The Gorge, Clarence River NSW

The Gorge, Clarence River NSW

We were so lucky to stumble across The Gorge on the Clarence River!

After spending some time on the stunning white sandy beaches of the NSW North Coast, we felt it was time to head inland and swap sand and saltwater for grass and the fresh, running waters of the Clarence River, also known as ‘The Big River’.

Chris had spotted a couple of sites that looked good on Wikicamps and asked me to pick one. After seeing the photos and read the existing reviews of The Gorge, I knew this was a place we had to explore. When we couldn’t get through on the phone to make a booking, we decided that we would drive to the property and if they were booked out, we would simply drive back.

Located 75km north-west of Grafton, the drive to this property is almost as exciting as spending time there!

The way in was a long, windy, corrugated dirt road that bumped us all over the place with views so spectacular that we didn’t mind the bumps one bit! The road winds its way along the ridges, giving you glimpses of the Clarence River below on one side and incredible mountain views on the other. (luckily you drive out the same way you drive in, so I had the river views on the way out!)

We saw cows grazing on some of the greenest grass covered rolling hills we have ever seen, coupled with the bluest of blue skies with a smattering of fluffy white clouds. We were literally lost for words. There was something beautiful from every direction as far as the eye could see! I ended up putting the camera down and just soaking it all in as there was no way I could capture everything.

Crossing grids and splashing through causeways is all part of the fun, all the while keeping an eye out for cows and other wildlife like kangaroos.

 

After passing through 2 giant trees with signs displaying ‘You are entering The Gorge. All Welcome’, ‘Private Property’, ‘Day Visitor Permit Required $10’ and a phone number to call to make a booking, we rumbled over a wooden bridge and looked at each other in confusion as we both asked if we heard voices! When I popped my head out the window, I could see a family splashing away in a rockpool below the bridge. That was when we started to get really excited; stunning scenery beside the mighty Clarence River, little rockpools and no phone service. This was beginning to feel like paradise.

We made our way along another 4km of windy dirt road, across some more of those tiny wooden bridges until we came to the homestead. A man was standing out the front in thongs, shorts and a singlet and he came up to welcome us as soon as pulled up.

We met Buck and Belinda (say that 3 times quickly! Lol) who are just lovely! They explained why we couldn’t get through to make a booking. Frustratingly, their phone lines have been down for ages and there is no service at all on the 8000+ acre property, home to over 30 different campsites with 10km of river frontage on the Clarence! And to complicate things further, as they are new owners, they don’t have the passwords for any of the website Facebook or Instagram pages! So, your best bet is to take the long, windy, bumpy and most spectacular drive right up to the house and say, ‘I’m here!’ just like we did 😁

They told us there were showers and toilets up near the Homestead, but nothing else around the property. And as most campsites are a fair way away, it makes life much easier if you are self contained! Bathing in the river is always refreshing 😉

They suggested we camp below the homestead on the river and guided us down in their bright orange Kubota. They walked us in to check out the site (known as Old Boat Place) before we drove the Hilux in.

We asked them how business was over Christmas and that’s when the stories of the bushfires were shared.  When they showed us videos of the hills glowing red, smoke blanketing the river and gorge and the water bomber helicopter dropping in to fill up right beside the boat, we realised just how close and how dangerous it had been for them.

 

Belinda explained that the property had been in drought for as long as the they had been there, with calm and crystal-clear river water, but recently the heavy rains had lifted the waters to levels they hadn’t seen before and some of the campsites were still very muddy. What a start for this lovely couple on their new property! Drought, heavy rain and bushfires, all within a matter of months!

 

The river is now wide, flowing and quite muddy – but still beautiful and most definitely swimmable. As we were setting up, a truck was returning from dropping campers into the river further up so they could float their way down on their inflatables. Not long after they came bobbing down, hats on with drinks in hand. How relaxing!

Buck said they were about to head up the river and see what it was like with so much water flowing after the floods and asked if we would like to join them. Of course we said yes, and within an hour we were set up, had swum in the river with the turtles while tiny fish nibbled at our toes, and were ready when they arrived on the Kubota to take us first to Skinny-dipping Waterhole (I think that’s the name!) and then up the river in the tinny.

But first … the waterhole. Once again, we bounced along the road in the Kubota, over the bridge and down until we came to a secluded little corner with the most inviting stream babbling along and over some rocks into a deep waterhole.

We all got into the clear water and Chris and I paddled over to the little waterfall. I didn’t want to get out! But it was already 4:30 and we had a river and some incredible waterfalls to explore!

We drove back to our campsite where the tinny was moored, jumped in and headed off up stream. The further we went, the more spectacular the scenery became. Fish, birds, cliffs, waterfalls and incredible rock structures once again made for a moment where the camera just had to be put down, and we tried to take it all in.

We pulled in, tied the boat up and decided to do the rocky 2km walk along the river’s edge to see the falls. I wasn’t sure how I’d go in thongs and Chris being barefoot, but we were fine and so very happy we decided to do it.

The first falls, Willowtree Falls, were affectionately known as the ‘baby falls’ … but not this time! Water was barrelling over the top and there was no way you’d get in for a quick dip at the bottom.

