So what is all about? Well... hopefully, by the time we are done, it will be a comprehensive journal about a family of 5 who have travelled around Australia to see the sights and also do some volunteer work around the country! In Mid 2010 we started thinking about what it would take to fulfil a life-long dream... We wanted to bundle up our 3 kids, pack-up the house, jump in the car and hit the road - probably for about 12 months. It sounds so simple ... At the start of January 2013, after almost 15 months on the road; we finally completed Our Big Aussie Road Trip. We hope that you enjoyed following our adventures, trials and tribulations as much as we enjoyed having them!

28 September, 2012

Palm Cove, Cairns

Sunday 16th  we packed up at the Rocky creek war memorial rest area,  said goodbye to our new friends and drove to Palm Cove, not far north of Cairns.  As we drove past Kuranda (and started winding down the hill towards Cairns) we could see all the buildings and hustle and bustle of cars.  We had made it to the busy east coast (Cooktown wasn’t busy, so that doesn’t count!).
The view over toward Cairns as we came down the mountain from Kuranda
We checked into the Palm Cove Caravan park and camping ground which is right opposite the beach and the jetty at Palm Cove.  The campsite is a council run campsite and therefore it is nice and cheap.  We opted for an unpowered site which cost us the family rate of $20 per night - so we booked in for a week.  We had a lovely shady site which was great except that our solar panel is fixed to the caravan roof,  but we have become very good at conserving electricity so it wasn’t a problem. After setting up we headed off down to the beach and Jetty to have a look, what a beautiful place.
Walking along the jetty at Palm Cove, North of Cairns

The Beach and coastline at Palm Cove, North of Cairns

That night we discovered the amenities block which is brand new and has the best shower heads that we have had at any campground the whole way around Australia (could this place be any better?).

On Monday 17th it was time to try and get school completed for the term, so we spent a good part of the morning getting school work done.  Then at lunch time Noah and Emma appeared at our caravan as they had just arrived to stay for a few days so the kids settled into playing.  Then we noticed Dan and Amy and their girls Emily and Ella who we met at Cape Tribulation had also arrived and were setting up.  Later that afternoon we headed into Cairns to find where we needed to go the next morning as we had booked ourselves to go out to the Great Barrier Reef.  We also had post to collect from the post office.  Liz and the kids headed to the foreshore playground and Mike headed to the post office.  The playground was huge with lots of sections to explore and even a waterplay area,  which the kids loved and got soaked.  Unfortunately our post hadn’t arrived so we would have to check it again later in the week.

Sam, Josh and Natalie playing at the foreshore park in Cairns

We didn't have swimmers, but that didn't stop the kids from getting soaked :)
Tuesday 18th Sept - We set off early to Cairns and checked in at the Reef Magic Terminal and boarded our boat to go to the reef.
Checking in for our Great Barrier Reef trip

The boat ride took an hour and a half,  thankfully we had a very calm sea so no one got sick.  When we arrived at the reef we got ourselves geared up and headed into the water to snorkel - we had a great time spotting fish and looking at the beautiful coral.
Ready for a snorkel on the reef

The kids in front of the snorkeling area

Mike booked in to do a Scuba dive so when he headed off to do that Liz and the kids boarded the semi submersible which took you to a different part of the reef to where you snorkel.  They saw a sea turtle and many more fish and coral.  Mike hadn’t dived for about 6 years, but easily remembered everything for the dive.  He thoroughly enjoyed his scuba dive - he even got to pat Wally, the massive Maori wrasse, he was a big blue fish.  Josh and Natalie had tried to touch Wally when snorkeling, they would dive down, and they came so close but missed each time.
Wally, a local resident at the Reef Magic snorkeling area

A large Clam that Natalie saw from the Glass Bottom Boat

Next it was time for a buffet lunch before some more snorkeling fun.  Natalie and Liz also headed out on the glass bottom boat while the boys continued to snorkel.  Sam learnt to snorkel this afternoon, he needs some practice but now has the idea.
The kids on the platform where you enter the water

Natalie absolutely loves snorkeling and looking at the amazing life below the waves

Liz and Natalie enjoying the reef

The boat ride back was smooth sailing again we had all had a fantastic day,  on the way back we saw a whale breaching in the distance.

We were all pretty tired on the boat ride back to shore after a great day on the reef

Wednesday 19th Sept we spent the morning around the campground and after lunch we headed down to the beach for a swim,  Noah and Emma and their parents joined us at the beach. Josh, Sam and Noah spent most of the afternoon riding bikes and building Bionicles while Natalie decided to go fishing with Mike at the jetty with the pippies she had collected at the beach, they had fun but didn’t catch anything.

