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!

15 October, 2012

Airlie Beach, Mackay and Carmila Beach

On Sat 6th October it was time to drive out of Townsville, bound for Airlie Beach.  On the way south, we stopped at ‘The Big Mango’ to take some photos and have lunch.
The kids at the Big Mango, South of Airlie Beach

Overall, the kids travel really well.  Sam drew a 'cool car'

When we got to Airlie beach, we pulled into the caravan park and setup the caravan.  It was a pretty hot day, so we went for a refreshing dip in the pool at the caravan park before jumping into the car and having a look around town.  After a quick drive around the township of Airlie beach, we drove out to Shute Harbour to see where all the boats leave to head out to the Whitsunday Islands.

Airlie Beach, Whitsundays

Shute Harbour, Queensland

The next morning, Liz had a stroll through the shops on the main street.  After lunch we decided to go and swim at the free lagoon pool in the centre of Airlie beach.  It is a huge pool, resort style pool that is a great asset for the area.  We spent an hour there enjoying the beautiful pool in the warm weather.  Unfortunately the Midges (Sandflies) were really bad at Airlie Beach and we all got pretty sick of them even in the 2 nights we were there.
Airlie Beach's free "resort style" lagoon pool

Term 4 of School started on Monday 8th October, so we did some schoolwork in the morning and then drove out of Airlie Beach at about 10am.  We stopped at Proserpine to pickup some post, and then kept on driving to Mackay.

Mackay seemed very big and busy to us (even having spent a week in Townsville – which is twice the size of Mackay).  On Monday afternoon, we went to the visitor information centre to grab some information on the town, and then we did a big food shop to restock our bare cupboards.  When we had finished shopping, we drove to the free Lagoon Pool in Mackay (called the Bluewater Lagoon) and had a swim and a play there before it closed.  The Mackay Lagoon Pools were huge, with a water slide and a kids water park.  We were very impressed with this free pool and knew we would be back the next day.

We did quite a bit of school on Tuesday morning because the kid’s seemed to be coping quite well with the start of term.  By Lunchtime, all the school was done so we headed out and about.  We drove out to the Harbour (which has a large breakwall you can drive onto).
Watching a tug come into the Mackay Harbour

After a look at the Harbour Beach and the Marina, we drove back to the ‘Bluewater Lagoon’ and spent a few hours swimming, using the waterslide and playing in the water park.
The waterpark at Bluewater Lagoon in Mackay

Bluewater Lagoon, Mackay

We didn’t feel that we needed to see anything more in Mackay, so we left Mackay on Wednesday morning, after a bit of schoolwork, and we drove to a free camp about 100km south of Mackay called ‘Carmila Beach’.

When we pulled into Carmila Beach, it was really hot but there was a nice breeze blowing which made it bearable (and kept the Midge's away!).  Carmila Beach is a beautiful beach and we were amazed to see the difference in the waterline between Low tide and High tide.
Carmila Beach at Low tide

Carmila Beach at High tide
After we’d had lunch, we needed to go ‘collecting’ for a school subject that Josh and Natalie were doing (making a windchime), so we went for a long walk along the beach and collected driftwood and shells that would be a part of Josh and Natalie’s windchimes.  The rest of the afternoon was spent designing and constructing their windchimes – which they really enjoyed.

Josh, Natalie, Sam and Liz at Carmila Beach

The finished product of the windchimes that Natalie and Josh made as part of their schoolwork
We left Carmila Beach on Thursday the 11th October after doing a morning session of schoolwork.  It was quite a long drive (for recent times) but we drove a few hundred kilometres to Rockhampton.  As we drove south, the weather started to turn bad and we drove through some rain for a while.  When we stopped for lunch at Marlborough, it was raining quite hard on us (and it felt cold) but this was quite a novelty for us considering the fantastic weather we've had for the last year.

Josh showing off one of his lego creations - our car and caravan

13 October, 2012


The great thing about driving along the East Coast of Australia (as compared with the majority of the North, West, South or Central Australia) is that you never have to drive too far before coming to the next interesting place to stop.  For many months, we’ve been driving hundreds of kilometres in each hop just to cover the vastness of Australia, but now that we’re on the east coast, it requires a very different approach.

On Saturday 29th September, we drove about 160Km (which felt like a big drive!) from Forrest Beach to Townsville.  We decided to stay at the Riverview Convention Centre, which is a Seventh Day Adventist centre that has a caravan park attached to it.  It was extremely reasonably priced ($150 per week, with power and water) and we needed to do a lot of things while we were in Townsville, so we decided to book in for a week.  We had the van all setup by lunchtime and so we decided that after lunch we would have a look around Townsville.
One of the locals was watching us setup the caravan

We drove into town and found the ‘Castle Hill’ Lookout, which is a major landmark in Townsville.  The lookout is magnificent and gives a great view over Townsville and Magnetic Island off the coast.  We spent quite a bit of time walking around the different vantage points at Castle Hill before descending back down the steep and winding road to find ‘The Strand’ which is the foreshore park area in Townsville.