Belinda assured us that as beautiful as these falls were, the best was yet to come. We continued on over grassy hills, up rocky walls, under shrubbery and across water covered plains until we reached the magnificent Rainbow Falls. There is no need to ask why the name, as you can clearly see a rainbow directly in front of the falls created by the mist spraying gently onto your face and body as you stand and admire what was once a lovely swimming spot that is now a raging waterfall!

We just sat, mesmerised until we realised it was nearing 6:30 and we still had to walk back to the boat, ride down the river and Chris still had rocks to jump off and ropes to swing off before we could head back to camp.

The river was flowing quite fast, so we decided to see how far we could get with no motor – but it wasn’t long before we were leaning over the side and pushing the tinny off the rocky walls, and Buck was firing the motor up to stop us side slamming into a large rock that was looming right up in our path!

When we could, we just drifted in silence, listening to the birds, fish, turtles and all the stories Buck and Belinda had to share about this incredible place.

The property has long been a working cattle station, and Buck, Belinda and Belinda’s mum are in the process of bringing their own herd of cattle to run here.

Chris was shown all the best jumping spots and gave them a go (except the first one as we’d forgotten to stop!). He also climbed the riverbank and swung off an epic rope swing after Buck showed us all how it was done!

It was past 8:30 and dark by the time the boat pulled back into our campsite. We were tired, hungry and exhilarated! What an amazing way to spend Australia Day!

Buck and Belinda went back to the homestead and we cooked up our lamb steaks and salad.

It wasn’t long before Chris was up in the rooftop tent and I was laying back in my camp chair staring in amazement at how many stars there were and how brightly they were shining!

The next morning, we were up as the sun was peeking over the hills, lighting up the glassy river

By 9:30 am we were saying our goodbyes, wishing we had more time to spend at, and making plans to return to The Gorge here on the mighty Clarence River.

How to get here:

Drive out and pass through Copmanhurst, keeping an eye out for a large sign saying ‘Appletree Flat Road’. You will also see a sign saying, ‘The Gorge Station.’

Not long after you will come across Lilydale Bridge, a very low bridge where you will find plenty of campers (this was also on our list). We actually stopped here and had brunch on the rocky riverbank on our way home.

After crossing the bridge, turn right at the sign for The Gorge and then just keep driving for about 35km. This is where the scenery is spectacular no matter where you look!

You will see the welcome sign for The Gorge Station and continue on a further 4km until you reach the homestead.

MAP HERE:

https://goo.gl/maps/Rj3GY1Tnc1H1PUaD7

Hosanna Farmstay

Hosanna Farmstay

Hosanna Farmstay is where we just spent the most incredible weekend. We have been once before, over 5 years ago with the kids and always said we would return.  I have no idea what took us so long!

We did notice a few pretty big changes this trip with the main one being the lack of water. On our last visit the creek was running through the campground and we splashed our way through a water crossing to get to our campsite … now the creek bed is dry with a few big puddles in it, and the water crossing appears to be long since gone. The water level of the dam had dropped so much I was shocked when I saw the drop from the diving board! You can see in the pics below the difference in height.It didn’t make a scrap of difference to how beautiful Hosanna is or to the fun we had though!

With farm animals, swimming (in the dam), the awesome new waterslide (into the dam!), paddling (around the dam), plenty of space to run around and ride bikes – Hosanna is a great place for everyone to hang out.

I love the animals and on our last visit with the kids we were at every feeding time, cuddling the rabbits and piglets, patting and milking the cows and hanging out with the friendly chooks. Check out how young Cooper and Charli were!

This time the animals came to visit us at our campsite! Chooks were roaming around and the goats … oh gosh … the goats! How funny! I still can’t stop laughing at the white one that wanted Chris’s chilli nachos. It even jumped up on him trying to take one out of his hand! I saw heaps of cane toads on our first night as I was walking to the amenities (in my gumboots!). It had been raining and there would have been at least 30 that crossed my path. There were also plenty of water dragons meandering about the place – some even  posing for a pic or two.

We had a large group and camped all together right near the entrance beside the ‘creek bed’. We had our Hilux and rooftop, the others had caravans with one camper trailer and a swag also joining the crew. We had plenty of space and no noisy neighbours (OK, so, we may have been the noisy neighbours!)

There are huts, cabins and camp sites, so even if you don’t have a setup suited to camping, you can enjoy all that this amazing place has to offer.

Something we decided against using this time was the sauna. Yep – you can book the sauna (which takes about an hour to heat up) and sweat away to your hearts content. This is on the list of must-do’s if you book a winter escape. 

We also didn’t make it up the road to see the glow worms which we will be doing on our next visit for sure.

This seems to be a great place for weddings, functions and large groups and this weekend we shared it with a few busloads of (very well-behaved) kids. Aside from when they all hit the dam at once, we hardly knew they were there. Hosanna is big enough to accommodate a large number of people with ease. 

There is a laundry room and amenities with hot showers and flushing toilets. The camp kitchen is great, and the guest lounge is filled with board games and even has a piano, guitars and bongos! (Yes, I gave the bongos a go … lol). You’ll find little open fire cookers (what are these things called??) dotted around the campground as well as very random things for the kids to play on and with. 