Thursday 20th Sept  we said goodbye to our friends Noah and Emma as they we heading off.  And then we jumped in the car to head north for the day.  Our first stop was the supermarket at Mossman to get some food for lunch.  We then had a look at the Mossman gorge visitors centre  before continuing on.  We stopped to have a look for Crocodiles on the Daintree River,  Mike decided to join some local people fishing off the wharf,  he didn’t catch anything but we did see a rather large crocodile swimming along in the river.
At the Daintree River where croc spotting tours depart

Mike Fishing in the Daintree River
A large estuarine crocodile swimming in the Daintree River

Next we went down to the ferry and watched it load and unload (we didn’t go on it) and then we continued back to the main road and up to Daintree Township to have a look around.
This statue of a Cassowary is the closest thing we've seen to a real Cassowary on our trip!

The kids had spied the skate park in Mossman earlier, so we decided to head back there for a late lunch and the kids had a great time riding their scooters at the skate park.
Josh enjoying the skate park in Mossman

Lunchtime at the skate park

From here we went to Port Douglas,  we had a play and a walk at Anzac park which is right on the water,  we had a look from the lookout and ate our afternoon tea at the beach.  Port Douglas was very busy and even the beach felt crowded.  We were so glad we were camped at Palm cove and not Port Douglas.  We then headed back to Palm cove and enjoyed a swim at the (not crowded) beach.

Port Douglas from the lookout

A very crowded Port Douglas Beach

And a nice and quiet Palm Cove Beach!
 Friday 21st Sept we rang the post office in Cairns and our parcel had arrived, so we headed for Cairns collected the post and then went swimming at the beautiful foreshore lagoon pool, which was very busy but nice to cool off.  After we had had enough swimming we headed back to our nice and peaceful campsite at Palm Cove (how are we going to cope with the crowds of Sydney).

The free lagoon on the Cairns Foreshore

The next day (Saturday 22nd September) was our full day at Palm Cove and we only ventured 3kms down the road to Coles for the much needed food supplies.  We spent the rest of the day around the van and on the beach enjoying a beautiful spot.  We were so glad that we stopped at Palm Cove for a full week. It felt like a little 'summer holiday' from the constant travelling that we've been doing and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

26 September, 2012


After leaving Cooktown we headed to a free camp at Mount Molloy where we set up for two nights.  When we were doing our Cape York trip we didn't get as much school work done as we thought we might (as it’s a bit hard in the tent!) so we were a bit behind and needed to catch-up so we took the opportunity (while free camping) to have a school day and catch up on our school work,  which worked really well.
Catching up on School work in Mount Molloy
One of the locals watching us do our school
Sam kept himself entertained by playing cars in the dirt - one of his favourite games

Friday 14th September we left Mount Molloy and drove to Rocky Creek War Memorial rest area which was about 14km out of Atherton.  We set up there for two nights with about 30 other free-campers.  This rest area was actually an army base and Hospital during World War II.  There were lots of photos and information about the site at the Memorial.  From here we went into Atherton and did a bit of shopping.  We also visited the Atherton lookout which has beautiful views over the tablelands.  On returning to our campsite we met another family who had set up near us, and our kids had a great time playing with their new friends Noah and Emma from Perth.  The next morning after the kids had had another good play with their friends we headed out to have a look around the area. Our first stop was Platypus park in Atherton, the kids had fun climbing all over an old train engine and playing on the playground and then we stood on the viewing platform at the creek to watch and wait in the hope that we might see a platypus, and we did.  We watched the platypus for quite a while as it fossicked along the edge.  Every now and then it would dive down and resurface a little further on.  We've seen most other iconic Australian Native Animals on our trip but not the platypus, so it was great to see the first platypus of our trip.
A Platypus at Platypus Park

Josh climbing on the steam engine
After Platypus park we headed out to Lake Tinaroo.  On the way out to the Lake we stopped at a Strawberry farm and had lots of fun picking our own punnet of strawberries, and they were very tasty.
Natalie picking her strawberries at the strawberry farm
Lake Tinaroo is a beautiful dam which is used for all kinds of watersports,  the kids had fun playing on the playground before we headed off around the dam to see what we could find. We stopped in at one of the campsites around the lake and had lunch as we watched people waterskiing on the lake.
Lake Tinaroo

From here we continued around the lake until we found the Cathedral Fig tree.  We were expecting to find a big tree – however what we found was the most amazing tree we have ever seen!  It completely took our breath away and reminded us of ‘home tree’ in the movie Avatar.  Our photos don’t capture how awesome this tree was.
The amazing Cathedral Fig Tree

