herself stranded in Europe during the pandemic. It’s fascinating to read about what it’s like to travel internationally during the COVID-19 era. We hope you enjoy it, and the rest of our beloved mag. If you’re looking for a Christmas present for a loved one, why not jump on our website and order them a subscription? I’m sure everyone can benefit from a bit of travel inspiration at the moment! Angela Saurine, editor
Out & About with Kids Print & Digital outandaboutwithkids. com.au Publisher Elisa Elwin firstname.lastname@example.org +61 413 770 550 Editor Angela Saurine angela.saurine@ oawk.com.au Advertising Enquiries: advertising@oawk. com.au
Art Director Jon Wolfgang MIller Print Spotpress +61 430 060 700 Published by Elwin Media Pty Ltd ABN: 22 159 093 606 PO Box 4148, Balgowlah Heights, NSW 2093 Cover image Maya and Rémy Denoux running among the Walls of China in Mungo National Park in outback NSW. Image: Katrina Denoux
Copyright © Out & About with Kids 2020 Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission isstrictly prohibited. All reasonable efforts have been made to contact copyright holders. Out & About with Kids cannot accept unsolicited manuscripts or photographs. If such items are sent to the magazine they will be returned.
Disclaimer The opinions expressed in the editorials are those of the writers and do not necessarily refl ect the views of the Publisher and Out & About with Kids. Information provided was believed to be correct at the time of publication.
PARRTJIMA A FESTIVAL IN LIGHT With a light installation stretching for 2km across the MacDonnell Ranges, a huge sphere hovering high above the ground and a towering emu and illuminated eggs, the annual Parrtjima – A Festival in Light at Alice Springs in Australia’s Red Centre was as spectacular as ever in 2020, despite some COVID-19 restrictions. This year’s theme – ‘Lifting our Spirits’ – was designed to help nurture a sense of connection, celebration and community during what has been a difficult year for many. The only event of its kind in the world, the festival celebrates Aboriginal arts, culture and storytelling through light, art and sound installations across Alice Springs Desert Park and Todd Mall, as well as live music, workshops, films, cooking demonstrations and talks. One of the highlights was 23-year-old artist Lachlan Dodds-Watson’s work, Emu Laying Eggs at Night, which featured an 8m-high emu. Painted in the style of his father’s work, the eggs of the artwork encapsulate the colours of country and his home in Alice Springs. The installation, part of the Children’s Discovery Area, Arleye (Emu), was accompanied by a bespoke audio soundscape and light box that told the story of the artwork and artist. The area also featured illuminated round discs in the shape of a giant emu footprint. As children jumped from one disc to another, they activated different colours, and the installation imparted scientific knowledge about the traditional uses of the emu for food and medicinal practices. Next year’s event, presented by the Northern Territory Government through the Northern Territory Major Events Company, and produced by creative consultants AGB Events, will be held from April 9 to 18. parrtjimaaustralia.com.au 9
THE HOLIDAY PARK THAT HAS IT ALL
1 Looking for a family holidaydestination? Look no further than BIG4 Easts Beach at Kiama on the NSW South Coast, where there really is something for the whole family.
1. JUMPING PILLOW
There's no better way for the kids to have hours of uncomplicated fun and burn off energy than bouncing and jumping on our Jumping Pillow. It has a shade structure, is surrounded by soft white sand, and is fully fenced so everyone can safely enjoy themselves. It's loads of fun for the young and young-at-heart, so mum and dad are encouraged to join in the fun too!
2. SUNNYâ€™S AQUAVENTURE PARK
Our water park features multi-level platforms with three water slides and a giant tipping bucket, an ocean-themed splash pad with interactive features, plus a shaded water journey for babies and toddlers. There is also a partially-shaded sunlounge area for parents to relax while children enjoy the time of their lives.
3. KRAZY KIDZ CLUB
A range of super fun activities are available at the Krazy Kidz Club on 10
weekends and during the NSW school holidays. They include cooking classes to learn to make such things as Mars Bar balls, Crunchie slice and Malteser fudge plus cupcake decorating, as well as craft activities such as slime making, sand art, foil art and scratch art.
4. POOL COMPLEX
The pool complex has two pool areas: a heated lounge pool with childrenâ€™s play area and plunge pool, plus a large main pool with two lap lanes and a disability ramp.
5. THE BEACH
Whether you enjoy swimming, diving, fishing, body-boarding or just splashing about, you can do it all at Easts Beach, where the sapphire-blue ocean waves lap onto golden sands. This 400m-long beach offers a chance to relax, unwind and bask in the sun while your children build sandcastles. Easts Beach offers the complete package, from dancing waves at sunrise to a moonlit evening stroll. MORE INFORMATION: eastsbeach.com.au
Easts Beach in Kiama
KIAMA PASSPORT FOR KIDS
Children can learn about the wildlife and nature around Kiama, on the NSW south coast, in a fun way with the help of a new activity book. The Kiama Passport for Kids was created by local graphic designer and illustrator Melissa Mylchreest, from Rewilding Life. “It's little books, guides and maps that give us a nudge to step outside, no matter where we live, and explore our immediate surroundings,” she said. “It's about slowing down and opening our senses to notice the little things we ordinarily step over or walk past on any given day.” The 80-page activity book suggests several itineraries, including Easts Beach, Minnamurra Rainforest and Kiama Harbour, with activities where children can colour-in and write about their adventures as they go, a guide to the area’s flora and fauna, animal stickers, and a place for keepsakes. rewildinglife.com.au
FAMILIES ARE HAPPY CAMPERS
Move over grey nomads – families have emerged as the biggest type of holidaymaker taking caravan and camping holidays in Australia. The Caravan Industry Association of Australia’s State of Industry Report 2020 found families now make up 28 per cent of the market. The 30-54-yearold demographic, which is largely dominated by families, took more than six million trips in 2019, up by 10 per cent from the previous year. “A common misconception about the caravan industry is that the key market is grey nomads,” Caravan Industry Association of Australia GM of marketing and communication Keelan Howard said. “While the over-55 market is incredibly important as they travel far and for long periods of time, it is actually the family market that takes the most amount of caravan and camping trips. This year has allowed many of us to be reminded about how important family time is, and what better way to reconnect and learn together than taking a trip in the great outdoors.” caravanindustry.com.au 11
Image: BIG4 Easts Beach Holiday Park
NEW GRUFFALO TRAIL APP
Fans of the Gruffalo can search for the much-loved creature at Australian attractions including the Illawarra Fly and Wildlife Sydney Zoo in NSW, Rippon Lea Estate in Victoria and The Ginger Factory in Queensland. The attractions were among the first in the world to activate The Gruffalo® Spotter 2 app. The new app follows the success of the original Gruffalo Spotter app launched with Forestry England in 2017, which became the No. 1 app on the kids’ charts and was nominated for a BAFTA award. Using the latest augmented reality technology, the new iteration brings to life the characters from the best-selling picture book, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, and interact with the 3D characters from the film on the self-led trails, which are also packed with facts about forest animals, and fun activities. Through cutting-edge face and body recognition technology, the characters now look at the children directly, encouraging them to play along. Parents can save images on their devices and share them using the #GruffaloSpotters hashtag. The app is available for free from the App Store and Google Play and requires downloading before visiting.
GRASSHOPPER HOPS INTO AUSTRALIA
INTREPID FAMILY RETREATS Global tour operator Intrepid Travel has introduced four retreat-style tours for families. The new Family Retreats, based in Morocco, Turkey and England, will see groups stay at the same location for the duration of the trip and enjoy experiences nearby. The new tour style celebrates ‘slow travel’ and allows adventurers to engage with the surrounding communities away from the crowds and in a more controlled setting. Each itinerary has been designed to benefit local communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst also providing enriching activities for children and parents. For example, in Turkey, families will visit a sea turtle rescue centre – supported in part by donations from Intrepid travellers – to learn about conservation efforts and rehabilitation. In Morocco, they’ll break bread with an Imazighen family in their
It’s been taking Australians on bike tours around the world for 15 years, and now Grasshopper Adventures has launched in its homeland. As a result of the pandemic, the company has begun offering multi-activity tours in Queensland and Tasmania, with more domestic destinations in the pipeline. The tours feature a mix of biking, hiking and kayaking. “To really experience the natural environment in a meaningful way, we had to go beyond biking,” Grasshopper Adventures owner and chief Adam Platt-Hepworth said. “We also regard it as crucial to avoid lots of vehicle time and packing/ unpacking. The tours are designed so that you spend maximum time outdoors, in nature and with like-minded people.” In Queensland, the tours include riding through the Brisbane Valley and hanging out in a small country pub for an evening, kayaking the Noosa Everglades, and hiking the trails of the Bunya Mountains and learning about the corroborees that took place there, centred around the sacred tree by the same name. In Tasmania, participants can hike through the beautiful northeast Tasmanian countryside, then along the coast at Freycinet, and kayak along the Tasman Peninsula in the sheltered waters of Fortescue Bay. They also incorporate visits to local farms, with accommodation in small-scale, family-owned properties. grasshopperadventures.com
village, getting an insight into daily life in the High Atlas region. Each tour will operate under Intrepid’s new Safe Travels health protocols, developed in partnership with the World Travel & Tourism Council. All travellers must complete a health screening at the start of the trip and are required to wear masks in certain settings, in line with local laws and regulations. Groups are each accompanied by a local leader who has received COVID-19 training that covers hygiene, sanitation, physical distancing and PPE as well as supplier monitoring. In preparation for travel to resume, Intrepid has also introduced a new Flexible Bookings policy, which permits changes to travel plans 21 days before a scheduled departure, allowing for new travel dates or a different trip with no change fees. intrepidtravel.com/au/theme/family
HOTELS, RESORTS & HOLIDAY PARKS
COFFS COAST WATER WONDER HOLIDAY INN QUEENSTOWN
When the trans-Tasman bubble is finally reciprocated, Australians will have a new accommodation option with the opening of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Queenstown. On the corner of Stanley St and Sydney St in the city centre, the hotel has 227 modern guest rooms. They include spacious suites – a Holiday Inn Express first in New Zealand – as well as superior rooms with views of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountain range. The architecturally designed building combines abstract elements representing ice and erratic rock forms to pay homage to the landscape and fit in with the surrounding urban environment. There is also a fitness room, sauna, self-serve laundry, drying room, onsite parking and a free business centre. Rooms have blackout blinds, high quality bedding with a choice of pillows, and Wi-Fi, plus breakfast is included. The hotel will also roll out InterContinental Hotels Group’s flagship sustainability initiative, A Greener Stay, which allows guests to opt out of housekeeping services, resulting in energy and water savings. ihg.com
NRMA Darlington Beach Holiday Resort, on the NSW mid north coast, has a giant new waterpark. The $1.1 million attraction includes a tower with two waterslides, a dumper bucket and giant leaf rain shower, paddle pools and ground spray tunnels to run through. It’s surrounded by landscaped gardens with seating and sun shelters ideal for a picnic lunch or barbecue dinner. Set amidst 44ha of coastal forest 25km north of Coffs Harbour, the new waterpark complements a swag of features, including a barefoot bowling green, tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course. It has direct access to Arrawarra Beach, and there’s a maze of mountain biking tracks weaving through the neighbouring forest. Accommodation includes everything from pet-friendly campsites to glamping tents that sleep up to four people and two-and three-bedroom villas for up to six. nrmaparksandresorts.com.au/darlington-beach
VIBE VIEWS IN MELBOURNE
If a room with a view is what you seek, look no further than the new Vibe Hotel Melbourne. Housed in a 24 storey building in a prime position on the corner of Queen St and Flinders St in the CBD, the property has 206 rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows offering views over the city’s skyline, and across the Yarra River to Port Phillip Bay. Developed by Caydon Property Group, its design draws inspiration from the large showroom windows on its street level façade, transformed when clothing store Fletcher Jones took up residence in 1955. vibehotels.com/hotel/melbourne 13
HOTELS, RESORTS & HOLIDAY PARKS
CAMP WITH KOALAS
Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary has introduced four onsite glamping tents for families who want to see the Australian animals in their natural habitat. Visitors can stroll along the 250m Sanctuary Story Walk to learn about koalas through sculptures, and watch vets carry out examinations and administer treatment through the viewing window at the state-of-the-art Koala Hospital. They can also get a treetop perspective of the koalas’ habitat on the Newcastle Airport SKYwalk and viewing platform, before enjoying lunch at the Fat Possum Café. Less than an hour’s drive north of Newcastle and 2.5 hours from Sydney, the sanctuary is a partnership between Port Stephens Council and Port Stephens Koalas – a volunteer group that aims to provide the world best practice standards of care to sick, injured and orphaned koalas and return them to the wild. portstephenskoalasanctuary.com.au
SPLASH OUT ON THE SUNSHINE COAST
Oaks Sunshine Coast Oasis Resort has a huge new multi-level waterpark featuring interactive fountains and three waterslides. Spanning 500sq m, it is a great place for children to play while parents relax in the resort’s leisure area, which includes party tents, grassy picnic spots and timber lounge decks. Other leisure facilities at the Queensland resort include a lagoon-style pool, a spa, climbing frame, kangaroo jumping pillow, floodlit tennis court, 18-hole mini-golf course and beach volleyball court. The resort has a range of accommodation options including studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments and two- and three-bedroom villas across its tropical grounds. Dining options include the waterfront Reflections Restaurant and Bar, where kids under five eat free and kids aged six to 12 dine at half price. oakshotels.com/en/oaks-oasisresort 14
HOTELS, RESORTS & HOLIDAY PARKS
JW MARRIOTT COMES TO THE GOLD COAST
Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa is undergoing a major renovation and will be renamed JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa in December – the first Australian property for the international hotel group. The resort’s original architects and interior designers, award-winning Australian design studio DBI, were engaged to reimagine the tropical resort and elevate it to JW Marriott’s high standards of modern luxury. Inspired by its natural surroundings, the 223room resort has been designed to promote and reflect the beauty and relaxed mood of coastal Queensland, while the public spaces create a connection to the lush hinterland landscape. Bathrooms in the new-look guest rooms, offering either ocean or hinterland views, can be opened up to the bedrooms. The revamped resort, which has a saltwater lagoon with more than 300 tropical fish, will have six food and beverage venues, including two feature restaurants, a lobby lounge and bar, pool bar, a new Japanese whisky bar and a signature JW Marketplace. jw-marriott.marriott.com
BYRON AT BYRON REVAMP Luxury resort Byron at Byron on the NSW north coast has undergone a refurbishment, with a new restaurant offering sustainable and local produce, updated guest suites, and a new Eléme Day Spa. Set amongst 18ha of subtropical rainforest at Byron Bay, the Crystalbrook Collection Resort has a responsible travel ethos, with upcycled, recycled and locally sourced materials featuring throughout. Around 80 per cent of ingredients at its new restaurant, Forest, which also has a kids’ menu, will be sourced from within a three-hour drive. The introduction of touch-free paperless check-in and checkout and in-room Apple iPad control centres has eliminated 90 per cent of printed collateral at the resort. The spa will also offer bespoke facial and body therapies using the Sodashi skincare range,
which features ethically sourced, natural ingredients. The refreshed guest suites, such as Rainforest Suite and Treetops Suite, have been named to reflect the resort’s setting. It has also extended its offering to include a two-bedroom Rainforest Luxe Suite and a twobedroom Treetops Luxe Suite. All suites have enclosed front and rear verandahs, rain showers, deep freestanding bathtubs and separate living areas, as well as kitchenettes, a combined washing machine and dryer, a four-seat dining table and a separate living area with an L-shaped lounge that converts to a sofa bed, plus air-conditioning, heating and free Wi-Fi. As well as the main pool, there is a smaller, shallow pool that is perfect for littlies to splash around. crystalbrookcollection.com/ byron
HOTELS, RESORTS & HOLIDAY PARKS
TARONGA RETREAT TARGETS FAMILIES
The Wildlife Retreat at Taronga in Sydney has introduced a new staycation Family Escape Package. Starting at $690 per night for two adults and two children, it includes an overnight stay in interconnecting rooms, an after dark wildlife tour to see nocturnal residents, a-la-carte breakfast and two-day zoo access to explore the 28ha harbourside zoo. Guests will also take part in an afternoon tour of The Sanctuary – an Australian habitat created especially for retreat guests that brings you up close to wallabies, bettongs, short-beaked echidnas, and koalas. Owned and operated by Taronga Conservation Society Australia, the retreat opened in 2019 and has 62 rooms in five environmentally sensitive and sustainably designed lodges. Taronga Conservation Society Australia CEO Cameron Kerr said the new package offers the zoo a way to engage the next generation and support its work as a not-for-profit organisation. The package is available to book every day of the school holidays and Thursday to Saturday nights during the school term. taronga.org.au/retreat
GREAT BARRIER REEF GLAMPING
NRMA Woodgate Beach Holiday Park, just north of the Fraser Coast on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, has added two glamping tents. Designed in alignment with the surrounding Burrum Coast National Park, the tents are built from rich woods and fitted out with natural finishes. They have ocean glimpses from the large outdoor living areas, which feature bar and lounge seating and claw-foot baths. Inside there’s a queen-sized bed with a canopy, a cubbylike sleeping nook for kids, modern ensuite bathrooms, kitchenettes and air-conditioning – and a 13km-long white sand beach on the doorstep. You can book day trips to Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave Islands from nearby Bundaberg. Safari-style tents have also been added at NRMA Merimbula Beach in NSW and NRMA Port Arthur in Tasmania. nrmaparksandresorts.com.au 16
A COOL PLACE TO LOB
Family-favourite East Hotel Canberra has revamped its lobby, with new furnishings, lighting, textures and colours. Highlights include a tasselled central light installation, discovered by chance at MCM House on Oxford St in Sydney. A one-off piece designed and made in Africa, it connected to one of the owners, Dion Bisa, whose travels in Africa have been a source of inspiration. A dinner party table crafted from repurposed French oak wine barrels sits at the head of the room, while the front desk is clad in leather, inspired by an Yves Saint Laurent handbag. Located between
the boutique shopping and restaurant hubs of Manuka and Kingston, the sixstorey hotel has 140 rooms in various studio and apartment-style combinations, recognising the challenges families can face with hotel accommodation by providing specially designated suites designed in a modular, fun way. The East Two Bedroom apartments have cubbies with bunk beds, Xbox One consoles, games, reading nooks and dress-up clothes. Its Italian restaurant Agostinis offers a kids’ menu including pizza or pasta, gelato and a soft drink for $16. https://easthotel.com.au
HOTELS, RESORTS & HOLIDAY PARKS
MORE FUN AT BIG4 GOLD COAST BIG4 Gold Coast Holiday Park has added a range of new games to keep families entertained during their stay. At the rear of the park there are now three areas to play the new games, which include foot pool – a game played with soccer balls but with the rules of snooker. There’s also frisbee golf, which involves hooking a frisbee over poles on an 18-pole course, and two lanes of bocce. For motor enthusiasts, big and small, a 16m off-road remote control car track puts your skills to the test as you manoeuvre around the course, over a jump and through a tunnel. They add to the many family-friendly features already offered at the park. You can also try your luck hooking a fish for dinner in Saltwater Creek, which runs through the park, and splash about in the monster waterpark, which has 40 interactive play features including aqua tube slides and a tipping bucket. The park has a heated pool and spa, wading pool for kids, and a huge jumping pillow next to Nibbles outdoor café, which is
a great place for parents to relax with a cocktail while the kids play. The café’s menu is updated monthly with meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and its homemade cakes are particularly popular. QR codes have now been introduced, located on tables and in cabanas around the pool and waterpark, so you can order and pay for your meals from the comfort of your seat and have them delivered to you. Located at Helensvale, the holiday park is the closest to the Gold Coast’s famous theme parks, just across the road from Movie World, Wet'n'Wild, Outback Spectacular and Topgolf, and only two minutes’ drive to Dreamworld and Whitewater World. It offers a range of accommodation to suit families of all sizes, from caravan and camping sites to stylish two-bedroom
villas and three-bedroom retreats. Dog-friendly sites and accommodation are also available. goldcoastholidaypark.com.au
HOTELS, RESORTS & HOLIDAY PARKS
There's plenty of fun for teens at Paradise Resort Gold Coast
TEENâ€™S PARADISE 18
HOTELS, RESORTS & HOLIDAY PARKS Planet Chill
Laser tag, rock climbing and virtual reality games are among the offerings at the new Teen Club at Paradise Resort Gold Coast. Kids aged 13 to 17 will be able to chill out in the club, at the recently refurbished resort, from 4.15pm to 8.15pm every Tuesday to Saturday. Prices start at $50 per teen, with different activities for each session included. They also feature ice-skating, games, magic shows and movies. All guests with a direct booking will receive one complimentary session per teen per day. The resort’s general manager, David Brook, said he expects the addition of the Teen Club to be a huge drawcard for parents looking for a value-for-money family holiday. “We offer unlimited holiday fun here at Paradise Resort, and our Teen Club is only going to add to this offering,” he said. “We have many families who holiday at Paradise every year and, as we’ve seen the kids grow up, we realised we needed to create a space for teens who were too old to play in the Kids Club. A place where they could experience fun activities and spend time with other kids their age.” The resort also has a Kids Club that offers a range of fully supervised sessions daily for children up to 12-years-old across different themed play spaces. “With the addition of our Teen Club and our new exclusive adults bar and lounge opening early 2021 we can truly offer an unforgettable holiday experience for everyone,” Mr Brook said. With a maximum of 20 teens per session, bookings are essential. The resort has also introduced a signature burger, named the ‘Giant Jerry’ after its flamboyant owner Dr Jerry Schwartz, at the new Jerry’s Burgers joint.
