There’s plenty of family fun on the Sunshine Coast

It may not be as glitzy as its southern counterpart, but the Sunshine Coast is a great family holiday destination. There’s heaps to keep the family entertained – starting with miles of beautiful beaches, all of which have a character of their own, that are yours to explore. So, rain or shine, what can you do and see on your Sunshine Coast holiday?

1. The beaches

The beauty of the Sunshine Coast is that there are a variety of beaches in a relatively short distance and whether you have toddlers who paddle in the water’s edge or need waves for a surfing teenager, you will find a beach to suit. If you are looking at staying a while, why not even spread your visit over a couple of different locations.

One of the best resources I like to use is the Surf Lifesaving Australia website, Beach Safe. Just type in the beach name for a range of useful photos and information.

 

There are so many beaches on the Sunshine Coast that you will be sure to find one to suit your family perfectly.

There are so many beaches on the Sunshine Coast that you will be sure to find one to suit your family perfectly.

Patrolled beaches on the Sunshine Coast include: Kings Beach, Golden Beach, Bulcock Beach, Dicky Beach, Kawana, Mooloolaba, Alexandra Headland, Maroochydore, Marcoola, Coolum, Peregian Beach, Sunshine Beach, Noosa Heads and Rainbow Beach.

Sunshine Coast Tourism recommends Kings Beach, Bulcock Beach, Golden Beach, Cotton Tree, Mooloolaba Beach, Mooloolaba Spit and Noosa Main Beach as some of the best for children.

A number of surf schools also offer lessons for beginner surfers, including children.

Surf lessons are one of the activities your children can enjoy on the Sunshine Coast.

Surf lessons are one of the activities your children can enjoy on the Sunshine Coast.

2Enjoy a surf club dinner

As a Victorian, I love having a meal at a Queensland surf club. Where else can you get a decent meal for a decent price, often with the most amazing views – and in a location where you can easily walk-off some over-indulgence right outside the door.

Enjoy a meal at Sunshine Beach,  Dicky Beach (Caloundra), CoolumMooloolabaMarcoola, MaroochydoreAlexandra Headland, NoosaKawana and Caloundra. These places are always full of families, so you will feel at home.

3. Australia Zoo

Still known as the Home of the Crocodile Hunter, Australia Zoo continues to thrive after the tragic death of Steve Irwin in 2006. A visit to the zoo will fill your day. You can self-drive or if you don’t have your own car, the Australia Zoo website details a number of ways to get to the site, including tour bus & public transport.

Get up close and personal with the animals at Australia Zoo.

Get up close and personal with the animals at Australia Zoo.

As well as the many animals to see, there are daily shows, including the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors adventure in the Crocoseum.  There are too many animal experiences to detail here, but if you plan to do something extra, such as an animal encounters  or the Zoo Keeper for a Day experience, it would be worthwhile pre-booking (Note: both of these involve extra cost).

All the information can be found on the Australia Zoo website, on which you can plan and print out your own itinerary. Also check out special school holiday activities.

3. Explore on foot or by boat

The Noosa Headland walk is one of the most well-known, with the coastal track to Dolphin Point wheelchair & stroller accessible. However, there are many other walking trails throughout the region.

For those wanting to get to know one of the many waterways, there are many options.

A cruise is a great way to appreciate the Pumicestone Passage.

A cruise is a great way to appreciate the Pumicestone Passage.

The Noosa Ferry Cruise Company operates a daily ferry cruise service between the historic riverside town of Tewantin into the heart of Noosa Heads. A number of organised cruise tours and boat hire companies also operate on the coast, allowing you to discover the majestic waterways of the Noosa River, Maroochy River and Mooloolaba River & canals and the Pumicestone Passage at Caloundra.

4. Whale-watching

Hervey Bay further up the coast is one of Australia’s most renowned whale watching hotspots, but you can still see these majestic creatures from the Sunshine Coast.

Whale One tours operate from Mooloolaba, while some of the Harvey Bay-based operators will pick you up from the Sunshine Coast for a day trip. If you want to self-drive to Hervey Bay, it is about a 2 hour drive from Noosa.

As there are definitely more options from Hervey Bay – and this is where the whales are heading for mating and calving, why not organise to spend a night or 2 here as an extension of your Sunshine Coast holiday?

5. Playgrounds

With a climate that encourages outdoor lifestyle, there are plenty of playgrounds for your kids to burn up some holiday energy.

Playgrounds on the Sunshine Coast can be traditional ones - or fun water play parks. Great for cooling off.

Playgrounds on the Sunshine Coast can be traditional ones – or fun water play parks. Great for cooling off.

