CSIRO Telescope Adventures

CSIRO Telescope Adventures

Our kids love learning, especially when it’s hands on. And for Cooper, anything ‘sciency’ is right up there on the list.

So when we were planning our trip from Brisbane to Tassie and back, and the Paul Wild Observatory (home to CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Centre) popped up on our radar, we knew it was going on our itinerary. When we kept looking and found that ‘The Dish’ at Parkes was not much further down the road, the deal was sealed.

We left Brisbane at about 4:15am and headed straight down to Narrabri. A quick set up and lunch when we got there gave us enough time to jump back in the car and find where we were going – 25 kilometres west on a fully sealed road.

Just the name ‘The Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA), at the Narrabri Observatory’ had the kids excited and peering out the windows as we got closer.

There were dishes scattered around all over the dry woodland along with quite a few signs asking you to switch your phones off or to airplane/flight mode, and turn off other WiFi and Bluetooth-enabled devices before you enter the facility.

Apparently ‘the ‘noise’ created by our modern gadgets can overwhelm the weak signals from space our telescopes are trying to detect.’

When we first got there we were a little disappointed as it appeared to be closed. It said quite clearly on the website that it was open every day, so we were a bit puzzled. We had a look around and things just seemed ‘old’.

But the closer we looked, the more it made sense, and the more little signs we read – the more amazing the place became.

CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Compact Array is a world leading instrument for radio astronomy and deep views into the universe.

I must admit that when you see those 6 huge 22 metre dish antennas, weighing 270 tonnes each, located on a six kilometre road and railway track (or ‘telescope track’ as Chris called it)- you get kind of ‘blown away’ – especially when they start moving! They move either a lot or just a little every few minutes or so. It’s pretty impressive.

All together these 6 dishes simulate one very large antenna!

While the kids and I were wandering through the outdoor astronomy exhibits, Chris opened a door and called out that it was open! Maybe we didn’t pull the door hard enough? 🤔

The Visitors Centre is unstaffed but open from 8:00am to 6:00pm daily. Just keep trying the door!

Inside there are many more exhibits to look at and lots to read.

The kids did some activity sheets, had a look at the puzzles and Cooper did some reading. There is also a theatrette showing free films on space and astronomy. Chris and the kids spent some time in there while I headed back outside.

When the others came out it was all fun and games! There are a few interactive exhibits including a dish that you can spin and tilt with a wheel and our favourite- the ‘Whispering Dishes’.

This was a set of 2 smallish dishes set a long way apart and facing each other.

Chris and Cooper ran to one end and the girls and I stayed at the first dish.

We decided to play a ‘Simon Says’ type game where one ‘team’ would whisper into the dish what the other had to do.

There was hysterical laughter all around as the girls started running around the dish, jumping up and down and acting crazy as instructed by the boys.

It was heaps of fun! The way it works is that the sound waves produced by your voice bounce off the dishes surface and travel in a straight line over to the other dish. This other dish collects them and directs them to its focal point – the ears of the listener!

It was fantastic – especially when you could hear how quietly they were speaking into the dish and how loud it bounced back from the other end!

It’s free to wander around and to get into the visitor’s centre. There are also BBQ facilities to use if you feel like having a bite to eat while you’re there.

We had a great time and were excited to see how ‘The Dish’ located near Parkes, was ‘so much bigger’. Chris has been there and told us enough about this Australian icon that we were keen to check it out.

It was the next day, on our way from Narrabri to West Wyalong that we stopped and saw the huge dish that played a key role in televising images of the Apollo 11 Moon landing on 20 July 1969.

On the way we saw lots of three-dimensional planet models in various rest stops and it wasn’t until we stopped at Gilgandra did we get to find out what they were.


They are all part of the Worlds Largest Solar System Drive! The planets are displayed on huge billboards with the size of the planets and the distance between each billboard scaled relative to the dome – the Sun – along the five main roads that lead to Coonabarabran in regional NSW. You can also learn interesting facts about the Solar System and the unique features of each planet. Incredible!

These only increased the excitement as we approached our next destination.

With a diameter of 64 metres, Parkes is one of the largest single-dish telescopes in the southern hemisphere dedicated to astronomy so; it’s no wonder that we could see it from the highway before we even took the turn down the road that led us to the centre.