A fantastic new addition is the long, black shiny waterslide that has been cut into the hill at the side of the dam. We were dying to jump on and give it a go and it was every bit as good as we thought it would be; launching Chris so high and far that it knocked the GoPro out of his hands! This resulted in a search party going mud diving and recovering goggles and sunglasses along with our GoPro. Everyone at the dam erupted in to cheers when Geoff rose from the murky water with the camera in hand. It was quite a scene! I flew down with the GoPro in hand – it sure makes for some crazy footage. Thankfully I had a good grip (or maybe just didn’t land quite as hard and far!) and came up from the depths with it held firmly in my grasp. (See video below)

The diving board/springboard is insanely high now that the water levels have dropped in the dam. This allowed for some pretty speccy ‘aerobatics’ to take place before people slammed into the water. 

There are kayaks and rubber rings floating around in the water for people to use (gold coins are needed to release the kayaks) and there are shallow parts in the dam suited for the younger kids. 

And while we saw turtles last time, none popped their heads up on this trip.

A Day Visit pass gives you access to the facilities and free activities happening around Hosanna Farm that day. You can join in feeding the animals, grab a coffee from the cafe (that was closed at 10:30 on the Sunday morning – so check for opening hours!) or go for a swim in the dam. 

You can even book in for a farm tour which we haven’t done yet, but I’d like to when we go back with the kids. It’s a guided walking tour of our farm that lets you experience what it’s like to do the farm rounds, like a real farmer! Head out into the paddocks to check in on the cows and feed and water the chickens.

We overheard a few of the guides explaining what goes on and thought it was hilarious that the chooks are ‘great for spreading the cow manure around’ … and one had just spent a few minutes pecking the crumbs off while walking all over Carly’s chopping board! 

The tour shows you how Hosanna’s food waste is re-used, you can catch some chickens, collect the eggs and learn more about their farming operations and shift towards more sustainable and regenerative farming practices.  

You can also pack a picnic lunch and just sit and take in the beauty of the place …  there are plenty of picnic tables around the dam and shady spots under trees to sit and relax. 

 

 

 

Directions

Hosanna Farmstay
4 Tunnel Rd, Stokers Siding NSW 2484
Helensvale Meet Up

Helensvale Meet Up

RnR Wanderers, Let’s Get Outta Here and Makn Trax were coming along for our first weekend away in months! We’ve had a really rough year having had no van or 4x4 for what feels like forever, and this was us finally getting back out there doing what we love.

 We still don’t have a caravan or a battery system in the Hilux but we weren’t going to let this stop us. So, we were heading off with what we do have – the Alucab rooftop and a borrowed Eski packed with ice.

Our initial plans of a weekend at Flanagan’s Reserve were completely thrown by the devastating bushfires that have wreaked havoc in our National Parks and so many other places. Where could we go on such short notice we wondered? The BIG4 at Helensvale popped into my mind (it’s our local go-to park being only 20 minutes down the highway). Worth a try I thought and made the call. Within a few minutes we were booked into the unpowered sites down the back by the river.

It’s such a fun park with awesome amenities and great, super-friendly staff. I love the huge tropical fish tank in one of the (really nice) camp kitchens and the even bigger one in the amenities block! It’s pet-friendly and even has a dog-park which was perfect for Mel and Geoff’s pooches Molly and Kiki to have a good run around in. If dogs and fish aren’t your thing, feel free to check out the various animals in the ‘petting zoo’. There’s a BMX track which Greg’s little fella didn’t take long to find, and plenty of open spacefor the kids to ride/tun around in.

The pool area lit up by flames at night and open until 9 p.m., is amazing.  You can relax in the spa or splash around in the heated pool which has a water slide while the kids (if you have them) have fun in the shallow kid’s pool. If you want to eat while hanging out in the pool area, you’ll find the café serves scrumptious food and drinks until 8 p.m. And they can whip up a mean cocktail! 

Yep, this park is just awesome! It also helps that the park is located right across the highway from Movie World, Dream World, White Water World, Wet n Wild, Outback Spectacular and Top Golf and isn’t far from Surfers Paradise or Brisbane.

Yep, this park is just awesome! It also helps that the park is located right across the highway from Movie World, Dream World, White Water World, Wet n Wild, Outback Spectacular and Top Golf and isn’t far from Surfers Paradise or Brisbane.

Mel and Geoff (RnR Wanderers) were already set up when we arrived about lunch time on Friday. We parked the Hilux next to ‘Blondie’ and our Alu-cab roof top and brand new awning was set up within a few minutes.

We had a bit of a chat before I left the boys with their beers and went for a bit of a splash in the heated pool.

When I returned to camp, Greg from Makn Trx  had arrived along with Kurt and Carly from Let’s Get Outta Here .

 The boys were frothing over Greg’s chopped 200 series and discussing all things 4x4.

Camping makes a person hungry and we were there is a flash when Kurt and Carly invited us over to their caravan for Weber-fired pizzas. Carly’s got that recipe nailed … dinner was delish!

It was still early when we climbed up into the roof top. It’s super comfy so we fell asleep fairly easily despite the sound of the freeway. We had forgotten how loud the road-noise is when not in an enclosed van!

