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Fun with snow, wind and rain at Ben Lomond National Park

all seasons in one day
View Tasmania with 2 toddlers! (Winter 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

Clancy, Sonia and I had been looking forward to this day. Being able to once again head up into the mountains to enjoy some fun in the snow. Clancy and I weren't exactly sure how Sonia and Kaden would like it however, as we expected it to be rather windy, cold and wet. When we'd previously been up to see the snow on Mt Wellington near Hobart, Sonia hadn't minded it too much, while Kaden grizzled a bit more than normal in the fairly accommodating weather. Only way to find out was to remain positive about it and go find out!

The day prior to heading into the Ben Lomond National Park, I'd rung the company that operate the village and all snow sport associated activities on the mountain - Ben Lomond Snow Sports, to gather some information. They were extremely helpful and recommended we make use of the landcruiser troopy shuttle they provided (call the given number once at the departure/drop off point near the ranger's hut) and layer the kids as much as we could, plus bring an extra set of clothes each.

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  • Camping

The drive across from where we'd once again camped at the Hadspen Discovery Holiday Park was rather picturesque. We missed seeing the sign for the road into the National Park, but figured it out quickly enough and were soon on our way up. Not far in from the National Park boundary, we came across the entrance into the small camping area and decided we'd have a look. It was pretty good, with decent toilets and shelter shed available. We could've quite easily camped there the night before if we'd known more about it and wanted to. Had to admit to myself though that I had enjoyed my nice hot shower and warm dry bathroom the previous night! The view from the lookout at the campsite area was pretty good to.

It then didn't take us long to reach the departure/drop off point for the shuttle. The road was a bit wider, with (from memory, so don't quote me on this!) a small shed on the right hand side, and small wooden stand/shelter on the left. Parking was on the side of the road, and we were glad to find that we had enough phone reception to call the given number and wait for the shuttle to arrive. Our 'waiting' however, was more like a mad rush to find all the extra layers that we wanted to put on the kids and us, and get them appropriately dressed, as we'd forgotten to do it earlier in the rush to leave early. Before we were even halfway ready, the troopy had arrived to pick us up. Thankfully, some other people had turned up by this stage as well, so they headed up while we continued to get ready. Note for next time - plan ahead and be a lot more organised!

This road is known as Jacobs Ladder. It's a zig-zag gravel road, which was rather wet and slippery for the time we were there. So it was a very good thing that we didn't try and take our campervan up. It definately would not have made it! Talking to the shuttle driver, there'd been about 200 cars parked wherever they could to utilise the shuttle service a weekend or 2 previous, and two light four wheel drives without chains had slipped off the road and into the gutter (road is sloped in towards the mountain).

It was fairly foggy on the way up, but we were able to just catch glimpses of the surrounding dolorite cliffs. Coming down later though, visibility had dramatically reduced even further which was rather dissapointing for me, as I'd been hoping to enjoy the view of the cliffs that my parents had mentioned, and that I'd seen in photo's whilst researching this area.

  • Snow, Wind and Rain

All the staff that we dealt with in the ski hire building were extremely helpful and friendly. They were very accommodating and understanding towards families with young children, ensuring we could access the heaters, and had everything we needed. There were quite a few other families with kids slightly older than Sonia there as well. We hired a jumpsuit for Sonia (tried to encourage her to get gloves as well, but she wasn't going to have anything to do with that. Her own gloves and gumboots were 'good'!), pants for me and Clancy, a toboggan, and boots for Clancy. All of that plus the cost for utilising the shuttle, and it only came to $90 or thereabouts, which we thought was rather good!

Sonia's turn

Sonia's turn

Uh oh!

Uh oh!

Snowball fight!

Snowball fight!

This way...

This way...

Sonia loved playing with Clancy in the snow. Snowball fights, tobogganing, building a snowman. Staying positive and encouraging her to do all these sorts of fun things helped keep her mind off the wind and her cold hands. Her gloves were woollen knitted ones without the fingertips. So yes, it didn't take long for them to become totally soaked. What surprised me however, was that it didn't seem to bother her as much as I thought it would! I thought we would've very quickly been going back to the hire building to buy some proper gloves or mittens. But no, every time I asked, the response was 'no' 'not sore' gloves good'.

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Kaden on the other hand, absolutely hated the wind. I had him in the Ergo baby carrier underneath my jacket, with another jacket/microfleece over him as well to try and reduce the amount of wind blowing across his face. I found that if no wind got into him, he was fine, but as soon as he felt some wind... that was it, constant grizzling. It didn't take long though before he fell asleep.

Mum's turn too!

Mum's turn too!

I managed to go for a slide on the toboggan with Kaden and Sonia a few times before it was time to head in for lunch at the hotel adjoining the building where we'd stored all our extra gear. We could've brought our own lunch, but figured it was easier to buy something hot there. There was a good fireplace in there too, that we were able to dry Sonia's gloves out on. I, along with some other mum's also put our kids' socks out to dry while waiting for our meals, before realising a while later the sign requesting patrons to please refrain from drying socks on the fireplace. Oops! Oh well, no one complained to us, and they'd pretty well dried by then thankfully!

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The weather had deterioted a fair bit by the time we got back outside again. Raining and snowing at the same time. We completed a few more toboggan runs, hastily built a small snowman, threw a few more snowballs, then decided to call it quits for the day. After returning our hired equipment and saying some heartfelt thankyou's to the staff, we found we only had to change one layer of wet clothing on Sonia (moisture had seeped up her sleeves and pant legs), before it was time to get back in the shuttle and head down Jacob's Ladder to retrieve our van and continue on our way.

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Posted by Goannaray 17:28 Archived in Australia Tagged snow winter cliffs ben_lomond view tasmania road campground toddlers 2_toddlers_in_winter_tasmania! Comments (0)

Scottsdale to Bicheno

Wow!! Did we really do all that in 1 day?!?

all seasons in one day
View Tasmania with 2 toddlers! (Winter 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

After leaving Ben Lomond National Park and looking at some of our maps, we decided we'd head up the Camden Hill Road (C405) to cut through to the Tasman Highway (A3) to get to Scottsdale. This was another winding dirt road through forests and farmland with its fair shair of road kill. A nice drive, however the signage was a bit to be desired. We initially missed the correct turnoff for the A3, but finally figured it out when the next turnoff we came to had a sign at the junction explaining various road closures!

Phoning ahead to the number listed for the Scottsdale North East Park camping area in one of the brochures we had, we got the ok to camp there and found out it was a free campsite!! It was located at a really nice Lions park beside the A3 highway heading out of town towards Branxholm and St Helens. There were toilet and shower facilities (pay showers) available, power and water, a playground, picnic tables, shelters, and some short walking tracks. Considering our late arrival, we opted for a hot flannel face/hands/feet wash, and went straight to bed after a quick dinner. There was also a small lake beside the camping area, with quite a few large resident ducks. Clancy got a bit annoyed at them waking him up, but the kids enjoyed being able to chase them around in the morning!

Come morning, we decided to backtrack a bit to check out the Scottsdale Forest EcoCentre that we'd passed on the way into town the previous evening, only to find it didn't open on weekends. So onto the information centre, to find out that didn't open till 10:30am (was then 09:30am). After all that... we figured we may as welll continue on our way to Ralph's Falls via Legerwood.

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Legerwood is a small town not far off the Tasman Highway (A3) between Scottsdale and Branxholm. Even if you're just travelling past on the highway, it's well worth the short detour in to Legerwood to see these amazing memorials to some WWI ANZACS, and read their stories.