There is a big carpark that had only a handful of cars and lots of lovely shady trees. We walked through the gardens and outdoor exhibits (not unlike the ones we had seen the day before) and the kids were pretty excited to see bigger and what appeared to be newer Whispering Dishes.


Inside the visitor centre is amazing – there is an abundance of things to see and do including a theatrette, gift shop and café. Needless to say, the kids headed straight to the counter and ordered themselves some lunch which was eaten with a pretty speccy view of The Dish right out the window.

We read the signs that were dotted around and once again were completely astounded by the vast amounts of pretty crazy information.

“By almost any measure, the Parkes Radio Telescope is the most successful scientific instrument ever built in Australia. The telescope is unsurpassed in terms of the number of astronomers, both national and international, who have used the instrument, the number of research papers that have flowed from their research, and the sheer longevity of its operation (now over fifty years),” wrote Peter Robinson for the 50th anniversary of the telescope, in 2011.

There is so much interesting information about ‘This Dish’ that I could go on forever! But I won’t. I found 4 very interesting facts on the CSIRO website that I’m going to share with you.

1. The dish is not fixed to the top of its tower, but just sits on it.

The moving part of the telescope weighs 1000 tonnes – as much as two Boeing 747s – but it is not fixed to the tower, and instead sits atop it with its own weight holding it down.

2. The site was bought from a farmer named Australia.

Australia ‘Austie’ Helm (named as such because he was born on a special wartime Australia Day in July 1915) was the owner of a 360 hectare property known as Kildare in the Goobang Valley. After the site of Parkes had been selected, negotiations began and, in the end, Austie sold 70 hectares to the CSIRO for the radio telescope.

3. It has listened for ET

The Parkes radio telescope was the first stop for US researchers from the SETI Institute in California when they launched Project Pheonix – a search for extra-terrestrial intelligence by analysing patterns in radio signals of 800 nearby stars, similar to ours.

4. In the famous cricket scene from the The Dish, the actors used a tennis ball, not a cricket ball.

One of the problems the directors had with The Dish movie was showing how big the dish actually is and came up with the idea of playing a game of cricket on it. As a real cricket ball would damage the surface, they were given a soft tennis ball instead.

These 2 places are incredible … and if you are heading north or south and have to choose which route to take, be open to the inland road and all the adventures it has to offer, like this one! You never know what your kids will remember from your adventures; perhaps it will be the huge dish towering above the cafe, or it could be just the fact they had some pretty tasty chips and a sausage roll for lunch!

Sawn Rocks

Sawn Rocks

When we were planning our trip from Brisbane down to Tasmania, there were so many factors that came into play. Of course, we wanted to spend Christmas with my family in Grindelwald, a gorgeous little Swiss Village just 15 minutes north of Launceston, but we also wanted to see things we haven’t seen, visit places we haven’t been and show our kids something completely different.

For the last 3 years we have ventured to Far North QLD and loved every second of it! We have some wonderful memories and visited some magical places. See trip one here, and trip two here – I still haven’t written up our trip from last Christmas! Slack, I know.

So, this year we finally decided to ‘just do it’ and booked our tickets across on the Spirit about 6 months ago. Then we had to choose coast road, or inland. So, we had a look at what there was on both routes, and we decided that inland was the way to go. It turns out that the coast road is flooded from Sydney to Melbourne, so we definitely made the right choice!

One of the deciding factors was what we could visit while staying in Narrabri – the CSIRO Telescope Centre and the Sawn Rocks.  And wow – we are so glad we came this way!

We’ve heard so much about Sawn Rocks, and have seen so many spectacular pics, that we really wanted our own happy snaps in front of ‘nature’s castle ruins’ as the kids have called it.

This meant leaving Brissy about 4:15am, booking in at the Narrabri Big Sky Caravan Park, eating a quick lunch upon our arrival at about 1:30pm and then jumping back in the car to make the 45 minute (or so) drive to see this natural wonder for ourselves.

We stopped off to check out the telescopes at the CSIRO centre on the way for a while (which was insane! Stay tuned for those pics 😁)

Once you get the location correct in your GPS, Sawn Rocks can be easily found in the northern section of Mt Kaputar National Park and is an amazing reminder of Kaputar’s volcanic past.  It is one of Australia’s best examples of the geological formation known as ‘organ-piping’.