Use the Sunshine Coast’s Facilities and Recreation Directory to search for playgrounds, bike paths and more. You can also find some information on some of the best parks on local website, Sunny Coast Kids.

6. Mary-Cairncross Scenic Reserve

The Sunshine Coast is not just about the beach – it is also about a spectacular rainforest hinterland. One of the great places to experience it is the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, a 55 hectare piece of subtropical rainforest, overlooking the Glass House Mountains.

Discover beautiful sub-tropical rainforest and Mary Cairncross Reserve.

Discover beautiful sub-tropical rainforest and Mary Cairncross Reserve.

With more than 2km of walking tracks, boardwalks and viewing platforms, it will enable your family to enjoy the surrounds in a relaxing environment. There is also a café, picnic area, gass bbqs, children’s playground.

The reserve is located in the beautiful hinterland township of Maleny, a historical town well-known for its arts and crafts and also, where you will also find Maleny Dairies.

7. Maleny Dairies

Maleny Dairies is a family owned dairy producing a range of milk products, including yoghurt.  Farm tours are available Monday – Saturday and there is a kiosk where you can buy some yummy milky drinks. The tour will give your kids a great overview of how milk gets from the cow to the bottle or carton in the fridge.

8. Strawberries & seafood

Experiencing local foods is one of the great things about holidaying – and the Sunshine Coast won’t let you down. One of the best meals I had when I visited last year was eating prawns fresh off the trawler at Mooloolaba. They had been cooked – I just took them back to my apartment, peeled and ate. Yum.

Visit local markets to eat and drink the very best of what the Sunshine Coast has to offer.

Visit local markets to eat and drink the very best of what the Sunshine Coast has to offer.

The Big Pineapple now holds a market Saturday morning  The market is best known for its huge variety of fresh and local produce. Virtually 50% of the area is dedicated to the sale of fresh produce, including fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, chicken, seafood and delicatessen products.

Also check out this great website which includes heaps of information about experiencing local produce in the Sunshine Coast region, including cooking schools and markets.

Also, don’t forget to ask the owner or manager where you are staying – more often than not, they can provide great tips on where to eat to help make the most of your holiday experience.

9. The Ginger Factory

On the face of it, your kids mightn’t get excited when you tell them you are going to a ginger factory, but this attraction is a family favourite and is a particularly great rainy day option.

Located between Nambour and Eumundi, entry to the grounds of The Ginger Factory is free, although there are tours that you can pay to take part in. These include:

  • the Ginger train (an historic cane train that takes you on a tour through the gardens)
  • Overboard (a meandering boat adventure ride with a gingerbread man theme)
  • Super Bee (the secrets of bee hives); and
  • the Ginger story (see how ginger is grown, harvested and made into products).

Visit the Ginger Factory website for more details.

10. Underwater World Sea Life Mooloolaba

So, you can gaze out at sea, but to really understand what is going on underneath you need to check out Underwater World Sea Life on Mooloolaba Wharf. Completely undercover, this is another perfect option for a rainy day (but also should be on your itinerary even if the weather remains good).

Underwater World has 16 themed zones to visit, including the Jellyfish Kingdom, Seahorse Sanctuary, Tidal Touch Pools, Seal Island, Shark Shipwreck, Turtle Temple and more. There are feed and talks scheduled throughout the day. And if your children are up to it, they can join the Ocean Ranger program during school holidays (booking required as places are limited).

Adventurous families can also sleep under the sea and see what the creatures get up to at night. For more details, check out the website (and save if you book on-line).

11. Sunshine Castle

Where to go when it rains, but to a castle – Sunshine Castle to be precise – another wet day option for little knights and princesses. Sunshine Castle was actually built in the 1970s and is a Norman style Castle, with medieval additions, complete with moat, turrets, towers and drawbridge.

Today it is filled with medieval displays and other exhibitions you can discover on a self-walk tour. Children can take part in a treasure hunt, and can choose a treat from the King’s treasure when their quest is complete.

Included on site is a Lord of the Rings display and a toy and doll museum. Special school holiday activities are also on offer. A local re-enactment group has a sword fighting training and display on the front lawn of the Castle on the first and third Saturdays of the month, from 10am-midday.

Sunshine Castle is located at Bli Bli.

12. Aussie World

Aussie World is located inland from Caloundra, on the Bruce Highway. While not on the same level as the Gold Coast theme parks, there are enough rides to cater for all ages, with the admission price giving you unlimited rides (family tickets available. Discounts available for on-line purchase).

Experience family fun at Aussie World - also home to the Ettamogah Pub.

Experience family fun at Aussie World – also home to the Ettamogah Pub.

Aussie World is also home to the quirky Ettamogah Pub, where you can enjoy a pub meal.