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Ralph's Falls are located approximately half - 2/3 the way along the Ringarooma/Pyengana Link Road or Mt Victoria Road (travelling from Ringarooma). It's a winding gravel road that'd only been opened relatively recently in 1998, joining Ringarooma and Pyengana, travelling through the Mt Victoria Forest Reserve. Considering the rather overcast day it was turning out to be, we weren't too sure if it was going to be worth it or not, but decided we may as well enjoy the drive and see how things developed. As it turned out, we ended up not being able to see a thing when we got there due to thick heavy fog.

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The drive itself was interesting enough with some rather nice views before the fog closed in, and despite the extremely cold dampness and occaisional misty rain, I think we all generally enjoyed the short walk to Norm's Lookout. I wouldn't recommend it in foggy conditions, but if it's not foggy, I reckon there would be some amazing views. Once again we had to keep an eagle eye on Sonia, as all she wanted to do was jump off rocks or logs, and run along the wet slippery track. This behaviour was quickly stopped by a firm hold from Clancy as we got closer to the lookout however, as the last 50m or so was a bit too risky for that sort of thing from a 2.5yr old! The track became rather narrow and was very close to the cliff edge.

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Near the carpark area, there was a decent sized BBQ/picnic shelter available, with utensils chained to the walls. Satisfying a toddlers curiosity looking through everything, we came across a Geocache by total accident! Clancy and I had previously enjoyed finding a few of these when we'd been based in Sydney, and hadn't even thought about possibly looking for some on our travels around Tasmania! So after signing the log and replacing the cache, on we continued to St Columba Falls.

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We were glad to find that these falls were below the cloud level that we'd previously experienced up at Ralph's Falls. There were good toilet and picnic facilities availalbe, and the top half of the falls were visible from the start of the track at the parking area. Some rather interesting historical information was available in the small shelter at the start of the track, including the background of the 'Pub in the Paddock', and a story about a lady who went missing for 9 days chasing a lost cow.

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We were expecting quite a few steps so carried Kaden in the Ergo baby carrier, but the walking track down to the falls and viewing platform ended up being quite suitable for a pram. The falls themselves were awesome, and well worth the trip. We were also lucky in seeing an echidna crossing the road. Rather fat and fluffy compared to the ones I'm used to seeing in WA.

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After stopping for some lunch, lollies and information at St Helens, we headed on up the coast to Binalong Bay and The Gardens. The coastal red rocks were great! It would've been even more amazing on a sunny day, contrasting white sand, red rocks, ocean, blue sky, and green trees/bushes. This area is well deserving of the positive reviews it receives.

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Kaden slept through most of the time we spent there, while Sonia thoroughly enjoyed being able to run and jump all over the large rocks and sand. I would've loved to have utilised one of the many free campsites available near the beaches to see the rocks at sunrise, but once again, we had to keep moving. This time it was so we could hopefully get down to Bicheno in time to join a penguin tour.

As we were leaving Binalong Bay, we rang Bicheno Penguin Tours to see if there was any space available for us on the tour that night if we managed to make it down in time. There was, and thankfully, we got there with just enough time to pay for the tour and get on the tour bus, carrying the extra jackets we'd need to combat the cold wind. We weren't allowed to take any video's or photo's on the tour ourselves, but could later email the tour company to receive a copy of photo's that they had.

The kids were understandably hungry and tired, but did amazingly well to stay as quiet and as still as they did for the whole tour. We found it best to carry Kaden, and let Sonia walk (occaisonally carrying her as well). It was really good seeing all the penguins coming up through the rocks and steep banks to camp in all sorts of random hiding places. They were rather noisy, with interesting songs or calls, and apparantly smelt pretty bad when they opened their bowels. Thankfully, we didn't get to fully experience that side of them! The guides were also very excellent. Really knowledgeable, and interactive with all ages on the tour.

We'd organised to stay at the Bicheno East Coast Holiday Park, and had informed them that we could be late (ie, after reception shut, but before 10pm). No problem, just press the buzzer. Following the penguin tour, we ordered pizza from the nearby restaurant (very yum!), and finally got to the campground by about 7:15pm. Reception was obviously shut, so I pressed the buzzer and received a somewhat surprising response. A not very happy lady answered, stating we'd interupted her dinner!! I remained polite and didn't say much, but really felt like saying 'Sorry, but we did warn you, and the person I spoke to (I'd previously spoken to a man on the phone) said that would be fine, and to just push the buzzer when we got here!'

I'm glad I didn't say it, as the rest of our stay there was quite positive. We'd been given a very handy spot close to the bathrooms, laundry and enclosed kitchen, and Sonia and Kaden loved the playground that was available before leaving in the morning.

Posted by Goannaray 21:24 Archived in Australia Tagged waterfalls birds winter view ocean wildlife memorial tasmania river rocks walk sculpture creek lookout campground bay_of_fires toddlers wood_carving 2_toddlers_in_winter_tasmania! Comments (0)

Bicheno to Triabunna

Via Freycinet National Park

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View Tasmania with 2 toddlers! (Winter 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

Bicheno

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  • Sonia, Kaden and I enjoyed the playground at the Bicheno East Coast Holiday Park while Clancy finished packing up, then off to start the days exploration.
  • Diamond Island:

I'd previously read that it's possible to walk out to Diamond Island at low tide. Unfortunately for us, I later found out when we got into town, that low tide had been at 05:30am or 06:00am that morning. So no adventuring out to Diamond Island for us.

These were great to see (I think the huge rock sitting beside the blowhole is Rocking Rock, not 100% sure though!). With regular, decent sized spouts of water shooting up into the air, and plenty of large picturesque red rocks to enjoy running and jumping on.
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Freycinet National Park

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  1. 1. Friendly Beaches - Nice long stretch of sandy beach, with a few sections of rocks running down to the water. Seemed like there were some good spots available for camping as well if we hadn't needed to keep moving south.

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  1. 2. Richardsons Beach - This was easily accessed from the Freycinet National Park Visitor Centre, and provided some nice views over Great Oyster Bay. A short walk that was perfectly fine for a pram.

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  1. 3. Honeymoon Bay - We found this to be a really nice spot to enjoy a picnic lunch, and had it pretty much to ourselves for the time that we were there. Sonia and I enjoyed climbing up onto a soon to be island rock as the tide was coming in, then rejoined Clancy and Kaden to find more rocks that just begged to be clambered on. The water was calm and really clear as well, allowing us to see all sorts of interesting things amongst the rocks under the water.

  • Cape Tourville Lighthouse:

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The boardwalk/track up to and around the lighthouse was wheelchair accessible, and provided some amazing views looking south along the coastline.

  • Sleepy Bay:

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Another picturesque bay with contrasting red rocks, water, and sky. Nice short walk down some steps to the lookout vantage point. The track continues on to Little Gravelly Beach, but lunch was calling, so no visit from us this time.

  • Wineglass Bay Lookout:

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Well worth the time to climb all the steps to get there. The views are just stunning! After completing the Cape Tourville circuit walk and then clambering over a lot of rocks with Sonia and Kaden at Honeymoon Bay, Clancy really didn't think he'd survive the walk to and from Wineglass Bay Lookout, so opted to stay with the kids at the van and watch the wallabies around the carpark area.