I can remember being taken to see the The Organ Pipes National Park in Victoria when I was no older than 3 or 4, and I can still remember it! I know the Sawn Rocks have had the same impact on our 3 youngest.

To get to the rocks from the car-park it’s just a short 750 metre walk along a lovely track that was dotted with little signs filled with information about the park, and according to one of these signs, once was lined with gorgeous flowers and shrubs. Today we saw some tiny purple flowers amongst lots of burnt trees. It was still beautiful ♥️

Once you get closer, there is a viewing platform which gives you the perfect photo opportunity of the towering wall of pentagonal basalt pipes that is the sheared off remains of a basalt lava flow from the Nandewar Volcano many years ago, and then some stairs that wind down to the base.

This is what we found the most intriguing … all the huge broken clumps of pipes that have crashed to the ground at the base of the wall. Home to many snakes I would imagine! Not that we were lucky enough to spot anything other than ants, moths, birds and a cute little lizard that Aylah tickled until it ran (really fast!) into the scrub.

Over many years, huge chunks of rock have tumbled down to rest on the bed of the (now dried up) Bobbiwaa Creek. I’ve read that these are buried about 60 metres into the ground below!

Cooper said that it reminded him of ancient ruins of a temple or castle – he was absolutely right! It was just like that.

There is also a great car park, toilets, and BBQ’s and tables/chairs.

What a top spot! We totally rate it 👌🏼

Kingscliff Beach Holiday Park

Kingscliff Beach Holiday Park

Name: Tweed Coast Holiday Parks Kingscliff Beach

(not to be confused with its sister park further down the same road, Tweed Coast Holiday Parks Kingscliffe North)

Location: 125 Marine Parade, Kingscliff, NSW

Website: http://www.tchp.com.au/tweed-coast-holiday-parks-kingscliff-beach/

Date of Stay: May 2018

Type of Park: Beachfront

Rating: 5/5 (Chris said 6 out of 5!)




We had heard plenty of positive reviews about this ‘amazing newly renovated caravan park in Kingscliff’ and while sitting around the caravans with friends at Sawtell this Easter discussing what the next ‘special event’ was, we discovered it was Chris’s birthday and booked our spots right away. We were lucky and all but one of us in the group managed to secure the premium beach front sites we had heard so much about. This park books out well in advance!

We arrived at a stunning and modern holiday park that is indeed located on absolute beach frontage in the heart of Kingscliff.

The sun was setting as were checking in, and the sky was the most incredible hues of pink I had ever seen! Before we had even made it to the site, I was on the beach taking perfect photo after perfect photo.

The park is just metres from an array of cafes and boutique stores. With a bowls club to one side, a fantastic park to the other, the Kingscliff Beach Hotel directly across the street and a breathtaking expanse of ocean out the front, this really is the ideal park in the ideal location.

This trip is in honour of Chris’s 43rd birthday and we are sharing it with some wonderful friends; most with caravans and with one family who are staying in the units across the road.

We have kids ranging from a few months old right up to 15 and many ages in between! Our kids (10, 12 and 13) had a ball riding, surfing, playing and just ‘being kids’. It’s great to see what they get up to when you remove their devices.

It has rained on and off for the first day, but even so, it was lovely. I came prepared with gumboots and a raincoat, a beanie and some warm clothes and I’m as cozy as can be.

The first evening was spent having drinks with our friends around the vans while the kids rode around and hung out in the camp kitchen. The first night was spent listening to the sounds of the waves, the rain on the roof and the distant strains of the live band from the Kingscliff Beach Hotel as they belted out tunes like Rolling on the River to the applause from the crowd.

The next morning I was up early to capture some new sunrise shots on the beach out the front of the park. What started as a 20 minute outing turned into a 90 minute walk on the sand down to the break wall and river and back through the parks dotted along the way.

I must say I was completely blown away by absolutely everything I saw. There has been so much thought put into the design and layout; from the table tennis table (with artwork and bats!), lounge chairs, trees, paths, undercover areas (with beachy artwork), lush grassy areas and of course views that take your breath away each time they appear through the trees.