The Giant Jerry is now being served at Jerry's Burgers
The burger has a 180-gram beef patty, cheddar cheese, bacon, hash brown, grilled tomato, caramelised mushrooms, fried egg and BBQ sauce, wrapped in a pillow-soft bun. “We expect the burger to be just as popular with parents, as Paradise Resort tends to bring out the ‘big kid’ in most parents and they get as involved in the activities as their kids,” Mr Brook said. “The naming of the burger just seemed logical, as our owner, Dr Jerry Schwartz, personifies boundless energy, and this new creation is homage to his work in re-energising the resort with its massive upgrade.” The revamp included a new lobby and reception area, with the coastal flavour reflected immediately by a large and colourful aquarium. A new games room, guest laundry and retail boutique have also been added, along with new food and beverage outlets. As well as Jerry’s Burgers, the resort now offers Penguins family restaurant, Deb’s Pizza Shack and the Poolside Café and Bar. The exterior and interiors have been freshly repainted, highspeed Wi-Fi has been extended throughout the resort, a new environmentally-friendly, ducted air-conditioning system has been installed, and a new telephone system introduced, allowing free guest calls locally and nationally. Set on a 2ha site close to beaches and attractions, Paradise Resort is known for its multi-million dollar recreation facilities.
The central resort area has a large lagoonstyle pool, heated spa and two enormous Zone for Kids (Z4K) waterpark attractions. The Z4K Club is a fully supervised kids’ club offering separate play spaces, ensuring age appropriate care and activities for kids aged 0-12. It has nine themed play spaces providing a range of activities including a subterranean play centre and maze, pedal cars, and a movie room. The resort is also home to PLANET CHILL and is the only resort in the Southern Hemisphere with a permanent ice-skating rink onsite. Extra kids’ facilities coming later in the year include a miniature train and a carousel. The resort offers a range of accommodation options across its 360 guest rooms, including the popular, themed, Junior and King Bunkhouse rooms, which feature brightly painted bunk beds and gaming consoles. All rooms have been deep-cleaned and sanitised to meet COVID-19 regulations, and the next stage of upgrading will see 66 new rooms unveiled in Dusty’s Digs, along with an adults-only pool, bar and lounge. The resort has a range of Staycation packages starting from $169 per night for a family of four, valid for travel on selected dates until December 21, 2021. Catering for every family size and budget, Paradise Resort also offers room types that sleep eight people. MORE INFORMATION: paradiseresort.com.au 19
HOLIDAY FOR HEALTHCARE HEROES
Australians are being encouraged to share special everyday moments on social media to help frontline healthcare workers in Victoria enjoy a well-deserved holiday. Reflections Holiday Parks is giving away two stays each week at its 37 holiday parks in NSW throughout spring. One lucky entrant who shares a pic on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtags #findthefeels and #reflectionsholidayparks will receive a weekend in a deluxe cabin or a voucher (depending on where they live). They will also have the chance to pay it forward, with a $750 holiday voucher also going to a healthcare worker from St. Vincentâ€™s Hospital in Melbourne, who have been working tirelessly to treat COVID-19 patients over the past six months, to travel when the time is right. They can choose to stay in a deluxe cabin, a tiny house or glamping tents. The campaign also aims to acknowledge moments that make us feel connected, loved and welcomed. reflectionsholidayparks.com.au/find-the-feels
TRUSTED UK BRAND
THE ULTIMATE CASE SCOOTER Days out, sleep overs, holidays & more! 9 DESIGNS!
ECO CRED CROWNE-ING GLORY
Bamboo key cards and paperless check-in are among the environmentally-friendly features introduced at new Crowne Plaza hotels in Sydney, Adelaide and Hobart. The recently opened Crowne Plaza Sydney Darling Harbour has introduced MyCheck technology at its restaurant and bars, so diners can order from digital menus and pay through their own device – ensuring zero paper waste or disposable menus – as well as enhanced safety with contactless ordering. At Crowne Plaza Hobart, executive chef John Churchill has introduced a farm-totable menu at his two restaurants – core restaurant and bar and THE DECK – focusing on small batch suppliers and low waste processes. ORCA food waste technology will feature in the kitchens of the new hotels. Plastic straws and water bottles are also a thing of the past in all IHG hotels, which include Crowne properties, with a move towards eco-friendly bathroom products. The Adelaide and Sydney hotels have also partnered with OzHarvest to rescue perishable excess food which is delivered to communities in need. ihg.com
BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort has been accredited as an Ecotourism Australia-certified operator, recognising its success in terms of ecological sustainability, natural area management and provision of authentic cultural experiences. Owner Greg McKinnon said it was one of the resort’s proudest achievements, with environmental protection and sustainability one of the most important priorities for his team of nearly 50 staff. “As an operator based within the Great Barrier Reef region, we understand the importance of preserving and protecting the area’s ecosystems and natural resources, and to inform our guests of potential impacts and how they can make a difference,” he said. The resort has helped reduce emissions with the use of electric buggies, recycling programs, solar bin lifters and motion sensors for lighting. Solar roof-mounted systems on the conference centre and maintenance shed roofs also help generate power. The resort also has an onsite nursery, with flowering tropical trees and shrubs attracting native butterflies and birdlife.
Plant species such as bromeliads, succulents and native palms have been chosen because they require minimal irrigation, and neem trees have been planted as a natural deterrent for sandflies. The resort also educates guests on how not to interfere with wildlife, including wallabies, bandicoots, ducks and green tree frogs. Dogs and other pets are not permitted, to ensure the resort’s native animals and bird life is not affected. BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort works with Whitsunday Training to deliver its Reef Discovery Program and offers Ocean Rafting’s Reef Seeker program, which provides educational and fun modules for school groups. As the only 4.5 star eco-accredited resort holiday park in Airlie Beach, it offers a range of eco-friendly activities and accommodation options. Cabins range from studio-style rooms through to three-bedroom Poolview Condos with balconies. The Resort has a waterslide park, a kids’ club, animal park, mini golf, jumping pillow and outdoor cinema. adventurewhitsunday.com.au
READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS
Celebrating our favourite travel destinations, attractions, experiences and places to stay has never been more important, so we are thrilled to reveal the winners of Out & with Kids’ 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards! These are the top Australian and international holidays as voted by the most important people around – YOU, our readers! While we may not be able to visit them all right now, we believe it’s important to recognise the heroes of an industry that has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to add them to our list for when the time is right. So, without any further ado, here they are. We would like to send a huge congratulations to all from the Out & About with Kids team!
Images: (top right) Tourism and Events Queensland, (bottom left) Tracy Morris-The Blonde Nomads
READERSâ€™ CHOICE AWARDS
Clockwise from top left: Ride the Doomsday Destroyer at Warner Bros. Movie World on the Gold Coast, A family at Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef, Kids playing with a giant ball at Club Med Bali, Beachfront villas at RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort in Western Australia, Enjoy a cultural experience in Kyoto, Japan, Kids enjoying the playground at BIG4 Easts Beach in Kiama 23
Image: Image Destination NSW
A family on the Gold Coast
Feeding a giraffe at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo
Image: Tourism and Events Queensland
READERSâ€™ CHOICE AWARDS
READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS
• Gold Coast, Queensland destinationgoldcoast.com.au RUNNERS UP • Sunshine Coast, Queensland visitsunshinecoast.com • The Whitsundays, Queensland tourismwhitsundays.com.au
BEST CAPITAL CITY IN AUSTRALIA FOR FAMILIES WINNER
• Melbourne, Victoria visitvictoria.com RUNNER UP • Sydney, NSW sydney.com
BEST REGIONAL HOLIDAY DESTINATION IN AUSTRALIA FOR FAMILIES WINNER
Dubbo, NSW dubbo.com.au RUNNERS UP • Albany, Western Australia australiassouthwest.com/ destination/albany • Cairns, Queensland tropicalnorthqueensland. com.au
BEST INTERNATIONAL HOLIDAY DESTINATION FOR FAMILIES
WINNER • Fiji fiji.travel
RUNNERS UP • Bali, Indonesia indonesia.travel/au/en/ destinations/bali-nusa tenggara/bali • Hawai‘i, USA gohawaii.com/au
BEST INTERNATIONAL HOLIDAY DESTINATION FOR FAMILIES WITH BABIES AND TODDLERS
Image: Mark Snyder-Tourism Fiji
BEST HOLIDAY DESTINATION IN AUSTRALIA FOR FAMILIES
Image: Visit Victoria
WINNER • Fiji fiji.travel
RUNNER UP • Bali indonesia.travel/au
Nannies with babies in Fiji
BEST DESTINATION IN NORTH AMERICA FOR FAMILIES WINNER
• Anaheim, California visitanaheim.org RUNNERS UP • Orlando, Florida visitorlando.com • Los Angeles, California discoverlosangeles.com
A family walking through Anaheim Packing District 25
READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS
Gringotts Wizarding Bank at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter
Image: Destination NSW
A family building a snowman at Perisher
Children marvel at the ice village at Hoshino Resorts TOMAMU
BEST DESTINATION IN ASIA FOR FAMILIES
BEST DESTINATION FOR IMMERSING IN CULTURE
• Thailand amazingthailand.com.au
• Japan japan.travel/en/au
RUNNER UP • Singapore visitsingapore.com/en
RUNNER UP • Thailand amazingthailand.com.au
BEST DESTINATION IN EUROPE FOR FAMILIES
BEST AUSTRALIAN SKI RESORT FOR FAMILIES
• London visitlondon.com
• Perisher perisher.com.au
WINNER Japan is tops for cultural experiences
RUNNERS UP • Italy italia.it • France france.fr
BEST DESTINATION FOR ADVENTUROUS FAMILIES
RUNNER UP • Mt Buller mtbuller.com.au/Winter
BEST INTERNATIONAL SKI RESORT FOR FAMILIES WINNER
• New Zealand newzealand.com/au
• Hoshino Resorts TOMAMU, Japan snowtomamu.jp/winter/en
RUNNER UP • South Africa southafrica.net/au/en
RUNNER UP • Big White, Canada bigwhite.com
READERSâ€™ CHOICE AWARDS
with kids Ziplining with Ziptrek Eco Tours in Queenstown
Image: Destination Queenstown
Image: Tourism Authority of Thailand
Rai Le Beach at Krabi in Thailand
READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS
Image: Christian Thompson-Disneyland Resort
Image: Tourism and Events Queensland
Swimming with a turtle on the Great Barrier Reef on a tour with Sunlover Cruises
BEST ATTRACTIONS BEST FAMILY ATTRACTION BEST THEME PARK OR IN AUSTRALIA AMUSEMENT PARK WINNER IN AUSTRALIA FOR • Great Barrier Reef, FAMILIES Queensland greatbarrierreef.org
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park in California 28
RUNNERS UP • Sovereign Hill, Ballarat, Victoria sovereignhill.com.au • Penguin Parade, Phillip Island, Victoria penguins.org.au/attractions/ penguin-parade
• Warner Bros. Movie World, Queensland movieworld.com.au RUNNER UP • SeaWorld, Queensland seaworld.com.au
READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS
Meet Batman at Warner Bros. Movie World on the Gold Coast
The Mission to Mars exhibit at Questacon in Canberra
Australia Zoo’s Africa Savannah
BEST ANIMAL ATTRACTION BEST EDUCATIONAL IN AUSTRALIA ATTRACTION FOR WINNER FAMILIES IN AUSTRALIA • Australia Zoo, Queensland australiazoo.com.au RUNNER UP • Taronga Zoo Sydney taronga.org.au/sydney-zoo
BEST INTERNATIONAL FAMILY ATTRACTION
• Questacon, ACT questacon.edu.au RUNNER UP • Scienceworks, Victoria museumsvictoria.com.au/ scienceworks
• Disneyland Resort in California disneyland.com.au 29
READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS
An aerial view of Fairmont Resort and Spa in the Blue Mountains
A room at Oaks Sunshine Coast Oasis Resort
Image: Fraser Coast Tourism and Events
Camping on Fraser Island
BEST ACCOMMODATION AUSTRALIA BEST FAMILY HOTEL OR RESORT IN AUSTRALIA FOR FAMILIES
BEST APARTMENT OR SERVICED APARTMENT BRAND IN AUSTRALIA FOR FAMILIES
• Paradise Resort Gold Coast, Queensland paradiseresort.com.au
• Oaks Hotels, Resorts & Suites oakshotels.com/en
RUNNER UP • Sea World Resort Gold Coast, Queensland seaworld.com.au/resort
RUNNERS UP • Mantra mantra.com.au • Quest Apartment Hotels questapartments.com.au
BEST CAMPING SPOT IN AUSTRALIA FOR FAMILIES WINNER
• Fraser Island, Queensland visitfrasercoast.com/fraser- island RUNNERS UP • Gippsland Lakes, Victoria visiteastgippsland.com.au/ regions/gippsland-lakes • Murray River, Victoria/NSW visitthemurray.com.au
BEST LUXURY PROPERTY IN AUSTRALIA WINNER
• Fairmont Resort and Spa Blue Mountains, NSW fairmontresort.com.au RUNNERS UP • Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa, Broome, Western Australia cablebeachclub.com • Sheraton Mirage, Port Douglas, Queensland marriott.com/hotels/travel/ cnssi-sheraton-grand-mirage- resort-port-douglas
READERSâ€™ CHOICE AWARDS
Paradise Resort Gold Coast
READERSâ€™ CHOICE AWARDS
Enjoying the waterslide at BIG4 Easts Beach in Kiama 32
READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS
BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort in Queensland
BEST HOLIDAY PARKS BEST HOLIDAY PARK GROUP IN AUSTRALIA WINNER
• BIG4 Holiday Parks big4.com.au RUNNERS UP • Discovery Parks discoveryholidayparks.com.au • NRMA Parks and Resorts nrmaparksandresorts.com.au
BEST FAMILY HOLIDAY PARKS AROUND AUSTRALIA NSW WINNER
• BIG4 Easts Beach Kiama eastsbeach.com.au RUNNERS UP • NRMA Ocean Beach Resort, Central Coast nrmaparksandresorts.com.au/ ocean-beach • North Star Holiday Resort, Hastings Point northstar.com.au
• BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort & BIG 4 Gold Coast Holiday Park adventurewhitsunday.com.au goldcoastholidaypark.com.au RUNNERS UP • NRMA Treasure Island Holiday Resort nrmaparksandresorts.com.au/ treasure-island • BIG4 Ingenia Holidays Cairns Coconut ingeniaholidays.com.au/cairns- coconut
BIG4 Gold Coast Holiday Park
• BIG4 Ballarat Goldfields Holiday Park big4.com.au/caravan-parks/ vic/goldfields/ballarat- goldfields-holiday-park
Pedal bikes at BIG4 Ballarat
RUNNER UP • BIG4 Apollo Bay Pisces Holiday Park big4.com.au/caravan-parks/ vic/great-ocean-road/apollo- bay-pisces
READERSâ€™ CHOICE AWARDS
BIG4 Howard Springs in the Northern Territory
BIG4 St Helens Holiday Park in Tasmania
BIG4 Renmark Riverfront Holiday Park
BIG4 St Helens Holiday Park big4sthelens.com.au
BIG4 Renmark Riverfront Holiday Park big4.com.au/caravan-parks/sa/ riverland/renmark-riverfrontholiday-park
RUNNER UP NRMA Port Arthur Holiday Park nrmaparksandresorts.com.au/ port-arthur
NORTHERN TERRITORY WINNER
BIG4 Howard Springs Holiday Park big4howardsprings.com.au RUNNER UP BIG4 MacDonnell Range Holiday Park big4.com.au/caravanparks/nt/alice-springssurrounds/macdonnell-rangeholiday-park
RUNNERS UP NRMA Victor Harbor Beachfront Holiday Park nrmaparksandresorts.com.au/ victor-harbor BIG4 West Beach Parks big4.com.au/caravan-parks/sa/ greater-adelaide/west-beachparks
WESTERN AUSTRALIA WINNER
RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort parksandresorts.rac.com.au/ monkey-mia RUNNER UP BIG4 Beachlands Holiday Park beachlands.com.au
READERSâ€™ CHOICE AWARDS
Kids in the playground at RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort in Western Australia
BEST INTERNATIONAL HOTELS AND RESORTS
READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS
• Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket centarahotelsresorts.com/ centaragrand/cpbr
• Disneyland Resort Hotels, Anaheim, California disneyland.disney.go.com/hotels
FIJI (VITI LEVU) WINNER
• Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort outrigger.com/hotels-resorts/ fiji/viti-levu/outrigger-fiji- beach-resort RUNNERS UP RUNNERS UP RUNNERS UP • Disney’s Grand Floridian • Radisson Blu Resort Fiji • Club Med Phuket Resort & Spa, Florida Denarau Island clubmed.com.au/r/Phuket disneyworld.disney.go.com/ radissonhotels.com/en-us/ • JW Marriott Phuket resorts/grand-floridian-resort- hotels/radisson-blu-resort-fiji- Resort & Spa and-spa/ denarau-island marriott.com.au/hotels/travel/ • Great Wolf Lodge, • InterContinental Fiji Golf hktjw-jw-marriott-phuket- Anaheim, California Resort & Spa resort-and-spa greatwolf.com fiji.intercontinental.com
FIJI (OTHER ISLANDS)
• Club Med Bali clubmed.com.au/r/Bali/y
• Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikīkī Beach Resort hiltonhawaiianvillage.com RUNNERS UP • Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, Kapolei disneyaulani.com • Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, Maui kbhmaui.com
• Castaway Island castawayfiji.com
RUNNERS UP • Bali Dynasty Resort bdr.pphotels.com • Grand Mirage Resort & Thalasso Bali grandmirage.com
RUNNERS UP • Plantation Island Resort plantationisland.com • Malolo Island Resort Fiji maloloisland.com
Pacific Resort Rarotonga
Atlantis The Palm Dubai 36
Image: Mark Snyder-Tourism Fiji
READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS
A family walking along the beach at Castaway Resort in Fiji
Image: Hilton Hotels and Resorts
Club Med Bali
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
Kayaking on the lagoon at Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort
• Pacific Resort Rarotonga, Cook Islands pacificresort.com/rarotonga
A room at Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket
RUNNERS UP • The Rarotongan Beach Resort and Lagoonarium, Cook Islands therarotongan.com • Holiday Inn Resort, Vanuatu vanuatu.holidayinnresorts.com
BEST LUXURY PROPERTY WINNER
• Atlantis The Palm, Dubai atlantis.com/dubai RUNNERS UP • Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Hawai’i disneyaulani.com • Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge sabisabi.com/lodges bushlodge
• Disneyland Paris Hotel disneylandparis.com/en-gb/ hotels/disneyland-hotel RUNNERS UP • LEGOLAND Castles, LEGOLAND Deutschland Resort, Germany legoland.de/en/ accommodation_1/legoland- holiday-village/legoland- castles • Parklane, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Limassol, Cyprus marriott.com/hotels/travel/ pfomd-parklane-a-luxury collection-resort-and-spa- limassol 37
READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS
A family at Cape Otway Lighstation on the Great Ocean Rd
BEST EXPERIENCES BEST INDIGENOUS BEST ROAD TRIP EXPERIENCE IN AUSTRALIA IN AUSTRALIA FOR FAMILIES FOR FAMILIES WINNER
RUNNER UP • Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory kakadutourism.com
RUNNER UP • Sydney to Byron Bay, NSW visitnsw.com
Image: Visit Victoria
• Uluru, Northern Territory parksaustralia.gov.au/ uluru
Image: Tourism Australia
Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park offers incredible Indigenous tourism experiences
• Great Ocean Rd, Victoria visitgreatoceanroad. org.au
READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS
A homestay in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco with Intrepid Travel
Australian families love Qantas
BEST AIRLINE FOR FAMILIES
BEST TOUR COMPANY FOR FAMILIES
• Qantas qantas.com
• Intrepid Travel intrepidtravel.com/au/theme/ family
RUNNERS UP • Emirates emirates.com/ au/english • Air New Zealand airnewzealand.com.au
RUNNERS UP • Trafalgar trafalgar.com • G Adventures gadventures.com.au
I recently had the bright – nay, crazy – idea to take my little tribe on a 10-hour road trip, which actually turned out to be a 15-hour road trip, to see our family. As I started to plan, I began to question my sanity and wonder if I was leading my family into a Griswold family trip from hell. These were some of my thoughts.