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I found that the first third of the track (or there abouts) would've been prammable, before the steps started, and never seemed to stop till getting right up to the lookout. A lot of track work seemed to be occuring while we were there as well, with numerous signs up explaining detours and closures of different tracks. I would've loved to have been able to share the awesome view from the lookout with Clancy, Sonia and Kaden, but ended up returning to find they'd enjoyed themselves just about as much watching the wallabies. The return trip dramatically got shortened for me, as I decided to have some fun and run (well, not really run as such, but more like a child pretending to be a horse!) down the steps! Hadn't really done this since coming down off a mountain with my brother quite a few years ago. Managed to stay on my feet and thoroughly enjoyed it! Reducing the total walk time for me down to about 45 minutes.

Coles Bay to Triabunna

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  • Another really nice, picturesque drive. With views of vineyards, bush, rolling farmland, and never ending coastline.

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An interesting convict bridge off the side of the Tasman Highway near Swansea, with stones set up like spikes on the top of the bridge walls.

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We'd rung ahead, and found that yes, this park was open at this time of year. They were quite happy for us to arrive late, choose a site, utilise the amenities and backpacker kitchen, then see them for payment in the morning. When we asked them in the morning, they highly recommended visiting Maria Island if we were prepared for longer walks and bike rides, as the ferry was free for the short time that we were there. Unfortunately for us, Clancy didn't think he'd be up to that with two young children in tow, so on we continued towards Port Arthur.

Posted by Goannaray 21:10 Archived in Australia Tagged trees view ocean wildlife beach tasmania rocks walk bridge lighthouse lookout blowhole wineglass_bay toddlers bicheno freycinet_national_park 2_toddlers_in_winter_tasmania! Comments (0)

Triabunna to Port Arthur via Richmond

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Triabunna to Richmond

  • Clancy and I enjoyed reading the names posted beside some of the hilly sections of the road - 'Bust Me Gall' ... 'Break Me Neck'
  • Actually, if you enjoy interesting place names, Tasmania's got quite a few of them we've found! They add a bit of a spark to your day when you come across them unexpectedly.

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Richmond

  • This town reminded me a lot of the Ross and Oatlands townships we'd been through during our first week in Tasmania, with a lot of historic convict era buildings and infrastructure.
  • The Richmond Bridge was amazing, and is the oldest bridge in Australia that's still currently used!
  • The spread of the sites to see throughout the town was also good, allowing us to walk quite comfortably from one to another with the pram and buggy board.
  • There was a good playground and toilets centrally located, which was also rather popular with the local mum's as well as Sonia and Kaden.

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Sorell

  • We initially only stopped for an emergency toilet stop for Sonia, then decided we'd have lunch there and let the kids run around for a bit as well.
  • The first park we found was Pioneers Park, which turned out to be excellent. It had good picnic tables and a great fenced in playground that we could let the kids go crazy on, while we made lunch.
  • The playground was suitable for all ages, from crawling tots to adults (I rather enjoyed clambering all through it with Sonia!).

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Eaglehawk Neck

  • Some of the many interesting sites we managed to visit in this area:

# 1. Tessellated Pavement - Unfortunately, the tide was just over the rocks and the kids were asleep when we got here. Otherwise I think both Sonia and Kaden would've enjoyed looking and running around all the rocks. Clancy and I ended up dashing down to see the rocks and grab some photo's before the kids woke up.
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# 2. Blowhole
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# 3. Tasman Arch - Can drive and park near both the Arch and Devils Kitchen, but it's not too far to walk between the two of them.
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# 4. Devils Kitchen

# 5. Various Lookouts
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# 6. Doo Town - Clancy and I once again enjoyed reading all the different place/house names! 'Doo Drop Inn' ... 'Make Doo' ... 'Gunna Doo' ... 'Dr Doolittle' ... 'Rum Doo' ... etc.

# 7. The Officers Quarters (Saw this on the return trip 2 days later)

# 8. Dog Line (Saw this on the return trip 2 days later)
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Taranna

This was the only thing we stopped to see in Taranna, and then only because the word 'chocolate' was involved! Not only was it a local chocolate factory run and operated by a local family, but also a rather interesting museum including items, stories, maps and photo's from their family's history. There was a good viewing window into their manufacturing area, with several signs up explaining their chocolate making process. However, being winter, they'd stopped making the days chocolate by the time we got there near 4pm sometime.

We all enjoyed taste testing the different flavours available, and were really surprised that if we'd wanted to, we could have tasted every flavour available! The person who attended us was excellent with Sonia, interacting well with both her and us as parents. After a lot of debate, we ended up choosing three blocks of chocolate for about $5 each. Honey, Stawberry, and Licorice. And then much to my amazement, Clancy decided to save some to share with family and friends back home in WA!!

Port Arthur

We found this campground to be rather large and well set up. But considering the number of visitors I guess they get during warmer months, they probably need to be! There was an amazingly large camp kitchen, numerous sheltered BBQ areas, quite a few ensuites (only available at this time of year if staying for 2 nights), good playground, free wireless, and a proper baby bath available in the laundry! The walk from the campground down to the beach could take a pram, and continued on to the Port Arthur Historic Site approximately 2km away.

Posted by Goannaray 23:00 Archived in Australia Tagged bridges chocolate view history tasmania rocks lookout richmond campground blowhole toddlers port_arthur 2_toddlers_in_winter_tasmania! Comments (0)

Port Authur Historic Site

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The Port Arthur Historic Site is amazing! Really well set up, and abounding with information. There were plenty of different passes available to choose from, giving different levels of access to different things. Discounts were also available for elegible people/members (health care card, YHA, QANTAS Frequent Flyer, etc.). We chose to get a Bronze Pass which included a walking tour, harbour cruise tour, access to most buildings, and was valid for two days if we wanted.

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On entrance, each of us was given a card with a person's name and picture for the Lottery of Life exhibition. While we were waiting for our allotted walking tour, we went through the interactive displays set up in the lower level of the visitors centre, following the stories of the people named on the cards we'd been given. I'd been given a young boy who ended up being not too bad off, considering some of the stories of others that I followed, out of interest later. The interactive displays and associated stories were excellent. Gaining the attention and interest of all ages. From toddlers, right through to the elderly.

The walking tour went for approximately 40 minutes, and gave a brief overview of the site. It was well worth listening to as it greatly helped with looking around and understanding things better later. Sonia and Kaden weren't to thrilled by it however, prefering to make noise and run around, resulting in Clancy and I only partially hearing the guides explanations. It didn't help that there was a constant cold wind blowing the day that we were there either. No rain though, so that was good!

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The harbour cruise tour on the MV Marana was also really informative, providing close up views of the Isle of the Dead, and Point Puer. Thankfully there wasn't too much of a swell, and after seeing a large group of school children constantly going in and out to the deck of the boat, I finally relented to Sonia's requests and took her out onto the deck for a while as well. She thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the rather strong wind!

We were able to access a database in the museum to see if any of our predecessors had been there. None appeared for the surnames Clancy could remember, however I found three when I searched under my maiden name. Who knows if they're related or not! For lunch, we decided we'd enjoy the warmth of the Port Cafe, and found it child friendly and rather busy. I'd hate to imagine how busy it'd get during the busier warmer months!

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The majority of the buildings were able to be reached with a pram or wheelchair, however access into quite a few of them involved steps. We spent nearly a full day wandering around soaking up the history. Both Clancy and I enjoyed wandering through the fortified stone, convict built buildings more than the staff houses, and found the Seperate Prison particularly sombre. The whole area was presented really nicely like a park, but reading all the signs and trying to imagine what it was like back in the day... it would've had a totally different atmosphere then.