The sun peeking in through the flyscreen combined with the cockatoos squawking had us up pretty early. I pulled up a camp chair by the river to read for a while and Chris did whatever it is Chris does (Instagram and YouTube I think … lol).

By the time the others were up and about, we’d showered, and Chris was getting hangry. We thought brekky at the café would be quicker than cooking our own, so we all headed over there to find we had 15 minutes before the gate opened.  Not to be idle, we decided to have a bit of a sticky at the huge new water park that will be open to the public in February next year. It will be amazing!

On the way, some gorgeous little French Bulldog puppies name Bob and Marley grabbed our attention and wouldn’t let go! They were adorable and had us all wishing we could take them home. Marty (their dad) came out and had a chat with us. Turns out he was there with his family on the final leg of their lap around Australia! ‘Glamping Around Oz’ was stuck on their Silverline next to a big ‘For Sale’ sticker.

Breakfast was divine (pancakes, eggs benedict, brekkie wraps and big breakfast filled our table) and a great way to start the day that was filled with relaxing, chatting, swimming, being a little crazy in the pool and just enjoying each other’s company.

We had a nibbles platter for lunch, again thanks to Kurt and Carly, and said goodbye to Greg who was packing up and heading off only to set up in a new location a few hours later. The rest of us all went our separate ways for a few hours; some of us reading, others (Chris) having naps, swimming, and doing whatever else we felt like.

Chris added some awesome graphics to the back of the Let’s Get Outta Here Van and managed to get it straight even after a few Big Heads!

We came back together later in the arvo to sort out how we were getting to and from Top Golf which was just across the Motorway. Needless to say, we were all a little disappointed when we arrived to find out that the wait to play was over two hours.

We decided food was the next best thing (I know, food did feature a lot in our weekend!) and headed to the Boathouse Tavern for some amazing food and drinks.

We sat outside next to the live music. It was fun to people watch a bit and continue chatting. We didn’t run out of conversation all weekend which I guess is to be expected when like-minded people with similar passions get together. It was great!

There was a brief lull while we were all devouring our meals … but that didn’t last long! We all have so much in common and so much to share with each other … including lots of laughter.

I tell you … Mel and Carly seriously crack me up! Such hilarious human beings.   

Sunday was breakfast at the café and then time for Kurt, Carly and us to pack up and head off. We watched Mel and Jeff disappear in our side mirrors as we drove away … they were lucky enough to be hanging around for an extra night.

We had such a great weekend even though it was nothing like we had originally planned. Our free-camping adventure at Flanagan’s turned into a caravan park adventure with loads of delicious food and pool time! Who can complain about that? Certainly not me! I had a blast and I can’t wait until our next meet up in mid-December. 

Thanks to Mel and Jeff, Greg and Ellie and Kurt and Carly for making the weekend awesome.  Oh, and Chris. Of course, thanks to Chris! He makes all my weekends awesome 🙂

 

Woody Head, NSW

Woody Head, NSW

Wahoooosers! It’s great to be baaaack!! 

Our new van is amazing and we love it … but what we love more than the van itself, are the adventures we get to experience once again. 4 months without a 4WD or caravan has truly taken its toll on all of us.

We couldn’t have chosen a better place for our first relaxing weekend in the van in months … we were finally able to set up the camp chairs, and enjoy a few beers (or many beers in Chris’s case!) around the fire with both old mates and new ones. 🔥

White sandy beaches, rock platforms, a boat ramp, grassy areas, rainforest, shallow reef (perfect for snorkeling) and lots of kangaroos roaming around … plus awesome surfing and great fishing put Woody Head, part of the Bundjalung National Park, right near the top of our beachside camping list. And the fact that it’s only a bit over 200 km from home makes it even better.

The charming seaside village of Iluka, right at the mouth of the Clarence River is just down the road and has everything you need including an IGA, golf course, a great bowling club and pub plus pretty much everything you need including a caravan park. We didn’t eat at the pub this time, but we have before and the meals were epic! The whole area (pub included) gives off an awesome relaxed vibe that makes you think seriously about not going home!

Our first time to this gorgeous spot was back in October of 2014 when we came and stayed at the Woody Head Campground and attended a friend’s wedding at Shark Bay, just around the corner. I was blown away at the beauty and tranquility of the place as it was my first time to the NSW North Coast. Chris had not long finished building our camper trailer and adventures like this were a new thing for us. We fell in love and knew we’d be back for sure.

 

Woody Head back in October 2014

We finally made it back, and yep – we are planning our return trip already. And next time we’ll bring the kids. We know they will love this place as much as we do. 

There really is so much to explore. A short walk through the campground will take you to a grassy area that leads you down to a white sandy beach (or a boat ramp if that’s what you need!) and if you head off to the right you will find a gorgeous little path, quite often dotted with kangaroos, that you can follow along the rock shelf and coastline for ages. You can spend hours exploring the rock shelf and checking out the different textures and patterns. We went for a walk just after sunrise to snap a few pics.

“Woody Head is a campground with the lot – you can pitch your tent, park your caravan or book a cabin to enjoy a pleasure-packed beach escape for the weekend or longer.
It’s a great place for a family holiday, with a protected sandy beach that’s ideal for swimming and fishing, a boat ramp and the spectacular rock platform. There are heaps of other things to do as well and children and adults alike will love exploring the rainforest and shallow reefs around the campground. There’s also a boat ramp for those who’ve brought their boat along, great places for fishing and waterbabies will love being so close to the beach.