1. This is going to be so fun! Ten hours of
family bonding time. Oh wait, I guess we’ll have to stop for toilet breaks, so maybe 11 hours, oh and food, and petrol, there might be traffic and road works. Thirteen … 13 hours of family bonding time. I wonder if that Jetstar sale is still on?
2. Nope, this is going to be great! Super fun,
we can play games, and sing. Actually, maybe I should buy Magnolia some headphones for her iPad so that I don’t have to listen to Ryan’s Toy Reviews on repeat for 13 hours. Better yet, I should buy myself some noise cancelling headphones so that I don’t have to listen to anything for 13 hours.
3. What other activities can she do in the
car other than an iPad? Colouring in? Hmm … coloured markers without lids floating around on the floor? No thanks. Barbies? Maybe – as long as there are no markers for her to do their ‘make-up’ with, and she’ll no doubt lose all the accessories. Cars! That’s a good one – no mess, no accessories. But what will she drive them on? Why didn’t I buy one of those overpriced car tray tables when I saw them advertised on Instagram? iPad it is then!
4. That tray table would have been really
good for snacks too! What can I buy that won’t create any mess? Ha! I crack myself up, snacks that don’t make a mess, what a dream. I’ll have to buy one of those spill-proof drink bottles too.
5. She better not have too much water
though, or we’ll have to stop every five minutes. Why did I think beginning toilet training a week before our road trip was a good idea? Oh, well, can’t go back now … or can I? Surely going back to nappies for one more day won’t set us back too much? Fourteen hours it is. 40
TEN THOUGHTS MUMS HAVE BEFORE A ROAD TRIP WITH KIDS
ALEXANDRA WHITTINGTON, from Stay At Home Mum, found a million thoughts went through her mind before, and during, a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney with her three-year-old daughter Magnolia and six-year-old son Oscar. Here are some of them.
Alexandra with Magnolia and Oscar
6. I am going to need A LOT of coffee. I
wonder where I should stop. Google shows me all the places to get coffee on the highway between here and Sydney. Wow, not a lot of options. What are the reviews like? This is hard work. Why can’t someone just make me a list? I should start a list! All the Best Places to Stop for Coffee from Brisbane to Sydney. Should I start a blog? It could be all about family road trips, and coffee … It might go viral and attract sponsors and then I could get a free car!
7. I bet there’s a podcast about starting a blog.
I should find one for the trip. I should download the latest episode of Australian True Crime while I’m at it. Is it inappropriate to listen to true crime with a toddler in the car? Hmmm, I doubt I’ll even get to listen to it anyway, between Frozen, Frozen Two, the crying, and the Trolls soundtrack.
8. Maybe they will sleep most of the way and
I’ll get to listen to whatever I like and there will be half as many breaks so we will get there in no time at all. Does Phenergan make kids sleep? Oh my God, that’s a terrible thought! Who am I?
Should we stop at the tourist attractions on the way? It would be pretty cute to get a photo of them in front of the Big Banana, but that will add an hour to the trip … so 15 hours then. Maybe we should break it up into two days and stay at a hotel? Or three days and hire a camper van? My in-laws live halfway so we could stay there for a night. Fifteen hours straight it is!
10. I don’t know why I was getting so stressed;
I just need to focus on the fact that it’s 15 hours of uninterrupted quality time with my family. Oh my God, the drive home! I haven’t even thought about that. I might just check flights one more time. Well in the end we all survived, fuelled by coffee, lots of belly laughs and minimal toilet-related accidents! It was certainly a very long trip, but I would absolutely do it again . 41
l a s p t i a c
! o l o c
Image: Visit Victoria
There are awesome adventures to be had in and around Australiaâ€™s capital cities, writes MEGAN HOLBECK
Kids playing on the beach at Phillip Island in Victoria 42
Abseiling with Riverlife in Brisbane
One of the silver linings of 2020’s dark COVID-19 cloud is the new-found appreciation for what we have in our own backyards. Whether you’ve got toddlers or teenagers, are keen on gentle strolls or adrenaline, the outdoors has been both a sanity saver and boredom buster. Tracks and trails have been heaving, with water and waves way busier than usual. But the initial burst of enthusiasm has waned as “I can’t believe we’ve never done this before!” morphs into, “Not this walk again…” Which is where this article comes in, detailing destinations for adventures wild and tame, long and short, and from doit-yourself to guided experiences. The added benefit? Soon we’ll be travelling further afield, and you’ve got a ready-made list of awesome family experiences around the country.
Pittwater is a playground of boats, beaches and bush, 40km north of the city. The drive is worth it for the expansive views from West Head alone, without mentioning the walks to see Indigenous rock art and secluded beaches. Keep going to Palm Beach to surf, plonk or play, or climb the steps to the 140-year-old Barrenjoey Lighthouse for fantastic views over Pittwater and the coast. Ferries run to the Basin campsite, as well as to Patonga for visits to the pub and pelicans, or walks onward to Pearl Beach.
Image: Destination NSW
Go kayaking at Pittwater
Image: David Hill-Destination NSW
Megan’s children Pippa and Hatty near Chowder Bay on the Bondi to Manly Walk Canyoning at Empress Falls in the Blue Mountains
BONDI TO MANLY WALK
This walk traces the coastline between two of Sydney’s most famous beaches. It’s 80km long, but don’t let the distance put you off: although it can be done as a hard-core twoday affair, it’s far more fun to take your time, ticking off sections as you like. Highlights are individual: gorgeous beaches, beautiful bush, historical interludes, and iconic sights. Public transport and convenient cafes make access and planning easy, with ferry rides adding to the fun.
BLUE MOUNTAINS CANYONING
ROYAL NATIONAL PARK
Australia’s oldest national park is accessible by train, ferry and car, and less than 40km from the CBD. Stretching along a stunning coastline, there’s something for everyone: from the short but steep Winifred Falls Trail to two-day walks along the famous Coast Track. Or explore the lovely town of Bundeena and its 5km-long Jibbon Loop Track, taking in the well-preserved Aboriginal engravings, sandy beaches and great views.
It’s not just one of the world’s most beautiful harbours – Sydney Harbour is also the city’s playground. From iconic structures to hidden beaches, historic sights to urban delights, there’s enough to keep your family exploring for months. Start with the grand overview from the Harbour Bridge, with BridgeClimb Sydney offering adrenaline, beauty and history in equal measures for kids aged eight and over. With in situ tents, cafes and campfires, camping on Cockatoo Island is as easy as it gets, with great views over the harbour, as well as giving insights into our convict past. Sydney Harbour Kayaks at Spit Bridge rents boats, allowing watery explorations of the greener side of the harbour for children three and over.
Wattamolla in the Royal National Park 45
Image: Destination NSW
Waterfalls, golden walls of rock and fairy glens of ferns: the canyons of the Blue Mountains are pure magic. They’re also more accessible than they sound: kids of any age can dip their toes in the famous Grand Canyon, while more capable kids can walk the entire loop. The beautiful, watersculpted worlds of Empress and Serendipity Canyons can be explored on full-day tours with High and Wild Adventures, where teenagers (and parents!) can abseil down waterfalls and rock jump into crystal pools.
MELBOURNE PHILLIP ISLAND
Image: Visit Victoria
It’s got surf, sand, seals and cliffs, as well as birds galore, all within a couple of hours’ drive of Melbourne. The island is bigger than you think: Cape Woolamai is its most southern point, with cliff-top walks showcasing crashing waves, sea stacks and bird life. The west coast is home to The Nobbies, a fabulously named headland with dramatic scenery, a blowhole, and Australia’s largest fur seal colony. Wildlife Coast Cruises offers two-hour trips to the offshore Seal Rocks, before you cap off your day by watching hordes of waddling penguins.
Kids exploring at Cowes on Phillip Island 46
Steavenson Falls in the Yarra Valley
Image: Visit Victoria
Melbourne’s main Yarra Trail stretches 18km from Fairfield in the city’s north to Federation Square. Meander along the river on foot or bike, past waterfalls, creeks and parks, stopping at historical buildings and interesting kid-friendly destinations: feed the animals at Collingwood Children’s Farm or explore the art, food and history at Abbottsford Convent. Divide the trip into shorter stages and soak it all in, or enjoy as a full-day adventure.
POINT NEPEAN NATIONAL PARK
Perched at the end of the Mornington Peninsula, this national park has it all – views, walks and history. Port Phillip was once one of the most heavily fortified areas in the Southern Hemisphere, with shots fired from here in both World Wars. Kids will love exploring the tunnels and guns of the army fort, as well as the slightly spooky Quarantine Station, which operated from 1852 to 1980. The tracks are perfect for cycling and walking, and the Peninsula Hot Springs are pretty much on the way home… This national park of gum trees and jagged rock outcrops is 115km north of Melbourne. There are peaceful strolls along gentle streams or more strenuous hikes up the peaks, as well as several camping options if you want to make a weekend of it. The drive takes you through beautiful forests of tall, straight mountain ash and past Healesville with its great pubs, cafes, vineyards, breweries and distilleries.
Image: Northern Victoria
A familiy hiking in Cathedral Ranges State Park
Daylesford is a magnet for foodies and couples, but there’s plenty for families as well, all within 110km of the city. Kids of any age will love spotting birds, and playgrounds, on a lap of Lake Daylesford, or take a short saunter around Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve to sample water from five of its famous springs. The Domino Rail Trail from Trentham to Lyonville is a 6km track through lovely bushland suitable for walking or cycling. Leave time to explore the towns at either end: the gorgeous cafes, cute shops and spectacular waterfall of Trentham and old-school magic of Lyonville’s Radio Springs Hotel.
Image: Visit Victoria
See the penguin parade at Phillip Island
BRISBANE GLASS HOUSE MOUNTAINS
These volcanic peaks rear steeply from the coastal plains just inland from the Sunshine Coast. There are rainforests, waterfalls and dramatic views, as well as cute towns aplenty. If you’re after a short stroll, try the 15-minute walk through eucalypt forest, giving fantastic views of Mt Beerwah. The circuit around Tibrogargan is popular with families, allowing you to take in the view from every angle. (Allow two hours.) There’s also plenty to do in nearby Maleny: sample brews at the craft brewery, cuddle a camel at QCamel dairy, explore the lovely botanical gardens or cool off at gorgeous Gardners Falls.
Abseling with Pinnacle Sports
You can’t get a much more accessible city crag than Kangaroo Point, where volcanic cliffs rise 20m from the banks of the Brisbane River. Pinnacle Sports offers three-hour climbing tasters for kids aged eight and over – a fabulous way to experience the thrills of outdoor rock climbing, while Riverlife Brisbane’s abseiling experience is offered every Friday and Saturday. If you want to expand the adventure, stroll across the Story Bridge to Howards Smith Wharves for lunch, before tackling the bridge itself. This is the only place in the world you can combine a bridge climb with an abseil: the three-hour trip takes in views and history on the way up, before a 30m abseil into the park below.
A family at Gardners Falls in the Glass House Mountains
Image: Tourism and Events Queensland
Children on the boardwalk at Boondall Wetlands Environment Centre
LAMINGTON NATIONAL PARK
Lamington National Park is part of a UNESCO World Heritagelisted area, the most extensive area of subtropical rainforest in the world, and under two hours’ drive from Brisbane. The greens of Lamington’s moss, ferns and creepers are matched only by the diversity of the area’s 500 waterfalls. With more than 160km of tracks, there are plenty of walking options. Or visit O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat to feed the colourful parrots, zipline through the trees, or take to the canopy on the Tree Top Walk. Better make a weekend of it!
BRISBANE VALLEY RAIL TRAIL
Winding for 160km through forests, farms and towns between Ipswich and Yarraman, this is the longest rail trail in Australia. Don’t let the distance put you off: the well-maintained track is flat, free from cars and broken up into sections for picturesque day trips on foot, bike or horseback. The 8.5km
trail from Fernvale to Lowood is a family favourite, with playgrounds, water and the allimportant ice-creams at either end. The entire track can be done in stages – a great goal for older kids – piecing together the area’s landscape and history.
Pack a picnic and head up to the Boondall Wetlands – a massive expanse of mangroves, salt marsh and open forest perched on the edge of Moreton Bay, 15km north of the CBD. The 2km pramfriendly boardwalk is an easy introduction, with a bird hide for wildlife spotting. (Keep your eyes peeled: this area is internationally renowned for its birdlife.) There’s also a longer, bike-friendly track leading 4km to Nudgee Beach – where ice-cream is again optional – before you return the same way. The Boondall Wetlands Environment Centre provides information and exploration ideas (including the perennial favourite – maps!), and there’s a lovely picnic area.
Ride around Lake Burley Griffin
LAKE BURLEY GRIFFIN
This is as urban as Canberran adventures get! The bike path around Lake Burley Griffin stretches for 30km, ranging from the natural (wetlands, bays and woods) to the monumental, taking in the National Gallery, National Museum, Parliament House and way more. (The ride can also be broken into shorter loops.) Interrupt your cycling with a spin in one of Capital Paddle’s classic paddleboats, or take an electric GOBOAT from Kingston Foreshore to explore the lake’s islands.
This 145km track around the city may not be the first thing you think of for a family adventure, but perhaps it should be. Designed as a three-day cycle or seven-day walk, the Centenary Trail was opened in 2013 to mark 100 years of the capital. The 9km northern section from Hall Village to One Tree Hill is a family-friendly highlight: there are sweeping views of the city and a scramble to the summit, before you answer the call of Hall’s ice creameries, cafés and brewery. A shorter, southern option follows the track from Kambah Pool to the lookout over Red Rocks Gorge, returning to the pool for a cooling swim.
TIDBINBILLA NATURE RESERVE
This nature reserve isn’t just about the animals – there are also wonderful walks showing off the bushland and views over ridges, valleys and peaks. Gibraltar Peak has a spectacular outlook over the city, as well as the chance to see rock climbers dance up the granite. (The walk takes a few hours – pack a picnic.) The 2km Sanctuary Loop is an easier option, following a boardwalk past sculptures and over wetlands, with pools perfect for platypus spotting, if you’re quiet and lucky. 49
Image: Tourism NT-Lucy Ewing
Image: Tourism NT-Aude Mayans
A turtle encounter on Bare Sand Island
Buley Rockhole in Litchfield National Park
DA RW I N EAST POINT RESERVE
Clifftop walks, swimming, food trucks and history: it’s no wonder this is one of Darwin’s most popular family destinations. The 5km loop track around the reserve will entertain everyone from toddlers to grandparents, with great views over the harbour, as well as the chance to explore World War II relics including gun emplacements. Lake Alexander has safe swimming year-round, or have a crack at stand-up paddling: lessons, and board hire can be arranged through Fun Supply. Add in playgrounds, picnic and barbecue areas for a good time (almost) guaranteed.
LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK
With stunning waterfalls, natural plunge pools and shady monsoon forests a day trip to Litchfield is worth every minute of the two-hour drive. The Florence Creek walk links two of the park’s best swimming holes, Florence Falls and Buley Rockhole, in an easy 90-minute
saunter. Give yourself all day to explore and swim below Florence’s falls and in Buley’s cascading pools. Another option is Wangi Falls, where twin waterfalls cascade into an enormous pool. There’s an in-season kiosk, grassy lawns for picnics, as well as bushwalking and camping options. (Check that the falls are open first.)
A boat trip gives a different perspective on the NT capital. Sea Darwin offers everything from one-hour World War II history tours to evenings spent on remote islands. The Sunset Cruise is a crowd -pleaser: this 90-minute trip includes fish and chips, the chance to visit sandbars, see dolphins and appreciate the artwork of a Darwin sunset. For those with kids aged eight and over, the four-hour trip to the remote Bare Sand Island is straight off the bucket list: watch the sun set before waiting for huge flatback turtles to plod up the beach to lay their eggs. (Fingers crossed!)
TreeClimb in Adelaide
ADELAIDE PARK LANDS
The Adelaide Park Lands are home to TreeClimb, Australia’s first innercity aerial adventure park. With more than 70 obstacles over eight different routes, there’s enough to challenge both little kids and parents: from low-level courses allowing ground level coaching, to tree top ziplines. (The outdoor café is a welcome pit stop.) The nearby BMX course has been recently upgraded, and there are sporting fields and playgrounds aplenty.
