A New Adventure for Team J – Coffs Harbour, NSW

So after a good nights rest in our lovely room at the Charlesworth Bay Beach Resort in Coffs Harbour, we were up early to embark on a full day of activities.

Coffs Harbour is one of the largest urban centres on the North Coast of New South Wales. Situated 540km north of Sydney and 390km south of Brisbane, Queensland Coffs Harbour is our favourite holiday spot to relax and unwind. It is probably most known for the tourist attraction and amusement park, the Big Banana – a massive banana, the first of Australia’s Big Things it was built in 1964 on a banana plantation. You can walk through the Big Banana, pose for photos out the front too. It is a popular item on the Aussie tourist to do list. The weather in Coffs is always lovely – even in winter, and there are plenty of accommodation options available.

Up and ready for the day ahead, we started off by grabbing breakfast (and a coffee for me) at the Coffs Central Shopping Centre. Whilst there, I popped in to some shops for some bits and pieces for the day’s activities, and Mike bought the kids a Play Station VR set for Christmas. Whilst walking about the shopping centre we came upon Santa who was handing out candy canes. Caffeine hit, new swimmers (bathing suit), sunscreen, batteries for Tilly’s camera and the first Christmas gift sorted, we set off to our first activity for the day – checking out the Clog Barn Holiday Park.

 

 

This is a cute little attraction and accommodation option, that Mike and I have stayed at previously (December 2004 on our first posting from Sydney to Townsville). Back then the accommodation was clean and comfortable and unique. This time, we took the kids in to walk through the clog shop and model Dutch village before grabbing an ice cream each from Big Oma’s Coffee House (the morning was warming up quite quickly). Whilst eating our ice creams we met a lovely little pup by the name of Katherine who was enjoying her breakfast next to her owner. She had finished her breakfast before him though – for a tiny dog she could eat like Flash Lightning! Meanwhile, her owner was enjoying his big breakfast serving from Big Oma’s and holding conversation with Tilly and Mish. The staff there were all lovely and super friendly. At certain times, they run a clog making demonstration – we were too early for that, but you can still check out the workshop and look at clogs that have been made and are available for sale.

From there the Team headed to Dolphin Marine Magic. This is a fantastic education centre for young and old alike. The team there run shows daily to educate visitors on marine life and the conservation and preservation of our oceans. We arrived in time to catch the dolphin presentation which had a cameo by the lovely sea lion Adelaide. The dolphins, Zippy and Bella flipped and splashed, jumped and called out to the audience. The children were all enthralled by the experience. After the presentation, everyone was invited to come down to the pool where Zippy and Bella were doing the rounds for belly rubs (the LOVE their belly rubs). If you have not had the opportunity to pat a dolphin, they are very soft and smooth. Round and round they went, lapping up the attention. Then it was off to look at the other animals. We hung around the pool for a while, watching Zippy and Bella swim and play. They would come up to the sides to look at people, checking everyone out. Sometimes they would grab one of their balls and push it to the side to who ever was standing there wanting them to play. Mish was one of the lucky ones to be chosen by Zippy to play fetch – and he absolutely loved every minute of it.

Whilst we were still with the dolphins, Mike had snuck off to organise for the kids to meet Ozzie – a great big and beautiful sea lion. Last time we visited the park in 2009, the kids had their photos taken with one of the seals, and here they were going to get to do it all again. Ozzie, as you can see in the photos is a great big beautiful sea puppy. The kids were smitten with him, getting the chance to give him pats, toss the ball with him and feed him. For the photos they decided to poke their tongues out instead of getting a fishy, whiskery smooch from Oz.

Following the meet and greet with Ozzie, we headed up to see the Little Blue Penguins get their lunch. Initially we thought it was to watch the handlers feed them, but they had it all set up and visitors were able to line up and feed the penguins. They were so funny to watch, huddled up waiting for the handler to open the gate. The little wings and tails wiggling in anticipation for the big bucket of fishies. A few of them tried to climb off the little platform to dive right into the feeding bucket, the handler would gently set them back on the platform. They were adorable little characters, and oh boy can they put away their food!

 

The whole experience at Dolphin Magic centres around conservation and preservation of these wonderful creatures and their habitat. They are running an awareness program called Experience. Discover. Act. You can become involved in this program by simply snapping a selfie of you out and about picking up rubbish and tag on your social media it to #EDADMM – in doing so, they hope to spread awareness of the plight our marine life are facing due to pollution.

 

Before we knew it, it was coming up to lunch time and we were heading over to the next attraction – The Big Banana.