There is one designated group camping area and the campground is wheelchair accessible.

Of course, with the amount of attractions on offer, it’s no wonder Woody Head is a popular north coast campground. You’ll need to book with plenty of time to secure your campsite.”

🌐https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/…/woody-head-campground

Woody Head Campground
🗺Woody Head Road, Woody Head NSW 2466
📞1300 072 757
📍https://goo.gl/maps/GpSLUNJk65JhBk527

Full Video Here

Kangaroo Valley and Buladelah, NSW. By Charli

Kangaroo Valley and Buladelah, NSW. By Charli

The first time dad has ever been worried … of course we’re all scared to death.

We were driving through a mountain range down an extremely steep, slippery road and were all scared for our lives.

When mum had found what sounded like an amazing free camp on Wikicamps (Bendeela Recreation Area), one person’s comment has mentioned ‘windy, slippery roads’ – and we were finding out first hand exactly what that person had meant! ‘

One wrong move and we’re ‘dead meat,’ that’s what dad said anyway.

Not to mention we had a 3 tonne caravan dragging behind us, making everything 100 times more difficult!

We finally make it through the steep mountains and get to a cute, one street country town. There are loads of little shops and cafes lining the main street, and a lovely old bridge that crosses a small ravine with a gorgeous river flowing underneath.

When we finally arrived at the free camp mum found on Wikicamps, we saw tonnes of wombats and kangaroos, some ducks and even a black cat!

We wandered around the campsite for a while, following a pathway that led us through some bushes to a stunning lake called ‘Lake Yarrunga’. The reflection of the surrounding trees on the water was absolutely beautiful.

Lake Yarrunga was formed when the Tallowa Dam was constructed in 1976, it’s an extremely important lake, as it is a part of the water supply for Shoalhaven, Illawarra and Sydney.

Lake Yarrunga is absolutely gorgeous and is filled with plenty of wildlife including platypus, ducks, birds and heaps more. And yep – I read all that information from a sign near the lake 🙂

As we were taking in our surroundings, we noticed that we could hear our voices echoing throughout the hills! We were standing on the wooden ramp cooeing and shouting into the hills, just to hear our voices talking back to us. We did that for about 20 minutes, until mum came over and told us to be quiet because we were echoing throughout the whole campsite. Oops.

We walked back to the caravan and decided to relax out the front and enjoy the views. It’s so green and so peaceful. Soon after, we decided we were starving and begged mum to cook us dinner, so we could hurry up and eat s’mores after.

For dinner, mum had cooked a beef and vegetable stew, and it had cooked in her thermal cooker while were driving. We ate it with a side of potato bread that tasted delicious! Who knew bread made out of mashed potato could taste so good? After that, we finally got to do what we had all been waiting for since we left home in Queensland, eat s’mores!

Although it wasn’t how we expected to, it still tasted delicious.

This whole trip we have been looking forward to sitting around a warm, cozy fire and toasting our gigantic marshmallows on the long pointy sticks we’d specially hand picked from the bush, smearing the melted marshmallow onto chocolate covered biscuits. But sadly we aren’t allowed to have fires where we were staying. So instead of eating them around the fire, dad lit the gas burner in the Dometic outside kitchen and we toasted the marshmallows that way. We had just picked up our brand new caravan, and we are super happy it’s got a slide out kitchen. I just hope we get to have s’mores again tomorrow night!

Next day: Kangaroo Valley to Bulahdelah River

We woke up to a nice warm caravan, with the smell of porridge wafting through the air. Mum and dad had woken up early to have a nice, peaceful breakfast without us kids making a racket. After we had brekky, we hooked up the van and drove off to our new destination, Bulahdelah.

On our way dad insisted we stop at one of his favourite pie shops called ‘Heatherbraes Pies‘. Mum got her favourite steak and mushroom, dad got a Jillaroo, and Aylah, Cooper and I all got an original beef pie. Once we all finished, our bellys were full and we were absolutely delighted with the delicious pies.

Soon after several stops at service station, we finally arrived at Bulahdelah. It’s a beautiful free camp right next to a gorgeous river that has plenty of space for heaps of caravans, tents, camper trailers, ect.

About 10 minutes after we arrived, we spotted a rope swing hanging out over river. We all desperately wanted to swing off it, but it was way too cold to go swimming. Cooper being the person he is, decided to show off to everyone how cool he is by swinging into the river without falling off. That didn’t go to plan. The first swing Cooper had, he slipped off the stick and landed strait into the river! We all burst out laughing as we all watched Cooper walked out of the muddy river with shame and embarrassment.

Of course Aylah wanted to have a go after Cooper, so she took of her shoes and grabbed onto the stick. She was hesitating for about 5 minutes until finally she built up the courage to swing over the river. We were all 100% certain she was going to fall in, but surprisingly she didn’t! She even swung 10 or more  times and still didn’t fall into the river. That really did shock us all.

And then it was Golden Hour! Time to snap a few pics as the sun set over the Myall River.