ADELAIDE DOLPHIN SANCTUARY
Just the name of this marine park should be enough to excite the kids! Only 20 minutes from Adelaide, this area is home to more than 40 wild bottlenose dolphins, with another 300 regularly visiting. Adventure Kayaking SA offers three-hour kayak tours for kids four and over, exploring the shoreline, mangroves and shipwrecks dotting the area, with plenty of dolphin spotting along the way. Add in a visit to nearby St Kilda to refuel at the cafes and restaurants, burn energy at the adventure playground or follow the boardwalk around the mangroves.
See dolphins up close at Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary
Image: Joel Durbridge
Image: Marianna Boorman
MORIALTA CONSERVATION PARK
Morialt Conservation Park
The rugged ridges, gullies, cliffs and waterfalls of Morialta Conservation Park are only 10km from the city, with walks from 30 minutes to fullon, full-day trips. There’s also plenty of wildlife, with a healthy population of koalas (look up!), and the chance to see echidnas and kangaroos, as well as plenty of native birds and sunning lizards. Let your kids loose in the amazing nature playground, or watch the rock climbers take on their more vertical version in the gorge.
HOBA RT Riders in Maydena Bike Park
Image: Stu Gibson
Nature, history, art and fun: Hobart adventures have it all. The city’s skyline is dominated by kunanyi/Mt Wellington and its prominent dolerite columns. There’s everything from 2km rambles to full-day hikes on and around the mountain, with amazing views over the city from the top. For an historical interlude, follow the Hobart Rivulet Track as it winds down the hill from the Cascade Brewery past the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site, where women convicts laboured and lived. Ride bikes or the ferry out to MONA (carefully avoiding the more risqué artworks) or take one of Roaring 40s’ kayak tours of the city’s harbour (seven and older – fish and chips included!)
MT FIELD NATIONAL PARK
Go kayaking in Hobart with Roaring 40s
Less than 80km from Hobart, Mt Field National Park has it all: accessible, short, beautiful wanders through fairy glens to waterfalls, and longer walks that feel like proper wilderness escapes. If your legs are fresh and the weather favourable, head up to the alpine plateau: the incredible views and pristine tarns are a magic combination. For those who prefer wheels, there’s Maydena Bike Park, with trails for everyone from families to the pros. Although known for its gourmet produce, the real star of the Huon is its river. Less than an hour from Hobart, the gorgeous town of Franklin is right on the water: explore the town and its riverbanks, perhaps fish from the jetty, before taking a tour of boatbuilding tools and timber at the Wooden Boat Centre. Then set sail on the Yukon, a traditional Danish-built ketch, for a 90-minute, calm water cruise along this serene stretch. 52
Visit the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site
Image: Alastair Bett
It’s not every day you can don a pair of goggles and set off from the beach to explore a historic shipwreck. Except in Coogee, 30 minutes south of the city, where you can do exactly that. The historic Omeo was sunk just off the coast in 1905, with underwater artworks and an artificial reef added to the snorkelling trail since. Back on land there’s a short Aboriginal heritage track designed to share local Indigenous stories and language, with colourful glass artworks and lovely views from the lookout.
Penguins are just one of the drawcards of this amazing little island, an hour’s drive south of
Perth. From Rockingham, it’s a fiveminute trip on the cute ferry to the island’s sheltered waters, beautiful beaches and incredible wildlife. There’s a myriad of adventures to choose from – swimming with wild dolphins, sea kayaking and wildlife tours, watching the penguin feeding, swimming, snorkelling and walking the short nature trails. Take a picnic or refuel at Pengo’s Café, but be aware that the island is closed in bad weather and winter, when it’s penguin breeding season.
YANCHEP NATIONAL PARK
With guaranteed wildlife, as well as walking, caving and tree top adventures, this national park packs it in, and it’s less than an hour’s
drive north of the city. If it’s animals you’re after, there’s an abundance of kangaroos, as well as a resident population of koalas. There are more than 400 caves in the park, including Perth’s only tourist caves, with guided tours exploring their history, formations and chambers. Take one of the park’s eight bushwalks (from half hour to multiday rambles), or try the ropes course at Trees Adventure. If one day is not long enough, there is accommodation at the Inn and camp site. MORE INFORMATION: australia.com
Image: Perth Wildlife Encounters
Image: Perth Wildlife Encounters
Image: Tourism Western Australia
A sea lion on the beach at Penguin Island
A koala in Yanchep National Park
Meet the wildlife on Penguin Island 53
Katrina’s children Maya and Rémy at Mungo National Park in outback NSW
KATRINA DENOUX and her family swap the French Riviera for a road trip to the NSW Riverina and beyond 54
The family set out on their epic 3,000km adventure
xploring the dramatic landscapes of Mungo National Park on a full moon, we felt like we were under a spell. Natural light illuminated the sand and clay dunes that surrounded us, sculpted over many years into imposing formations. We had timed this tour well, and spent a day with ecotour operator, Outback Geo Adventures, who guided us through the ancient history, native flora and fauna in the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area of NSW. This is where Mungo Woman and Mungo Man,
who were buried more than 40,000 years ago, were discovered in the 1960s and 1970s â€“ the oldest human remains ever to be found in Australia. We were privileged to also be accompanied by a Muthi Muthi woman, whose family has been instrumental in returning Mungo Man from Canberraâ€™s Australian National University. She watched us from the viewing area, having suggested we remove our shoes to walk, reflecting on the ancient sand dunes, not only to feel the spirit of the land through our bare soles but also to respect these spirits, and the brothers and sisters ď ˝ 55
buried under their sacred sites. At this time of year, we’d usually be flying to Saint Tropez to work at the holiday retreat we own along the star-studded French Riviera coast. But with COVID-19 travel restrictions in place, our only option was an intrastate sojourn. My husband Christophe grew up in France, while I grew up in Sydney, where we now live. Our twins Maya and Rémy had never been further west than Bathurst, yet know Europe like the back of their 11-year-old hands.
NSW ROAD TRIP
So, a road trip was planned, as far as we were allowed to go, into deepest NSW, covering 3,000km within the closed borders. We wanted to do our bit; to help with the state’s tourism rebound, and for Maya and Rémy to learn about the outback. As a clinical nutrition, tourism practitioner and gastronomic and sustainable tourism lecturer, I was also keen to do research I could pass on to my students. After speaking to several sustainable tourism providers, and hearing
of their readiness to open and the wellness measures they had put in place, we planned what we could do to travel responsibly and benefit these communities. We’re no strangers to road trips, strapping the kids in and taking scenic routes along the Pacific Hwy towards Brisbane a couple of times a year, visiting family and checking in on our other retreat in Byron Bay. A road trip really is something else. Having grown up with poetic travel novels – On the Road by Jack Kerouac, The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coehlo – we see them as being as much about the journey as the destination. After our original plans were thwarted, when our flight to the Bahamas was cancelled due to a hurricane, Christophe and I had even traversed the famous Route 66 from Las Vegas to Albuquerque for our honeymoon. Our kids were not allowed screens or gadgets in cars until they turned ten. Even now, they are only permitted to play on screens after three hours have passed, and not when passing through towns or areas of historic or natural interest.
Sunset at the Living Desert and Sculptures Park of Broken Hill
Katrina and Rémy enjoying panoramic Riverina valley views, from the clifftop plateau of the Hermit’s Cave, Griffith
YASS & GRIFFITH
The endless horizon of the Mundi Mundi Plains, looking wistfully west towards the closed South Australia border
After taking off in our trusty ‘city’ 4WD, the first stop was Yass, around 300km south-west of Sydney. Who could go past a town with that name? As one of the first groups of travellers to visit post-lockdown, we were welcomed with open arms at the first eatery we visited, Café Dolcetto. With hardly any other tourists around, we were seeing first-hand how the COVID-19 lockdown, droughts and fires have adversely affected regional NSW. We spent our first night in Griffith, at the homestead-style Kidman Hotel – a quintessential motor inn where the ochre red dirt-coloured roof matched the brilliant red western skies at sunset. We had breakfast at the legendary bakery, Bertoldo’s, pleasing the Frenchman amongst us. Produce tasting and learning about the Riverina region’s immigrant agricultural history, at the Riverina Grove HQ factory, was a delicious way to begin our second day. After purchasing some of the Goat-Chaser spicy condiment range, we set off to chase some wild goats of our 57
The highway to Broken Hill. Road signs should also show sheep, cows, goats and echidnas!
Katrina and the kids outside the famous Silverton hotel, home of Mad Max and other film memorabilia
own – those who make their home at the Hermit’s Cave atop Scenic Hill, where an Italian immigrant, Valerio Ricetti, lived alone for many years. A keen gardener, Ricetti created dry stone walls, paths and stone steps, giving access to areas that he named the Garden, the Chapel and the Main Cave, which features his paintings of daisies.
Heading out of town, we passed grain silos and wineries before traversing the stunningly bare Hay plains, playing a squinting eye game – saltbush or sheep? Kangaroo or tree stump? Our next base was the one-café town of Balranald, where we stayed in a cabin in 58
Balranald Caravan Park, on the banks of the Murray River. During a barbecue dinner over a firepit, paired with red wine and Riverina Grove Goat Chaser’s sauces, we toasted the magical river redgums lining the eroded banks. The next morning, as we lay under the mighty branches, staring up at them, I read aloud research about the Murray-Darling water sustainability situation, the fragile ecosystem, and the communities that depend on it. After exploring Mungo National Park, which lies around 1,000km west of Sydney, we took in the sights of the orange groves and wineries of the Mildura region, ticking off a bucket list item of mine – seeing
a Sturt Desert Pea in the wild, at the Australian Inland Botanic Garden, near Buronga. Heading north along the closed South Australian border, we hit the outback proper, and realised how prepared you need to be. It’s essential to check the weather, check spare tyres and check how far away the next petrol stations is; you can drive for 250km and not see one. With only one car passing every 15 minutes, it was a little hard to play some of our favourite road trip games, such as ‘make a sentence from number plate letters’. And with every creek called Dry Lake, ‘imagine a story about how the creek got its name’ was also out of the question.
Katrina and the kids relaxing by the river
Broken Hill is around 1,100km drive west of Sydney, 800km north-west of Melbourne and 500km north-east of Adelaide. A 4WD is suggested for venturing into more remote areas. Countrylink offers train services from Sydney and Adelaide, and you can also fly from both cities with Regional Express.
WHERE TO STAY
There are a variety of accommodation options, ranging from campgrounds in national parks and caravan parks to heritage hotels and outback stations.
WHEN TO GO
The peak season is April to October, when daily temperatures range from 15-24°C. The summer months are extremely hot, with extreme amounts of flies!
BROKEN HILL & SILVERTON
Reaching the frontier town of Broken Hill, we learned about the area’s silver mining history and the importance of tourism. After months of droughts and COVID-19 lockdown, locals were more than happy to chat to us city folk. The million-star hotel and campground, Eldee Station, was the type of experiential accommodation you usually only dream of: sleeping in a sheep shearer’s quarters on a seemingly never-ending cattle property, spending time fossicking for geology finds during the day, and enjoying campfires and star gazing
at night. Driving the 30km of red sand roads between the station and the desert town of Silverton, the Mundi Mundi Plains were so sparse you could see the curvature of the earth. The only buildings dotting the area were in Silverton, which provided the set for the Mad Max movies.
In the opal-mining town of White Cliffs, Maya found a few shards of the precious gem, which she proudly displayed on the bedside table in the room of the underground motel where we stayed, where the rabbit warren of rooms was painted white.
Checking out how water sustainability works in drought times, on an outback cattle station stay
WE HIT THE OUTBACK PROPER, AND REALISED HOW PREPARED YOU NEED TO BE It may not have been Saint Tropez, but there were infinitely more stars and shining jewels in this spectacular land. Katrina Denoux is an Australian Regional Tourism ambassador and the founder of tourism planning service Byron Bay to Saint Tropez. She also lectures in sustainable and wellness tourism. 59
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE TWEED TOURISM CO.
TEN THINGS TO DO IN THE TWEED
Experience an abundance of family fun in the Tweed, which includes the towns of Tweed Heads, Cabarita, Kingscliff and Murwillumbah, in northern NSW
Learn to surf 60
Seaside vacay or country getaway – the Tweed has all you need for a family break that’s packed with fun, adventure, learning and laughs. Meet farm animals, cycle beside the sea, craft pottery, learn to surf, tour a fruit farm or bring out your kids’ creative side, and that’s just for starters!
1. RIDE A WAVE OR TWO Host to some of Australia’s leading surf competitions and big name champs, including Stephanie Gilmore, you’re clearly in great hands while learning to surf in the Tweed. From small beginner wave classes to advanced one-on-one coaching sessions, get your groms on the go with one of the area’s many learn to surf outfits.
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE TWEED TOURISM CO.
2. HOLIDAY PARK HEAVEN
For a good old-fashioned family holiday that has all the comforts of home in sweet onsite cabins, try one of the region’s holiday parks, from Tweed Heads and Kingscliff to Hastings Point and Pottsville. You’ll find awardwinning spots packed with fun for the whole family, from splash-worthy pools and waterslides to massage and day spa options, onsite licensed cafes or easy walking access to the Tweed’s fabulous eateries.
3. TAKE A CRUISE TO CATCH A CRAB
Set off aboard a Tweed River cruise with Catch a Crab Tours to take in stunning waterways and all manner of fishing fun. Haul in crabs, cooked fresh on board, hand-feed friendly wild pelicans, pump for yabbies or try your hand at fishing. You’ll also visit a working oyster farm, where Sydney Rock Oysters are grown and shucked, and at the Lakeside Cafe, fresh crab and seafood dishes are chef-prepared to order.
4. BECOME A JUNIOR AQUATIC GURU
Sign up for some sea air and immersive water play on a Junior Adventure Guru morning with aquatic experts, Watersports Guru. The two-hour outdoor program on Sunday mornings offers water sports such as standup paddleboarding, kayaking and snorkelling with fully qualified and fun local guides, focusing on life skills, environmental care and water safety.
5. GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY WITH CLAY-PLAY
Stone Studio in Kingscliff combines barista-made coffee and locally baked goods with a vibrant pottery studio running workshops for children and adults. Kids can create trinket pots or clay monsters while learning basic techniques and unleashing some creative energy. There are also take-away pottery kits available with clay, tools and accessories and easy how-to videos.
6. SPLASH THE DAYS AWAY
When it’s time to cool off, chill out or learn to swim, make tracks to TRAC – the Tweed Regional Aquatic Centre, which welcomes local and visiting families alike to jump in and splash about. Head to TRAC’s main base in Murwillumbah with indoor and outdoor pools, a waterslide, hydrotherapy options and shaded toddler play pool. There’s also a grassed area to recline and refuel at the pool cafe. 61
WOLLUMBIN MT WARNING - AN ICONIC VISTA SWIM WITH TURTLES AT COOK ISLAND
Find your moment
There are family memories to be created in a place of sparkling seaside villages and sweet valley townships. From a morning surf lesson to a lunchtime river cruise (and yes; mud crabs are always a great idea). Sample fruits of the world and then browse galleries, hit the markets, or simply choose to unwind and take in the fresh green vistas at every bend in the road. Welcome to the Tweed.
WAT E R S P O R T S G U R U
B O Y D ’ S B AY H O U S E B O AT S
Whether you are snorkelling with the turtles this Spring or sunbathing on a stand-up paddle board, Watersports Guru specialize in fun for you and your family. Immerse yourself in nature and explore Cudgen creek or embark on a 10-minute boat ride out to Cook Island off Fingal Head. watersportsguru.com
N O R T H S TA R H O L I D AY R E S O R T
The ultimate family holiday destination. The multi-awardwinning North Star Holiday Resort at Hastings Point is an idyllic, familyfriendly destination located on the beautiful Tweed Coast. It’s peaceful and relaxing, yet fun-ﬁlled and action-packed for the kids! 1800 645 790 northstar.com.au
Explore the Tweed River on a Houseboat Holiday with Boyd’s Bay Houseboats. Our ﬂeet caters from 2-12 guests for an affordable and fun family holiday. Call now 0412 878 400. goldcoasthouseboats.com
C ATC H A C R A B C R U I S E
A river adventure cruise with fun activities for all the family including yabbying, ﬁshing, pelican feeding, crabbing and wildlife spotting along the beautiful Terranora inlet. catchacrab.com.au
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE TWEED TOURISM CO.
8. BE INSPIRED WITH ART AND HISTORY
Head off to Murwillumbah for a day of learning and creativity. Start at the Tweed Regional Museum, with engaging interactive displays as part of its Land|Life|Culture exhibition. Call in to the M|Arts Precinct to browse the buzzing warehouse studio for artists, or changing exhibitions at Gallery DownTown. Next up, visit one of Australia’s best regional galleries, the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre (MOAC), where you’ll find a range of activities including the MOAC Kid’s Guide and online ART PLAY program for families.
9. VISIT ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST FRUIT FARMS
Tropical Fruit World is a vast plantation growing over 500 species of fruit, and families are invited to indulge in all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a vast working farm. Join a guided farm tour or check ahead for workshops, such as the Little Farmers Fruit Forager Tour to inspire future green thumbs. There’s also a Plantation Store, Market and Cafe to refuel and buy local products and produce to take home.
10. PEDAL BESIDE THE SEASIDE 7. HOSANNA FARMSTAY
If it’s fresh air and farm days you’re seeking, head to Hosanna Farmstay in the Tweed hinterland. Book a Day Visit Pass to immerse in farm life – feed the resident animals, take a swim in the dam, bring a picnic lunch and graze under shady trees. The Hosanna Farm Tour includes a hay bale ride around the property, or try the Adventure Passport to work through fun challenges. You can also ease into daily farm life with an overnight stay in Hosanna’s range of accommodation, with options from simple tent camping to rustic wood cabins or the luxurious new Homestead, which sleeps up to 20 people.
Hire bikes and explore the Tweed’s gorgeous coastline, from Kingscliff south to the villages of Casuarina and Cabarita. Smooth, flat pathways wind along beside ocean views, with ample opportunity to jump off and hit a beach path down to the waves for a refreshing dip before pedalling on again.
MORE INFORMATION: visitthetweed.com.au 63
AWESOME FAMILY EXPERIENCES ON THE GOLD COAST
From relaxing on sandy beaches to enjoying adrenaline-filled afternoons, every day is an adventure on the Gold Coast. See some of our top picks below for unforgettable family experiences across Australia’s favourite playground.
1. GOLD COAST THEME PARKS
Did you know kids laugh on average 400 times a day, whereas adults manage a measly 15-20? Perhaps it’s time to loosen up. Mums and dads … let your imaginations run wild and embrace your inner child as you experience the best theme parks Australia has to offer. The Gold Coast’s kid cred is already world renowned – theme parks rise from the sand and sea. Jump into cute, cuddly and roaring wildlife encounters; worlds built entirely for those who bounce; and ice-creameries serving up sugar highs from just about every corner. You’ve got the cream of the crop on the Gold Coast, with the choice of Dreamworld, Movie World, Sea World, Wet’n’Wild, Paradise Country and so much more!
