This is a pretty forgiving recipe. It was the first dessert I ever baked on my own when I was about 11 years old! I’ve used coconut oil instead of butter, different flours and this time you will see the mixture is all lumpy in the bottom image as I didn’t melt the butter – it was soft at room temp so I just threw it in and stirred and it melted in the air fryer and turned out just fine. You can see where I tasted this one before I took the pic (and I may have accidentally cooked it at 180 before I realized and dropped it to 160. It’s a little dark on top but still tastes amazing!) Have fun, let the kids have a go … and enjoy! It’s easy to make and soooo tasty. You’re welcome 🙂
‘Yes mum. I’ve rinsed my feet in the bucket. YES! I’ve wiped them on the towel too.’ I shook my head, laughing a little as I walked inside.
If I had $1 for every time someone said to me, ‘I don’t like camping,’ I’d be a very rich woman! In fact, I grew up with a mother who doesn’t like the feel of sand beneath her feet let alone the idea of camping near a beach, camping in the bush… or well, camping anywhere at all! My dad, on the other hand enjoys time spent in nature, so I could experience both perspectives firsthand.
I spent the first 10 years of my life in Tasmania and remember heading off with my grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins for the school holidays; packing our beanies, jackets and gumboots, making jaffles and listening to campfire stories until we were sent off to the bunks inside the giant canvas Taj Mahal-like tent. We would swim, hike, check out the wildlife and do all the things kids love to do on family camping trips. We loved it! Mum? Not so much.
We moved to Ecuador, South America when I was 10. My parents were missionaries with an organisation known for its medical and radio work in Latin America. Initially, we went to a town right on the edge of the Amazon jungle. We spent a couple of years there and I loved it – mum, not so much! Who wouldn’t love all the exploring we did? There were a few of us, and if we weren’t swimming in waterholes and rivers, swinging off vines, riding our bikes all over, or playing with our pet dogs, we were digging holes deep in the mud while being careful not to get worms in our feet of course, and playing in the torrential downpours that happened every day around 2 pm. Check out this pic of my mum with our old Renegade!
When I was about 13, we moved to Quito, a vast city up in the Andes mountains where there are way less creepy crawlies and much less oxygen! Dad was involved in what was called Medical Caravans – not anything like the caravan we have – and mum did a bit of nursing but worked mostly in publicity and radio. Those early teen years in Quito I spent doing what rebellious teenagers do. But there were a couple of times during those years, when I was about 15, that dad took me camping to the radio station’s antennae farm. It was out in the country a bit, in a town called Pifo (pic below). Dad probably thought it was the only way to get me away from all the chaos of being a teenage girl in a crazy city! It not only did that, but it also rekindled my love of getting outside and staying out for a night or two.
I moved back to Tassie when I was about 16 and eventually took up camping on my own. With a 6-man tent from KMart in the back of the car, I’d strap my young son, Sam, into his car seat and head off with friends to the East Coast when we could. Fast forward to me being the age now that my mum was back when I remember her complaining about sand in the tent and I can honestly, and surprisingly, say that I’m following in her footsteps, although not to that extreme. Yes, I grew up with a love of camping, but that has slowly but surely developed into a love of glamping. Before I met Chris, I used to have my tent and a few camping bits and pieces that travelled with me in the back of a car. Since Chris and I met back in 2010, we have slowly worked our way through tents, rooftops, camper trailers and caravans until what we have now – our dream caravan and an Alucab roof top tent on the 4x4. We’ve also worked our way through Hilux’s!
Chris is very much a ‘go with the flow’ kinda guy who couldn’t care less if there was sand in the tent, no showers for weeks or canned food for a month so I appreciate that he has put up with my need (want) for a more ‘civilised’ approach to ‘camping’ and has indulged me along the way (not without our fair share of disagreements I might add).
We’ve come such a long way in the camping world that two years ago we invited my parents to come with us on a three-week road trip to Cairns – yes, my non-camping friendly mum! They slept in the caravan bunks and on the odd occasion, booked a cabin if we all needed a bit of space from each other. And they LOVED it! Especially my mum. So much so, that she has mentioned, occasionally, that she wouldn’t mind selling the property in Tasmania and heading off in a caravan of their own. Look closely at the pic below and you’ll see my dad giving a double thumbs up out the window. Lol. And check out the smile on mum’s face! She had a great time.
Which leads me to this… camping might not be what you think it is, it’s what you want it to be. What do you think camping is? And what would you like it to be? Let’s uncover some camping truths.
1.Camping is basic … or is it?