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Tilly and Mish letting me take a nice “normal” photo of them…

I don’t think a visit to Coffs Harbour is complete without a visit to the Big Banana. It is a large amusement park, spread out through a banana plantation. Right up behind the Big Banana is the café where you can enjoy coffee, cold drinks, cakes, hot meals and frozen bananas. There is a kids arcade next to the café, and out behind is the ticket counter for the other activities that are on offer. You can choose from tours, theatre (4D experience is coming soon), mini golf, laser tag, tobogganing, and if you are brave enough, you can try the Racer Slide. There is also a water park too cool off in, a cheese shop (for blessed are the cheese makers!) which not only have all things cheese, they run cheese making workshops and have a selection of amazing handmade chocolates to choose from. There is also a candy and opal shop on site too. We bought tickets for the Racer Slide and the toboggan. First up, the Racer… Holy cow it is a big, long slide! The hike to get up to the top can rattle you if you are not a mountaineer, or just fit in general. Mish made it to the top, but upon looking down the slide he went pale and shaky and decided he wasn’t dare devil enough to give it a go. Mike went down the slide twice, I had one go and that was enough for me – self preservation kicked in as I felt my bum lift only so slightly off the slide. I didn’t see anything other than my life flash before my eyes as I screamed all the way down, clutching the carpet sack I was sitting on for dear life. Tilly on the other hand, first go and she was wild about it.

We gave her all the remaining tickets, and she would bolt up the steep incline, carpet sack over her shoulder – without breaking a sweat. She would then take her spot on one of the lanes and as soon as the light turned green, she was off like a shot, arms up in the air and whooping it up in adrenaline. Mike had over estimated our eagerness for the slide and as such had purchased a heap of tickets for it. So much so, that Tilly befriended two other young girls and was only too happy to share the remaining slide tickets with them (we didn’t mind, and we could see the girl’s parents were grateful for the chance to be able to get off their feet and have a cold drink and a rest whilst the kids wore themselves out).

Slide tickets finished, we headed up past the water park to the toboggan ride. Mish was apprehensive about it, but I managed to convince him to come with me on my toboggan. First round, he loved it – I put him in control of the brake, so he felt comfortable. Second go, he wanted to remain with me. The third round and he was ready to take the ride on his own and he and Tilly set off to do the toboggan track with the parentals watching on.

It was getting late in the day, so we wrapped up our visit to the Big Banana with a stop in at the cheese shop to sample some cheese and buy a box of handmade chocolates (yum!). We decided it was time to head back to the resort where we would finish the day with a swim in one of the three lagoon pools at the resort and then a wander down from the resort onto the beach for a spot of shell collecting. Unfortunately, we had to be on the road the next day to head to the next stop in our road trip, so the quiet swim and beach combing was a lovely way to finish up our fleeting visit.

Some other places we wanted to check out but didn’t get round to seeing was the Bunker Cartoon Gallery and the National Marine Science Centre. This just means that we absolutely must and will go back to Coffs!

To be continued…

We were also sad to learn of the passing of a wonderful man, Coffs Harbour local and Australian surfing legend Scott Dillion. We had the absolute honour of meeting him during our 2009 holiday when he was running the Legends Surf Museum. He passed away on the 12 December 18 at 90 years of age. I will always remember our meeting him – he absolutely adored the kids and took us through his museum, finishing with us all sitting on the porch and chatting and goofing around, and before we left, he had gifted us with an autographed poster. A very down to earth Aussie bloke. 

May he rest in peace.  

 

A New Adventure for Team J

Things are starting to settle down on what has been a month of big changes for our family. As I sit here typing this, we have just clocked up our first week in our new place. So, where will I begin? Last month was crazy. We were packing up our home in the lead up to our posting interstate, I was also trying to continue with my university study and working full time right up to our pre-pack day. Our daughter Tilly was closing the chapter on six years of Primary School, graduating year six and also saying goodbye to all her friends as she was getting her head around the fact that she will be starting her high school journey in another state, away from the friends she has made over the last four years of our posting to Sydney.

The day of her graduation was surreal – I could not link the Tilly standing next to me, holding her graduation certificate with the tiny Tilly who walked through the gates of the school on her first day of Prep, with such swagger and sass. Her school bag was bigger than her, and now she stands the same height as me, and is on the cusp of her teenage years. I sat through the graduation ceremony, in a daze, but holding it together. I cried when the Principal dismissed the year six students from the hall “for the very last time.” The teachers were all wiping away tears…so were all the other mums in the hall.