See jellyfish at SeaWorld on the Gold Coast 64
2. GET WET SURF SCHOOL
Get Wet’s lessons are held on The Spit, Gold Coast’s favourite beach, that offers the safest location to learn to surf, just 8km from the heart of Surfers Paradise. Get Wet’s two-hour beginner surf lesson gives participants the opportunity to experience the thrill of surfing in the safest and easiest way possible – a few brief instructions and you are out in the water. Lessons are held every day of the week at 10am and 1pm, with more scheduled in peak times. All equipment is provided, along with complimentary transfers to and from the beach from most Surfers Paradise hotels.
3. CURRUMBIN WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
Explore the iconic Gold Coast Wildlife Sanctuary, open Thursday to Sunday, and every day during the school holidays. Immerse yourself in the wonder and natural beauty of 27ha of Currumbin rainforest, wandering through open animal enclosures, feeding kangaroos and cuddling koalas along the way. Experience the wild lorikeet feeding and free flight bird shows, and see the vets in action within the wildlife hospital precinct. With a huge outdoor playground, Wild Island, and a miniature train, there is plenty to keep the kids entertained. The exotic Lost Valley precinct features 5ha of rainforest, where visitors can explore a forgotten world. Get up close and personal with some of the world’s most unique and distinctive flora and wildlife including lemurs, cotton-top tamarins, red pandas and capybaras, along with free-flying birds and exotic reptiles. 65
4. JELLURGAL ABORIGINAL CULTURAL CENTRE Discover Indigenous culture with a guided walk along a picturesque beachside rainforest walkway, wrapped around the magical mountain, Jellurgal. Learn about the history and traditional culture of the Gold Coast, meet a traditional landowner, and hear the
Dreaming stories associated with the creation of Jellurgal. Hear about traditional life pre-contact, bush tucker, fishing, hunting and the important ecological practices and connection to the land embraced by the Yugambeh people for thousands of years.
5. AQUADUCK SAFARI
Experience a Gold Coast city tour and river cruise with Australia’s first amphibious Aquaduck ride. The city tour portion of the experience begins in the heart of Surfers Paradise on Cavill Avenue, before you head out along the famous Surfers Paradise beach towards the glamour and beauty of Main Beach, along the way taking in the Pacific Ocean, Southport Yacht Club, Marina Mirage and Palazzo Versace as you head to the Broadwater. That’s where the Aquaduck gets to show its true colours, splashing into the water for a scenic cruise of the spectacular river and Broadwater. The cruise encompasses the key sights from the water, wildlife and all the activity of one of Australia’s busiest waterways. While on the water, passengers are free to move about the Aquaduck, and children have the opportunity to drive the Aquaduck and receive a Captain’s certificate! 66
6. AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK SPECTACULAR
Take a journey to the heart of Australia through an all-new show featuring true Australian characters, a transformative arena, mesmerising animals and immersive technology. Delve into the gripping tale of two struggling Aussie farmers, Reg and Marge, and rejoice with them as the community’s courage, bravery and generosity help them overcome a stunning, yet unforgiving, life on the land. With help from some unlikely characters, and friendships that will last a lifetime, the pair overcome the harsh realities of life on the land.
7. IFLY GOLD COAST Whether you want to be a master of the sky or learn to fly like a superhero, indoor skydiving offers
a truly exhilarating and rewarding experience. Step inside the stateof-the-art glass flight chambers where massive wind generators lift you effortlessly into flight on a cushion of air. From beginners to masters, you’ll soon learn the flying skills of expert skydivers in this state-of-the-art, fully controlled, ultra-safe environment. And the all-round viewing platform lets you share the magic with family and friends, who will gasp as you fly like somebody out of a superhero movie. Experience the rush that makes the sport of indoor skydiving so big around the world. There’s no parachute, no jumping, and nothing attaching you to planet Earth. It’s just you, the air, and an incredible adrenaline rush.
MORE INFORMATION: destinationgoldcoast.com
Theme park Packages available
MAGIC IN EVERY STAY
32 Acres full of fun for the whole family. With a range of outdoor activities everyone can enjoy, we are also located next door to all major theme parks.
P: (07) 5514 4400 | E: email@example.com | W: goldcoastholidaypark.com.au 67
Lauren’s husband, adventurer and documentary filmmaker Justin ‘Jonesy’ Jones, bonding with Morgan during their adventure
C R O S S I N G
THE OUTBACK LAUREN HAAS JONES reveals what walking 1,800km across Australia with her husband and their toddler taught her about parenthood 69
The film the couple made about their journey is touring with the Banff Mountain Film Festival
T Fun times during the trip
EVERY DAY SEEMED TO OFFER SOME NEW UNSURMOUNTABLE CHALLENGE, EITHER PHYSICAL OR EMOTIONAL. 70
he sun was setting over the vivid red rocky gibber plains. I could hear the crackling of our campfire and see the silhouette of my husband crouching over the flames starting to make dinner. We were at the halfway mark of our adventure, 900km behind us, 900km yet to go. There was no-one around us for hundreds of miles – beside the flies swarming my face. But I knew when the sun finally set, they too would disappear. My hair was tied back in a plait, as I had not had a shower in six weeks. The sweat on my brow clung to my Akubra as the searing heat of the day lingered. My body felt tired from walking, but in the good tired kind of way. My 16-month-old daughter, Morgan, was toddling by my side as I finished setting up the tent, happily picking up rocks and exploring the Mars-like surroundings. In that moment I realised I had found a new sense of contentment, happiness and self-reliance that had eluded me my whole adult life up until that point, or maybe I had just never slowed down enough to recognise it. Our adventure hadn’t always felt this idyllic. The reality, until then, was often far from it. When we decided to walk 1,800km, roughly halfway across Australia, through the outback, with a toddler in tow, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I had no idea how hard, yet life-altering it would be. I’m American and I came to Australia to do a master’s degree nearly 12 years ago.
Travelling besties and backseat bandits
And you thought packing for road trips was hard
I’d always been a rule follower. In America, there is a specific track for success, and my life had always been very well planned. The unknown terrified me. Then I met my husband, Justin Jones, a professional adventurer and documentary filmmaker. As a 20-something, he kayaked from Australia to New Zealand and skied to the South Pole and back over 89 days, unsupported. I found his love for the unknown and his playful, curious nature attractive. Not that I thought I’d ever do anything that adventurous – my life was more about climbing corporate ladders than mountains. I was 36 when we welcomed Morgan into the world. Like many women, after years of corporate success, I experienced a loss of identity when I became a mother. The expectation to lean in, do it all and be it all felt overwhelming. When Morgan was just three months old, I could sense that if I didn’t take the chance to do something different, I was at risk of losing myself in the whole process. I thought, ‘what better time than now to rediscover and reinvent myself and jump out into the unknown?’. Because,
let’s be honest, I was already there whether I liked it or not. Gripped by the urge to reimagine parenthood, Justin and I decided to see if we could build a life that we didn’t need a vacation from. We set off from Docker River/Kaltukatjara, where the Western Australia border meets the Northern Territory line. Our plan was to walk through the wild centre of Australia via Yulara, Kulgera and Aputula and then onto Oodnadatta, William Creek, Maree, Beltana, Parachilna and, finally, Port Augusta in South Australia. Along the way we hoped to see the red rock domes of Kata Tjuta, the sandstone monolith of Uluru, the great salt lakes of Lake Eyre and Lake Torrens, and the beautiful Flinders mountain ranges, all on foot. The first couple of days, even weeks, were unbelievably intense and slow. Every day seemed to offer some new unsurmountable challenge, either physical or emotional. The slowness, in contrast to the busy life I was used to, felt excruciatingly frustrating. I guess that’s why they call it your comfort
Morgan learning about the world
Wide open spaces in Stanley
Taking in the view from the tent
Cooking on the road
zone because, when you step out of it, it can get pretty uncomfortable pretty fast. We were in survival mode and things at this stage weren’t much fun. Walking 1,800km seemed impossible. In the early days it was a mental mindset shift to just walk one more section, one more day, one more kilometre or, at times, just one more step. Over 102 days we battled extreme temperatures ranging from -2°C to 42°C and 100km per hour winds. We suffered sleep deprivation (thank you toddler teething!), suffocating flies, dehydration, blisters, and sore ankles. We dodged snakes, dingoes, emus, wild brumbies and camels. And we created amazing family memories founded in passion, self-discovery and personal growth. One of the biggest challenges for me was not letting perfection stand in the way of progress. I will often hold myself back if I don’t think I’m 100 per cent ready, something isn’t perfect, or for fear I might fail. Through this expedition I learned that true failure is not having the courage to take 72
Morgan took it all in her stride
that first step. I learned that there would inevitably be failures along the way when you are doing something new, and if you view these failures through a different lens, they are actually valuable information. I think I also gained the awareness that there will never be the ‘perfect time’ to follow your passion, follow your heart or do that big thing you’ve always wanted to do deep down, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right time to take the leap. Often you only live to regret the things you don’t do. In the end, motherhood and going on a big adventure are not dissimilar. In both I was unravelled, stripped bare and reinvented. Both shifted my priorities and my definitions of success. Both shifted my capabilities. Both allowed the impossible to become possible. Morgan learned to not only walk in the outback, but to run. Justin and I learned to not only survive, but to thrive. I learned that there is an adventurer in all of us, and we are all far more capable than we give ourselves credit for. The film the couple made about their adventure, Crossing the Outback: Expedition Parenthood is touring Australia with the Banff Mountain Film Festival. MORE INFORMATION: banffaustralia.com.au
See Lauren and Justin’s video podcast series Adventure Thinking, where they bring adventure lessons down from the proverbial mountaintop into real life. Sign up and check out episodes at adventurethinking.com Follow the family on Instagram via @followthejonesys
TODDLER TIME IN CANBERRA ANGELA SAURINE finds there are plenty of fun activities for little kids in the nation’s capital A dark storm cloud looms above the windscreen as we edge closer to the nation’s capital. I am determined to get there before it rains. Our trip had already been delayed by a day thanks to an annoying but necessary COVID-19 test (negative, obvs) that had seen us forced to self-isolate until we got the results – one of the realities of the new era of travel. We’d been due to arrive that morning, when the forecast was for blue skies and sunshine. I want my son Oliver to get at least a few minutes in at the POD Playground at the National Arboretum Canberra that I’d heard so much about. After the long drive he is happy to be unleashed. He makes a beeline for the tallest ladder and slowly, but with as much determination as his mum, begins to make his way to the top. “How old is he?” a dad behind me asks, obviously surprised by his tiny stature. “Two,” I reply. “He’s doing well,” he says, and my heart swells with pride. I climb up behind him and we enter the heart of the giant acorn and
the dark tunnel before us. With Oliver sitting between my legs we whizz down the slide, and emerge laughing into the daylight. I try to steer him in the direction of the toddler area, but it takes a while to get there as he stops en route to explore the pods, and tap on musical instruments he sees older kids playing. When we finally get to the sandpit he sits and takes off his shoes before running into another pod, pouring sand from one side, climbing the ropes, and sliding up and down the far more suitable slide, countless times. After he has had his fix, we head inside and grab a hot chocolate from the amazing architecturally-designed building and peruse the gift shop, which is filled with fun, educational toys and quality products such as science kits. The National Arboretum was established following the devastating bushfires of 2003 which burnt a significant area of the ACT, including pine plantations. As well as honouring Walter Burley Griffin’s original plan for Canberra, which included an arboretum located on the west side of the lake, it symbolises the community’s process of healing and recovery from the upheaval and grief of the catastrophic fires. More than 44,000 rare and endangered trees have since been planted across a 250ha site, which was also used for concerts and other events in pre-COVID times. We head
WITH OLIVER SITTING BETWEEN MY LEGS WE WHIZZ DOWN THE SLIDE, AND EMERGE LAUGHING INTO THE DAYLIGHT
Oliver was fascinated by the frogs at Canberra Reptile Zoo
outside to check out the large grass amphitheatre, where kids are rolling down the hill and families are flying kites in the distance. Oliver begins to run down the hill gleefully, and I follow close behind, dreading the trek back up. Naturally, that’s the moment the heavens decide to open. Screams and laughter can be heard all around us as children and their parents scurry back up the slope to cover, Oliver and I included. It’s not often that I run alongside him, and his giggle is infectious. We weren’t meant to be here. Our big holiday this year was supposed to be a South Pacific cruise, where I imagined making sandcastles on white sand beaches, swimming in calm turquoise bays and being greeted by cultural performances at the islands we visited. But like all of us, I’d been forced to look closer to home
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Oliver exploring the pod playground at The National Arboretum, “Let’s get out of here mummy!” Oliver loved playing in the jeep at the National Dinosaur Museum, The pod playground at the National Arboretum, The National Dinosaur Museum
Kids eating ice-cream at Italian restaurant Agostinis at East Hotel
for our winter getaway. With the border between NSW and the ACT open, Canberra has become a popular destination for families. I’d always associated the nation’s capital with primary school excursions, visiting Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial and, of course, Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre, where the earthquake machine had always been a favourite, as it was for Oliver on our previous visit. But I’m surprised how much there is to do there with younger kids. Next on the list is the National Dinosaur Museum – a dream come true for little boys. The attraction, in Gold Creek Village, is home to the largest permanent display of dinosaur and other prehistoric fossil material in Australia, with life-like dinosaur models, skeletons, skulls, and robotic dinosaurs. Some of the animatronics are a bit 1960s-Disney, and I’d been warned that some small children find them a bit scary. But Oliver mostly just gazes at them mesmerised. It’s only when we pass the T-rex that he backs away a bit closer to me and clutches my leg tightly. There’s also a great section for toddlers to play downstairs, where they can bounce on dinosaur toys, play a dinosaur version of Connect 4, and draw on a chalkboard in the shape of a dinosaur footprint. But the outdoor dinosaur garden, where you can sit in jeeps and pretend to drive, is the biggest hit. Just across the road, the George Harcourt Inn is in a perfect place to grab a bite to eat before exploring other child-friendly attractions in Gold Creek Village, including the miniature village Cockington Green Gardens next door. Named after a local 76
landowner, the English-style pub has a lovely courtyard, or you can sit inside at a booth by the fire on colder days. It feels a bit like you are in Hobbiton. Just around the corner, Canberra Reptile Zoo is another winner. The attraction started its life as a pet shop and has expanded to include displays of turtles, frogs, lizards, snakes and even a saltwater crocodile, as well as an affordable gift shop. “Sleeping,” Oliver says as he points at the coiled snakes. He also loves the blue tongue lizard’s tongue, while mummy is most impressed by the gigantic python and boa constrictors that had been rescued from smugglers. Definitely fun for young and old! The writer was a guest of The Australian Dinosaur Museum.. MORE INFORMATION: visitcanberra.com.au
WHERE TO STAY IN CANBERRA
East Hotel is a contemporary family-friendly design hotel located between the vibrant shopping and restaurant hubs of Kingston and Manuka. The six-storey hotel has 140 rooms in various studio and apartment-style combinations. The East Two Bedroom apartments feature cubbies with bunk beds, Xbox One consoles, games, reading nooks and dress up clothes. Its Italian restaurant, Agostinis, has a kids’ menu including pizza or pasta, gelato and a soft drink for $16. easthotel.com.au
Image: Penny Bradfield-VisitCanberra
1 PlayUP at the Museum of Australian Democracy
FIVE MORE THINGS TO DO IN CANBERRA WITH KIDS 1. PLAYUP AT THE MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRACY Kids can explore the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in a playful way at this immersive attraction at Old Parliament House. PlayUP has everything from listening pods and a roleplay Kindness Café to a fuzzy felt wall and craft activities.
2. BOUNDLESS – THE CENTENARY OF CANBERRA NATIONAL PLAYGROUND
On the shore of Lake Burley Griffin at Kings Park, this state-of-the-art play space is Canberra’s first all-abilities playground. The park has limited on-site parking, but extra parking spaces are available at Russell — a five-minute walk away.
3. WESTON PARK
Spot kangaroos, ride the miniature train and play mini golf at the Yarralumla Play Station, play bocce or petanque on the special court, or ride your bike along the cycle track at Weston Park, located on the western side of the lake. Splash about in the water
playground designed for younger children, or the wading pool for older siblings. There are also picnic tables, electric barbecues and public toilets.
4. COCKINGTON GREEN GARDENS
Discover meticulously handcrafted miniature buildings from around the world set within beautifully landscaped gardens. Take a ride on the miniature steam train, view the 34-room dolls house, ‘Waverley’, and enjoy homemade scones in the Garden Cafe.
5. NATIONAL ZOO & AQUARIUM
The only combined zoo and aquarium in Australia is located on around 18ha of land at Yarralumla, just five minutes’ from the centre of Canberra. It has a wide variety of native and exotic animals, an open range section plus the AdventureLand playground, which features fibreglass animal sculptures for children to play on. It is also home to Jamala Wildlife Lodge, suitable for children six and over on standard nights. Children four and older can also stay on family nights, held once a month.
Please check websites to ensure attractions are open or operating before planning a holiday. 77
MEG LAW finds a farm stay adventure with her family in Victoria brings back memories of a simple childhood
Megâ€™s children loving life on the land 78
G N I T S HARVE INESS HAPP
One of our new friends
Wheelbarrow rides with dad
‘…And into the field I go, to lose my mind and find my soul’ (Anon) My husband had been itching to get the family to do a farm stay for years. Finally, here we were, driving through the big wooden gates, the car vibrating as it passed over the cattle grid, competing with the raucous animal noises coming from the surrounding paddocks. Having grown up on a dairy farm, my husband was well versed in the rituals of milking and feeding cows, collecting eggs, rounding up sheep and tending to the animals before the sun rose each day. He was eager to introduce the kids to this notion of getting back to basics and living off the land, with acres of paddocks to explore, animals to meet and fresh country
air to breathe. Unfortunately, my experience with farm life was not as legitimate (nor sentimental) as my husband’s, and was more about fulfilling a fantasy of being a ‘McLeods Daughter’, wearing checked shirts, designer jeans, boots and looking good in an Akubra. But there is something to be said about the tourism phenomenon, which has soared worldwide as farmers have sought to supplement their incomes by providing accommodation and hands-on experiences to guests. This desire to trade in the city life for a weekend in the bush is real, and we were about to find out what all the fuss was about. 79
The kids feeding the horses
FRESHWATER CREEK COTTAGES AND FARM STAY
Arriving at our ‘home away from home’ for the next five days, Freshwater Creek Cottages, the kids flung open the car doors and raced down the gravel path to get acquainted with their new animal friends. We pulled up at our farm cottage, which shared the same name as our daughter Daisy, and were greeted by a bright, cheerful weatherboard building oozing country charm, with a front porch lined with terracotta pots full of colourful flowers. Imagine masses of delphiniums, daisies, roses and hydrangeas mingling together and spilling out of the beds, evoking the whimsical child within and making me want to skip to the front door! I almost felt like Calamity Jane in that scene from
the musical where she transforms a rundown cabin into a darling cottage, all while singing the song ‘A Woman’s Touch’. Seven charming self-contained cottages are the centrepiece of this sprawling 20ha property in the Freshwater Creek area. A 15-minute drive from the popular surfing mecca and coastal town of Torquay in Victoria, it’s the perfect base to take in everything the region has to offer. The cottage has views over the grass paddocks, with a large queen-sized master bedroom and a second ‘bunk room’ for the kids, as well as a large lounge area to reconnect together in front of the fire each night. The kids helped dad collect wood and light the fire, which was a great family ritual during our stay, and the porch was ideal for stargazing and watching the epic sunsets cast their orange glow over the paddock each evening.