It can be as simple as a swag and some freeze-dried food, but it sure doesn’t have to be! If you want to glamp and you have the budget to make that happen, then go for it! Here are 3 ways you can go from camping to glamping.
- Buy a top of the range caravan and a luxury 4x4 to tow it with
Expensive? Sure. Comfortable? You betcha! We recommend Titanium Caravans from Caravans Coffs Coast if you are after one of the most well-appointed luxury vans on the market. This is our fourth off-road caravan and the absolute best by far. Why does this caravan take us from camping to glamping? Let me explain.
- We have a full off-grid Enerdrive lithium battery system giving us access to 240 power whenever we need it. And we don’t have to be plugged in.
- We have a washing machine, air conditioner, microwave, gas heater, smart TV all which are usable at any time thanks to our battery system.
- I am able use all my kitchen appliances (think Thermomix, Air Fryer etc) wherever we are, whenever we want to.
- We have a toilet, full shower and large ensuite … where I can blow dry and straighten my hair whenever I feel like it
- We have a large club lounge that’s as comfy, if not more comfy than the couch at home
- We have air suspension from Airbag Man that makes it super easy to level the van up – no more rolling out of bed!
- We have a slide out kitchen with plumbed hot and cold water and triple burner gas cook top OUTSIDE the van
- And the best part? We have so much storage and room to move that we truly feel at home when we are traveling
2. Book a cabin at a Holiday Park
Don’t fancy spending as much money on your holidays as you would to buy a house? Then don’t! Book a cabin or glamping tent at one of the many top-quality caravan parks around the country. In fact, most of these parks aren’t even known as caravan parks anymore. Think of; Resort Camping, Holiday Park, Resort, Caravan Village… and the list goes on. Booking a weekend in a cabin will cost you far more than booking a caravan site, but if luxury is your style and you don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a set-up, then this could be the way for you.
3. Take your ‘basic’ set up and head to a caravan park/resort
You don’t need all the fancy gear to enjoy the luxuries of a Holiday Park. If you have a tent, bedding, some camp chairs and an ESKI – you’re all set! Almost all parks have amenities with showers and toilets (it pays to check and read reviews first). Most parks have camp kitchens with fridges to store your food, BBQ’s and microwaves to cook, and sinks for washing up. And, if you don’t want to do any of that, many have their own restaurants and cafes plus food vans that stop by on weekends. Generally, the more you pay, the nicer the amenities. If you have kids, many of the larger parks have jumping pillows, playgrounds and swimming pools.
2. Camping means long drives in the car … or does it?
This is generally the case for us as we love to get out and explore new and unknown areas, but it most definitely doesn’t have to be this way. We have a few local haunts that we head off to when we need to get away from home but don’t have the time or the inclination to spend hours in the car.
Do some research on Google, Wikicamps, YouCamp or even just the BIG4 websites and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what is close to where you are now or where you want to be. We love the Gold Coast Holiday Park in Helensvale, which is just an 18-minute drive from where we live, and close to where we like to surf.
Check out these parks close to Australia’s capital cities.
Melbourne – https://www.melbournebig4.com.au/
Darwin – https://big4howardsprings.com.au/
3. Camping is just for outdoor lovers, or is it?
I hear this so much when I tell people what we do! If only they knew what really goes on when people go camping across the country.
If you take the time to wander around the campsite, you will see people talking, laughing, drinking, eating and relaxing, and then sleeping and doing it all again! You might throw in a dip in the pool, beach, or whatever body of water is close, or stroll through the local township, if there is one, or nearby park. And of course, there’s always plenty of time to put your feet up and read a book or have a snooze. We find we are the odd ones out with our mountain bikes, zest for adventure and love for the great outdoors!
If you are staying in a resort/holiday villa you can spend as much time indoors or outdoors as you like. You can indulge yourself by lounging by the pool, eating in the restaurant, having a cocktail at the bar, or reading a book in the guest lounge.
4. Camping is just for young families and caravanning is for Grey Nomads!
Camping is for everybody and if you don’t believe me, open up Instagram and see for yourself! Newsfeeds are filled with photos and videos of young families, teenage friends, young lovers, middle-aged couples, older couples, grandparents with grandkids. You might see entire generations sharing their adventures as they get out and enjoy camping together! And the exact same can be said for caravanning.