The Surf Club located right next to the park does a HUGE and ridiculusly delicious breakfast. The staff were lovely and so helpful when I mentioned that I didn’t eat eggs or gluten. The chef came up with all sorts of alternatives that kept my tummy very happy 🙂

Kingscliff is a magic little town, and this is definitely our new favourite place.

The staff at the park are incredibly friendly, the grounds and amenities are immaculate, and Chris has said that he could ‘live here in a permanent van forever’. It’s his favourite camp ground yet – and that’s a pretty big call! Being a surfer, it’s easy to see why he feels this way – all you have to do is look out the window of the van to see perfection.

  • Fully accessible, clean and new amenities
  • Camp Kitchen
  • Beach Access Walkways
  • Sheltered Barbecues
  • Wi-Fi

We found the staff to be incredibly friendly and accommodating both on the phone and in person. When we arrived, another couple was setting up their van in our site. The staff were wonderful when faced with this problematic start to our weekend, and we were parked in our absolute beach frontage site without too much delay.


• Powered Tent Sites with Synthetic Grass
• Tourist Sites with Double Wide Slabs
• Beachfront Tourist Sites (this is what we stayed on)
• Tourist Sites with Ensuites
• Luxury Beachfront Cabins



  • Views
  • Location
  • Staff
  • Park grounds
  • Suitability – it’s great for couples, singles, families, groups of friends and any other combination!
  • No swimming pool or play equipment. A pool might have been nice in the colder weather (if it was heated). There is no playground, play equipment or games room either, but there is the park next door with bike paths and the beach out the front. So, it’s not really a negative … more of an observation.
  • No pets allowed. This isn’t a negative to us, but it might be for some.
  • No shelter anywhere – a gazebo would be a necessity in the warmer weather.



Our view


What a stunning backdrop


The beach out the front at sunset


The Kingscliff Beach Hotel


Surfing at Sunrise


A short walk to the river delivered this view


The brand new park next to the caravan is immaculate


A table tennis table!


A birthday breakfast with a spectacular view at the Surf Club


The kids love it!


Camp Kitchen


Clean, modern amenities


Sawtell & Waterfall Way

Sawtell & Waterfall Way


We began our Easter as many other Queenslanders would have – stuck in traffic in the pouring rain. Not only did we have long weekend, Easter traffic, but the Commonwealth Games were wreaking havoc in this beautiful city as well.

Never the less, we made it across the border and into NSW as we headed from Brisbane down to Sawtell to spend Easter with our mates at the BIG4 Sawtell Beach Holiday Park.

Thankfully the skies cleared up and the sun started shining as we approached our destination, and after weeks of what seems like non-stop rain in Brisbane, this was a very welcome change.

Set up in time to watch the sun go down

The sun was setting as we arrived, and as we had called ahead, we were met at the gates with our amenities key and our little info packs. We set up and went and said hi to the guys. Chris cracked open a beer and I fired up the Weber.

Dinner was chicken kebabs, cauliflower rice and the most scrumptious zucchini and egg salad. Chocolate cake and custard followed. With our bellies full, and camp chairs in hand, we headed down to the other guys vans for an evening of laughter and storytelling.

Bonville Headland

The following morning, following a restful night’s sleep of over 9 hours, we drove the 2 minutes up to Bonville Headland to take in the views. Dazzling sunshine reflecting off the turquoise ocean was an incredible way to start our Easter vacation.

We sat and watched dolphins surfing the waves alongside those who were clambering over the rocks carrying their boards just moments earlier. Families were swimming in the tidal pool below as others were carrying hot drinks from the coffee van and sitting down to admire the view. Some were walking the paths, others taking photographs. It’s quite a busy little spot!

From there we headed into the tiny town of Sawtell, parked the car and went for a wander. The old buildings are beautiful, especially the old movie theatre – it has so much character! We admired the huge, twisted trees that were spreading their branches out over the road and smiled at the many locals and tourist who were sitting in the café’s dotted along the street.

Elephantine fig trees in Sawtell

By this time, it was quite warm, so we headed back to the caravan park and changed into our swimmers and went down the front to the inlet beach where our friends were with their kayak, SUP and tinny. We spent an hour or so playing on the beach and in the water, and then we went back to the van to lie in the sun and read, or in Chris’s case – sleep!