MEET THE FARMERS
Owned by Marissa and ‘Farmer Phil’, the property provides a great family getaway, with natural bushland and farming paddocks to explore. Phil is the quintessential Aussie, who likes a firm handshake, isn’t afraid of hard yakka, and who has a deep affiliation with, and love of, the land. He has a down-to-earth manner and cheeky grin, and his old, weathered hat could tell a thousand stories. Marissa is the backbone of the farm stay business, who enjoys a good natter and is as stoic and honest as they come. She oozes country hospitality and warmth with her sunny disposition, tales of farm life and her passion for organic fare and the ‘paddock to plate’ movement, whereby their hard work pays off and they are rewarded with their very own chemicalfree, paddock-raised beef. They make a great team, and standing there on the wrap-around verandah at the front of their homestead, it felt as though we had been friends for years. Within minutes we had arranged to have a tractor ride, ordered a pound of bacon, milk and fresh eggs as part of the breakfast pack, and were given instructions on where to meet that evening to feed the lambs. Marissa and Phil encourage their guests to join in with the daily activities across the farm, or to sit back and take in the scenery. Wildlife is abundant in the area, so they told us not to be too surprised if we caught the odd kangaroo or echidna ambling about the place.
On arrival, we told the kids there was only one rule on this adventure, and that was to switch off the screens and plug into nature to embrace the farm life. Thankfully they follow similar rules at home, so they were more than happy to wolf down their porridge each morning, throw on the gumboots and take off for the day. Each day was all about exploring outside, helping with everything from sorting the animal feed on the trucks to collecting eggs, rounding up the sheep and picking apples from the orchard. When there were no chores to be done, it was time to ride
Clockwise from left: Feeding time at Freshwater Creek Cottages, Rounding up the sheep, Farmer Jasper on his tractor, Feeding the lambs 82
bikes, play hide ‘n’ seek, talk to the animals and have some good ole fashioned fun! As I watched them walk back to the cottage each evening hand-in-hand, covered in dirt in their denim dungarees and muddy gumboots, a smile overcame my face. There isn’t a sight as beautiful as kids experiencing life on the farm – a natural sanctuary for them to run free and be wild, not dissimilar to our childhood when it was less about artificial stimulation and plastic toys and more about being outdoors all day, building forts, having picnics, collecting worms, chasing each other on our bikes and getting grubby! Childhood nostalgia is a strong emotional hook, and this farm stay certainly brought it all back. There is so much to keep the kids entertained, including a children’s play area set amongst the trees, loads of picnic areas dotted throughout the property, a cubby house, swings and even a seesaw in the paddock. The best part is that, while the kids are so engrossed in their farm duties, the adults get a chance to kick back on the porch with a cuppa and read a book. Mind you, it’s hard not to want to get amongst it each day, and we found ourselves joining the kids in their quest to learn more about farm life. At one stage I even donned an apron and made a country-style, home-cooked meal – and actually enjoyed it, probably due to the fact there were no time pressures and I had fresh, organic fare readily available. The memories of our farm stay are endless. Dad giving the kids wheelbarrow rides; the smell of freshly cut hay; kids screaming and running scared from the pecking chickens flapping their wings as they collected eggs from the coop; nightly chores of bottle-feeding calves, rounding up the sheep when the same crazy calf would always playfully ram one of us over; sitting in the back of the open tractor listening to Phil’s stories; waking up to cattle mooing outside the bedroom window; and the bleating of a tiny lamb, born overnight.
As far as our family is concerned, farm stays are an absolute winner. The kids get
As I watched them walk back to the cottage each evening hand-in-hand, covered in dirt in their denim dungarees and muddy gumboots, a smile overcame my face.
to learn first-hand what no book or school could teach. When it came time to leave the farm it was a long drawn out farewell, with a few tears from our youngest, Jasper, who was very attached to his new friends, in particular ‘Percy the pig’. They clearly had some sort of ‘bro code’ thing going on, like a silent handshake. He reluctantly waved goodbye through the fence, and Percy replied with a loud snort, a flick of sticky mud and an almighty huff… no doubt telling him to return soon. With heavy hearts we waved goodbye to farm life and headed out the gates, with the familiar chorus of cows offering their symphony of moos… ’until we meet again!’ The writer was a guest of Freshwater Creek Cottages. MORE INFORMATION: freshwatercreekcottages.com.au Follow Meg and her family on Instagram @traveltalesblog 83
Main image: A family segway adventure on Ninety Mile Beach in East Gippsland Right: The Letâ€™s Go six-berth motorhome, Rose and Jacqueline inside the van
MOTORHOME AWAY FROM HOME DANIELLE NORTON takes three teens on a road trip in a motorhome to the Gippsland Lakes and lives to tell the tale
As I sit in the driver’s seat in the car park at the airport, I can’t help feeling a little nervous. After a thorough briefing, I let the keys dangle in the ignition and take a deep breath. The Let’s Go six-berth motorhome is worth more than $100,000. It has 11km on the odometer and is so new that the seatbelts are still tucked inside the seat creases. There are padded seats up front, but the teenagers choose to sit in the back all the way from Melbourne to the Gippsland Lakes, where we are headed for a weekend getaway. They huddle around the table, wearing seatbelts of course, and play cards for hours. The lights stay on and their view doesn’t change; they like being cocooned inside and have drawn all the blinds. It’s the antithesis to my idea of a road trip, but I’m happy to let them do as they like. They have a radio system in the back too, so they can hook up their playlist and sing their hearts out.
By the time we arrive at Paynesville Holiday Park, around 300km west of the city, it’s already dark. I reverse into our parking spot and we are thrilled to discover that our site comes with an ensuite. Our van has a toilet and shower but we’re reluctant to use either, hoping to minimise the end-of-trip pack
up. The motorhome comes fully furnished with linen, kitchenware and cleaning gear, so all we have to do is feast on our takeaway fish and chips from the local pub and snuggle up in our beds. The next morning we’re up at sunrise. The teenagers have a running regime (5km every morning), so I follow them to the lakefront township only a few minutes’ walk away. Swans are nesting on the banks of the still waters and we are spellbound watching these graceful birds, so relaxed in their natural environment. The kids become contemplative, so much so that they notice jellyfish in the water over the side of the jetty. Of course, they want to take photos, so they fight over the camera and that peaceful moment doesn’t last.
Bushfires early in the year, followed by COVID-19, have drastically affected the region’s tourism industry. We have arrived without supplies, determined to spend our dollars in a way that helps the communities we are visiting. We pop into the bakery for croissants and crusty bread for breakfast, then pack up the van and pull out, ready for our first adventure outside of the motorhome. We don’t have to go far; the ferry for Raymond Island leaves from opposite the Paynesville Hotel. The ferry master calls “all aboard” and we file onto the narrow passenger deck. The Raymond Island ferry takes two minutes to transport cars, caravans and people across the water. When we disembark, a playground with sign-posted information about the koala trail catches our eyes and we’re off, following the painted red and yellow poles. We hire a Surrey bike from Koala Bike Tours. Even though they’re teenagers, these kids are not too cool for racing around and koala spotting, so we pedal furiously along the 1kmlong trail.
Returning to the mainland, we head to the largest town of the district, Lakes Entrance, where the lake meets the ocean. With their long stretches of sand, Gippsland beaches are stunning, and they fill up over summer, but today the wind is blowing, and we have the beach to ourselves. After a brisk walk and some TikTok-ing the kids need a structured activity, so we drop into Footbridge Mini Golf and Lolly Shop, one of five similar operations in the town. The mini golf is challenging for our group, teen hormones leading to frustration, but also a sense of accomplishment. The teens are ready for a bit of ‘chill’ time, so we order a pizza and take it back to our home for the night, Whiters. We settle in for the evening in the RV, 85
Clockwise from top: The family at Whiters in Lakes Entrance, Rose tackling the mini golf, Victor Boat Hire putt-putt boats all in a row, The kids loved the Surrey bike from Koala Bike Tours
Left: Clancy (left) and Rose at Raymond Island playground, Right: Clancy learning to ride the segway
FAMILY another onsite ensuite bringing us joy. This one even has a heat lamp so we can shower without freezing. We’ve brought a collection of board games, so out they come and some good old-fashioned family bonding, and an argument about the pick-up-putdown UNO rules ensues. Thankfully, the van has three double beds, so everyone has the space to stretch out and remove themselves from the grudges and smelly feet of their siblings. The next morning, we head for the pier at the North Arm of the lake and hire a putt-putt boat from Victor Boat Hire. Captain Bernie takes us through the steps: “Turn the key, push the throttle, go”. His wife interrupts with a smile when he’s explaining the marine marker systems that we need to follow on the water. “I just remember that there’s a little bit of port left in the bottle, so the red marker needs to be on the left if you’re heading up stream,” she says. It’s the opposite on the way back. The speed limit is 5 knots (about 10km an hour), and the boat can’t go any faster, so it’s a chance for the kids to take the wheel and captain their own ship. Still too young to have their boat licences, they’re getting a taste for the boating life. It’s 9am on a Sunday so the town is still hushed, and there are no other boats out yet. It’s so calm that the trees are reflected on the water’s surface, and birds swoop in the air above us, calling to each other. We return to land and jump in the RV. Coffee beckons, and I make a pitstop at the Lakes Boatshed; a family-friendly cafe on the foreshore. By late morning we are ready for a tour of Ninety Mile Beach with Lakes Entrance Segway Adventures. This is the only place in Victoria that you can actually operate a segway on sand. The owners, John and Bernadette, are waiting on the foreshore to give us lessons. John assures us that “balance is not required”, and he’s right. We quickly master the art of moving our weight back and forth. There are big smiles and squeals of excitement as we take off, decked out in high-vis vests and safety helmets. The kids race each other up the length of the beach, making elaborate patterns in the sand. This is clearly the highlight of the trip. They feel like ‘grown ups’; driving their own vehicles gives a sense of being in control of their own destiny, I guess. So happy that they’ve had a good time, and that
From Melbourne, head east for three hours on the Princes Highway towards the Gippsland Lakes area. The Paynesville turn off is before Bairnsdale.
STAYING THERE: I can confidently drive such a large vehicle, I direct the van back towards the city once again. I’d planned to stop along the way to support regional farms, imagining roadside stalls blooming with colourful vegetables and fruit, but the reality of this empty esky trip was that we spent our money in the supermarkets, cafes and vegetable grocers rather than at a farmer’s gate. As a last-ditch effort, we drop into the Spud Shed in Trafalgar and stock up on huge sacks of potatoes, fresh organic vegetables, fruit and wholefood products. As the kids munch their goodies on the last leg of the journey home, quiet and tired, I muse happily about how they’ve grown up so much that they can now sit in companionable silence in our little home away from home. At our petrol stop, I turn from my seat to see them all plugged in; each one intently watching their own TV show on their own device. Companionable or not, this motorhome holiday was a brilliant success. The writer was a guest of Let’s Go Motorhomes and Destination Gippsland.
There are dozens of van parks in the area with communal facilities available, as well as sites with ensuites attached. paynesvilleholidaypark. com.au whiters.com.au
WHEN TO GO:
East Gippsland is beautiful year-round and it’s a good idea to take a jacket any time of year. The region is famous for water activities and beach fun for kids of all ages when the weather is warm in spring and summer.
visitgippsland.com.au letsgomotorhomes. com.au 87
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH G ADVENTURES AND TOURISM AUTHORITY OF THAILAND
A tuk tuk at Wat Ratchanatdaram in Bangkok
I LOVE EXPLORING THE BEACHES AND MARKETS, THE DELICIOUS FOOD AND TALKING TO ALL THE BEAUTIFUL THAI PEOPLE” – Kelly Aitken
BEST FAMILY ACTIVITIES IN THAILAND
Whether you are seeking cultural experiences, fun outdoor adventures, or a little bit of everything, Thailand offers something to suit every family. Recent research by Tourism Authority of Thailand has uncovered the most popular activities for Australian families in our favourite ThaiPhuket destinations –Bangkok,number Chiangone Mai,holiday Phuket, Koh may be Thailand’s destination for Australian families, Samui and Krabi. Here they are. but neighbouring provinces Krabi and Phang Nga also have a lot to offer 88
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH G ADVENTURES AND TOURISM AUTHORITY OF THAILAND
1. LOCAL EXPERIENCES
The hop-on/hop-off Chao Phraya Tourist Boat at Wat Arun in Bangkok
Want to experience Thailand from a local perspective? Begin by exploring Bangkok’s old city on a tuk tuk tour before soaking up the views across the city from the Golden Mount. Offering insights into Thai religion and culture, this fun-filled experience also supports local flower market vendors and monks who will share their knowledge with you. Alternatively, you can take to the water on the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat, a hop-on/hop-off service that connects some of Bangkok’s biggest sights. If you don’t have time to explore all corners of Thailand, you can get a feel for the country’s diversity at Sooksiam ICONSIAM. This atmospheric attraction allows you to experience the arts, foods and traditions of all 77 provinces within the one space.
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH G ADVENTURES AND TOURISM AUTHORITY OF THAILAND
2. BEACH ACTIVITIES
Magnificent beaches are the hallmark of Thailand’s south, with water-loving families spoiled for choice both on and off the mainland. In Krabi, you can go swimming, snorkelling and kayaking on an island hopping boat trip, including visits to the legendary sands of Ao Nang and the island paradise of Ko Poda. You can also explore the beautiful beaches of northeast Koh Samui during a stand-up paddleboarding lesson with iSUP Samui while taking advantage of the region’s protected waters to build your confidence. If you’ve ever dreamt of riding a horse on the beach, then you can make it a reality at the Phuket International Horse Club, which has a variety of horses and ponies to suit both experienced riders and nervous beginners.
A father and daughter kayaking in Phuket
4. OUTDOOR ADVENTURES
A cooking class with Krabi Cookery School in Thailand
3. THAI COOKING CLASS
No trip to Thailand is complete without learning the secrets of the country’s legendary cuisine. In Bangkok, you can book into a class at the Amita Thai Cooking School, where you can pick fresh ingredients from their herb garden, or Silom Thai Cooking School, with the latter including a trip to the local market to buy ingredients. The Phuket Thai Cooking Class by VJ receives rave reviews for its knowledgeable chefs and friendly environment, while Ya’s Cookery School in Krabi offers private classes and special seafood programs drawing on the bounty of Phang Nga Bay. Since opening in 2000, the school has built a strong reputation and has taught students from around the world, including UK celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. If you’re exploring northern Thailand, family-friendly classes are also held at the Smile Organic Farm Cooking School, which is set within a beautiful organic garden where fresh herbs and vegetables are grown, or Thai Farm Cooking School. 90
With its enviable tropical climate, Thailand is a destination for embracing the great outdoors, with a range of active adventures offered. You can fly through the forest (just as the monkey god would have done) at Phuket’s Hanuman World, or head to the Blue Tree waterpark to shoot down thrilling water slides and laze in its idyllic lagoon. Another waterpark not to miss is the Grand Canyon in Chiang Mai, which is notable for its floating obstacle course and unique jumping water kangaroos! Nature loving families should head to Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, a tropical paradise that can easily be visited as a day trip from Koh Samui. Encompassing more than 40 islands in the Gulf of Thailand, it has stunning beaches and fascinating caves that can be explored while hiking, kayaking and snorkelling. Budding rock climbers will love the Real Rocks Climbing School, which is based amidst the craggy limestone cliffs of Krabi. They offer small group, low impact adventures that are ideal for families with kids aged five years and over, with stunning views across the islands and beaches of southwest Thailand guaranteed.
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH G ADVENTURES AND TOURISM AUTHORITY OF THAILAND
5. INDOOR ADVENTURES
If it’s a hot, muggy day or downpours are forecast, head indoors to experience Thailand’s cultural side. Top of the list in Phuket is TRIBHUM: The Mystical Three Worlds, which incorporates Thai mythology with spectacular visual effects in what is the world’s first 3D walk-through adventure park. In Bangkok, don’t miss a visit to KidZania, where your young globetrotters can try their hand at role-playing a variety of careers. It’s designed like a miniature city, with the opportunity to fight fires, practice dentistry and even fly a Boeing 737! Chiang Mai’s Art in Paradise is another family favourite, with this illusory art museum offering a surreal take on the gallery experience. Kids will love stepping into the artworks and (unlike some galleries) photography is most definitely encouraged! MORE INFORMATION: amazingthailand.com.au
Art in Paradise
EVIE FARRELL revisits her backpacker days in Sri Lanka during a life-changing adventure with her six-year-old daughter, Emmie
Picking tea at Nuwara Eliya
Lanka had lovely memories for me. Twenty years before, I’d travelled solo around the country and then met up with my friend, George, on its southern coast. I could still picture us on the beach at Unawatuna – young, happy and carefree. I love how travel transports me emotionally, and remembering those days made me smile. There’s so much freedom travelling with kids, but it’s freedom with responsibility. Backpacking when you’re young is an experience that can’t be replicated with little ones in tow. Emmie and I had been on the road for almost 18 months when we arrived in Sri Lanka. I was trying to teach Emmie again, which meant we were arguing, and I was getting tired of it. All of a sudden, I was finding it difficult to back my own decisions, second-guessing myself and being short tempered and grumpy. What was bugging me at the time was money – or lack of it. I loved the way we’d travelled. It had been easy in part because we
Emmie at Dalawella Beach
Riding the blue train from Kandy
didn’t have a strict budget to stick to. I tried to keep us mostly low spending, staying in hostels and cheap guesthouses, and eating local and riding public transport. But if Emmie or I wanted to do something, we did it, and our dwindling funds reflected that. The guesthouse we’d booked in Kandy was questionable at best. It was reasonably clean but far out of town, and young men were lounging around on the couches in tracksuit pants, playing on their phones. I didn’t want to stay, so we decided to head north for a bit. We grabbed a tuk tuk to the bus station, found a minibus to Dambulla, bought some pakoras and vegetable pastries at one of the shops, and jumped on. At Dambulla, we took another tuk tuk to Sigiriya. The next morning we were up early, to climb to the top of the ancient rock fortress at Sigiriya. It reminded me a little of Uluru, jutting 200m out of the flat earth, red and rusty. We walked through some of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world, up staircases and past
We’ll never forget seeing wild elephants at Minneriya
moats and rock murals. Then came the final ascent, past the huge carved Lion’s Paw and up a narrow staircase to the top, and the stunning ancient palace ruins. After lunch, we were picked up in a jeep, by a couple of young blokes, for our elephant safari. It cost us $50, and we had the whole vehicle to ourselves as we set off into the park, stopping almost straight away to peer through the trees at a family of elephants mooching around the bush. Suddenly we turned onto a huge open plain, and Emmie and I burst into tears. In front of us were hundreds of elephants wandering in the grass and playing in the ancient reservoir. They roamed together, guarding their little ones, running and hanging out under the blue sky, happy and free. It was the most amazing and unexpected sight I’d ever seen, and we spent hours watching them. Driving back to our guesthouse, Emmie screamed and grabbed my arm. “No! Mummy, look, the elephant has chains on,” she cried, tears on her cheeks. We stopped and got out to see the elephant. Her owner came to us to offer us a ride. “I would never ride your beautiful elephant,” said Emmie. “Why can’t you let her free?” “It is my income,” he answered. “But you can buy her for US$18,000.” This poor elephant was standing on dirt under the shade of the small tree she was tied to. Her skin was mottled and she was swaying while, only a few kilometres away, wild elephants were free. “We have to tell people not to ride elephants, mum,” Emmie said. And she did. We made a little video and shared it on our Facebook and Instagram pages. I loved that she was becoming passionate about the things she was seeing and thinking of ways to raise awareness. The next day, we took a bus back to Kandy. There were no seats, so Emmie perched on the console right next to the driver, while I stood. As we drove on, the kind Sri Lankan people rearranged themselves like a puzzle to make room for Emmie on a seat. We bumped along in an audio soup of blaring pop music from the driver’s radio, videos with information of wild elephants on roadways playing on the TV, and horns honking at us. We had an early start the next day for a ride on the blue train to the mountains of Ella. Sitting in train doorways, when I was exploring
Emmie and Evie at the Nine Arches Bridge
Spinning in the green fields at Jetwing Kaduraketha in Wellawaya
A beautiful Sri Lankan Green Forest LIzard
Sri Lanka alone all those years before, was one of my favourite memories of that trip. I was so looking forward to sharing the doorwayhang magic with Emmie, but first I had to buy tickets. Getting train tickets can be tricky in Sri Lanka, especially since the blue train route between Kandy and Ella is such an iconic trip. There were no tickets left for our train, but we were going to try to get two of the few that were sold on the day, by queuing super early at the ticket counter. In fact, we went one better, after a couple of backpackers we were chatting to during a cultural dance performance that afternoon suggested driving 20 minutes’ to the next town, which was nontouristy, so we could buy our tickets quickly without having to queue. We followed their advice and had our seats within minutes. We bought some short eats — curry puffs, savoury pastries and bread — and water for our ride, stowed our pack in the overhead rack and checked our seats. We were ready to go.
