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.


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.


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.


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.


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…



I am still here!!!

Me: I’m going to sit down this morning and catch up on some writing.

Dwight: What’s that? You’re going to feed me?

Me: No. You have already had two packets. I am going to do my wri…

Dwight parks his crunchy cat butt down, right on my laptop keypad and he stares straight at me.

Dwight: What’s that? You’re going to feed me?

Before I can push him away I hear a loud BANG from the lounge room. I run in to see Mike is playing the PS VR, twirling about with his “gun”. He stuck it up in the air right into the ceiling fan WHICH WAS ON!

I have turned the lounge room ceiling fan off for Captain Oblivious’ safety, made it clear to Dwight he is not getting more food, fixed breakfast for Mish while he gave me a run down on Xenomorph aliens; now I just want to sit and write.

Tilly is still passed out in bed. She is my favourite human in this house right now.

Memories of the Happiest Place on Earth Pt 5

California Adventure is a step back into the California that Walt Disney arrived at when he first set about his path to Mickey Mouse. Stepping back into 1923 Los Angeles with buildings and characters of the like Walt encountered when he stepped of that tram. It is this side that you will encounter more recent Disney characters along with a theatre, animation studio, at the time of our visit the Tower of Terror was still operating, Cars Land and Bugs Land. Mish was a huge fan of the Cars movie so for him to see Lightning McQueen, Mater, Luigi, and the others driving around and posing for photographs was more than his little heart could bear. The first time he saw Lighting as he slowly drove by, he burst into tears “because he is REAL!” When we went to get our photo with Lightning, Mish slowly approached, gave the car a pat and then a hug. During the day we went on Lugi’s tyre ride, through the underground with the bugs – the 4D Bug’s Life theatre was so much fun. You get sprayed at by termites, “stung” by wasps and have roaches run under your bottom!

There is a water park feature which was fantastic in the Californian summer heat. The kids got absolutely drenched and loved every moment of it. We saw the performance of Aladdin at the theatre, which was AMAZING! The actor who played Genie was so very much like the late and great Robin Williams, he would have been proud of this actor. He had everyone laughing and cheering along. Over near the massive Mickey ferris wheel we jumped on the Little Mermaid ride (located in Pacific Pier) before making our way to meet up with Woody, Buzz and the gang from Andy’s room in Toy World. Jesse spent some time with Tilly and Mish as we waited to meet Woody and Buzz, she took them over to look at the water and the roller coaster that would whoosh past, filled with screaming laughter, and ironically the ride is called California Screamin’.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Eventually they got to meet and have photos with Buzz and Woody, Mish was a little nervous at first. The Toy Story ride/shoot em’ up laser game is a lot of fun. Mike and Tilly versus Mish and me, we jumped into our carts and made our way through the course, hitting our targets, getting sprayed with water and cold air. Very competitive and the kids got right into it. We stopped for lunch, some more gift shopping and then more rides. We finished off the night with the Radiator Springs Racers ride. Out of all the rides, this one had the longest queue time, and by that stage Mish had fallen asleep in my arms as we slowly made our way down the line to the ride. It was worth the wait though – like Space Mountain, it is a fast ride and it is incredibly fun (all rides as Disney Land are fun). Afterwards we walked through the neon-lit Radiator Springs towards the pier for the World of Colours show. Wow. Absolutely stunning and a spectacular way to wrap up our short stay. Disney never does anything by halves, and I have not seen a light show that comes close to what we watched that night.

At the end of the night, as fireworks lit up the sky, we said goodbye to an amazing experience. A final photo with Pluto, and we walked out of the park. The kids loved every minute of it. Mike and I loved every minute of it. It was definitely money well spent. The memories will last a lifetime. Growing up on Disney movies, as a kid I was forever drawing the characters – telling myself that one day I would be an animator for Disney. Well, I never achieved that, but I did get to go and spend some time at the Happiest Place on Earth, and that is just as good for me. Mike and I have made a vow that we will return one day, and now that the kids are older we will be able to stretch out our visit, taking in more of Anaheim and surrounds.

If you ever get the chance to visit Disneyland I highly recommend it. Especially if you have kids – you get to live the experience through their eyes and it is like reliving your childhood all over again.


*Space Mountain is a very fast ride!

*Get a photo pass card. As you go through the park there are photographers with the characters. The photographer scans your card, and takes your photos. At the end of your visit you can log onto your account, select the photos you want and download them or have them sent to you on a CD (this is what we did).

*Hug as many characters as you can!