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Tilly on her first day of school with her cousin Em and little brother Mish (2012) to last month’s graduation with her dad Mike and little brother Mish

That night she had her formal, so we made a big fuss about it for her. She had picked out her outfit two weeks earlier and now she was excitedly getting dressed. I let her wear a little mascara and a touch of tinted lip gloss. When she came out of her room, myself, Mike and Mish all were caught off guard by just how grown up she looked. The little Prep Tilly was well and truly gone. She was driven to her formal in a Corvette –owned by my boss’ husband. Tilly loved it, she could not stop talking about how great the car sounded and all the attention it got when she pulled up the front of the venue. The boys in her class were pretty impressed by her ride.

All the year six kids looked so different now. Like young adults, they were ready for a night of good food, dancing and cake. Parents were not allowed, we had to go off and do our own thing, and this was just for the kids. Mike, Mish and I enjoyed a dinner with some friends before we went in to get some quick photos, have a dance with the kids and then head home. It was a fantastic night for Tilly – she had so much fun partying with all her friends. I exchanged numbers with other mum’s so our kids can all stay in touch. Then that was it.

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Last day of school.

The day of the removal up lift was the kids last day at school. They had their shirts signed by friends and teachers, exchanged Christmas gifts and cards with friends and come the final bell, it was hugs and final goodbyes. Tears and more hugs. I grew up an Army kid and we moved every two years. I hate this part of the life – it never gets easier and I felt so sad for my kids and their friends.

That was that. The next morning the cars were packed, we checked out of the hotel and we started our journey to the next posting. Dwight our cat and Ripley our dog were already in the pet resort in our gaining location of Brisbane. They were flown up the day before the up lift. From all accounts of the pet transport company and the pet resort, they were doing just fine. Our guinea pig, Doctor Who was going to travel up with us – he rode shotgun in Mike’s car. Doctor is 5, almost 6 years old, so in guinea pig years, he is a little old man. He handled the trip really well though. We had a comfy travel crate for him and a portable pen for the hotel stays.

The drive out of Sydney was surprisingly really smooth considering we were heading out on the very first day of school holidays. Tilly and Mish rode in my car and we had it stocked with lots of snacks, cold drinks and audio books – the kids LOVE the Tree House series by Andy Griffith and Terry Denton. We were on the first leg to Brisbane – Sydney to Coffs Harbour. We love Coffs, it is our favourite little family get away spot. So we were all pretty excited to be going back there for a two day mini-vacation. By 3pm that day we arrived in Coffs and checked into Charlesworth Bay Beach Resort. We quickly unpacked and set up Doctor by the big double doors so the cool ocean breeze could cool him down. No sooner had we unpacked, I was running the kids down to the little beach – the very first beach Mish was taken to when he was seven months old (we had stayed at this resort back in 2009 when we had a little family vacation upon Mike’s return from deployment). It was really surreal watching him running into the waves. Last time he was at this beach he was not too thrilled by it.

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We finished off the long day with Thai from a great little place called Memory Thai (Tilly highly recommends the Pad Thai and Mish and I love the Yellow Curry).

To be continued…

 

 

Wollongong, NSW

With my mother-in-law here visiting us all the way over from Canada, and the spectacular mild winter weather we have had of late, we decided to head on down to Wollongong to visit a dear family friend.

The drive was smooth and we arrived in time for lunch. My kids were in awe of the large yard and spent the whole time outside exploring the bush that surrounded the property, playing by the pond (my son “accidentally” stepped in the pond, his shoes and socks soaked right through and covered in mud). They ran around with the two dogs, spent time talking to the chickens and picking lemons off the lemon tree. They loved it so much, to have all that space compared to our home which is a tiny shoebox with a tuft of grass for a back yard, that they were devastated to be heading back home. Our friend mentioned a driving tour or Wollongong, including a stop at the beach and this was all they needed to hear to get them in the car quick smart!

Oh, my goodness, how beautiful is this place!!! We made our way to the beach and Wollongong had turned on the charm big time. The winter weather was a mild 14 degrees Celsius, sky was azure blue and the waves were bashing and crashing onto the sand. Surfers were in their element, riding the waves in, and my children were down the stairs and on the sand before we could stop them. They ran straight into the water – shoes on and they were loving every minute of it. We managed to get them to take off their now soggy shoes and told them they could go no more than ankle deep in the water as we did not have towels or change of clothes for them.
This is their understanding of ankle-deep… soaked right up to the waist…

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After they had worn themselves out at the beach, we had to strip them off to their t-shirts and undies and they huddled under my big knitted coat as we proceeded with our driving tour of ‘The Gong’. Dusk was coming in and as we wound our way around the Grand Pacific Drive, with the ocean to our right; the light created a magnificent hue over the coastline.

Wollongong Coastline at Dusk

We stopped at Bald Hill lookout where we said our goodbyes to our dear friend and we made our way back home to Sydney, but not before I managed to take this final photo…

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We love you Wollongong! We will be back soon (with towels and bathing suits) I promise!!!