This 500 year old monster was just awesome
From here we continued on to Lake Barrine which is a crater Lake and we did a short walk to see the Twin Kauri Trees,  they were big and tall but having just come from the Cathedral fig tree they were a bit ho-hum.  So we moved on, we thought we would find the Curtain Fig tree next,  it was also a beautiful tree but not as spectacular as the Cathedral Fig.  If we had visited the Cathedral tree last we might have thought differently about this tree.  After this we headed back to camp and the kids spent the rest of the afternoon playing with Noah and Emma.
The Curtain Fig Tree

24 September, 2012

The Bloomfield Track and Cape Tribulation

After leaving Lakeland, we headed toward Cape Tribulation via the Bloomfield Track.  We didn’t quite know what to expect with this drive because we had heard that it was a '4WD only' track and we didn’t quite know how bad it would get.  After leaving the highway (which goes up to Cooktown) we drove along more dirt road (with some bitumen sections).  The road got a bit windy but was a pretty good road most of the way toward Wujal Wujal.  We stopped for lunch at a beach on the Coral Sea just outside of Wujal Wujal.  After lunch, we got to the Bloomfield river and this is where the Bloomfield track really starts.  The Bloomfield track winds up some very steep mountain ranges and we quickly found ourselves in low range with our diffs locked in order to get up the dusty and rocky hills.  Some of the steepest sections were sealed to protect the road, but we were still glad we didn’t meet an off road tour bus coming the other way as it was quite tight!  There was also one decent water crossing on the track (with a couple of other smaller ones) and if it had been wet at all, we’re sure that the track would be impassable.  Nonetheless, once we were over the ranges, we dropped down some steep hills to the other side and found ourselves inside the Daintree Rainforest and almost at Cape Tribulation.  The Bloomfield track was much shorter than we had anticipated, but we were really glad we took that route to get to Cape Trib.  We stopped at Cape Tribulation Beach to have a look and do a very quick boardwalk through the Daintree rainforest to a lookout platform.

Looking over Cape Tribulation Beach
We had been given a tip that Cape Trib camping was a good place to go (thanks Geoff and Julie), so we left the beach and went to book in there for 2 nights.  Once we’d completed our last ‘setup’ for our Cape York Camping trip, we went and explored the beach.  There are crocodiles and marine stingers in these waters, so we weren’t game to go for a swim (unlike other people) but we did manage to find a coconut under one of the many coconut trees growing along this stretch of coast.  It was a bit of a tough job opening the coconut, but was very satisfying when it was all ready to be cracked and eaten.
Mike cracking our first coconut

Sam holding 'the prize' which was hidden inside a hardy husk

Mike did a bit of fishing (but didn’t catch anything) and the kids played on the sand for a while until it was time to start thinking about dinner and bed.
Natalie building a sandcastle on the beach

Wanting to make the most of the full day that we had planned at Cape Trib, we got going early on Sunday 9th September and headed south from Cape Trib toward the Daintree River.  Our first stop was a boardwalk which snaked through rainforest and mangrove swamps.  It was a great walk and the kids enjoyed seeing all the different types of tress and the diversity of the rainforest.
An amazing 'hollow vine' which had grown over a tree (that had long since disintegrated)

On our rainforest walk
After our boardwalk, we decided to have some morning tea at ‘Floravilla’ which is an organic ice-creamery.  We bought a couple of tubs and sampled some of their delicious icecream.  Our next stop was Cow Bay.  We all went beach-combing at Cow Bay, and Liz & Natalie made a shell Mermaid while Josh made a picture of Mike as a belated Fathers Day present.
Natalie and her shell mermaid at Cow Bay

Josh made a stone picture of dad

We enjoyed the beautiful Cow Bay for about an hour before heading on to have lunch near the Daintree Discovery Centre.  After lunch we walked along another rainforest boardwalk.  The rainforest is certainly very different to the vegetation that we’ve seen for about the last 6 months, and it was really quite beautiful walking through the forest and seeing all that the ecosystem has to offer.