While its generally true that the younger families can’t afford the fancy van and the expensive 4x4 that the retirees can afford, we are seeing a huge shift in who’s towing a caravan along for the holiday break. More and more young families and couples are investing in a lifestyle that they know will bring more fun and less stress to their way of life. We are one of these middle-aged couples! We have our dream van and 4x4 and we are only in our 40’s, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
5. Camping = constant cooking
While I do agree with this to some extent, I firmly believe that you only cook as much as you want to. We have friends that don’t like cooking much and generally eat takeout the entire time we are away! If you love cooking (like I do) then this won’t be a problem. I have a variety of appliances that I take with us depending on where we are headed.
- My thermal cooker usually gets loaded up before we leave home, so our dinner is ready and waiting that evening. This gives us time to set up and relax without having to meal prep at all.
- I have a Thermomix that whips up a mean curry in half an hour, instant desserts and all sorts of easy mealtime deliciousness. I also take the air fryer so we can bake cakes, quiches, bikkies, nachos and even cook the snags if we want to in half the time it takes to preheat and use the oven!
- Other times I make double meals the week before we head off and freeze them so all we have to do is defrost and enjoy when we’re away.
- Sometimes, if we know we will be with lots of friends and they’ll be eating out, we only take a few meals worth of food with us and buy food from the restaurant.
- Caravan parks have camp kitchens so even if you don’t have a BBQ, you can take your meat down and cook it on theirs.
- If you want to keep it cheap and basic, buy a large pack of sausages or premade hamburgers and some packets of salads and you’re set!
It does all depend on how much you eat and how much you want to cook as to how much time you will be spending cooking. But I do find that no matter what you intend to do while away, a rough meal plan and grocery list makes all the difference.
6. It’s too hard packing and unpacking … or is it?
It most certainly doesn’t have to be! But again, this comes down to how much time and money you are willing, and able, to invest into your setup and of course, how much ‘stuff’ you want to take with you. When we had tents and gazebos and all that jazz it would take hours to pack the car at home and even longer to set up once we arrived. When we graduated to the camper trailer, it took less time at home and slightly less time to set up and pack up.
But nothing can compare to the simplicity of having a van large enough to store everything inside that you will need… permanently. We are the stage now where all we need to do is pack our food and clothes and head off. We have everything else we need in the van ready to go. We even have enough food in the pantry to last a few days if we don’t pack anything before we leave.
We have taken this one step further and have the same with our 4x4. Kitchen ware, toiletries, cleaning products, sunscreen, insect repellent, camp chairs, and everything we need lives permanently in the canopy so all we need to pack are clothes, towels and extra food. We have a pantry drawer fully stocked with staples and snacks all the time.
The main thing to remember is to only take what you need! Don’t take all the ‘just in case’ items. And yes, I know that Chris would be shaking his head at me and laughing if he read this (he doesn’t read anything, so I think I’m OK! Lol). It’s taken me a looong time to learn that I don’t need as much as I think I do, and I take less and less with me each trip that we take.
While I understand not everyone is able to leave the setup mostly ready all of the time, it’s what we have worked our way up to and are so glad that we did!
If you really can’t be bothered with all the ‘stuff,’ pack a swag, or tent and bedding, your basics, camp chairs, and an ESKI with your food in it, and book in at one of the luxury resorts and use all of their ‘stuff’! They have plenty of it ready and waiting.
So, there you have it. What ‘camping’ is and what it can be! From a swag under the stars to a luxurious caravan plugged into power and water at a 5 Star holiday resort, there are options for everybody whether a lover of camping yet or not. All I ask is that you give it a go and not let your ‘lack of adventure’ ruin the adventures you can experience … and if you don’t like it the first time, make changes until you do. If my mother can become a lover of camping (glamping), I’m sure almost anyone can. Check out the pic below … I’m very happy with her change of heart!
It just seems like public holidays are never ending at the beginning of the year, and we just love it! Another long weekend has arrived – in between our getaways to NSW, Cotton Tree, Tasmania and Melbourne and right before Kingscliff. Our first thought was (as it always is!) ‘Where should we go?’
I suggested a weekend at home to clean the van and do some ‘home-things’ might be good. We lasted one day, and on the Sunday, we loaded up the Hilux and headed off. There was no need to tow the caravan anywhere for this day of exploring.
Springbrook National Park makes for one of south east Queensland’s most spectacular day trips, and with Chris having been twice before (albeit many years ago) we didn’t need directions. We started out knowing where we were headed, and as Chris dislikes Waze (the traffic app that I have on religiously when I drive!) we had no warning at all that the road we had taken was closed. Looking back at the national parks websites, it was very clear and notices were everywhere – like this one:
‘Following significant damage from ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie, Gold Coast-Springbrook Road from Mudgeeraba remains closed until further notice, as advised by the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR). Access to Springbrook National Park is via Numinbah Valley along Pine Creek Road only.’