For more information check out: http://www.disneyland.disney.go.com

The End 🙂

Memories of the Happiest Place on Earth Pt 4

Sleep we did – we slept through our alarm by an hour and we quickly got up, got the kids showered and dressed for the day and out the door to walk to Disneyland. Even surrounded by shops filled with Disney products and buses driving past us with Disney emblazoned on them, it didn’t twig with the kids as to what was going on. That was, until we actually entered the park and approached the ticket booth to pick up our pre-paid tickets. Standing in the centre, with the original Disney park to our right and on our left the California Adventure park, and in front was the iconic Mickey Mouse flower bed, behind it the train station with people hopping on to the little train, the penny dropped and both kids dissolved in excitement.


You really can’t describe the atmosphere – it is truly something else. I found it hard to believe that I was about to enter Disneyland with our kids. Mike had been when he was a kid, but it was a first for me. All of a sudden the jet lag vanished and I was ready to race off and have fun. So were the kids. We headed down Main St U.S.A – Main Street was a hive of activity. Quaint little shops selling various treats and trinkets, abound. We picked up Mickey Ear hats for the kids and some sunscreen. Then it was over the drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty’s castle into Fantasyland, stopping to take a photo of our feet surrounding the first nail to be set in the ground for the park. We stood in the shade and looked at the map, where would we go first? Easy. New Orleans Square! Our first ride at Disneyland was the Pirates of the Caribbean ride – and yes, it had been kitted out with Jack Sparrow animatronics much to the delight of the women (and maybe some men) on the ride!


The kids screamed and laughed their way through the first ride. Mike and I gave each other a high five – this was going to be a great day. We walked through New Orleans, looking in the gift shops. Making our way round to the next ride on our list – the Haunted Mansion. This, I think, would be my favourite ride. Walking up through the ghoulish garden that is filled with tombstones of people and pets, something would move out of the corner of your eye. The lines moved very quickly, and we were led through the foyer of the mansion and into the parlour room. Surrounded by portraits, all eyes on you, when all of a sudden the floor drops and you feel yourself going down, down, underground. Lights flicker and dark voices whisper, groan and laugh. Tilly, who has a thing for the macabre laughed and clapped her hands in delight. Mish clung to me, he wasn’t too keen on the falling down. We were then taken from the parlour room and down through the halls to our little carriages. The portraits on the walls began moving now. Faces changed from flesh to skulls as we moved by. Tilly and I jumped into one carriage, Mike and Mish on the one behind us. The carriages led you down through the mansion, past corpses, and talking heads. In one room sits a table with a crystal ball and the gypsy’s head appears within the crystal ball, her glowing green eyes – she looks at you and gives you warning. But you can’t escape, and she laughs as you are whisked further on towards the ballroom. You look down at a large table covered with food and decorations. When you lift your eyes up, dancing high above are ghosts, waltzing around your head. Some will fly past you, howling, talking, laughing and singing.

The guide informs you that you have made it through and you will be out on the other side soon enough. You leave the ballroom and your carriage locks in and you slowly glide past a mirrored wall. Then you see it. Sitting right behind you in your carriage is a hitchhiker of the paranormal kind. Your own ghost who has decided to jump in and try and leave the mansion with you. It was brilliant, and the look on our kids’ faces was priceless!


It took us the whole day to cover all the rides in that part of the park. The kids met Disney characters – the Briar Fox pulled Tilly’s hat down over her head and tweaked her nose to the delight of Mish. Winnie the Pooh came up for hugs. Mike quite liked the Princesses. Ride after ride, feeling more and more like a kid again – all the worries of adulthood long gone. Mike and I were immersed in the world of play and imagination with the kids. We hugged every character we came across, we yahooed on every ride. We chowed down on burgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, fairy floss, hot chips and soft drink (with lots of water!) There were carts filled with fresh fruit and bottles of juice and water available. The kids would snack on fruit between rides. When I saw the tea cup ride I lost it – for as long as I can remember I had always wanted to go on the tea cup ride – and we did! You could not wipe the smile off my face.


The kids loved the It’s a Small World ride, the little singing dolls from around the world, and by the end of it Tilly and Mish were singing along and continued to sing the song for the rest of the day. Mickey met us in his house and insisted on having his photo taken with us, he was a bit cheeky too, mucking around with the kids.


