family holiday

Our Christmas Family Road Trip

The end of one year and the beginning of another are always busy for our family not only because of Christmas and New Years but because mine and Brian’s birthdays are so very close to those big days! My birthday is 28 December and Brian is 3 January so there were lots of celebrations, adventures and memories made in the last few weeks!

We started off December buy deciding to jump into our desires and we bought a Jacyo Swan campervan!! We had been talking about doing this all year in preparation for our trip around Australia in 2016 (more info to come in another post) and we decided to bite the bullet and just do it!

I’m not in the photo but believe me, I was just as happy as Brian!
Introducing… Joy!

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On the weekend before Christmas, we hitched our camper up and set off toward Brian’s parents house which is 8 hours north from ours. We planned to stay overnight at a free rest area halfway up to break the trip up and try Joy out for the first time.

Our overnight stop was simple and just off the highway at a popular traveller rest area but were there  in golden hour which made everything glow with light.

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Apart from a hungry and frustrated toddler at dinner time we all had a great sleep for our first night and it felt like pure luxury after camping in a tent all these years!

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The next day we drove to 1770, a tiny town in Queensland close to Agnes Waters on the coast. Brian had been camping there with his parents as a child and had many great memories so we were excited to check it out. We tried to find a space at a free camp but it was full so we moved to a local caravan park for 2 nights.  The afternoon was spent enjoying the calm inlet at 1770.

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Watching the little crabs all over the beach.

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We discovered some beautiful surprises on our walk along the beach – mangroves shining in the sun and an abandoned (or was it left there on purpose?!) hammock with a stunning view.

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It was so relaxing to look at the boats on the water while the children splashed, and this local and his dog seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the slow pace of life here.

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We spent a lot of time studying the patterns the crabs left in the sand and then it was time to gather our towels and head back to our camper. The sky gave us a lovely cloud formation as we said goodnight.

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The next day we decided to be explorers looking for adventures as we drove through the small towns. We followed a sandy track that we noticed and we wondered what we would find at the end. We hoped for a beach and when we stepped out of the car we were excited to see this sign. Immediately we set off down the many stairs in search of the sea.

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Although it was quite a trek down, our explorer hearts were truly excited when our feet finally landed on the sand and we noticed that we had the whole beautiful beach to ourselves.

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We even discovered a few turtle nests!

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We desperately wanted to stay longer and enjoy the natural beauty and peace that we found at this special, hidden beach but more adventures were waiting… on the LARC!

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The LARC Tours at 1770 are one of only a few tourist activities you can book in the area and we decided it would be fun to experience it as a family. As the vehicle made it’s way through the shallow waters of the inlet and over the ridge to the sand flats created by the low tide, we were able to see what the ocean floor looks like and it was mighty bumpy! Daisy didn’t mind though, she fell asleep immediately!

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The tour guide was fantastic and asked us some quiz questions about some of the wildlife we were able to see from the LARC. We learned that crabs ‘scuttle’ and create those little balls of sand through their mouth as they eat the micro-nutrients found in the sand.

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We also spotted some Pied Oystercatchers which were fascinating birds to learn about, and we especially liked that they mate for life (so that is a male and female pair in the photo) and are territorial, ‘owning’ their own section of beach. The guide mentioned there were two other pairs on the same beach but they all kept to their own areas.

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As we turned around the tour guide asked if any children would like to drive the LARC! We were on  board with only one other family who had a teenager and a younger son so he was first to drive. Hannah and Blake both had a go too and it was so fun seeing them steer the vehicle and try to follow the lines the guide had created on the way up the beach. Hannah was basically a pro and looked very comfortable with that big steering wheel (the guide controlled the brake/accelerator).

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It was such a fun experience to do with the kids and very family friendly. Daisy slept through almost all of it and was so relaxed at the end, she didn’t even want to get off! We would definitely recommend a LARC tour if you’re ever in the area 🙂

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But our adventures didn’t stop there! We drove to the point (about 2 minutes drive!) and discovered something very special. Brian vaguely remembered an anchor during his camping trip here with his parents and suddenly we had found one! Brian wasn’t sure if this was it but we decided to take a photo anyway and ask Brian’s mum once we arrived at their place for Christmas (it turns out this was definitely it! And Brian had been here as a 4 year old boy – the same age Blake is!!!)

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We could see the sea and walked past the anchor to gaze at the view. I even managed to set up the self-timer so we could capture a family snap of what was a magical family day full of fun and adventure!

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The next day we arrived at Brian’s familys house and the kids quickly discovered a few water guns and the wading pool. Queensland summers are hot, hot, hot so there is always some sort of water play for the kids every Christmas.