STOPPING ALMOST STRAIGHT AWAY TO PEER THROUGH THE TREES AT A FAMILY OF ELEPHANTS MOOCHING AROUND THE BUSH “Come on, Emmie, let’s sit in the doorway,” I said with a huge smile as the train slowly moved out of town. I couldn’t wait to share this with her. We wandered to the vestibule at the end of the carriage, pulled open the heavy door and sat down next to each other, thongs off and stashed behind us, bums on the carriage floor and feet hanging below. We held on to the smooth silver handrails as the hypnotic beat of the wheels clicking over the tracks filled our heads and vibrated through our bodies, and we gazed out over the bush, green paddies, palms, waterfalls and mountains. We passed villages
and locals waiting alongside the tracks for the train to pass – children in school uniforms, women in bright, colourful saris and men in their traditional loose pants. We watched women picking leaves in tea plantations that grew up mountainsides, and passed through old white train stations with colonial architecture and names painted in a distinctive black font. Long, golden weeds whipped our feet, and we bought peanuts and samosas from men who sold them as the train sped between stations, the food wrapped in their children’s handwritten pages of homework. It was serene, it was peaceful, it was everything I needed to calm my churning mind. MORE INFORMATION: sltda.gov.lk This is an edited extract from the book Backyard to Backpack by Evie Farrell. The story about a solo mum, a six-year-old and a life-changing adventure is available online at Booktopia, Amazon and Book Depository and at selected bookstores. Follow Evie and Emmie on Instagram @mumpacktravel 95
Flip with her daughters in Santorini
Y E S S Y D O
E T A M I T L U THE
When she finds herself stranded in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic, FLIP BYRNES decides to make the most of it and explore the Greek Islands without the crowds and cruise ships
Poseidon beckoned us, and we answered the call. Sailing to a mooring by the black volcanic remains of Palea Kameni, mid-Santorini caldera, my two girls are keen to know if it was a boy or girl volcano. “A girl,” Captain Eleftherios, of Renieris Santorini Sailing Center, and I decide, “No-one else could become so mad”. How mad? “So mad she exploded, and her head blew OFF!” (She was definitely Greek, adds Eleftherios). And here she is now, lying in the caldera, calm, content and sleeping. You can hear her snores in the little waves and feel her tickle you with wind fingers. That was our story today of Santorini and the water-filled caldera’s creation (in reality the largest explosion in the planet’s history). As the crew cooked fresh sea bream off the back of the yacht, Petros kept a protective eye on the girls, and Lotte and Leni impersonated seahorses. Against a backdrop as surreal as a screen saver, the sugar cube houses of Oia tumbled down the cliffsides, like solidified sea spray defying gravity. It seems fitting to start with a pseudo fairy tale, as that is the fabric of the Cyclades. During a three-week island-hopping odyssey from Santorini to Folegandros, Paros, Antiparos and Naxos, it’s impossible to select the most otherworldly moment. Choosing the fresh fish dinner from the owner’s husband’s catch at Halaris Fish Tavern in Paros? Accidentally stumbling into an outdoor graffiti park in Naxos? Climbing the mast of a clipper in Antiparos? Or learning Greek-style cooking in a family home? And it almost didn’t happen. Amongst a world ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, our little family found ourselves stranded in Europe, where my partner works as a mountain guide. The Cyclades remained a virus-free bubble, so when Santorini announced a July opening, we pounced. Could this be real? A travel window? A oncein-a-lifetime chance to witness Santorini and explore the Cyclades, high season, without the crowds and cruise ships? Returning to Australia wasn’t possible, so we made lemonade from lemons. Cyclades ahoy! Everywhere we go we are reminded we are travelling during a pandemic. With the dining room closed at Andronis Luxury Suites, clinging to the Oia cliffs in Santorini, waiters get a workout delivering to patios.
Enjoying the sunset at Taverna Paradiso on Naxos
The family in the alleys of Naoussa in Paros 97
A salty Leni aboard Yin Yang Concept
Flip and the girls at Oia in Santorini
Temperature checking is standard, and not only are the islands adhering to face masks and hand sanitising, but they were early adopters. “It isn’t lucky that we are COVIDfree,” Santorini mayor Antonis Sigalas says. “We closed the island and we closed it quickly.” So, I feel an urgency to arrive before COVID inevitably does. The only time I feel truly uncomfortable is flying as it’s our first plane and airport experience during the pandemic. Booking a 6am Frankfurt flight, I’d gambled on an empty plane. But it’s full. We board last, sanitise every surface and the first thing we do after we arrive is have a shower. With fewer tourists visiting during these times (where we always felt safe as the Greeks adhered to protocols strictly) people have more time to talk. Chatting with the sailing crew in the caldera becomes a deep dive into cultural connection and experiencing a different side of Santorini. With private guide Lefteris (“call me Lefty”)
of Blue Shades of Greece, we wander among apricot and fuchsia bougainvillea in Megalochori. “During a busy year this is where I come to hear the birds sing,” he says. “But this year I hear the birds everywhere.” If seeking a toned-down Santorini anytime, a 45-minute ferry ride away is Folegandros. Anemi Hotel has possibly the largest pool in the Cyclades, as well as a playground, with beaches nearby. It’s an ideal base. Wandering the buzzing chora (main town) that evening I decide this is how I could construct the perfect Greek isle. Like Santorini, it has a beguilingly stark landscape of volcanic origins, with a lively chora where kids run between tables, men gather in corners, and there are cats to befriend. But don’t come here for sunbeds, there’s only one taxi in town and if you want to party, it may be a party of one. It’s tempting to move into Anemi permanently but the next stop, Paros, has a pull stronger than our two-storey villa. When dad joins us, the girls regale him with tales of volcanoes, ferry adventures and cat friends. I was feeling sorry for Paros. I mean, she was destined to be the third wheel. How could she possibly compete with the can-can kicking showgirl of Santorini or the uncut precious pumice of volcanic Folegandros? And then she smacks down ace cards of glorious beaches, the prettiest chora in the Cyclades and – thanks to our hostess Christina Fokianou at Captain’s Rocks – an extraordinary interconnected community. On a balmy afternoon, Christina sends us to Marpissa, a hamlet of 100 locals, where Mrs Marigoula weaves on a 150-year-old loom. Her family has lived here for 20 generations, escaping pirates through a secret door in the fireplace, buffeted by the zephyrs from Ios, on the horizon. While she treats the kids to homemade cookies, I buy the rug she’s just finished weaving, appreciating the positive energy in every strand. As Mrs Marigoula says, gesturing at the walls, “Everyone is here”, meaning all her ancestors, leaving lifetimes of invisible love. Later that night, we have one of two seafood meals so fresh nothing else will ever compare. At Halaris Fish Tavern, I notice the cushions. Could they be? Yes, they are Mrs Marigoula’s, the owner’s sister. Likewise, we dine at Agkyra Restaurant and buy olive oil
Several airlines, including Qantas, Emirates and Etihad, fly from Australia to Athens. Aegean Airlines flies from Athens to several Cycladic islands, including Mykonos, Naxos and Santorini. Blue Star Ferries has regular inter-island services throughout the Greek Islands, taking both people and cars. bluestarferries. com
Swimming in the pristine waters of Fanermeni Beach was a ‘forever’ moment for Flip
WHEN TO GO:
You can avoid the crowds any year – just visit in the last two weeks of September, when seasonal shops are still open, the water warm and there are fewer tourists around.
Leni making a friend on Naxos
made by their uncle. The next day, we’re honoured to be the first customers of a new cooking class by Achilleas, a former restaurateur and owner of chic Flora Apartments, who made the olive oil. As a family we learn to make a lamb dish with vegetables and herbs from the garden, snorkelling at their private beach while it roasts, and returning to feast on their porch. While the community of Paros is fascinating, the Cyclades is all about water, and we explore on a gorgeous mini clipper, a passion project of a former cruise ship captain, Captain Nikos, who has returned to his Paros roots. We impersonate salty sea dogs, visiting pirate caves and deserted beaches, our sails bolstered by a gentle meltemi wind that has sent Greeks on adventures for thousands of years. Captain Nikos is also an environmentalist, and talking to him is like drinking soul juice. The Paros web extends – he not only knows Achilleas but also helped build his garden where we picked herbs. But at one point Paros becomes way too friendly. Popular and picturesque Naoussa has tiny alleys, and on a Saturday night jostling crowds in the tangled lanes gives us the COVID jitters. We leave – quickly.
MORE INFORMATION: discovergreece.com
A 10-minute, five-euro ferry ride from Paros is Antiparos, what Folegandros is to Santorini. Smaller, quieter. “Some people treat Antiparos as just another village,” Magda, the owner of Kastro Boutique Hotel, says. “Many come for a day trip, but they’re missing out.” And the key is securing accommodation here. Magda’s haven is almost full for 2021. Only a sudden cancellation allows us to slide into a room. Tom Hanks loved Antiparos so much he bought a house here, but there’s nothing Hollywood about it. Apart from the ritzy pedestrian street with cosmopolitan shops, it’s raw. And this is where we find IT – the beach of our European dreams. Driving to the south of the island, where tarmac becomes dirt, we continue until we think we’re lost. Then it appears – Faneromeni Beach. The dazzling impact of the cerulean water, the sheltered basin, the aquarium of fish – when my mind goes back to this extraordinary summer, this is where it dives in. And don’t miss Captain Pipino’s close by – the second meal that’s ruined us for life. Tastebuds quiver remembering octopus in vinegar, cuttlefish swimming out the front (caught by his fisherman father), and leave
room for the shrimp with feta, tomato and parsley. The clincher is the view across the water of an Apollo temple ruin, tipped to become the most significant archaeological site of the Cyclades (excavations only recently began). No biggie. Our final stop is Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades islands, with mountain villages and a labyrinth-like Old Town. Like the rest of the Cyclades, it does family mealtimes to perfection. Dining at Taverna Paradiso on Plaka Beach, toes in the sand and sunset streaking the sky, we watch as our children roll like puppies by the water’s edge. Naxos also throws up wildcards, such as an abandoned hotel turned over to international graffiti artists. We were on a quest for a pristine Hawai‘i-like beach, but for a moment felt we had ended up in Berlin. But this is the Cyclades – head out for one adventure, stumble across another. For one of the world’s most family-loving destinations, where kids are kings, life slow, food delicious and activities sublime, set your compass and splash into your own, epic odyssey. The was a guest of Discover Greece, Blue Star Ferries and Aegean Airlines. 99
PETER HELLIAR’S FAMILY HOLIDAY HIGHLIGHTS
Australian comedian and The Project co-host Peter Helliar, and his wife Bridget, love travelling with their sons Oscar, 12, Aidan 15, and Liam, 18 – so much so they have written a book about it. THE SUBTITLE FOR YOUR NEW BOOK, TRIPPIN’ WITH KIDS, IS HOW TO HAVE FUN ON FAMILY HOLIDAYS LIKE YOU USED TO BEFORE YOU HAD KIDS. IN A NUTSHELL, HOW DO YOU DO THIS? It can be done! Absolutely. I think it begins by getting the kids involved at the planning stage. You need to orchestrate a holiday that caters for the whole family and that includes you parents. We had no interest in making Trippin’ With Kids a play-gym tour of the world. WHY DID YOU WRITE THE BOOK? We decided a little over a decade ago that travel was too important to us to put off any longer. There is always the temptation to wait for the kids to be a bit older, but we just decided we didn’t want to do that. As soon as we made that decision, we felt life immediately became more fun. The planning of our family holiday to France made all our lives brighter. HOW HAS TRAVELLING CHANGED SINCE HAVING KIDS? There is more planning that needs to be done, that’s for sure. Brij is the more organised one and she is amazing at getting the kids ready, and puts a lot of thought into every aspect of our holidays – which is why I insisted she co-write this book. WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE FAMILY HOLIDAYS IN AUSTRALIA AND WHY? We loved our trip to Port Douglas in 2017. There is so much to do for all the family – fishing, hiking, croc spotting (ideally with a professional tour guide and not by chance) and lazy days at the beach. We also did a wonderful Indigenous walk through Mossman Gorge where we all learnt a lot about the local culture and history. 100
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE FAMILY HOLIDAYS OVERSEAS AND WHY? You could toss a coin really, but our six weeks in France in 2010 I’ll always have such fond memories of, and not just because I was coming off the glow of Collingwood winning the grand final. We travelled anticlockwise around France starting up north in Normandy and ending in Paris. Oscar was aged two and people would often approach us to congratulate us for travelling so far with kids so young. WHAT’S BEEN THE WORST THING THAT’S HAPPENED ON A FAMILY HOLIDAY? We’ve been very lucky to avoid any disasters whilst travelling. We went to Boston a few years ago to see the Celtics and also the Bruins [ice-hockey team]. There was a winter storm dubbed a ‘bomb cyclone’ which had us snowed in for a day. We managed to see the Celtics win two games, but it got so snowy they postponed the Bruins game. Yep, it was so cold they cancelled the ice-hockey. Now that’s cold! AND THE BEST? It’s hard to pinpoint one moment, but taking the kids to LEGOLAND Billund Resort in Denmark in 2012 was pretty special. It was simply a joyous day. WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT TRAVELLING WITH KIDS? I find I am more in the moment with them. Travelling overseas often puts you in a time zone where there is no reason to check emails throughout the day, so you are with them physically, but they also have your uninterrupted focus.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT? I have an 18-year-old, so it’s been bittersweet looking back at our family holidays because we are not sure if we have any more ahead of us as a collective. Although Liam has hinted if we are paying, he is happy to come along. Time has flown and we look back at these holidays, grateful we’ve shared that time and experience with the kids. WHAT’S YOUR BEST PACKING TIP? Brij uses dryer sheets that she places amongst the clothes, meaning our clothes arrive at the other end of our journey smelling nice and fresh. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER FAMILIES WHEN IT COMES TO TRAVELLING WITH KIDS? Don’t wait. Start planning now. It’ll make this crazy time more bearable if you have a holiday in mind for when we come out of the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. Planning is part of the fun. WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO FOR YOUR NEXT FAMILY HOLIDAY? We are thinking about Nepal once the world opens back up, but we are also very keen to travel within Australia. I would love to tackle Cradle Mountain in Tasmania with the kids, and even Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. Trippin’ with Kids, published by Hardie Grant, is available wherever good books are sold and can also be ordered online through booktopia.com.au
OUR SIX WEEKS IN FRANCE IN 2010 Iâ€™LL ALWAYS HAVE SUCH FOND MEMORIES OF
The Helliars in Nice
Peter and Bridget in Hawai i
The family enjoying dinner in Japan
The hotel’s lounge bar
THREDBO ALPINE HOTEL
8 Friday Dr, Thredbo, NSW thredbo.com.au/accommodation/ thredbo-alpine-hotel | (02) 6459 4200
THREDBO ALPINE HOTEL
ANGELA SAURINE checks out a Snowy Mountains hotel ideal for adventure-loving families THE LOWDOWN
In the heart of the alpine village, Thredbo Alpine Hotel makes a great base for skiing and snowboarding in winter, or mountain biking and hiking in summer. Built in 1956, it has a vintage lodge feel, with wood panelling, stone walls and slate floors in the lobby. Parts of the three-storey building are heritage-listed, so there are no lifts, but if one of the friendly staff spots you with bags they will offer to help before you have a chance to ask. One of the big attractions 102
is the large outside courtyard dotted with fire pits, which replaced the pool in 2019, allowing room for large events and festivals (in non-COVID times!) It also has a car park with 46 parking spots, and if it’s full, a valet will park your car in another secure area nearby.
It doesn’t get more convenient than this! The hotel is located just across the bridge from the Valley Terminal, surrounded by
shops, restaurants and bars. There’s also a stop for shuttle buses to the beginner ski area, Friday Flat, around 150m from the door.
There are 65 rooms decorated with vintage ski posters and artwork by local artist Brad Spalding, who also founded the Wildbrumby Distillery on Alpine Way. There are ten interconnecting rooms, with two quad rooms on the third floor offering
A room at the hotel
Mountain biking is huge in summer
mountain views, with an entranceway between them. There are also two suites with a double pullout sofa in the living room, and extra beds can be wheeled in. The loft on the top floor, formerly the general manager’s residence, has four bedrooms and a full kitchen, sleeping up to ten people.
Thredbo is a year-round destination, offering Australia’s longest ski runs, the country’s first alpine gondola and a thriving après scene in its European-style village in winter, and a mountain bike park, bobsledding and great hiking trails in summer. You can also play a round of disc golf on the Thredbo Golf Course or visit Thredbo Leisure Centre, which has a pool, gym, squash, and a sports hall where you
can play basketball or table tennis. To learn more about the resort’s history, pop into the charming Thredbo Museum, run by a passionate group of volunteers.
FOOD AND DRINK
Thredbo Alpine Hotel has several restaurants to choose from, all offering kids’ menus, with other eateries located in the building and nearby. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Cascades Restaurant overlooks the mountains and offers fresh, modern cuisine. There’s also Italian noshery, Segreto (which means ‘secret’), and the more casual The Local Pub, which has the biggest balcony in town. Kids will love the donuts served at Avalanche Café at the base of the mountain, and the Donut & Coffee Hut at Friday Flat.