We would have little rest breaks, sunscreen top ups, water refills. There are plenty of benches and quiet places to stop for a rest. We finished the first day off with Tomorrowland. As we were walking in to Tomorrow Land we were approached by a mum and her daughter, they wanted to know if we would go on Space Mountain with them. They had a fast pass but it was for 6 people, they needed another 4 more in order to go. I eagerly agreed, telling Mike as we went with the mum and her daughter to the fast pass line that the ride was nothing more than an optical illusion. That you don’t actually move fast, it is the lighting that makes you feel like you are going fast. Oh my God no. No. It is not an optical illusion. It really does tear you through space and time. I clung to Mish for dear life – it was probably a blessing that he was not tall enough to see over the carriage front (but he was tall enough to go on the ride). Tilly was white-knuckled gripping the safety bar, her eyelids peeled back by the speed of the ride as it zipped us side to side, up and down. Mike sat up straight, stiff upper lip throughout the ordeal.


When the ride finished we thanked the mum and her daughter. I was twitching, Tilly’s eyes had dried out so much she couldn’t blink and her eyebrows had been lifted up to her hair line so she looked like she was frozen in a state of surprise. Mish hopped out and looked at Mike and me and squealed “that was fun! Can we go again?” Tilly turned and looked at Mish and he pulled back in horror at her frozen expression. He had his answer.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By the time we left the park on the first day it was just after midnight. On the way out we enjoyed the fireworks over the castle and then popped into a gift shop in Main St and picked up some little souvenirs, and the kind lady behind the counter upon learning that we had just come off Space Mountain, gifted the kids with “badges for their bravery”. It was really lovely. We stopped off at IHOP for a quick late night bite before walking back to the hotel.


As we approached the hotel, there were cop cars all over the road, cops out and walking around and a man was sitting on the kerb, hands cuffed behind his back, answering questions from a cop. I won’t lie, in my head I immediately began singing the Bad Cops song, and kept an eye out for a camera crew. This could be our first cameo! No cameras, but as we walked by the suspect and the cop, Mish points to the man on the ground and says “you’re going to jail!” The cop tried not to crack a grin as he motioned for Mish to keep it down. No camera crew. Would have made for great TV. Just sayin’.

The next day was our rest day – all that walking (and remember I had recently broken my toes) had worn us out, so it was to be a day of rest. We stocked up on snacks and games from the little shop nearby and relaxed in our cool hotel room. I indulged in the many television channels, watched the local news, read some magazines. When it got a little cooler outside we walked over to a shopping complex and had a look around. Subway for dinner and an early night in preparation for the second part of our Disney adventure the following day.

To be continued…


Memories of the Happiest Place on Earth Pt 3

It was around midday and we had some time up our sleeve before we could check into our hotel, so Mike wanted to show us Santa Monica (he has been to LA a few times with his work, so he knows his way around). The kids were amazed at the amount of traffic around us. I was enthralled by the art deco buildings around LA and Santa Monica – that old Hollywood vibe. It was a beautiful day for us to arrive into LA, they must’ve known we were coming and they turned on the charm!

We got a car park at Santa Monica pier and we wandered down the boardwalk. We stood at the end of the boardwalk and looked out at the ocean, hard to believe that we were now so far away from Australia, it felt very surreal. The kids were impressed by the “mega seagulls” that plodded along (they are huge over there). We had lunch on the boardwalk and the kids went on their very first rollercoaster rides at Pacific Park. Tilly and I took on the big rollercoaster while Mike and Mish went on the pirate ship one. We played games, explored the big dragon’s head, before making our way over to check into our hotel.


We had booked a room at the Castle Inn Suite, Anaheim. It is situated across the road from Disneyland, and the rates were really good at the time (August 2012). It was neat, tidy and walking distance to the park. Along the road were restaurants and diners, little convenience stores filled with Disney merchandise too. The kids loved the big knight that stands in the foyer (he is pretty cool). We checked in and went up to our room. The plan was for us to keep ourselves awake until after dinner in an attempt to set our body clocks. The jet lag was kicking in. Yawning, bleary eyed, all four of us made the mistake of flopping down on our beds. Next minute we know it is almost midnight when we are wide awake on Australia time. Noooo!

All I can say is thank goodness for IHOP for being open to serve dinner at midnight. We went in hungry and came out full to the eyeballs – the small portion over there would equal the large here in Australia. What I really loved was the waitress who immediately poured me a cup of coffee – the first one I had had since leaving Townsville. It was amazing, and even more so when she informed me that the refills were FREE! Cue my happy dance! With full bellies and caffeine levels replenished, we headed back to the hotel to try and go back to sleep for a few more hours before we were to head out to Disneyland.


To be continued…