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Posted by Goannaray 11:24 Archived in Australia Tagged buildings parks winter boat ocean history tasmania convicts toddlers port_arthur 2_toddlers_in_winter_tasmania! Comments (0)

Port Arthur to Hobart

Renee: 'Does it really have to end this soon?' ... Clancy: 'Yes!! Bring on home and a comfy bed!'

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After enjoying two nights at the wonderful Port Arthur Holiday Park, it was time to fuel up and continue on around the rest of the Tasman Peninsula before heading back to Hobart.

  • Remarkable Cave

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At the end of Safety Cove Road (B347) is a great lookout point, and short walk down a fair few steps to Remarkable Cave. A tunnel carved through rocky cliffs by the ocean. We were lucky that it was clear while we were there, and enjoyed the views of the surrounding bays, hills, and even all the way out to Cape Raoul. Clancy had previously seen a photo of the Cape Raoul cliffs and would've loved to be able to see them close up, but unfortunately for us, we didn't have the time to complete the walk (Clancy didn't think he'd survive the walk anyway), and we couldn't afford to pay for another cruise.

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So down to the cave we went, where Sonia enjoyed running and jumping down all the steps (once again testing our stress levels!), and I had fun trying to unsuccessfully get photo's of the waves gushing in and out of the tunnel. Depending on the tide, I'm guessing you may be able to walk into the tunnel itself. Lots of fun, but it most likely would not be recommended!

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This was another well set up site with plenty of interesting information signs available. The following is one of the poems that caught my eye.

Coal for kitchens and drawing rooms
Coal that crackled and spat
Cinders on carpets and crinolines
Sparks on the hearthside cat

Far from the warmth of the parlours
Deep in a gloomy hole
Down on their knees in the darkness
Convicts hacked out the coal

Chris Viney 2002

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On arrival to the main carpark near the toilets, Sonia decided she'd throw a massive tantrum and scream session. So off to the toilets, then finding a spot for her to sit, think, and calm down. We'd been pretty lucky this whole trip, that the occurence of these events were few and far between, but when they did occur, it wasn't in too public a place, or with many other people around. We never did end up finding out what brought this one on! However, after that, she thoroughly enjoyed running around and pushing Kaden in the pram.

So a note for those of you out there with young children, take heart in the fact you're not the only ones that have to deal with these scenarios! And for those without young children... we greatly appreciate it, and thank you for the times when you can accept that these things happen and attempt to ignore the attention seeking behaviour, allowing us as parents to try and work through it with the child as best we know how.

As we'd previously seen many of the sights around Eaglehawk Neck on the way into Port Arthur two days previous (described in a previous post 'Triabunna to Port Arthur via Richmond'), we decided we'd stop for lunch on the way out and see two of the sights we hadn't seen previously. We found a lovely spot where we could enjoy the sun and also be out of the wind in the Eaglehawk Neck Community Hall carpark (they hold community markets there every second Saturday of the month) for a beside the van picnic. This was only the second or third time that we'd actually been able to enjoy the use of the camp chairs we'd hired with the van.

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Following lunch, we checked out the nearby Dog Line statue, and found it hard to imagine a line of dogs across the small section of land there, and continuing on platforms out into the water. It would have been totally terrifying to see. We then walked over to see the small museum housed in the old Officer's Quarters. It was very interesting, looking through the building, reading the history, and especially listening to the stories of some of the occupants that played out of an old radio. As we were the only ones there at the time, both Sonia and Kaden had fun wandering through all the rooms. Causing our education of the site to be occaisionally interupted by one or the other of the kids testing the boundaries of where they were allowed to roam. I don't think we would've been as relaxed, or enjoyed it as much if there'd been more people around.

  • And finally.... back to Hobart

The drive to Hobart was uneventful, and by this stage I think the 'homing bug' had started to settle in. With all the mixed feelings that come with it. We'd pretty much seen everything we'd hoped to see in Tasmania for this trip, so now just wanted to get home. Yet still felt that the time had flown by too fast, and there should be more to see and do (which there definitely is!). I was looking forward to spending some time with my high school friend and her young family in Hobart before we flew back to Perth, while Clancy couldn't wait to get out of the campervan and back into a regular sized house!

Posted by Goannaray 17:57 Archived in Australia Tagged ocean beach history views tasmania rocks cave poem convicts toddlers port_arthur coal_mines 2_toddlers_in_winter_tasmania! Comments (0)

Tasmania with 2 Toddlers Summary

all seasons in one day
View Tasmania with 2 toddlers! (Winter 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

Now that the trip has been well and truly completed, lets go back through some of the original questions we had...

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  • Campervan with toddlers in winter

Clancy:
Silly idea.

Renee:
Generally, it wasn't too bad.
Good that we had the availability to pretty much be able to camp anywhere.
Had some great experiences and created some great memories.

Recommendations:
For a comprehensive overview, see my entry titled 'The Campervan...'

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  • Weather and walks

Clancy:
Miserable weather, bring a raincoat.
Walks were fine.

Renee:
Totally changeable.
We were lucky, and I think for us, the worst weather during a walk was the day Sonia and I trekked in to see Montezuma Falls.

Recommendations:
Be prepared for all seasons (maybe excluding summer!), and be flexible in case a change of plans is needed.

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  • Stroller and walks

Clancy:
Some walks available.

Renee:
Yes, quite a few available.
Including some that probably aren't meant to be utilised that way!

Recommendations:
If it looks like you'll be able to use it, go for it, as it usually makes the walk a fair bit easier and faster.
Just be prepared to take it back to your vehicle, or hide it on the side of the track for your return trip if it becomes too difficult to use.

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  • Keeping toddlers warm and dry during hikes

Clancy:
What my wife says!

Renee:
Pram with good cover if available.
Raincoats and umbrellas if walking.
Child carriers - Raincoat for self, Poncho for child, Umbrella if heavy rain and not too much wind.

Recommendations:
As listed above, plus numerous layers. We were surprised to find their outer layers got rather wet, while their inner layers stayed quite dry nearly every time.

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  • Free camping

Clancy:
If you want to do it the hard way.

Renee:
Plenty of places available if you have your own amenities (toilet/shower).
Still quite a few even if you don't.
I didn't mind it, but have to admit I enjoyed my hot showers!

Recommendations:
It all basically comes down to how much comfort you want.
There's plenty of sites available if you want them.

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  • Accessibility

Clancy:
Plan ahead and use your brain.
You'll be fine.

Renee:
It all depends on the weather and timing of what, when, where, and how you're wanting to access something.
We'd done our research so didn't come across anything much that ended up causing great disappointment. (See entry 'Some Answers to Questions So Far')
We were also really lucky and missed most of the road closures. For example, access to Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake was limited while we were at Latrobe, but was fine for when we wanted to go there later.

Recommendations:
Do your research to make sure places are open during winter.
Listen to ABC Local radio, and contact the local shires or tourist information centres for information on road closures or other warnings.

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  • Booking accommodation

Clancy:
Yes, the earlier, the better.

Renee:
If you know definite dates, then yes, it is definitely recommended to do in advance.
If not, you can ring up the day before, or earlier that morning.
Remember that many places shut by 4pm during winter.

Recommendations:
See above comments.
Will definitely require early booking for the summer months!!