Later on we collected some rocks and made a fire pit. We grabbed the wood from our Navigator bags the that we had collected and dad had cut with his new chainsaw and began to build our fire.

The sun sank slowly, casting an orange glow. Birds were flying down the river, over the water and looping back around. Mum obviously decided to take photos of the sunset and they turned out amazing.

The campfire was lit, the chairs were set in a circle, relaxing music was playing from the caravan, everyone was sitting around the fire and everything was perfect.

A bit later dad cooked up some delicious meat patties on the slide out kitchen and mum put together some hamburgers for dinner. Aylah, Cooper and I sat around the fire and demolished our burgers faster than the parents could even make theirs! And of course we had s’mores after!

We had some Colourful Fire Packets (that you can buy from our online store here! http://www.aussiedestinationsunknown.com.au/product/colourful-fire-packets/) and dad decided it was a good time to toss one in. Lucky we had already eaten our s’mores as you can’t roast marshmallows with the colorful flames bouncing around. It did look beautiful though and was an almost perfect night. We finally got to roast our marshmallows over the open, warm fire, sitting under the stars enjoying each others company.

Tasmania Summer 2018

Tasmania Summer 2018

For many people Tasmania is the holiday destination of a lifetime, especially if you are towing a huge caravan behind you and have a 4WD filled with kids. For me, it was a wonderful opportunity to take my family back home (from Brisbane) and show them where I grew up.

One thing that doesn’t change from first time visitors to those returning home like me, is how much it actually costs to get there! Our van is a 22.6” monstrosity with bikes on the back, so the Spirit of Tasmania alone cost about $2700. Once you get your head around the fact that this will be one of the more expensive adventures to be had here in Australia, you will be fine.

We booked our tickets six months in advance as they sell out pretty quickly, and we locked in our itinerary and caravan park bookings (where necessary). One good thing is that they ask for full payment when you book the SOT, so technically you’ve already paid the biggest chunk – aside from fuel, well before your island adventure begins.

If you would like to see our journey from Brisbane to Devonport, you can watch the videos here:

Heading to Tasmania as tourists during the summer months meant we were definitely not alone on some of our expeditions, however having the insider knowledge that we do allowed us to get well off the beaten track and do some serious exploring of hidden locations that many people would never know existed.

 From beaches covered in razor sharp rocks and sea weed to the base of incredible waterfalls. From ghost towns to the cool, temperate rainforest of the Tarkine. From convict heritage to picture perfect coastlines   – Tasmania is an island paradise just begging to be explored.

We began as everyone does, in Devonport (after taking the inland road to Melbourne from Brisbane and spending the night on board the Spirit of Tasmania). My mum met us for breakfast at the gorgeous Café Squire not far from the ferry terminal, we walked along the Bluff, and from there we headed north west through Burnie stopping off at Penguin so the kids could practise their counting (how may penguins are there on the foreshore?).

Boat Harbour Beach was where we spent our first day in Tasmania. We pulled into the spectacular free camp right on the water’s edge mid-morning and spent the entire day splashing around in the bright blue water and breathing in the crisp, clean air. It was Chris’s kids first experience of daylight savings, so it was a bit of a novelty having the sun still high in the sky at 8 pm.

The following day the sunshine and warm weather were replaced by low lying cloud and a constant drizzle as we made our way to Stanley. We spent some time exploring this cosy coastal town including the obligatory climb up to the top of The Nut, an enormous flat topped, volcanic neck jutting 150 metres straight up from the water’s edge.

The following day the sunshine and warm weather were replaced by low lying cloud and a constant drizzle as we made our way to Stanley. We spent some time exploring this cosy coastal town including the obligatory climb up to the top of The Nut, an enormous flat topped, volcanic neck jutting 150 metres straight up from the water’s edge.

There are so many experiences to try on Tasmania’s North-West and West Coasts so it’s hard to choose what to do in such a short amount of time.

Our first full day on the North – West Coast was spent inside the convict-built Highfield House which is regarded as the birthplace of European settlement in that area of Tasmania. We learned a lot about the history of the local towns and early settlers as we walked through this important part of Tasmania’s heritage. It was here that we began to get a sense of what it was like to live back in the early 1800’s and as we continued through Tasmania this would come back to us often.

Not to miss anything if possible, we stopped by the old Duck River Butter Factory on the way back to the caravan park. I explained to the kids that Duck River Butter would be the best butter they EVER tasted, and we vowed to bring some back to Queensland with us.

 

The Tarkine has always intrigued me. It is a hidden treasure and a forgotten wilderness. Tasmania is only a small state and this cool temperate rainforest takes up 477,000 hectares. It’s the second largest in the world and we spent most of the next few days exploring it.

Trowutta Caves Reserve, Trowutta Arch, Milkshake Hills, numerous sinkholes, Dempster Lookout, Lake Chisolm (one of the sinkholes) and Sumac Lookout were the spots we were able to explore on the first day. Each of them was incredible and well worth the time it took us to get to each one.

The next day we left Stanley and set up in a stunning free camp in Marrawah.  This was our base for exploring another three stops on the Tarkine Drive; Arthur River, The Edge of the World and Couta Rocks (and a few smaller places dotted in between).