Townsville from 'Castle Hill Lookout with Magnetic Island in the background

It wasn’t long before we found the free Water Playground and the kids had an absolute ball splashing around in the water, sliding down slides and standing under the big tipping bucket, while Mike and Liz sat on the grass and watched all the fun.

The Strand water park in Townsville

Josh and Sam enjoying getting wet in Townsville

Everyone was exhausted that night from the big few days that had just passed.  It was the middle of the 2 week school holidays, so on the last day of September (Sunday 30th) we had a very lazy day:  One of Josh’s wobbly teeth fell out in the morning (which he dutifully kept to put under his pillow for the tooth fairy). We watched some TV in the morning and got some washing done while the kids rode their bikes and played around the caravan.  We ventured down to the Ross River where there is a great bike path and recreation area with playgrounds and picnic tables.  After lunch we decided to go to Big W to do some shopping and look for a new bike for Josh (because he has had his bike since he was 4 and it is now way too small for him), so we bought him a new BMX bike which is much more suitable for his size (and Sam now has Josh’s old bike – which is much more suitable for his size too).  Once we’d assembled the new bike, Josh (and Natalie and Sam) spent the rest of the afternoon riding around and enjoying the speed that a larger bike gave him.
Monday 1st October was a public holiday, so not much was open.  We decided to do a big spring clean of the caravan on Monday morning, and that kept us busy all morning.  In the afternoon, we went and found one of the free Lagoon pools and enjoyed a nice swim next to the river.  After we’d had a swim, we went to the skate park where the kids rode their scooters.  The Townsville skate park was well used by the Masons over the week we were there.  Josh got a new scooter in Townsville because his one broke, and he loved trying all the jumps and ramps with a new, fast scooter.  Natalie and Sam also really enjoyed scooting around the skate park too.

One of the free lagoon pools in Townsville

Natalie, Mike and Sam cooling off

Natalie and Sam loved the skate park

The reason that we were staying in Townsville for a week was to complete quite a long list of things that needed to done.  We had organised for one item on our list to be done on each day we were in Townsville, so Tuesday morning was a Dentist appointment for Mike and having Bruiser (our Landcruiser) inspected at ‘Pedders’ (to see if the 1000Km of Dirt road on Cape York did any permanent damage), Wednesday was putting Bruiser in for service, Thursday was another dentist appointment for Mike and Friday was putting the Caravan in for a wheel bearing service.  In between all these jobs, we managed to fit in lots of: skating at the skate park, splashing around at the water park, walking along the Ross River (with the kids riding their bikes), shopping at Big W, Coles & Kmart, and just hanging around the caravan and riding bikes and scooters.  We also liked spotting the RAAF fighter jets which seemed to buzz constantly overhead during the day.
Townsville was quite a busy stop for us, but we got everything done that we wanted to do and managed to see most of the major attractions in Townsville while we were there too, but by Saturday 6th October, we were ready to continue our journey South.
Sam using the resources at the Townsville Library

Josh is now an avid reader and so a trip to the library was perfect for him

Josh using his new scooter - he got quite good by the 4th trip to the skate park

Walking along the Ross River

Some Magpie Geese along the Ross River

The kids loved climbing on this turtle at one of the many parks in Townsville

Mike was the only one to take a fall at the skate park and was a bit sore for a few days!

06 October, 2012

Cairns to Townsville

We said our goodbye to Cairns on Sunday the 23rd September and drove a little way South.  We had heard that “The Boulders” (which is a free camp 40Km south of Cairns) was pretty good and had some good swimming holes, so we made our way there.  We found the campsite and were reversing the van into a spot when the March Flies descended in droves!  It reminded us of our stay at the Shannon National Park in Western Australia, and so we decided that we wouldn’t stay at The Boulders for the night.  However we wanted to see The Boulders, so we took the van down to the day use area, and had a look through a beautiful valley with massive granite boulders lining the river bed.
The Boulders
It was a hot day, so we all went for a swim in the refreshing waters to cool down.  After consulting our trusty ‘Camps 5’ Book, we found a cheap, Council run campground at Bramston Beach, which is east of Babinda.  We drove out there and found a nice grassy, sunny spot to park the van for a few nights.  After being in the shade of Palm Cove for a week, our solar panel really needed some sun to charge up our Batteries (as this was another unpowered camping ground).