Catch the Kosciuszko Express chairlift to embark on the hike to Australia’s highest mountain, which sits at 2228m above sea level, admiring alpine wildflowers and views of the Snowy Mountains and Victorian High Country along the way. Thredbo Valley Horse Riding offers tours exploring the sub-alpine area for everyone from beginners through to accomplished riders. And be sure to book lunch at the character-filled Wildbrumby Distillery, which also has a sculpture walk and a playground. Mum and dad can even do a tasting and stock up on schnapps before they leave. The writer was a guest of Thredbo 103
A beachside spa cabin
TIONA HOLIDAY PARK 4451 The Lakes Way, Pacific Palms, NSW tiona.com.au | (02) 6554 0291
A hibiscus flower on the track to the beach
The holiday park lies between Wallis Lake and the Pacific Ocean
TIONA HOLIDAY PARK
ANGELA SAURINE discovers a pet-friendly holiday park with the beach on one side and a lake on the other on the NSW Mid North Coast THE LOWDOWN
Located on an isthmus at Pacific Palms near Forster, this pet-friendly holiday park sits on either side of The Lakes Way, with the pristine Seven Mile Beach on one side and Wallis Lake on the other. Talk about the best of both worlds! It’s located on 32ha of land owned by Community of Christ Church, who chose it as the place for their members to come together each year back in 1923. Much loved by generations of Aussie families, it was in need of some TLC, which it is now getting since coming under new ownership in late 2019. We often see tradies tinkering around the place throughout our stay. The park is ideal for families who prefer nature-based holidays, with the branches of paperbark trees stretching over the lake, which is shallow for the first 300m, cabbage tree palms, and a large fig tree with twisting roots near cabins on the beach side. While it’s located in a Telstra blackspot, so phone reception is limited, park-wide Wi-Fi has been added.
Tiona is around 3.5 hours’ drive north of Sydney and 15 minutes’ south of Forster, in a region of the NSW Mid North Coast known as the Barrington Coast. It’s just north of Elizabeth Beach, at the edge of Booti Booti National Park.
This park really does have something for everyone, with powered and unpowered campsites, a range of cabins and 14 lodge rooms. If you have a large group, the Beach House sleeps up to 12 people and The Lake House sleeps eight. We stayed in a beachside spa cabin, which has two bedrooms, a separate bathroom and a combined kitchen and living area with a dining table, sofa, TV, microwave, oven and a fridge. Reverse splitsystem air-conditioning is now available in all cabins as part of the upgrade, and there’s also a ceiling fan in the main bedroom. Balconies have been added to the beach
villas and some other cabins, and lodge rooms have been refurbished. For those who love glamping, four new tree-house style safari tents should also be available to book soon.
Don’t expect to find a waterpark or kids’ club here – children will more likely be found climbing trees or riding their bikes through bushland. There is a TV room beside the reception area, which is great for rainy days, a pool, and a nature-based playground with a repurposed wooden boat. Spend the day swimming, building sandcastles and collecting shells at the beach before migrating to the lake to watch the sunset. Then sit around a campfire and roast marshmallows in the evening.
FOOD AND DRINK
There are barbecue facilities throughout the site, and it’s only about 10 minutes’ drive to Stockland Forster Shopping Centre, which has three supermarkets, to stock up on supplies. You can also buy basics such as milk, orange juice, soft drink, pasta and pasta sauce in the reception office, as well as ice-cream, bags of ice, bait, plus fire pits and bags of wood in season. The bistro at The Pacific Palms Recreation Club (colloquially known as The Recky) at Elizabeth Beach is a
lovely place to go for lunch or dinner, as you can dine outdoors on the shore of the lake. At Blueys Beach try Huey’s at Blueys pizzeria, Drift Café or Indonesian noshery Kembali Café. In Forster, grab fish and chips from Lobby’s Fresh Seafood to eat by the lake, try modern Asian restaurant Spice Monkey or pub grub at the historic Lakes & Ocean Hotel, established in 1872. An ice-cream is also a must.
You can check out a different beach every day if you like, with offerings including Elizabeth Beach, Boomerang Beach and Blueys Beach. Go kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, boating and fishing at Wallis or Smiths Lake, and hike along the Booti Hill Lakeside Walking Track or the Cabbage Palm Loop Walking Track in Wallingat National Park. There are plenty of shops to peruse in Forster, as well as a cinema in Tuncurry. Kids will love rolling down the sand dune at One Mile Beach, swimming at the natural rock formation, The Tanks, and attending the carnival that is held at Tuncurry over summer. From June to November, Amaroo Cruises offers whale watching cruises, as well as year-round dolphin watching cruises to see the pod of 250 to 300 bottlenose dolphins that inhabits the area. The writer was a guest of Tiona Holiday Park. 105
Sunset at Mindil Beach
A studio room
MANTRA PANDANAS DARWIN
Interconnecting rooms and a lagoon-style pool make this Top End hotel tops for families, writes ELISA ELWIN THE LOWDOWN
This centrally located Darwin hotel is an ideal base from which to explore city attractions, while still offering easy access to the region’s natural highlights. The Mantra Pandanas ticked all the right boxes thanks to its comfortable rooms and outdoor pool (a big plus for kids needing to cool off at the end of the day), as well as being on the doorstep of a diverse range of eateries.
In the heart of Darwin’s CBD, the Mantra Pandanas is just 15 minutes by taxi from Darwin International Airport. It’s a short stroll from the walking trails of Bicentennial Park and the Darwin Waterfront Precinct, as well as the Deckchair Cinema where you can catch the latest flicks, alfresco.
With either city or water views, the adjoining two-bedroom apartments at the Mantra Pandanas are perfect for 106
families. They interconnect a hotel room (offering a king or twin beds) with a queen bed apartment, which is equipped with a kitchenette, dining table and laundry facilities. You can enjoy the balmy Darwin evenings from the hotel room balcony or retreat inside where the air-conditioning ensures a comfortable temperature both day and night. There’s Wi-Fi for staying in touch or streaming shows at night, as well as TVs that come complete with Foxtel channels. All COVID-19 transmissible items, such as the minibar, have been removed from the rooms due to the pandemic, and you can request additional cleaning during your stay as an extra precaution.
The social heart of the Mantra Pandanas is its lagoon-style pool, where guests gather for pre-dinner swims or sunset cocktails. You can maintain your morning workout routine in the fully equipped gym, or soak up the views across Darwin Harbour from the spa. When it comes to work, the hotel’s
The pool at Mantra Pandamus Darwin
business amenities have you covered, with two conference rooms and photocopying facilities available.
FOOD AND DRINK
Begin your day right with a variety of hot and cold selections at the hotel’s onsite restaurant, Table Forty Three. The all-day breakfast includes fresh fruits, cereals and pastries, as well as eggs, bacon, hash browns and (most importantly) good coffee. Both dinner and lunch are available a la carte, with the option to order menu items ahead and eat them in the privacy of your room. Our favourite was the healthy salad bowl, with the hearty chicken parmy and chips a close second! There are also plenty of family-friendly restaurants within a short stroll of the hotel, from seafood at Tim’s Surf & Turf to Nepalese cuisine at the Kebab and MoMo House, not to mention the colourful Little Miss Korea.
MANTRA PANDANAS DARWIN
43 Knuckey St, Darwin City NT 0800 mantrapandanas.com.au
No visit to Darwin is complete without an evening at the Mindil Beach Sunset Market, which runs from the end of April to the end of October and features over 200 unique stalls selling everything from locally-made crafts to globally-inspired food. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even sample Northern Territory delicacies such as crocodile here! To see these fearsome reptiles up close, head to Crocosaurus Cove, where you can hold a baby “saltie”, swim with juvenile crocodiles and witness their powerful jaws in action during the Big Croc Feed Show. Natureloving families should make a day trip to beautiful Litchfield National Park, home to photogenic cascades and refreshing swimming holes, as well as impressive termite mounds. If the hotel pool isn’t enough, spend an afternoon at Darwin’s Wave Lagoon, a stinger-free and croc-free swimming area on the waterfront. It offers a shallow play area for young kids and boogie board rentals for older ones. The writer was a guest of Accor Hotels. 107
A family sitting around the campfire on the Murray River in South Australia
Planning a camping trip? Here are our tips to help make it that little bit easier
WHERE TO GO
When it comes to where to go, it really depends on the kind of experience you’re looking for. Having grown up on the Murray, Ultimate Campsites: Australia author Penny Watson says she is especially drawn to river country, but also loves deserts and the arid outback landscape, the savannah country and swimming holes of the Top End, and the turquoise beaches of Tasmania. “I love waking up to the smell of eucalypt and burning campfire embers, and the sound of warbling magpies or waves washing up on a nearby beach,” she says.
As for choosing a campsite, consider such things as whether dogs are allowed, fire restrictions and whether you need to take or dig a pit toilet, and a shower and shower/toilet tent.
WHEN TO BOOK
If you’re going away at peak times, it’s best to book as far in advance as possible when staying at holiday parks or campgrounds that require reservations. Arrive early to ensure you get a spot, and before it gets dark so there’s time to erect your tent and set up. Anaconda camping buyer James Barallon says if you’ve got new camping gear set it up in your backyard before you leave as a trial run. Get the kids involved and excited, and take photos and videos on your phone so you have a handy reference.
WHAT TO TAKE
One of the most important things is to have a camping checklist. If you camp regularly, storing everything together
Image: South Australia Tourism Commission
HOW TO… PREPARE FOR A FAMILY CAMPING HOLIDAY
Taking the kids on a camping holiday is a rite of passage for Aussie families and, in the days of COVID-19, being in your own little family bubble surrounded by nature in the great outdoors is more appealing than ever before. But while the logistics of a camping holiday can seem overwhelming, a little bit of thought and planning can ensure things go smoothly.
and having it ready to go makes life a lot easier, so you only have to pack clothes and food. Easy meals are a must. Marinating meat and freezing it prior to departing and pre-preparing meals, such as cutting meat or other ingredients, also makes things easier. For the first night, consider picking up prawns en route for a yummy and easy dinner. Watson, who enjoys regular camping trips with her husband Phil King and sons Digby, 10, and six-year-old Etienne, says it’s crucial to sleep comfortably. “There’s a strange notion out there that a bad night’s sleep is part and parcel of a camping trip,” she says. “On the contrary, I think one bad night’s sleep can put people off camping for life. My advice is to take your pillow (and even a doona if you can fit it in) and fork out on a decent mattress or airbed that is firm and will stay up all night. Lay a
blanket or camp sheet under the mattress as an extra layer between you and the cold ground. Good sleepers are happy campers.” She also recommends an Aeropress coffee maker for grown-ups, and headlamps and marshmallows for the kids. As well as the essentials, make sure you pack some fun things, such as banana lounges or fossicking pans for adults, inflatable rafts to float on, and even toy dump trucks, soccer balls and a cricket set for kids. Or, for a bit of fun, consider pimping your tent with blinking Christmas lights.
CONSIDER THE ENVIRONMENT
Anaconda’s Barallon says it’s important to pack your rubbish away in the car overnight to avoid waking up to unexpected visitors, as during the night wildlife can come and
FAMILY CAMPING CHECKLIST • Tent/swag (or caravan/campertrailer) • Tarpaulin or two for ground cover, waterproofing and shade • Sleeping bags • Air mattresses • Pillows • Fold-up table and camp chairs • Cooking stove • Food • Drinking water – many campgrounds don’t have it • First-aid kit • Chopping board • Sharp knives • Plates, bowls and cutlery, or a picnic set • Platter and salad bowl • Dishcloth • Foldable washing-up bowl or bucket • Paper towels • Bin bags • Scissors
• Batteries • Billy • Toast tongs • Hooks for hanging bin bags and tea towels • Flask for cups of tea on the road without having to boil a billy • Washing line • Torch/flashlight • Overhead light with batteries – if in a tent • Hammer • Aeropress coffee maker • Keep cups • Food-storage containers for leftovers • Bottle and can opener • Tongs • Baking paper for lining barbeques with and cooking on • Towels, including one to use as a tent doormat • Sustainable toilet paper
Source: Ultimate Campsites: Australia
Author Penny Watson’s children love camping 109
Image: Ultimate Campsites Australia
The family loves to camp
EVER PITCHED A TENT WITHIN A STONE’S THROW OF A PICTURESQUE WATERFALL? WOKEN UP IN AN ANCIENT RAINFOREST? OR SNUGGLED INTO A SLEEPING BAG AS THE SUN GOES DOWN OVER MAGICAL ROCK FORMATIONS? AUSTRALIA’S DIVERSE AND DYNAMIC LANDSCAPES MEAN THAT YOU CAN HAVE ALMOST EVERY KIND OF PINCH-ME CAMPING EXPERIENCE WITHOUT EVER HAVING TO PACK YOUR PASSPORT.
In Ultimate Campsites: Australia, Penny Watson shares her top 75 nature-based campgrounds across the country. With detailed maps, tips, anecdotes and the history of the surrounding regions, all that’s left is for you to get your camping gear and have a one-of-a-kind holiday. Perfect for planning that special bucket list trip or discovering a great weekend away in your own backyard, Ultimate Campsites: Australia will have you heading off to enjoy the great outdoors in no time.
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I M AT E
“We cottoned onto the joys of leftover Christmas cake during a camping trip in the Snowies one January. Wrapped in tin-foil, these dense brick-like cakes travel well, have a long shelf-life and are filled with (what we like to think of as) trail mix staples – almonds, dried apricots, sultanas. A slice in the afternoon is the perfect reward for successfully pitching a tent, and it goes down a treat with a cup of billy tea” – Ultimate Campsites: Australia author Penny Watson
AU ST RA L I A
SPINE WIDTH 25.5MM
Ultimate Campsites Australia
raid rubbish bags left around the campsite. “Always make sure you take your rubbish home with you, and try to use low impact products like biodegradable bags and toilet paper,” he says. To reduce your overall environmental impact, it’s best to camp in pre-cleared areas or close to existing trails, and keep your campsite small to avoid unnecessary clearing or damage to vegetation. “If you have to, ditch the car and walk a little way to get to your spot,” Barallon says. Don’t wash your dishes or clothes in a river or stream as this can release harmful chemicals into waterways. Carry water away from streams or lakes, and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. A few nights before you leave, fill plastic bottles with water and place them in the freezer. They are a great substitute for ice blocks inside your cooler and, when they melt, you’ll have access to cool water. Again, make sure you take your bottles home and recycle them properly.
31/7/20 8:20 am
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2. SCRUBBA WASH BAG
Billed as the world's first pocket-sized portable washing machine, the Scrubba 112
wash bag is sure to be a hit with road trippers embarking on holidays during COVID-19. It eliminates the need to use public laundries, communal laundry services in campgrounds and hotel sinks. Weighing just 142g, the bag was developed by Australian patent attorney Ash Newland in 2010, and has received investment through Shark Tank Australia. RRP $64.95 (unpackaged) and $69.95 (packaged) thescrubba.com.au/collections/ washers
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Travel around the world in 52 cards with this fun snap card game â€“ a brilliant pastime for all the family whether on holiday or at home. It features famous landmarks from around the world, including the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Giza, Big Ben, the Statue of Liberty and the Taj Mahal. Presented in a compact box, it makes a perfect travel companion. RRP $9.99 harpercollins.com.au/9781409562450/ travel-snap
4. SWIM TRAVEL MAT
Never go without a hygienic changing area for your little swimmer this summer! Bambino Mio’s new Electric Ocean collection swim travel mat is the perfect fold and roll waterproof change mat that makes changing your baby easy, whether you’re poolside, in the changing room or at the beach. Anti-stick technology makes it easy to shake off sand and water in seconds and the non-slip rubber base grips the mat in place to minimise movement, so it’s safe for little wriggle bums. It’s also lightweight and compact so will fit nicely into your bag. RRP $24.99 bambinomio.com.au
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this award-winning Queensland-based label offers a range of swimsuits and hats for children aged from four months to 16 years. Their exclusive patterns feature Australian birds and butterflies, and with long-sleeved swimsuits and wide-brimmed hats, parents can rest assured that their precious little one’s skin will be kept safe from harmful UV rays. RRP Swimsuit only from $59.95, or $91.50 for the set tribetropical.com
6. CAPE KIDS PACK IT RAINCOAT This waterproof and breathable lightweight rain jacket can be packed into its own pocket, making it easy to carry. Ideal for camping and hiking, the
breathable nylon jacket is fully seam-sealed with elasticised cuffs, an adjustable hem and reinforced stress points, with a UPF rating of 50+. RRP $44.99 anacondastores.com
7. REUSABLE DISNEY CUPS AND BOTTLES
frank green, creator of environmentallyconscious reusable lifestyle products, has partnered with Disney to launch a collection of reusable cups and bottles. The new range features Winnie the Pooh, Elsa, Minnie Mouse and Wall-E. Every product comes in 100 per cent recyclable packaging and the environmental cost of making it is offset in just 15 uses. RRP $39.95 - $64.95 frankgreen.com.au 113
TOURISM WHITSUNDAYS CEO
After growing up in the small town of Agnes Water in Queensland’s Gladstone region, where she began her career in tourism, Tash Wheeler moved to ‘the big smoke’. She worked in various roles with Tourism and Events Queensland and Brisbane Marketing, and met her future husband. They moved to the Whitsundays for a 12-month contract, and that was seven years ago! In that time, Tash rose up the ranks to become CEO of Tourism Whitsundays. The pair loves exploring the region with children Charlie, 9, Alessandra, 5 and one-year-old Alfie, who went on a trip to meet the Queensland Minister for Tourism when he was just six weeks old. MY IDEAL FAMILY HOLIDAY IS… somewhere with no phone reception, lots of quality time with the kids and nights with my husband enjoying good food! MY FONDEST FAMILY HOLIDAY MEMORY IS… Oh, this is hard! With three kids and always having a young one, while we travel away to visit family, we tend to have lots of ‘staycations’; and when our home is 114
the Whitsundays, it makes it pretty easy to have an incredible holiday! In the last few years, we have had some beauties. They include camping trips in the beautiful seaside town of Bowen; at Cape Hillsborough where there is no mobile phone reception, and fun times enjoying the water park at BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort at Airlie Beach. Island resorts are a great getaway too – the kids love fun on the buggies on Hamilton Island, and we loved sunset drinks at One Tree Hill – not to mention kids ate free! We have also spent many a day on tour to the islands and the Great Barrier Reef. Something I love more than anything is sitting on Whitehaven Beach with the kids, building sandcastles and swimming. FAMILY TRAVELLERS MAY NOT BE AWARE THAT… the Whitsundays is an incredible destination for families, from the spectacular islands to the diverse mainland, and the region really does offer something for all budgets. It includes Hamilton Island, Hayman Island, Daydream Island, the Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach, Bowen and all that is in between!
EVERY FAMILY SHOULD EXPERIENCE… the Whitsundays in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef! Once in a lifetime, seriously, try to show your children the Great Barrier Reef from the air, it’s breathtaking! MY TOP TIP FOR TRAVELLING WITH KIDS IS… Relax and enjoy the little moments, as the time passes fast; the moments are what our children remember. They don’t remember that we got to dinner late or didn’t wash their hair that day. And when it gets hard, laugh, as you will all laugh together!
PAC I F IC R E SORT R A ROTONGA R A RO T ONGA , C O OK I SL A N D S Laid back fun in the Sun! With a complimentary kids club and a wide range of water activity equipment, families often make use of the snorkelling equipment exploring the underwater sea life or venture out on a family kayak adventure together. With plenty of activities for children of all ages, and relaxing options for adults, there is something for everyone to enjoy at the award winning family friendly Pacific Resort Rarotonga. AU T H E N T I C B OU T I QU E pacificresort.com
R AROTONGA Âˇ COOK ISLANDS
PAC I F I C R E S O RT H O T E L G RO U P
COOK ISL A N DS