This is right out the front of the caravan park

This view, this moment, was unforgettable.

As the sun disappeared behind the horizon, we went down to lay on the Village Green and watch the moon rise over the Pine Trees. It was a full moon and it was beautiful!

So beautiful that we jumped in the car and headed back up to Bonville Headland to watch it rising up over the dark blue ocean and frothing, bright white waves.

I tried to capture the moment with video and my camera but failed miserably. It’s one of those moments that will be etched in my memory forever; the smell of the ocean, the soft warm breeze and the silver moon casting its silvery light over the ocean below.




The next morning, I set my alarm to go off allowing me just enough time to get down to the water to catch the sunrise. It was so very calm and still … almost ethereal.

The most beautiful time of day

The occasional bird was singing, and every now and then a fish would jump out of the water, but aside from that – silence, as the sky slowly became lighter, the sun yet to make an appearance. I managed to capture the moment almost perfectly before Chris called me to tell me he was headed back up to Bonville Headland to watch the sun rise.

Such beautiful colours playing on the water

Straight out of bed and in front of the camera – lol.



So back up we went – along with half the town! It was simply spectacular. It felt like an entirely different place to where watched the moon rise just hours earlier.







One of the most spectacular sunrises we have seen



After breaky we headed off on our first day trip adventure. Waterfall Way was where we were headed, taking us down some lovely windy roads, through lush green countryside and into some quaint little towns.

Our first stop was the bizarre Butter Factory which I am still trying to understand! There was a kids fairy shop, a leather making place with bags and belts, a wood working shop, clothes for sale, a place that did healing, ‘earthing’ and massage … a lovely restaurant was right next to a rather large furniture and homewares store! All these shops are in the building of the old butter factory which was surround by gardens dotted with relics form the past, and mosaic tiles in the courtyard.


We stopped in to Fusspots, a quirky little teashop cafe for some of their famous Devonshire Tea. The walls and shelves are lined with so many different types of teapots – and there was even a large shelf full of silver spoons for sale.  The scones were huge and oh so very fluffy. We couldn’t finish them! In hindsight, one to share would have been plenty 😉


Barely 5 minutes down the road from Fusspots is Ebor Falls which lies within the Guy Fawkes National Park. It is one of the few sensational waterfalls we’ve come across that is less than a minute’s walk from the car park.

It’s a great stop-off between the coast and Armidale – somewhere where you can stop, take a break and watch the Guy Fawkes River plunging 100m over two waterfalls at Ebor Falls.

Ebor Falls offers spectacular waterfall views, scenic lookouts and a picnic area. We also saw some beautiful birds including one curious black cockatoo who was trying to figure or what our drone was ?



We noticed the temperature had dropped considerably while we were out of the car, so we were prepared for the cold, gusty wind that greeted us as we opened the doors at our next location – Point Lookout in The New England National Park.

Thankfully Chris had been here before and made the mistake of doing the reeeally long walk around to find that he’d done a big circle, and he now knew a short cut. Within minutes we were at the place everyone wanted to be at, looking at the views everyone wanted to be looking at!

We thought the view would be obscured by the low-lying clouds that we could see as we approached the cliffs edge, but as we sat and watched, no sooner had the clouds appeared than they were swept up and away.

Mesmerised by the clouds dancing around in front and below us, we spent quite some time here just sitting and taking it all in. I must admit, I caught my breath a few times as I sat on the ledge, my feet right hanging off the edge. This is one jaw dropping place to let your legs dangle!

I was holding on tight!


After the sheer amazement of seeing what we did at Point Lookout, Dangar Falls had high expectations to live up to. And, I could see the potential, but for me it was pretty disappointing. Chris has also been here before and seen it in all its glory, but unluckily for me – there was nothing more than a trickle making its way slowly down the cliffs edge to the tiny speck of water at the bottom.

The paths and viewing platforms are great, and the views are pretty – but I think the water needs to be flowing to appreciate the Dangar Falls properly.  Never the less, we sent the drone up, and it was speccy from above.

I had to go to the loo, so I followed the signs – that led me up a path to a camp kitchen (which looked lovely by the way) but no loo! So I snapped a few pics of the dry falls from a different angle, then ran back to the car park to try and figure out where the toilets were. I found them – drop toilets, located over the other side of the car park!

