Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Traveling with Kids: Australia

Where do I even begin when it comes to recapping a magical trip to Australia with my family for Winter Break? 

I guess I could pick a single word to encapsulate the experience. And I guess I already did in the sentence above! 


It was simply magical. 

It's a magical continent, and it's magical to travel to a different hemisphere (especially to escape winter by heading into summer!) and it's magical to spend an extended amount of time with my family. 

We weren't very strategic about how we picked where to go on the world's largest island. I came across an incredible home in the hinterlands outside of Byron Bay (near a small town named Bangalow) on a house exchange site called Home Away. It seemed like a place where the boys could really immerse themselves in nature, and where Matt and I could bask in beauty and enjoy each other's company. I did some quick research and realized that Byron Bay and Brisbane seemed like interesting places to visit. So we booked flights!

The flight from Austin to LA to Brisbane was fine. We just let our children watch way more screen time than normal. They were mesmerized and pretty much catatonic!

We rented a car and drove into the hinterlands. We awoke in the morning to the most incredible views of rolling green countryside.

Matt and I were working for the first week we were there, so we balanced childcare and phone meetings. We quickly fell into a routine: work/hang out at the house until 10am, take an adventure from 10am-2pm, rest/work/let the boys watch Netflix from 2pm-4pm, start dinner and play games on the back porch from 4-5pm, put the boys to bed at 6:30pm, and work/rest/watch Netflix for the rest of the evening. 

In retrospect, it seems a little crazy that we only left the house for about four hours a day, but a) we are introverts and like hanging out at home b) our "home" was an incredible destination in and of itself and c) the slower pace helped everything feel more relaxing and less stressed. Since our children don't nap anymore, they can get overly tired and cranky if we try to push it all day long. 

Here were the adventures we went on in the hinterlands of Bangalow outside Byron Bay:
  1. The Farm: We ate brunch, walked around the farm, and sat on a blanket in the shade eating homemade ice-cream while the boys played (I always carry a large sheet with me for such occasions, along with a deck of cards for a game of gin rummy). 
  2. The Lighthouse: How cool to explore the eastern most point of Australia! The views were stunning. We hiked down to a remote beach to explore. 
  3. Crystal Castle: Totally creepy but really serene and fun to explore! 
  4. Trip to the rainforest (with a stop-off at an alpaca farm): Matt ran a marathon in the rainforest, so we spent the night in a screened in cabin-type thing. Eating meals at the top of the rainforest was breathtaking. I taught Henry how to play checkers! 
  5. Christmas Market in Federal with lunch at Doma. Federal is such a tiny town but has incredible food in an idyllic atmosphere. We listened to live music while the boys climbed in the tree (Henry quickly abandoned the concept of wearing shoes). 
  6. Minyon Falls: We hiked around and played in the creek. 
  7. Brunswick Heads: We spent one day swimming in the river and one day at Torakina Beach. 
  8. Macademia Castle: Totally kitchy but really off-the-beaten path and fun. We got to pet kangaroos! 
  9. Flat Rock: We explored the tide pools and then played at the beach.
  10. Byron Bay Beach
  11. Snorkeling: Henry and I went while Matt and Tate played at the beach. Henry and I saw a shark, bull ray, turtle, colorful fish, etc. 
Here were the adventures we went on in Brisbane: 
  1. D'Aguilar National Park: We ventured down to Rocky Hole. It was an incredibly idyllic swimming hole with deep and shallow areas. It was Christmas Day, so there was hardly anyone there. 
  2. City Botanic Gardens
  3. Pillar Project
  4. Lone Star Koala Sanctuary
  5. Took the river ferry to the South Bank public beach and pools

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BabyD said...

This is amazing! I am in awe. This is what I was commenting on for your other post--how did you pull this together without obsessing about whether it was the best rental or the best area etc? That is my challenge. And if you don't mind giving me tips, how did you start the process of looking/knowing where to look for a rental? It alays feel circular to me-how do you decide where to go unless you check out what there is to do, but you don't know what there is to do unless you decide where to go! (:

On a separate note, do you have any tips for the long flight? We expect to go on one this summer and my son is NOT a good sleeper. Did your chilren sleep on the plane? How did you handle jet lag?

So so glad you had a wonderful time--you al ldeserve it!!!

Sara E. Cotner said...

BabyD, you're overthinking it!

With this one, I was randomly searching on Home Away for houses anywhere in the world. I found a house I loved, so then I did a very quick search to make sure it was in a decent area.

That was it! We booked it!

Then I spent time looking for things to do in the area. I feel like nearly any place you choose to go will have fun things to do and explore!

You will likely go on many vacations in your life, so no single vacation has to be everything.

If you're feeling stuck, you can definitely replicate one of our trips: San Diego, San Francisco, Stinson Beach, Los Angeles, or Seattle/Portland. (I don't recommend replicating our Flagstaff trip. That one wasn't very fun!)

BabyD said...

Wow! Is that how you decided to go to Australia or did you already know that was your destination. Yes, sigh, I'm probably overturning it. For a few reasons, one being money, I get stressed about trips, wanting them to be amazing...thanks for all your responses!!

Sara E. Cotner said...

@BabyD, I know it was a totally random way to pick a country! The Home Away site had houses all over the place. I was just so drawn to the concept of a renovated coffee plantation in the hinterlands of Australia as a way to really get away from everything and connect as a family.

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