We didn’t even think to check. Lesson learned! Always check ahead for road closures.
We did a U-turn which added an extra 20 minutes to the relatively short drive from Brissy and took us past Hinze Dam. Chris thought it might be nice to show me around quickly as I’d never been. It is just lovely. The café, walkways and even the bathrooms – wow. It was not at all what I expected!
I went for a bit of a wander out and over the water. It was so windy, and I’m glad I had packed my beanie to stop my hair from blowing all over the place. Chris has ridden the dam many times and explained the different mountain bike tracks, pointing out where they went, and we made plans to come back soon with our bikes in tow.
And while the dam was a lovely place, it wasn’t our destination. We were aiming for next level natural beauty. An ancient wonderland of rainforests, waterfalls, escarpments, rock formations and valleys that is Springbrook National Park.
The park is about an hour and a half’s drive from Brisbane or 45 minutes from the Gold Coast. We travelled along 29km of narrow, winding (and often one way) roads that took us up and through the cool, green rainforest.
We pulled into the information centre to grab a brochure and see which the best way was to get to Purling Brook Falls. Chris had been there about 6 years ago and walked the stunning pathway that led behind the falls. He said it was spectacular and it was our mission to find our way back there.
The brochure read: ‘Class 3. 4km return. Allow 2-3 hours. Enjoy a relaxed walk through open eucalypt forest before descending into the gorge to view the magnificent waterfall from the suspension bridge below. A steady climb through the forest ends back at the picnic area. If including the Warringa Pool Track (swimming allowed), which leads downstream from the base of the falls, then add 2km and allow an extra hour.’
The brochure and Chris’s description had me sold and ready to go. We were wearing t-shirts and shorts in anticipation of working up a sweat as we walked. It was a bit chilly, but pleasant.
The park was quite busy but thankfully we managed to find a carpark, had a quick toilet stop (in the very clean drop toilets that were located at the car park) and we started the Purling Brook Falls Circuit.
Purling Brook Falls Circuit
Unfortunately, there was huge group of extremely loud Asian tourists who were heading off about the same time as us. This meant some serious power walking to get far enough ahead to soak in the peace, tranquility and ensure maximum scenery intake.
The first lookout we came upon was not far at all from the Gwongorella Picnic Area and was just off Springbrook Road where we had parked. The camera was put straight into action as to the right of the viewing platform, the lovely Purling Brook Falls could be seen cascading 109m down into the rainforest below.
The walk was steep in places but on a well-made track with many steps. At one point, Chris did point to the edge and say ‘How easy would it be to fall off?’ Thankfully, despite tripping every now and then, neither of us fell over the edge (nor did any of the tourists that we know of!) as we made our descent. This would be a good time to point out that Chris had his usual hiking shoes on – Havaianas!
As we got closer, we could hear the thunder of the water tumbling over the side of the cliff. It certainly opens your eyes in wonder when you round that last corner and take in the almost fairy-tale like scene in front of you – complete with rainbow at the bottom.
Many people were struggling to get a photo with both sky and pool in shot as the falls are so high – it was almost impossible with the iPhone, but easy with the GoPro.
We wanted to do the walk around and under the Falls, but due to the track being unsafe and closed after ex-tropical cycle Debbie had come through (for years now), it wasn’t possible. It was closed just over the other side of the suspension bridge. We did get to stand on the bridge and look back up Purling Brook to the Falls – what a breathtaking view!
We started down the 2km walk to Warring Pool, but everyone who was walking back up along the path told us not to bother as the large group of Asians had taken over and no one else could even get close. So, we turned around and started climbing the 256 steps back to the top.
By now Chris’s tummy was demanding food, so we drove to the English Gardens, but they were closed. We kept driving up on Springbrook Plateau and over to Rosellas only to see a sign out the front saying ‘closed – sold out’.
Poor Chris had to wait just a little longer as we were right across from the Canyon Lookout, so we put our jumpers on and hopped out for a look. It is just a 100-metre walk to see the falls and you don’t even have to leave the asphalt!
The weather had certainly taken a turn and the clouds were rolling in, the wind had picked up and the temperature plummeted. Out came the beanie again!
Thankfully the clouds hadn’t obscured what was a jaw-dropping view of the entire Gold Coast from Runaway Bay down to Coolangatta, punctuated by volcanic ridges and valleys.