By this time, it was getting late in the day, so we headed back down Waterfall Way. It was no less sensational heading the other direction! We actually got a better view of the falls coming back down the snaky roads as we were able to look across the road and up, rather than twisting our heads to peer up as we drove past on the other side. Quite a few people had pulled over to take some pics, so we had to slow down which was fine for us!

We made it back to the van in good time, had dinner and settled in to get another good nights sleep before our next big day trip. Port MacQuarie, Crescent Head, Hat Head, Southwest Rocks were all at the top of our list as we made our way up the stunning NSW Coast. Read all about that adventure here.









NSW Mid North Coast

NSW Mid North Coast


This adventure begins on day 4 of our Easter holiday in Central NSW. We arrived at sunset on Day 1, and Day 2 was spent exploring the lovely town of Sawtell and its sensational beaches and coastline. All this natural beauty was just minutes from the BIG4 Sawtell Beach Holiday Park we were calling home for 5 tremendous days.

We hung out with our friends out the front of the park and spent some time relaxing, reading and snoozing. The resting was essential as we were about to squeeze a whole lot of adventuring into the next couple of days.

On day 3 we started at the Butter Factory and worked our way along the gorgeous Waterfall Way, stopping to admire Ebor Falls, Dangar Falls, Point Lookout and a few other places in between. Simply stunning! Read about that adventure here.

This brings us to day 4; waking up at sunrise to start the hour and a half drive down to the delightful seaside town of Port MacQuarie.

Chris has been many times before, but it was a first for me and as soon as we parked and hopped out to admire the views, I started to wonder why on earth I hadn’t been here before!  I’d heard it was lovely, and it truly is.

The trees and the coastline give this bustling little town a lovely, relaxed and welcoming feel. We didn’t spend long, but what I saw was enough to convince me that we need to book into one of the caravan parks we and spend a week or so here. I can’t wait for the kids to see this place!

We stopped at Mrs.Yorks Garden to have a look down on the ocean from above, before heading over to Town Beach Park to snap a few more pics.

Along the southern breakwall of the Hastings River there are some fascinating painted rocks. This one pictured was my favourite, but the Cat in The Hat came in a close second!

These bright, colourful rocks are sure to catch your eye if you’re seeing them for the first time and I wanted to know why they were there, so I did a little research.

Apparently it all began as an art competition back in 1995 but is now a bit like an outdoor gallery that anyone can add to!

A walk along the breakwall is the easiest way to see the joyful wall of colour. The painted rocks begins at Port Macquarie’s Town Green, extends along the river, around the point, and a little way along the back of Town Beach.

The car park up this end is a good place to start if you want to explore the wall. There’s plenty of grass and some lovely shady trees, a playground and a skate park. There’s also a caravan park right there …! I can’t wait to go back with the kids as there really is something to keep everyone happy.

From there we started winding our way back up the coast, starting with Crescent Head.

We parked by the golf course and followed a tiny path through some trees and up onto the hill. What we saw we when turned to look down at the ocean below took our breath away and was enough for me to take so many phots that I am still having extreme difficulty sorting through. This would have to be the most impressive and breathtaking ocean view I have seen yet – and I’ve been to some pretty amazing places!

I could have sat and watched the water circling around and crashing onto the rocks for hours, but we didn’t have hours, so onto the next spot we had marked on the map. Southwest Rocks.

As the name suggests, Southwest Rocks has some pretty large rocks jutting out of the sand that you can see along the coastline from the next beach over, separating the beach into two.

There was a lovely caravan park right by the water, and the streets were lined with giant ball like palm trees and tall, pointy pine trees. The main road of the town led straight down to the palm trees and water front and some lovely beaches.

We drove past the Hat Head Bowling and Recreation Park and into Hat Head Beach Reserve. There was a lovely caravan park that was set in the bush, right by a little inlet complete with a busy little boat ramp. There were plenty of people on their inflatables floating down the little stream and out to the beach. I really wanted to jump in! This looked to be the pick of the camping spots for our next family trip away.

Also under the Southwest Rocks banner came the Trial Bay Gaol, a curious place that I’ve wanted to explore for years. I’ve heard ghost stories that have put me off wanting to camp around the gaol itself, but adventuring was never out of the question!