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  • Things closed during winter

Clancy:
Yes

Renee:
Yes, some areas are closed during winter.
See 'Accessibility' above, and the blog entry 'Some Answers to Questions So Far'

Recommendations:
See above comments.

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  • Definitely do/not do with toddlers

Clancy:
If you enjoy your sanity, don't take kids! :)

Renee:
With some research and planning, everything was generally pretty good.
Nothing obvious that I'd recommend not to do.

Recommendations:
Even a little research and planning helps to make the whole trip go a lot smoother.

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  • Highlights

Clancy:
Snow
Being cold!
Chocolate places (not so much the Cadbury Chocolate Factory though. No tour.)
Cherry Shed
Raspberry Farm
Platypus House
Seahorse World
Waterfalls
Greenery - Not a desert like WA!

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Renee:
Everything!!
I thought it was all pretty good, and find it rather difficult to pin point specific highlights.

  • Final Comments

I've generally enjoyed this whole process. Planning the trip, exploring Tasmania, and now finishing this blog. I have to admit that yes, sometimes I did get rather frustrated and annoyed at various things, but over all... it was pretty good. Undertaking new exploits and creating many fun memories in the process. And from what I can gather, I think Clancy (despite his occasional pessimistic outlook on things) and the kids enjoyed it too. So now, I hope this has been helpful in some way to others, and all the best with your planning and exploration. Enjoy the new experiences and creation of many new memories!

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Posted by Goannaray 04:57 Archived in Australia Tagged children winter travel tasmania trip questions answers tips planning summary toddlers 2_toddlers_in_winter_tasmania! Comments (0)

Weekend Getaway 1: South West WA - Harvey

Saturday - Monday: Harvey... Gnomesville... Donnybrook... Busselton Jetty... Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse... Ngilgi Cave

sunny
View Wkend Getaway 1 - South West WA (Mar 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

Leaving mid Saturday morning of the March long weekend, we arrived at Harvey in plenty of time for a climb up to the top of the Big Orange located at the Harvey River Bridge Estate Winery. Before heading to the information centre and surrounding parkland for lunch.

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I can do it Dad

I can do it Dad

1... 2... 3... 4... 5... ... ...

1... 2... 3... 4... 5... ... ...

Entrance to the Big Orange was by gold coin donation, and we were rewarded with decent views over the citrus orchards and surrounding countryside, and some interesting historical photo's and information about the orchards and Harvey Fresh.

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After having a good look through the information centre and picking up some brochures and information on camping sites (all close national parks and bigger townsite campgrounds totally full for the long weekend!) Clancy got lunch ready, while I took the kids to see a bit of the gardens and find some ducks in the nearby Harvey River.

One section of the information centre was set up to exhibit information about the areas and homesteads that got swallowed up by one of the local dams. Showing photo's, and even part of one of the homesteads walls. Out behind the main information centre is Stirling Cottage Tearooms set in the Stirling Cottage replica. Known to be the home of May Gibbs (author of Snugglepot & Cuddlepie) during 1885 - 1887.

I found the 'Box of Water' rather interesting - engineered to measure volumes of irrigated water for this south western area. I think the kids were less interested in the ingenuity of it, and more in the availability of being able to climb and have fun with the water!

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The surrounding gardens were really well maintained, and I had fun trying to keep Sonia and Kaden from interupting a wedding that was occuring in one section of the gardens. Not too much of an issue once Kaden found the ducks however!

After lunch, we paid a $5 deposit (returned when Key returned) and picked up a key to access the Internment Camp Memorial Shrine about 200m up the hill. Both Sonia and Kaden didn't seem to mind the walk too much, but then weren't too impressed with us constantly telling them not to touch once we were inside looking at the shrine, and trying to read all the displayed information surrounding it and its history.


Posted by Goannaray 21:41 Archived in Australia Tagged history monuments fruit western_australia harvey weekend_toddler_adventures_wa south_west_wa Comments (2)

Weekend Getaway 1: South West WA - Gnomesville

Saturday - Monday: Harvey... Gnomesville... Donnybrook... Busselton Jetty... Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse... Ngilgi Cave

sunny
View Wkend Getaway 1 - South West WA (Mar 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

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Hot air ballooning gnomes

Hot air ballooning gnomes

Princess Gnome!

Princess Gnome!

The information brochure for Ferguson Valley that we picked up at the Harvey Information Centre, turned out to be very helpful. Showing a more detailed map of the area, which allowed us to get off the main roads, and see more of the picturesque hills and valleys of the area. It reminded me very much of where I spent much of my childhood in Toodyay.

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Gnomesville itself was amazing! Showcasing some rather creative ideas from numerous different people and groups. I can't think of anywhere else that has such a showcase of gnomes. Definitely worth taking the detour to have a quick look. Which then, depending on your appreciation of gnomes... may turn into a bit more than 'just a quick look'!! Who knows, you may even want to add to the population!

Wait for me Kaden!

Wait for me Kaden!

Smurfs

Smurfs

Country music gnomes

Country music gnomes

Gnomesville PCYC Windmill

Gnomesville PCYC Windmill

Gnomesville School Bus

Gnomesville School Bus

Gnomesville School Bus

Gnomesville School Bus

Gnomesville Detention Centre

Gnomesville Detention Centre

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Posted by Goannaray 15:16 Archived in Australia Tagged western_australia gnomes toddlers gnomesville weekend_toddler_adventures_wa south_west_wa Comments (0)

Weekend Getaway 1: South West WA - Donnybrook

Saturday - Monday: Harvey... Gnomesville... Donnybrook... Busselton Jetty... Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse... Ngilgi Cave

sunny
View Wkend Getaway 1 - South West WA (Mar 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

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Uh oh!!

Uh oh!!

I'm coming...

I'm coming...

The main drawcard for us to Donnybrook was the amazing humongous playground! The abundance of fruit in certain seasons (namely apples and pears) would be another good drawcard for many too.

Donnybrook Playground

Donnybrook Playground

On the way out of Donnybrook, heading towards Capel, we pulled into Ironstone Gully Falls. A small gully/stream that would have a rather picturesque waterfall in wetter months. Considering it was the beginning of March, it was rather warm, and bone dry everywhere. So instead of an interesting waterfall, we enjoyed some dark red/brown rocks and radiating heat. Sonia and Kaden enjoyed running around and jumping on the rocks till we decided they were a tad too close to the edge of the dropoff where the waterfall would start, and headed back to the car. During cooler, wetter months, this site would make a rather nice free campsite.

Posted by Goannaray 21:46 Archived in Australia Tagged playground western_australia campground creeks toddlers weekend_toddler_adventures_wa south_west_wa Comments (0)

Weekend Getaway 1: South West WA - Busselton Jetty

Saturday - Monday: Harvey... Gnomesville... Donnybrook... Busselton Jetty... Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse... Ngilgi Cave

sunny
View Wkend Getaway 1 - South West WA (Mar 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

Looking back to shore

Looking back to shore

We arrived into a very busy Busselton just before lunch time on Sunday, and were rather unsure how far we'd end up having to walk to get to the Busselton Jetty due to parking issues. We were pleasantly surprised and found a fairly well shaded spot really close to the jetty and information centre. Zipped into the information centre to pick up whatever information we could find (specifically a list of available campgrounds in the area, and what there was to do surrounding the jetty), then onto the jetty itself to purchase tickets to the Underwater Observatory (UWO) and have a quick look through the museum.