 

This rugged coastline, where the wild Roaring Forties (strong westerly winds) batter the coast from across the Great Southern Ocean, really does make you feel like you are at the edge of the world.

By this time, it was almost Christmas which meant turning around and heading towards home, which for me means Grindelwald, the Swiss Village just outside Launceston where my parents have five acres and some very friendly alpacas!

We drove through Sheffield, stopping to have a look at the murals and grabbed a famous curried scallop pie on our way.

During the next few days we spent time with the rellies, relaxed a while and sent the kids off exploring on their bikes. We also took them to a few local places like the Cataract Gorge and Bunnings 🙂

Next on our itinerary was the East Coast. We drove through the winding bends of St Marys Pass, our caravan bouncing all over the shocking roads as we approached Bicheno where we spent the next three days. Here we visited the Blow Hole (where the kids had a blast!), drove to The Gardens, and the boys spent some time surfing at Redbill Beach. Beachside fish and chips are always on the menu at least once, and the line up at The Gulch is well worth standing in!

 Next it was Southbound to Triabunna with lots of little stops on the way including Coles Bay, The Pondering Frog, Devils Corner Wine Cellar, Swansea, The Spiky Bridge and Mayfield Bay Conservation Area.

We spent the day exploring Maria Island which was absolutely incredible. It’s a short 20-minute ferry trip from Triabunna on Tasmania’s East Coast across to the island where we spent the day on our bikes exploring and creating a lifetime of memories. It was one of the more expensive activities but was well worth it.

At 8 am on New Year’s Eve we carried on with our journey south driving through Orford, up Break Me Neck Hill and continuing along to Bust Me Gall Hill (yes, these are real names!) until we pulled into Whitebeach Caravan Park at 10:15am. This gave us plenty of time to set up and explore Eaglehawk Neck and the local Historic Coal Mine Site before the New Year’s Eve celebrations kicked off.

It was a wonderful yet brief stay at Whitebeach and early the next morning we were packed and on our way to Bruny Island where we caught up with my friends and their kids for three days. Although it was fairly windy, the weather was warm, and the kids were happy playing in the ocean. We did a bit of island exploring including the Trugannini Stairs, Cloudy Bay, Cloudy Corner Campground, and all of the lovely little local shops on the island. We just loved the Bruny Island Beer and Cheese Co., and the kids were pretty impressed with the Chocolate Factory. Oh, and there was that evening where Chris asked me to be his wife! 🙂

It was with happy hearts that we left Bruny and caught the ferry back across to Hobart where we spent the next few days based at Seven Mile Beach. Chris and I generally like to avoid touristy spots, especially in peak season, but we thought we should show the kids some of the more famous Hobart ones. And, despite the many tourists, we all had a great time visiting places like Cascade Brewery, Richmond Gaol, Cradle Mountain, Constitution Dock, Mt Wellington and so on.

We spent time with our friends, and I was lucky enough to have my bestie Narelle take me to Pancho Villa, a very, very cool Mexican-style restaurant with a couple of funky bars inside. We’d left her hubby, Chris and all the kids across the street eating ice cream, so we didn’t have time to order food – but we did have time to have a tour and be led out the back, down a dimly lit corridor and through a bookshelf door into the Voodoo Lounge for a cocktail. Think stained glass windows, chandeliers, and Day of the Dead type artwork dotted around. It was amazing. A Mexican feast will be on the agenda when we are next in Hobart, that’s for sure!

Then it was time to say ‘see you later’ to the three kids, put them on a plane back to Brisbane, and continue our journey. Were we sad to see them go? Yes, and no. They loved their time in Tasmania, but they were definitely ready to go home. And while we loved having them, we were really looking forward to some ‘adult’ time.

 

We had the next leg of our trip locked in and ready to go. Back to my parents place we went, and the ‘adult’ fun began. Chris had a nap and I began editing our Maria Island video.  How adult is that? No bored kids in sight 🙂

No planning can be a good thing. While Bridport was our next destination and included a wander through the town and fish and chips at the Seascape Café that was as far as we had planned, so… we Googled and that lead us on an adventure along a little used track, through enormous sand dunes to beautiful, white, sandy beaches and on to other beaches covered in razor sharp rocks and sea weed. The further we ventured the more surprises we came across. There were more beaches, some accessible and some that had ‘keep off’ signs as they were noted as bird sanctuaries.

Our road trip took us through Bellingham and on to Georgetown, but we didn’t have time to explore as we had to be home in time to get ready for the Festival of Small Halls at Rowella. Fru Skagerrak and Liam Gerner were just wonderful and had us laughing, crying and bopping away for hours. What a day!

We couldn’t be in the north of the state without a trip to Blue Derby Mountain Bike Trails. If you ride a mountain bike you won’t want to miss these world class trails. All that activity can be tiring though, and on the way home we needed sustenance. A light lunch at Café Rhubarba in Scottsdale left room for scones with jam and cream at the Springfield Tea Room.

After all the busyness we relaxed for a bit (but not for too long!) before loading up the car for our trip deeper into the West Coast. Without the kids we were able to leave the caravan behind which made the notoriously narrow and winding Tasmanian roads a little easier to navigate. It was nice to have mum and dad’s faces peering at us from the back seat!

