The Blonde Nomads’ guide to family camping & road-trips
What is the most rewarding thing about road-tripping and camping with kids?
The most rewarding thing would be seeing the kids learn and grow every day. Each destination brings new experiences and discoveries and their little faces light up as they explore and learn. Being able to spend this time with them while they’re young is also super important to us.
What are some top kids’ experiences you’ve discovered in NSW?
We all love animals, so any up-close nature experience is a huge hit for our kids. One big standout is Altina Wildlife Park (located in Darlington Point, in the Riverina region), which specialises in the conservation of endangered species and features a range of Australian and exotic animals. It’s a bit of a ‘zoo-fari’ as the only way to see the animals is by a horse-drawn cart and a dedicated tour guide.
Getting lost in Bago Maze in Port Macquarie is also super fun. With more than 2000m of pathways, bridges and hedges, it’s one of the world’s largest hedge mazes. The kids loved getting lost and finding all the hidden items in the maze. The property is also a working vineyard and winery, so after exploring the maze, we enjoyed the beautiful views and relaxed with a wine tasting, while the kids were happy with ice cream and brownies.
What are your top tips for escaping the crowds during school holidays?
We love finding little patches of paradise and having them all to ourselves, so for the busier holiday periods, we head inland away from the coast. Last school holidays we had a lot of rain, so we decided to keep driving west until it stopped, which lead us to the wacky town of Lightning Ridge. Famous for its opal mining, this town is full of colourful characters and fun things to do with kids.
How do you manage the kids’ boredom on long drives between destinations?
As most parents know, as soon as kiddies get bored, they ask for food. We travel with loads of snacks that take a little more time to eat, anything that can be peeled is good, such as fruit or a boiled egg – and we always steer clear of anything too sugary. We also break up drives by stopping regularly. Instead of a roadside rest-stop, we do a quick search for ‘play park near me’ to find something more fun, which helps burn off some of that never-ending energy.
Do your Blonde Nomads have a favourite NSW beach?
As NSW has such a stunning stretch of coastline that is a super-hard question. We love them all. Any beach that we can drive on and set up with all our ‘toys’ (surfboards, snorkel and fishing gear) for the day is always a hit for us — we love Samari Beach in Port Stephens, South Smoky Beach (called Hat Head Beach by the locals) and Lighthouse Beach near Seal Rocks to name a few.
One of our favourite coastal walks is climbing to the top of Tomaree Head in Shoal Bay, as the views are spectacular. Another awesome spot we recently explored was the sea caves at Caves Beach in Lake Macquarie. The kids loved running around the tunnels exploring every nook and cranny.
How has travelling in NSW inspired a love of nature within your children?
We are definitely at our happiest in nature. Having started the kids so young (Ziggy was just 6 weeks old on his first camping trip), they have never known anything different. I remember when the kids were little, we pulled up to a bush camp in Booderee National Park near Jervis Bay and saw so many echidnas! These happy little guys were not bothered by us and let our mini blondies watch from a distance with delight. It was the perfect entertainment for the kids, allowing us time to set up camp.
What’s your go-to campsite meal that’s quick, easy and loved by all?
One of our go-to meals is Mexican mince. I often pre-make this at home as it freezes well. You can then reheat and serve many ways, such as in tacos, with rice, in wraps, or in a Mexi-bowl, as we call it, served with salad and corn chips. It’s always a hit. We also recommend having your first night’s dinner pre-made and ready to go. Making dinner is the last thing you want to do after a long day driving and juggling tired, hungry kids.
Does your family have a favourite NSW tour and why did your kids love it so much?
The sand-boarding tour in Port Stephens with Sand Dune Safaris was pretty special as we learnt all about the sand dunes’ history and their cultural importance to the Worimi people. As the largest moving dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, there are sand hills with heights of over 30 metres and slopes of up to 60 degrees – it felt like we were on Mars. The kids had a ball. After a few practice runs, their confidence grew and they zipped down at lighting speeds. You just need to be ready for the thigh-burning walk back up to the top. Safe to say the kids slept well that night.
If there’s one place in NSW where you would park your caravan and hang up your Nomad hats, where would it be?
We have just done that! After travelling around Australia full-time for two-and-a-half years, we chose the shimmery shores of Port Stephens as our home base. This place is unreal and full of adventure – it’s the perfect playground for us Blondies to call home.
You can see more of The Blonde Nomads’ adventures via @theblondenomads or visit their blog www.theblondenomads.com.au