We didn’t spend too much time here, and we didn’t take the Twin Falls Circuit walk that starts at the lookout, but I’d really like to do that soon. I hear it’s one of the best walks in the park.
The Fawn Cafe
But it was lunch time – and you can’t be wandering off on 2-hour walks hunting down waterfalls when your mind is on food. Thankfully the Fawn Café was open, and the carpark was full (mostly with motorbikes!), so we knew they were open and serving.
I’m gluten free, so was pleased when they offered gluten free bread as a substitute for the bun when I ordered a steak burger. Unfortunately, the chips had gluten, so it was extra side salad for me! I’m also grain free, low carb and avoid toxic oils, but that was a bit much to ask for in this tiny little café, but I was content with my gluten free steak burger. It was actually pretty good. Chris had the chicken schnitzel burger (with the bun and the chips!) and said it wasn’t too bad either.
Former Springbrook State School and ‘The Stump’
There was a bit of rain while we were eating which cleared the outside tables pretty quickly, and the temperature dropped just a bit more as we got back in the car and drove to the information centre which is located in the former Springbrook State School building from 1911.
The first thing you notice when you pull into the carpark is an old building and a huge old tree stump right out the front. Upon walking over and reading the sign, I found out that it is known as ‘The Stump’ and was felled in 1912 because parents were concerned about the safety of their kids who were attending the school. It really is a beautiful old stump, and one can only imagine what a majestic tree it once was.
We wandered around the back and past the old water tanks and play shed and down a lovely new boardwalk. This led to what was no doubt once a wonderful view of the Gold Coast but is now slightly obscured by trees. It is still lovely and worth the short walk, but after having seen the other lookouts, this one paled in comparison.
I did a bit of reading and found out that the school served the small community of farmers who came to the area in 1906 from Bega in New South Wales. After the forest areas were cleared, dairying became the main industry. Apparently, descendants of these settlers still live in the area.
The school was closed at various times like in 1915, a teacher did not arrive for several months! And in 1929 a lady arrived as teacher but left the next day and no teacher was appointed until March. By May 1932 enrolment had dropped to ten, with an average attendance of less than six students.
A new school opened nearby in 1984 and the original school building was converted into the National Parks Information Centre housing interpretive displays on the park’s natural values.
The more that I read about it, the more I want to read! It’s such a tiny little building overflowing with so much history. When Chris came years ago, he said you were able to go inside and look around. It was locked when we went, and we could only walk up onto the veranda (which was added on in 1915) and read the information on display up on the wall.
Interestingly enough, there was free wi-fi in that spot! I can’t help but wonder how different schools are now compared to what these walls would have seen.
Best Of All Lookout
We had one place left to see, and we had saved the best for last – Best of All Lookout. Even the short 350m walk is an experience unto its own, with an almost eerie, unearthly feel as you walk through ancient rainforests. The paths are well maintained, so slipping or tripping wasn’t really an issue although you had to keep an eye out as the leaves covered both sides of the path.
It’s impossible not to be drawn to the old Antarctic Beech trees you pass by as you wander down to the lookout. It’s astounding to think how long have stood, and what they must have ‘seen’. Some of these trees are reported to be between two and three thousand years old!
According to the sign, these trees are a ‘link to ancient times’ and from the mega-continent Gondwana when Australia was still joined with Antarctica. When Gondwana broke apart to form most of the earth’s Southern land masses, the trees moved with them
There are also some old boulders with huge holes burrowed deep into the rock. They reminded me of bowling balls.
It was freezing cold and windy, but it was well worth rugging up for! With a name like that, my expectations were pretty high, and I wanted to know if it really was the ‘best of all?’ (Chris already knew it was as he’d been twice before!)
The Best of All Lookout surely did live up to its name. It’s more a question of ‘What can’t you see?’ than ‘What can you see?’. You can see the dazzling Gold Coast Hinterland stretching right out to the Pacific Ocean and as far as Byron Bay; an extraordinary sweeping panorama of Queensland and New South Wales, taking in Coolangatta, Kingscliff, Byron Bay, the Nightcap Range, Mt Warning and Murwillumbah.
The views laid out before you are simply breathtaking! It’s amazing to look down on the twin peaks of the Cougals, with Mount Warning to the right.
We wandered slowly back down the path to the car, once again admiring the trees, boulders and soaking up the dark, wet, heavy quiet of the rainforest.
I was blown away by how beautiful this place was, and how close it is to where we live. A part of the Ancient Gondwana Rainforest is right here on our doorstep, and we are already making plans to go back. 🙂