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The first available tickets were for in 3hrs time and also included a return trip on the Jetty Train. This worked out really well, allowing us to enjoy a relaxed lunch and swim. We got a few interesting looks over lunch, having a picnic around the back of our dual cab hilux. We'd parked reversed up to a carpark island with pine trees in it providing plenty of shade, so laying the tailgate down for a table, Clancy sitting on one end of it, Sonia clambering all over the baggage in the tray, Kaden in his pram, and me on a camp chair... we enjoyed a quick, cheap, make as much mess as you want (within reason!), picnic lunch! Only thing we forgot was to take a photo!

Window 2

Window 2

Fish!

Fish!

Going for a swim, we found the water rather cold at first, but soon got used to it and rather enjoyed it. It was nice and calm while we were there, so mixing that with the gentle slope of the beach, it made for a rather fun and enjoyable, kid friendly experience. Clancy wasn't too enthused on getting wet, so Sonia and Kaden took turns begging Mum for 'spin/swing' out in the deeper water. Some older folk enjoying a relaxing swim nearby pointed out a decent sized crab slowly scuttling away in the water, not far from where I was spinning/swinging the kids. I'm glad they did, as not only did I not want to get nipped, but it was interesting to watch as it slowly continued on it's way.

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To get to the end of the 1.8km jetty, you can walk, take the train, or possibly even ride a bike. We decided to take the train considering it was included with the UWO ticket, and would let us get away faster to head to our camp for the night. As it was a long weekend with rather warm weather, there were plenty of people enjoying the jetty. Fishing, walking, swimming, jumping/diving off the jetty... people everywhere! The train was well and truly at full capacity as well. One group of people who arrived a bit later during the boarding time ended up having to find individual seats scattered throughout the length of the train, rather than being able to sit together which they weren't too happy with. But yes, it was an enjoyable ride for all, and made the trip to the end of the jetty a fair bit faster and less strenuous than walking.

End of Busselton Jetty

End of Busselton Jetty

Busselton Under Water Observatory

Busselton Under Water Observatory

Window 1

Window 1

The Underwater Observatory was great! It's basically a huge 9.5m diameter pipe or chamber with stairs slowly spiralling down around the inside of the walls. Windows at various levels allow you to look out at the fish and coral of the artificial reef growing underneath the jetty. Sonia and Kaden enjoyed looking out at all the fish and coral, but I think the stairs were a bit more enticing to them. Constantly wanting to run up and down. It's about 8m down to the ocean floor, and after listening to the guide's explanations on the way down the stairs, you're able to stay down there nearly as long as you want. Bearing in mind, if you miss the return train trip, you'll have to walk!

Window 3

Window 3

More Stairs!

More Stairs!


Posted by Goannaray 20:33 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches bridges ocean wildlife walk western_australia busselton weekend_toddler_adventures_wa south_west_wa Comments (0)

Wkend Getaway 1: South West WA - Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse

Saturday - Monday: Harvey... Gnomesville... Donnybrook... Busselton Jetty... Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse... Ngilgi Cave

sunny
View Wkend Getaway 1 - South West WA (Mar 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

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From where we camped at the Four Seasons Holiday Park between Busselton and Dunsborough, it didn't take long to get out to the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. Meaning we got there not long before they opened, and were able to go on the first tour for the day. The lighthouse grounds and cottages seemed really well maintained, with a bouncy castle and large connect four game available for kids. These caught the immediate attention of both Sonia and Kaden, and most of the other kids who later arrived as well.

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As we were also planning on visiting Ngilgi Cave that day, we got a cheaper ticket covering both attractions. However, as they said, we could've used the Ngilgi Cave ticket any time over the next few months. It didn't have to get used that day.

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The tour around and through the lighthouse was really interesting. For both adults and children alike. Having no real previous knowledge about lighthouses, being able to see inside and climb up the internal stairs to see it working, as well as hearing the history of how it was built, how it was previously operated, and the maintenance involved, was great. Some of the main things that caught my attention were the weight and size of the turning lead crystal (original still in place and working) sitting on mercury, it's special flash sequence, what the duties of the lighthouse keepers previously entailed (tireing work!), and how the surrounding landscape had changed. I also found that having looked through the small museum of lighthouse paraphernalia before going on the actual tour, rather helped my understanding of what I saw and what was explained on the tour.

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If we'd had more time, some of the surrounding walks would've been really good to do as well. Definately somewhere to return to. Hopefully sometime around September/October to try and see some migrating whales from the lookouts off the coast.

Posted by Goannaray 20:39 Archived in Australia Tagged history lighthouse western_australia toddlers cape_naturaliste weekend_toddler_adventures_wa south_west_wa Comments (0)

Wkend Getaway 1: South West WA - Ngilgi Cave (Yallingup)

Saturday - Monday: Harvey... Gnomesville... Donnybrook... Busselton Jetty... Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse... Ngilgi Cave

sunny
View Wkend Getaway 1 - South West WA (Mar 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

See any fairies?

See any fairies?

Ngilgi Cave, formally known as Yallingup Cave, is located not far from... you guessed it, Yallingup! After visiting the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse (where we'd picked up a cheaper dual ticket for both lighthouse and cave), we continued straight on to see the cave. And lucky for us, timed it just right to get onto the next tour before lunchtime.

Stalectite window

Stalectite window

Stalectite

Stalectite

One rather wise thing that the staff recommended to us at the main desk, was to ensure that the kids (and us too if we needed) utilised the toilets before going on the tour. As it'd be about an hour or so before we got back and had access to facilities again. I'm guessing they'd had some misfortunate experiences! So yes, after a prompt visit to the toilets, and a quick play on the playground, it was time to start the tour.

The tour started with the explanation of an Aboriginal legend, a battle between a good spirit (Ngilgi) and an evil spirit (Wolgine), that gives the cave it's current name. This was also portrayed rather well in some eye catching (to kids atleast anyway!) artwork located around the start of the tour waiting area. Then it was on and down in to the cave itself via some rather steep steps.

Ngilgi Cave Formations

Ngilgi Cave Formations

Ngilgi Cave Curtain

Ngilgi Cave Curtain

The guides provided a basic rundown of the cave at the base of the entry/exit steps, then let you wander through at your own pace. Letting you take as long as you wanted, with a guide located partway through to provide extra information and answer questions if required. At that point, they also had quite a few pieces of stalectites etc, that you could hold, and touch, and see what colours they made when light was shone through them, not just on them. Unfortunately for us, my attempts at photography did not turn out anywhere near as good as I'd hoped. These are the better few.

Ngilgi Cave Formations

Ngilgi Cave Formations

Amphitheatre Roof

Amphitheatre Roof

The formations themselves seemed fairly similar to those I'd seen in numerous other caves around Australia and the world, but it was still really interesting. Especially with all the different coloured lights they had set up to highlight the formations. What caught Sonia's attention, was a tunnel that had been made which allowed kids (and kids at heart!), to travel from the base of the entry/exit steps, down to a lower level of the cave. I followed her down, and had to keep reminding her to slow down so she didn't run into the person in front of her! Lots of fun for both of us. After that however, the main attraction for both Sonia and Kaden was trying to climb the hand railings, and once again... running up and down the many steps and walkways!

Ngilgi cave tunnel

Ngilgi cave tunnel

Echidna carving

Echidna carving

Kaden ended up falling asleep in my arms by the end of our slow cave journey, providing me with an impromptu workout climbing all the paths and steps to get out of the cave. Then while he continued to sleep, the rest of us started on a picnic lunch. To be ended with the promised ice creams and a look at all the interesting artwork in the nearby studio. Some really amazing pieces available if you have enough money.