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On Christmas Eve we spend the day preparing for the annual party Brian’s mum and step-dad always host. We baked some cupcakes together and Hannah kindly insisted on washing up almost every pile of dishes over the 4 days that we stayed!

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Christmas Eve was lovely, full of good food and fun games.

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And finally it was Christmas!!! (I took a lot of video with my camera of the present opening and the rest of the morning so there is no other photos. )We tried to capture a nice family photo but this was the best we could get!

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Lunch was at Brian’s Nanna’s house. She is now 94 and still lives in the house she has lived in all her married life (Brian’s grandad passed away a few years ago aged 91). Most of Brian’s childhood memories were made here, especially Christmas ones, and he remembers often playing on the slip and slide after Christmas lunch. So we made sure it happened and it was special to see how much happiness it gave Brian and his Nanna 🙂

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And just like that it was time to head home. I didn’t really document the trip home even though we free-camped again over night, it just felt like it dragged and we had a lot of rain too. But we made it home safely and spent the next day celebrating Christmas with my family and going out to lunch for my birthday.

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My parents had a party for New Years Eve so we decided to stay over and help out and the sky even gave us some love for the last day of 2014…

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Brian then went away for work for a few days and when he came home we celebrated his 30th birthday! Since it’s summer and we have a pool we went with a Hawaiian themed party and it was so much fun! My dad used his special traditional Croatian BBQ to cook the meat and that added a really unique touch! Everyone dressed up and we gave away a prize for best-dressed and then we did a ’30 questions about Brian’ quiz which was so funny! I would love to go to more themed parties they really feel like a celebration!

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And that’s it! We’re taking a break from celebrating now! But we’re not taking a break from travelling… there will be more family adventures in February so we are very much looking forward to that!!

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Family Camping with our Tribe

During my pregnancy with Blake I became increasingly desperate for a community of like-minded families to surround ours in support and friendship. I tried a few different groups and then finally struck gold when Blake was a few months old. These mamas were exactly what I was looking for and our connections have meant so much to me and my family over the last 4 years.

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Something we began doing as a group a couple of years ago was camping! Brian and I had already been camping with the kids a few times before and this was exactly how we enjoyed our holidays, so to do it with our friends was a bonus.

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We began camping two to three times a year and increasingly our locations turned bush, which lead to Brian and I really falling in love with basic, bush camping. This time we went to a farm-stay which has more amenities than we normally have, but with three small kids, it’s always welcomed!

We had such a great time. We drove down interstate to the camping location the day before everyone else did, and the kids lit a small campfire and toasted a few marshmallows to celebrate.

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The site we had booked as a group was quite sunny, so the children were able to witness a lot of discussion and negotiation as we all worked out how to set up our ‘living areas’ (lots of gazebos pushed together to create our kitchen, eating and lounging zones).

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The kids were always around, helping in their own little ways 😉

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The dam was incredible and we spent quite a bit of time there. Hannah loved the kayaks and enjoyed paddling them with or without me or Brian joining her.  Blake was slightly more hesitant, but with the dam water being so murky I couldn’t really blame him. It was so calming just being there among the water-lillies and the dragonflies. I love being in new environments, and for the children it always sparks their creativity and imaginations.

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One of the plans us mamas had while camping as a group, was to indulge in some yoga, chanting and meditation together. Many of us have been on a journey of self-discovery and self-love this year, and yoga and meditation were some activities that quite a few of us had enjoyed before, so we wanted to share that as a group.  It was beautiful to connect in this way, whilst also nourishing ourselves as people first.

The children were free to join in as they pleased and most of the older kids got right into it, especially with some of the more up-beat chanting music that we had available. A friend and I had been to a Kundalini yoga retreat a month prior and most of that music is very uplifting and positive.  Even Daisy tried out a few yoga poses! On the last day, all our partners sat and supported us by watching us and the kids, and it was lovely to have their encouraging presence around us while we took time to care for ourselves. So beautifully nourishing and revitalising.

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Of-course being a farmstay, there were quite a few animals to feed and pat and cuddle so the kids spent many hours enjoying those experiences. Hannah and Blake predictably adored the bunnies and were devastated that we couldn’t take a couple home (they’re considered a pest in our state).

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We even discovered a Mulberry tree on the property and the kids were excited to climb the trees and taste as many Mulberry’s as they liked.

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Apart from the animals, the campfire every night was a sacred, much-anticipated event for the kids and the adults alike. The first camping trip we went on where we were able to light a big campfire, we set up a rope around the perimeter and explained to the children to stay on the outside of it. So many people had expressed their surprise at doing a big fire with small children around, but like with everything a lot of trust and a little adult supervision means the children have always been free to enjoy it as the amazing experience that it is.

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Five days, eleven families, and over twenty children under the age of 6 enjoying nature, time together, exploring and learning… well, I call that a successful holiday!!!