It’s a long drive to Strahan from Launceston so we made sure we stopped to see the sights on the way. Hellyer Gorge Roadside Park was a welcome ‘stretch the legs’ stop before taking mum on a nostalgic trip through Rosebery and on into the abandoned mining town of Williamsford.

In order to get to there, we had to drive right through Tullah, which was once the most remote town in Tasmania. There was no way we could cruise on by without stopping to read all the information boards and check out Wee Georgie Wood, a still-running, 1929 steam train. We learned so much on our little detour.

In 1642 when Abel Tasman sailed in the waters off the west coast of Tasmania and noticed his compass was misbehaving … he noted that “There might be mines of loadstone around here”

He sighted and named two mountains after his ships Heemskirk and Zeehan and went on his way.

250 years later the region because famous for a spectacular number of mining booms. Tin, copper, silver, lead, iron and rare minerals like osmiridian were found in abundance.

The entire west coast of Tasmania is drenched with mining history and reminders are scattered through the forest and in the little towns that remain – just like this one.

We wandered through the heritage park and read all of the interpretation panels that are dotted around. We climbed on an old rusty train and we even had a peak at Wee Georgie Wood himself inside the shed.

We learned all about this area including how Tullah, which sits on the edge of Lake Rosebury, was established in the midst of a fierce railway war in the late 1800’s.

It is a great place to spend a few hours and if you’re lucky enough to be passing though on a weekend, you could even jump aboard and take the 20 minutes scenic train ride through the town! 🚂

Our first actual ‘destination’ of the day was Montezuma Falls, one of Tasmania’s highest waterfalls is worth the 10.7 km walk in. The track begins at Williamsford and follows the old tramline. It is dotted all along with remnants from the old mining days and various signs explain the history and a bit about the surrounding flora and fauna. Being an old mining area there had to be an abandoned mine, so Chris and I explored it – all six feet of it – while mum and dad waited patiently outside. There is a very impressive, and very narrow, suspension bridge just below the falls that delivers incredible views for those brave enough to venture out onto it (not mum!). Mum found the viewing platform beneath the falls to be exciting enough.

Finally, we arrived at Strahan and were tempted to stay put at the lovely Caravan Park where mum and dad had a cabin and we had minimal set up thanks to our Alucab rooftop tent. But we really needed to eat something substantial and found just what we were looking for at the Bushman’s Bar and Café where we were served delicious food in a wonderful atmosphere by a cheeky waiter! 

The main reason for our trip to Strahan was the Gordon River Cruise. You really can’t go to Strahan and not do the cruise! A new electric catamaran, The Spirit of the Wild, powered out through MacQuarie Harbour to Hells Gates before cruising to the lower reaches of the Gordon River. We couldn’t keep the smiles off our faces or the wind out of our hair as we passed by trout and salmon farms and the rugged rainforest landscape of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. They switched off the diesel engines as we slid into and along the river. The silence and peace as we glided those glass-like waters was highlighted by a dramatic drop in the fierce winds we experienced in the harbour. What a contrast! The tours of Heritage Landing and Sarah Island gave us a strong sense of going back in time while the delicious food on board kept us very much grounded in the present! It was a memorable day.

 

The two-hour drive from Strahan to Cradle Mountain flew by. The scenery is spectacular no matter where you are on the West Coast so driving from place to place is never boring. We had a good laugh as we drove through Rosebery. There wasn’t a lot of spectacular scenery in the town but we did notice an elderly man employing a unique way of clipping a rather high hedge- how he got a mattress up there we didn’t stop to ask but it seemed to be working for him as he was clipping away diligently with a pair of secateurs!

If you stopped everywhere that is beautiful and special, you would need far more than a couple of days to explore Cradle Mountain and the walks you can do there. It can be very busy though, so you need to be prepared for lots of people. Sheffield was on our way home and it is a must see as are the stunning views of Mt Roland which towers nearby. It’s not called the town of murals for nothing. It was a trip down memory lane for dad, especially when he saw the police officer who gave him his motorbike license painted in a mural up on the wall right next to the ban.

It’s funny how easy it is to find you need a snack when you stop at some of the places we visited! Honey ice cream doesn’t get any better than what we had at Chudleigh Honey Farm. It kept us going us until we stopped at Honey Tasmania, a quaint little honey shop in Exeter, owned by my mum’s friends Rebecca and Tristan.

We decided that a couple of relaxing nights at Bakers Beach would be a great way to end our holiday. We spent our time on the beach where my childhood memories came flooding back. Wallabies and other wildlife bounced around and often stopped in under the awning for a visit.

Holidays do have to end though and finally we were heading to Devonport for our last night in Tasmania. It was a meandering drive that took us through Port Sorrell, Shearwater and Hawley – and on into Devonport to the Hill Street Grocer for the best meat pies we’ve ever had!

Remember that Duck River butter? Well, mum and dad arrived to have dinner with us on our last night and came bearing gifts! A few blocks of Duck River Butter ended up in the fridge and journeyed back to Brisbane with us! What a fantastic way to end our adventures.

We had the most wonderful time in Tasmania but there is still so much to see. We can’t wait to get back there and squeeze in some of the places we didn’t have time to explore on this trip.