Because it was school holidays, there were lots of other kids around the campground, and it didn’t take long for Josh, Natalie and Sam to make some new friends; Addison, Anna, and Josh to name a few.  They spent hours playing Bullrush, Bionicles, Lego and tiggy (tag or tip as we know  it) with their new friends at the playground.
Josh and Sam playing Lego with a new friend at Bramston Beach
Bramston Beach was a beautiful sandy beach, but the water (like so many of the beaches in North Queensland) was quite murky.  We swam in the beach (even though there could be stingers and crocodiles present – these are unlikely to be around, but are possible to be there) and it was good to have a cool dip and splash around in the small waves.
Bramston Beach
We didn’t spend much time in the water, but enjoyed the swims that we did have while we were there.  The kids also loved playing with all the other kids and riding their bikes around the campground.  We had 2 nights at Bramston beach before moving a bit further south.

Our original plan was to stay at Flying Fish Point, but after a quick drive-by, we decided to push further south and go to Mission Beach.  Upon arrival at Mission beach, we found a council run campsite (with power and water) for $18 per night (which was $2 cheaper than we’d been paying for no power for the last week and a half!!), so we booked in for 2 nights.  Sometimes it pays not to look online and book ahead because I am sure we would not have found this place if we hadn’t just driven right past it.  Admittedly, the amenities weren’t the greatest we’d used, but the campground was right on the beach and we could have a look around the area while we were staying there, so it suited us just fine.
Josh doing one of his favourite things on Mission Beach, Queensland
Mission Beach, Queensland

Going Swimming at Mission Beach

Mission Beach looks out to Dunk Island, and the ocean was actually clear (not murky) which was a nice change.  We spent a bit of time in the water during our stay at Mission Beach, but while we were in the area we also had a look at South Mission Beach, went for a walk to the lookout at Clump Point, Mike did some fishing (with no luck) and we just enjoyed walking along the Coconut tree lined beach.

This Golden Orb Spider was as big as Mike's outstretched hand

Unfortunately we never saw a cassowary in the wild

We left Mission Beach on Thursday the 27th September and drove to Forrest Beach (east of Ingham) where we had found a campground attached to the Forrest Beach Hotel for $20 a night (with no power).  Having no power isn't really a problem for us because our Solar Panel and batteries allow us to still run the fans (which we’ve installed over the kids beds to help with sleeping on hot nights) and to charge/run all our electronic devices.  Anyway, we setup at Forrest Beach (which wasn’t a great swimming beach, so we didn’t swim at all while we were there) and spent the afternoon playing cricket, soccer, Frisbee and throwing the tennis ball to each other because there was a large grassed area (with no other campers) that we could play on – it was great fun.

One of the reasons we wanted to stay in the Ingham area was to go and see the Wallaman Falls (which is Australia's highest, permanent, single-drop waterfall), so on Friday the 28th September we had a day touring around the local area to see the sights.  Firstly, we stopped at Lucinda, which is a town that has the worlds longest Sugar Cane Jetty.  There is so much sugar cane growing in the areas North and South of Ingham.  We have had to stop at numerous ‘Cane Train’ crossings to let the cane trains pass with their many carriages of harvested sugar cane.
Stopped for a Cane Train

Another Cane Train taking cane to the processing plant
The kids have been quite fascinated with the whole cane process and watching the sugar cane being grown, harvested, transported and then finally shipped out on the loooong jetty at Lucinda.
The sugar cane jetty at Lucinda

Mike and the kids at Lucinda

After Lucinda, we drove to the Wallaman Falls.  Wallaman Falls is an incredible waterfall (even in the dry) which drops a staggering 268 metres in one drop.  We stopped and watched the water tumbling over the cliffs for a while.  We decided not to do the 2Km walk down to the bottom (although that would have been amazing) because the kids were tired and the track is not a maintained walking trail so we were unsure of the condition.  It also started raining on us a little when we were there.
Liz and the kids at Wallaman Falls

Wallaman Falls are truly spectacular

After some lunch, we had a quick look at the camping ground at Wallaman Falls and stopped to have a walk along the river, where we saw 15 turtles swimming in the river below us.
Turtles in the river at the top of Wallaman Falls

These calves didn't seem too bothered by passing traffic!

Our final destination for the day was the Tyto Wetlands, just outside of Ingham.  We drove back from Wallaman Falls (about 50Km) to Ingham and after a brief stop at the visitor information centre, we went out to the Tyto Wetlands.  We thought there was a boardwalk around the wetland, so the kids took their scooters, but unfortunately there was no boardwalk!  Nonetheless, the kids did well scooting along on the grass, and it was a break from walking so they didn’t mind at all.  The wetlands weren’t particularly spectacular and we didn’t see too much wildlife, so we were glad we only did the short walk and not the full 4km loop track.

Tyto Wetlands, Ingham

It was quite late by the time we got back to the caravan at Forrest Beach and we were all quite tired, so we all took it easy before enjoying a lovely corned beef dinner which we'd cooked in our Dreampot that morning.

We felt that we’d seen everything that we wanted to see around the Ingham Area, and so decided that we would leave Forrest Beach and drive to Townsville on the morning of Saturday 29th September.