Posted by Goannaray 23:11 Archived in Australia Tagged art paintings history cave walks western_australia yallingup toddlers ngilgi_cave weekend_toddler_adventures_wa south_west_wa Comments (0)

Wkend Getaway 1: South West WA - Planning, Camping, Travel

Saturday - Monday: Harvey... Gnomesville... Donnybrook... Busselton Jetty... Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse... Ngilgi Cave

sunny
View Wkend Getaway 1 - South West WA (Mar 2013) on Goannaray's travel map.

What worked... or didn't! ... for us.

Planning

Considering this was going to be our first weekend camping trip for the year, and first one as a family of four... the planning felt like it took quite a while, was more involved, and generally bigger than what it hopefully will be for future weekends.

  • Where to go - I did a lot of online research. Finding things and places that looked interesting, and placing them onto a My Custom Google Map so we could get an idea of where abouts things were located. I showed Clancy the map and let him choose where he'd like to go/see... and that was it. A few destinations, and general direction chosen!
  • Where to stay - Considering the whole idea was to camp... we obviously needed somewhere that allowed camping. I would've been quite happy to set up a very basic camp anywhere in some bush, but Clancy wasn't too enthused with that idea. So a compromise was met and it was decided whatever campground had availability in the area that we were in at the time, would be the place to camp.
  • What to take

Tents
Bedding
Food & Water
Cooking/eating equipment
Maps
Clothing
Toys
First Aid
Toiletries

Camping

Looking back through all the weekends photo's. The only one we could find related to the actual camping side of things was this one taken by Miss 3yr old Sonia whilst setting up the tents :)

Hm... what's this?

Hm... what's this?

  • Campsites - Considering it was a long weekend, we weren't expecting many of the bigger, more common campgrounds to have any sites available. Harvey information centre confirmed this, stating most people who wanted to camp were being redirected to Logue Brook Dam. We preferred to keep heading further south, so after a bit of ringing around, found space available at the Kirup Tavern Camping and Caravan Park for Saturday night. This was a small but friendly campground beside the Kirup Tavern. Decent showers (Even had a baby bath and change table!! Still found the wash tub more practical though), basic kitchen and laundry facilities, grassed area for tents, and small playground across the road.

For Sunday night around the Busselton/Dunsborough area it was very similar. Needing to ring around a bit before finding somewhere that had a site avaliable. We ended up camping at the Four Seasons Holiday Park Busselton. This was a rather large, well established, older campground. The site we were given was a vacant site, located in a permanent van section of the park. Relatively close to the amenities and playground. This campground had a bigger outdoor kitchen with picnic style gas BBQ near the playground and amenities. So while Clancy got tea organised, I watched the kids, watch the hoards of other kids play! I could have given them their baths at that time, but considering the numbers of other parents doing just that, and the fact that they were yet to get rather messy eating... decided we'd wait till things had settled down a bit after tea.

  • Tents and Bedding - Figured we'd trial using the two small old dome tents we currently have. 4 person tent for us, 2 person tent for the kids. Set them up with openings facing each other, and worked rather well. The only real downside we found was that both tents were low, so constant bending over, resulting in sore backs. And having to open numerous zips, then climb through numerous small openings to check on the kids. So we're now planning to seriously start looking at maybe a taller, larger tent that will accommodate us all.

Bedding had been one of Clancy's main sticking points with not looking forward to camping. Not being able to sleep on a comfortable mattress. So prior to this trip, we decided to upgrade our single swag mats, and splurge on a 4WD Mat as it's commonly called. Self inflating, 10cm thick foam mattress. Definately not for hiking or backpacking! Deciding between 2 singles or 1 double, Clancy decided we'd go for the 1 double to share it's rolling up. He wasn't too impressed when I stated that if we got 2 singles, I was quite happy to roll mine, but he'd have to do his own!

  • Food etc... - To save on buying every meal, we took enough for each meal that we'd have while we were away. The 'fridge stuff' (ie, salad, cheese etc that normally requires a fridge (No meat though!)) I packed in a box that went behind the drivers seat, under Sonia's feet (covered with towel and pillow). With us slowly reducing it's volume, all the 'fridge stuff' survived the trip rather well. Despite the warm weather. Everything else, went into a cardboard fruit box with lid, that got packed on the tray of the ute (easily accessible, under a folded silver tarp for some insulation) with all the other baggage.

We took a small foldable camp table and stools, a bucket, and my old Trangia cookstove incase we stayed somewhere without kitchen facilities. The table, stools and bucket got used, but the Trangia ended up staying in it's bag on the back of the ute. Both places we stayed at had microwaves, which turned out being the easiest and fastest way for us to cook what we'd brought for the evening meals (thankfully some of the containers we had food in were microwave safe).

  • Miscellaneous - Once again... my trusty set of multifit plugs came in very handy! Some basic familiar toys for the kids were also appreciated. Along with a book or 2 each to maintain their regular tea, bath, story, bed routine.

Travel

Putting the question to Clancy (didn't worry me for this sort of trip), he decided we'd take my old dual cab hilux for easier packing, and access to all our equipment and baggage. This worked fine for this trip without any rain... however we're going to have to rethink our options once rain starts to threaten as we currently don't have a cover for the tray!

Kids and driving... they were both pretty good. But then again, they've both been brought up with fairly regular long driving trips, allowing them to get accustomed to it from a very young age. One thing Sonia enjoyed, was having a map of her own to look at.

Posted by Goannaray 21:49 Archived in Australia Tagged camping tents western_australia planning toddlers campgrounds weekend_toddler_adventures_wa south_west_wa Comments (0)

Overnight Getaway 1: Avon Valley National Park

Fri - Sat: Overnight day trip to the Avon Valley National Park

sunny
View Overnight Toddler Getaways from Perth on Goannaray's travel map.

Enjoying Some Spontaneity!

Quite a few events and several months after our first family camping trip through part of South West WA in March, I suddenly got the urge to get away from everything again and go exploring for a bit. Even if it was for just an overnight trip.

Clancy had prior commitments for the weekend, so considering it was likely to just be me and the two 'Monkeys' as Clancy fondly calls our rather energetic toddler duo, I promptly decided it would be a very lazy trip (no grand ideas for any big strenuous hikes!), and preferably somewhere close. A quick check of My Custom Google Map, a msg to interested younger sisters, and the planning began.

One of my sisters Sharelle loved the idea and figured she had the time available, so original planning for 3 became planning for 4. Not to mention a hint of relief felt by me for the added toddler wrangling assistance I'd recieve! So with about 6 workable daylight hours till departure, things were organised and packed on the go.

Where to go?
Choosing the Avon Valley National Park as the place to go for this trip was an easy choice to make. Both Sharelle and I had grown up about 20 minutes away from the park, and had enjoyed quite a few camps and day trips there over the years.

Avon Descent Panorama 2012

Avon Descent Panorama 2012

Avon Descent 2014

Avon Descent 2014

Avon Descent 2014

Avon Descent 2014

Plus only two weeks earlier, we'd enjoyed an early cool morning visit to the park to see some of the Avon Descent action at Emu Falls. The Avon Descent is an annual 124km, 2 day, white water race for power dinghies and paddle craft (eg. kayaks) on the Avon and Swan River. A lot of fun for both competitors and spectators alike! So yes, for a quick spontaneous camping trip, being able to go somewhere close (45mins - 1hr away from where we live now) and familiar was rather helpful.