On our way toward the Daintree river Ferry (which was as far south as we wanted to go), we stopped at a lookout where we could see the mouth of the Daintree River.
A lookout showing the mouth of the Daintree River in the distance
We finally got to the Ferry that crosses the Daintree river, and so we hopped out of the car and watched the ferry cross back and forth a couple of times.  We’d seen everything that we wanted to see between Cape Trib and the Daintree river, so when we left the ferry, we drove straight back to our campsite.  There was a bit of time before dinner, so we headed out onto the beach for a walk.  While we were walking along the beach, it started to rain on us.  This was the first bit of rain we had seen on our camping trip (which was such a blessing because camping with tents in the rain is not great fun).  It’s really another example of God blessing us so much along our Big Aussie Road Trip (like the 10 months of perfect weather we’ve had so far) and we do feel His presence a lot as we travel around this wonderful land that he created.  As we walked along in the rain, the kids tried to catch raindrops on their tongues to ‘have a drink’.  We all got quite wet, but enjoyed the feeling of being rained on for the first time in a long time.

We’d heard that the Wood Fired Pizza at Cape Trib Camping was very nice, so we decided to treat ourselves to an ‘end of camping’ dinner to celebrate our 14 nights in the tent.  We had a beautiful dinner of wood fired pizza and even had a dessert pizza (Banana and Nutella which was very tasty).  While we were eating dinner, we got chatting to a couple (Dan and Amy) and their 2 little girls who were from Victoria and have done a similar trip to ours (over to WA and around the top) in about 7 months.  It’s great to chat with like-minded people (with kids) who are doing a similar thing to us and it was a nice way to spend our last night before reuniting with the caravan in Cooktown.

Monday the 10th September was the last morning of our ‘Cape York Camping Trip’ and so we packed up the tents for the last time (at least for a while).  We were all packed up and ready to go by 8:45am so we decided to go for another walk on the beach.  The kids had found a rope swing and a cubby house the day before and wanted another turn on the swing.  As we were playing on the Beach, Dan, Amy and their 2 girls came along and so we spent quite a while chatting while the kids played together.  It had been a bit of a windy night the night before, and 2 more coconuts had blown down from the trees, so Mike de-husked them and we kept them to eat in the future.  Soon it was time to leave Cape Trip camping and head back along the Bloomfield track toward Cooktown.  Our first stop on the track was a Beach that we saw and wanted to have a look.  When we walked out onto the sand, there were thousands of soldier crabs that swarmed across the beach which provided a few minutes of fun for the kids as they caught some before they buried themselves in the sand.  Mike also found another coconut and when we got back to the car he opened it on a tree stump so that we could munch on some fresh coconut flesh.
Some Mangroves growing on the beach we stopped at on the way back to Cooktown

Coconut Man!
We crossed back through the steep sections of the Bloomfield track and crossed over the Bloomfield River.  
The Bloomfield track is much steeper than it looks in this photo!

Another section of the Bloomfield Track
We wanted to have a look at the Bloomfield falls, so we stopped and walked along the short track to the waterfall.  There was lots of water in the river, but it would be a much more impressive sight at the height of the wet season.
Bloomfield Falls
After the Falls, we drove to the historic “Lions Den Hotel” where we had a look around. It was an interesting pub with lots of bric-a-brac hanging around the bar as well as some very interesting plants including a Jade vine and a Canonball fruit tree.
The Jade Vine at Lions Den Hotel
We stopped to have a look at 'Black Mountain' on the way back to Cooktown, and our last stop on the way back was at Keatings Lagoon where there was a bird hide next to a large lagoon.  We spent a while looking at the Magpie Geese and other water birds in the lagoon.  As we were leaving the bird hide, Liz spotted a small, thin tree snake which had slithered onto the handrail.
Black Mountain

A few Magpie Geese at Keatings Lagoon

A tree snake that slithered along the handrail at Keatings Lagoon

It was then time to head into Cooktown and pickup our caravan.  We had really enjoyed our trip to ‘the top’ and our Cape Trib Camping trip.   We’d been away from our caravan for 14 nights and were looking forward to getting back into a ‘permanent structure’ where we wouldn’t have to setup and packup the tent each time we wanted to move on.  We checked into the Big 4 in Cooktown where we’d spend the next 2 nights.

Tuesday 11th September was the day to try and get the van organised again - and all our camping gear unpacked and washed up.  Unfortunately it rained quiet heavily that morning so not as much washing got done as we would have liked.  We didn’t do much else that day.  The next morning we found that we had a flat tyre on the car (I was surprised that it had a nail in it, as opposed to splitting due to the rough conditions we had put them through for the last 2 weeks!), so we organised a late checkout at the van park and dropped the flat tyre in to be repaired.  We thought we’d use the time to go and visit the James Cook Museum.  We had a good look around at all the interesting things they had on display there.  The Museum had been organised very well and we were glad we went and had a look.  Soon it was time to hook up the van and drive out of Cooktown – continuing our drive down the east coast.
Josh, Natalie and Sam in front of the Endeavour's Anchor - recovered from the sea floor near Cooktown in 1969