As we drove through the grounds, we could see some people had camped right up hard against the gaol walls. Eeek! It gave me shudders just thinking about nightfall. People seemed to be camped wherever they felt like it; right beside the gaol, in the camp grounds, along the road and on the water’s edge.

The story behind the gaol was intriguing as I found out as I wandered through and read the signs that were dotted around. A couple of large signs warned campers to ‘please do not feed the wildlife’ and it was quite obvious to see why. There was some almighty large kangaroos (that at first looked like statues) that seemed quite at home by the front gates!

Never content to stick to the standard roads, we carefully edged our very lifted Hilux down a tiny dirt road that was covered with overhanging trees. I’m pretty sure we collected a branch or two with the rooftops!

It wasn’t long before the green trees parted in front of us, giving way to a brilliant blue sky and sparkling ocean. When we couldn’t go any further, we pulled up and got out. To the right of us was a tiny beach and huge rock break wall that we could hear the waves thundering up against, and to the left was a calm little beach, dotted with holiday makers.

This was another place I reeeeally wanted to spend more time; just a few hours sunbaking and laying on my floating bed, soaking up the autumn sunshine. But alas, the lighthouse was calling our name! So, we reversed out of paradise, headed out of Arakoon and towards Hat Head National Park.

One would expect spectacular views from a lighthouse, and this one did not disappoint. Standing high on a narrow headland, Smoky Cape Lighthouse is surrounded by the stunning coastal scenery of Hat Head National Park. However, the best views were from our drone.

Chris sent the drone up and I made the ‘long trek’ to the top. I think Chris got the better deal (although I got to close the rings on my Apple Watch! ???)

The lighthouse itself is as beautiful as the views – with its winding staircase and octagonal tower. And while the views from the top were lovely, you could get equally stunning views from further down the path, and in my opinion, the viewing platform doesn’t go out far enough to see around the trees and bush in front. Of course, factoring Easter Sunday into the equation, there wasn’t much room to move with everyone trying to get ‘that shot’.

Thankfully I knew Chris would get the best pics with the drone and boy did he deliver!

As we drove back to the caravan park, I began the long process of transferring the photos and videos from the drone and GoPro across, trying to pick the ‘stand out’s’ as I went. Who was I kidding? Almost every photo from the day taken on the GoPro, the drone or either of our iPhone X’s was spectacular!

It was a whirlwind day, scoping out the dazzling NSW coast for future caravanning adventures.

We arrived back to an almost empty caravan park, with most holiday makers having headed back home, ready to start back at work the following day. We took an extra day off which allowed us some down time, and a much less hectic drive home.

With enough time left in the afternoon, Chris took me on a quick tour through Coffs Harbour. I found it to be quite a bizarre place – rather industrial, with an almost ‘unfinished’ feel about it. A bit like it was going to be an amazing holiday destination, and then attention was diverted elsewhere, and Coffs was left to fend for itself.

We went to Park Beach, McCauleys and the Breakwater … all unique locations and quite photographic as the sun was casting its last glowing light of the day across the water.

I’m not sure I would like to go back to Coffs anytime soon, but maybe there is something about the place that only the locals know about. Who knows? I did read about what appeared to be a lovely walk – the ‘Solitary Islands Coastal Walk’. That might have been nice if we’d had more time.

Maybe one day I’ll find out if there are any hidden secrets that Coffs is holding back on. Until then, I’m happy with my hour or so spent having a quick look around.

Our last night in Sawtell was relaxing, and our morning was a lazy tidy up. There wasn’t much traffic heading home, so we took a few breaks along the way, stopping in at Little Italy for lunch. I had a bit of a wander through the gift shop and museum before we headed home to Brisbane.

It was a lovely end to a fabulous Easter holiday and we now have some great NSW locations earmarked for some of our upcoming family adventures.

Our next group adventure has already been decided and was locked in on night 2 at Sawtell! We’ve all booked in for a few nights at Kingscliffe to celebrate Chris’s birthday in May. Well, it’s our ‘next, next’ adventure, as Cotton Tree is already booked for late April!

Aah .. the caravanning life. From one adventure to the next 🙂