Which campsite?
As to which campsite to use... neither Sharelle or I really had any preference as all sites had similar basic facilites (toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, maybe water at some).

  • Valley Campsite - the closest readily accessible park camping site to the river. However there is a major rail line (East-West line from Perth - Sydney) between the campsite and the Avon River. So train noise may be an issue for some. And for those who obey signs, your conscience may prevent you from reaching the river, as WestNetRail (May be Brookfield Rail now, as this is an older photo) have erected a sign near the line stating "No Access to River via Railway Line". To find Emu Falls, cross the tracks and turn right to follow the road/river upstream.
Emu Falls

Emu Falls

No Access?!

No Access?!

  • Homestead Campsite - located on a flat nearby a creek that flows well after recent winter rains. Not so well if no rain for a while during winter. And not at all really during summer.
  • Cec Barrow Campsite - is a group only campsite requiring the Ranger or Mundaring Parks and Wildlife information centre to be contacted for bookings.
  • Drummonds Campsite - tucked away behind a hill/ridge on the way to Bald Hill Campsite. The road into this campsite is a bit steeper, but not too bad. There are some nice views across the valley to the hills on the other side of the river.
  • Bald Hill Campsite - as it's name suggests, is near the top of Bald Hill. Plenty of rocks for climbing and playing on, and once again some nice views up, down and across the valley.

We ended up departing later than what we'd hoped for. Arriving at the park well and truly in darkness. Several 4WD vehicles arrived behind us whilst we were filling out the self registration and payment forms at the park entrance. It was my hope that they would complete their forms and continue on in front of us, as we yet had to choose which site we wanted to camp at. I didn't really want them following us in wondering what we were doing while we drove around each site trying to make our minds up! It ended up working out ok despite us going first, as I didn't see their lights in my rear vision mirror till heading up past the group campsite towards Bald Hill. When they didn't follow us into the Bald Hill campsite (empty at that stage), that made our decision for us and we ended up choosing a rather good spot there.

On the drive in, I remembered that I'd forgotten to pack matches or a lighter! So the first thing we did before setting up the tent was to check all possible hiding spots in the vehicle and bags. No luck. Cold food and no campfire for us. Untill..... another car drove in while we were setting up the tent, and when asked, offered us a spare lighter! Thanks again, and apologies to you on forgetting to return it the following morning! We then started the arduous and illegal task of gathering firewood, as that was something else I had forgotten to bring/do. Trekking back and forth carrying both a clingy 2yr old and an armful of firewood provides a rather good workout! Particularly in darkness, and also as it looked like many others had previously undertaken this same task, resulting in no dead wood to be found anywhere close by.

After a well earned hot meal and quick wash, it was definitely time for story and bed!

What to do?
Some of the things that I've experienced and enjoyed during previous visits to the park have been Emu Falls (Here's Sshaunaa's blog on their fun adventure to find Emu Falls!), Emu Springs Falls, exploring the river in general (in all seasons), and clambering around the numerous hills, rocks, ridges and gullies that can be found everywhere just enjoying being out in the bush. For this trip however, the plan was to be 'lazy' and 'take it as it comes'.

Looking down at camp

Looking down at camp

Jumping, climbing...

Jumping, climbing...

Breakfast

Breakfast

Follow the leader...

Follow the leader...

Saturday morning brought light to an amazing rocky playground for two slightly grumpy kids (late nights do not result in happy toddlers!). Moods improved after breakfast was begrudgingly consumed, and the rocks finally received their due attention. Mum and Aunty dutifully completed the clean up and tidy away duties, then joined in the fun of rock and bush exploration toddler style!

Enjoying the rocks

Enjoying the rocks

It wasn't long before a longer walk was suggested to see what else we could find. There were several unmarked tracks leading away from the campsite, of which we chose one that started in the general direction towards Drummonds Campsite. It wasn't long before the track petered out to nothing and Kaden decided he didn't want to walk anymore. Thankfully I'd thought of this, and had started the walk wearing our empty Kathmandu child carrier, along with a few snacks hidden in Sharelle's bag. After a bit of discussion, we decided we'd continue to follow the ridge we were on untill we'd either had enough, or found Drummonds Campsite.

Where to next?

Where to next?

This way...

This way...

I can carry him!

I can carry him!

Interesting things (sticks, leaves, flowers, rocks etc) were constantly catching Sonia's attention, so it was a rather leisurely walk for Sharelle and I. I do have to say though, that there were quite a few different flowers out including some orchids (I think they were anyway!) which were really nice to see. Before long, Sharelle spotted the road leading down to Drummonds Campsite, so down we went. Meeting the same group of 4WD's who'd followed us in the night before.

Snack time!

Snack time!

One of the many flowers

One of the many flowers

A Geocache was located not far from this campsite, however there were several people preparing for a hike not far from where our GPS was indicating it to be. We continued on through the campsite to find an opening in the bush with a large flat area of rock to sit on and look out across to the hills on the other side of the valley. Very peaceful and picturesque. Snacks were very quickly devoured after some ingenuity of using a SmartRider card (public transport pass card) as a knife to cut and divide an apple! Then back to succesfully finding the Geocache. Both kids were rather worn out by then, so a unanimous decision was made to follow the road back around to our tent and lunch.

A fire was utilised for making lunch much to Sonia's enjoyment. Then again afterwards for some toasted marshmallow treats. Both Sharelle and I were rather surprised to find ourselves being practically force fed the majority of the toasted marshmallows! Sonia and Kaden seemed to prefer them untoasted, but thoroughly enjoyed feeding us. Making us bite the toasted marshmallows off the end of their green sticks! So yes, we all had fun getting totally covered in pink and white sticky goo!!

Things to be aware of?
Another interesting event to occur over lunch was meeting a group of Scouts who were on a one day overnight orientation training exercise throughout the area. They'd been informed to keep to main tracks and roads due to 'Unexploded Ordnances (UXO's)' from when the park had been used as a Department of Defence Artillery Training Area in 1958 - 1966. I had previously heard this during a group hiking expedition I participated in many years ago, but we had never worried about sticking to tracks. Frequently finding our own way through the bush to get from A - B!

After lunch, it was time to pack up fire, pack up tent and head down to the creek at the Homestead Campsite for a quick paddle before heading home. We found a slightly deeper pool that would've just come up to Sonia's thighs if she'd wanted to go fully in. However she was more content to watch tadpoles and jump on/off the log (with assistance!) that Kaden and I were standing on above the pool. Mosquitoes were also out in full force despite the general coolness, so it wasn't too long before dry clothes were found and the trip home continued.

Watch out I don't fall too!

Watch out I don't fall too!

Balance...

Balance...

Up... climb... up...

Up... climb... up...

Worth it?
Totally!! Sonia and Kaden saw it as one big adventure. While both Sharelle and I agreed that yes, we still needed to expend a fair amount of energy watching out for and looking after the kids, but the overall rejuvenation obtained from just being in the bush, and being able to take our time with no real deadlines well and truly made it worth it.

Things to remember for next trip?

  • Try to arrive before dark
  • Flannel for hands/face/feet washes
  • Matches/Lighter
  • Spare camera battery
  • Spare torch batteries
  • Wood for campfires

Posted by Goannaray 22:17 Archived in Australia Tagged flowers western_australia creeks toddlers weekend_toddler_adventures_wa avon_valley_national_park avon_descent Comments (0)

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