13. Top Shots Fun Park

Who doesn’t like a family game of mini-golf? Top Shots Fun Park has two mini-golf courses for your family to navigate. Other attractions include blaster boats, vertical trampolining and an inflatable slide and cannonball blaster (both of which only operate on weekends and school holidays).

Top Shots Fun Park is located in Maroochydore.

For a look at some of these attractions, check out Sunshine Coast Tourism’s  Attraction trail video. Need to know where to stay? Check out some great family friendly properties along the Coast.

* Images provided by Sunshine Coast Destination Limited.

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Sunshine Coast Easter fun – something for everyone

If you are lucky enough to be on the Sunshine Coast this Easter, there are a number of activities planned, with something on offer for the whole family.

The Kenilworth Cheese, Wine and Food Festival is on Easter Saturday April 19 – a free event that provides a great reason for indulging in the produce of the Mary Valley.

Kenilworth Cheese, Wine and Food Festival

Kenilworth Cheese, Wine and Food Festival

This year is the 25th anniversary of cheese making in Kenilworth, and along with cheese and wine tastings all day, there will be special activities for children, including the “Cheester Egg Hunt”.

There will also be a cheese rolling competition, followed by a cooking demonstration by Chef Peter Wolfe of Cedar Creek Farm Bush Foods, who will show how to infuse native bushfood flavours with Asian and European cuisines.There will be a wide variety of food outlets, as well as local wineries showcasing their produce.

On Easter Sunday, Maroochydore will be transformed into a multicultural mecca as part of the Ocean Street World Festival, which will include local Kabi Kabi dancers, Greek folk singers, a Latino rock band and North African drummers – as well as cuisine from all corners of the globe.

Lake Kawana will be another ‘hot spot’ during the Easter break, with the 2014 Australian Dragon Boat Championships. Hundreds of competitors from across the country will take to the lake in teams of twenty to paddle their impressive dragon boats to the finish line.

Australian Dragon Boat Championship

Australian Dragon Boat Championships

And with the Sunshine Coast recently scoring a top 10 place in the Trip Advisor Best Beaches awards (Noosa was voted 9th best in Australia), surf enthusiasts will be able to enjoy the Pa and Ma Bendall Surf Classic, Australia’s second longest running surf competition, which celebrates its 40th anniversary at Caloundra.

The 20th anniversary Pa and Ma Bendall Surf Classic

Other Easter events include the Faraway Easter Endurance Ride in the Mary Valley and Easter in the Garden – an open garden event to be held at the Shambles in Montville. The garden is open on Easter Saturday and Sunday.

And if you are planning to stay, don’t forget to check out the best family friendly accommodation on offer on the Sunshine Coast.

* Information provided by Sunshine Coast Destination Ltd

My January update

Where to start?

Combine school holidays with travelling interstate to visit relatives (check out my review of the Port Arthur family friendly ghost tour), working 3 days a week and a Melbourne heatwave – well, it’s been a bit hard to achieve much over the past month or so. I am sure many of you were in the same boat.

However, 2014 will be a year of major change for me. After working in the public sector for the past 14 years, a major restructure has offered up the chance to take a redundancy package.

So, what does this mean for you? It means I have a chance to grow Family Friendly Accommodation into a fully-fledged business.

Until now, I have been trying to build the website in between part-time work and raising two school-aged children. It has not been easy, because I have not been able to be consistent.

So, for me 2014 is a make-or-break year. I will not think about what happens if I am not successful because I will start from the mind-set that I will be successful. I remain passionate about the product and believe it deserves to be in the marketplace.

How you can help me?

Is there anything you particularly like or dislike about the website?

I want the website to be a valuable resource to help you make a more informed choice in family holiday accommodation.

Please let me know, as I am happy to look at making refinements to make the website more user -friendly.

Latest listings

I would also like to welcome 2 new premium partners on board.

The Metro Hotel Perth, is the perfect hotel for small families, of up to 4 people. Spacious rooms, including one bedroom apartments with kitchenettes, make for a comfortable stay. And the location near parklands and the Perth Zoo is great.

Forte Cape View Busselton is located beside beautiful Geographe Bay, south of Perth. I can highly recommend this area to families and with a range of accommodation options and plenty of open space, Forte Cape View is the perfect family friendly place to stay.

Gold Coast Special

Paradise Resort is renowned as the best family friendly resort on the Gold Coast. It is currently offering a special deal which includes accommodation, kids club session and a 3 day World Pass for the family to visit Dreamworld and White Water World. Why not combine a coastal holiday with a few days in the mountains at Cedar Creek Lodges at Thunderbird Park. A perfect family holiday.

Guide dogs and accommodation

The Queensland Government has made amendments to the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act to support the rights of people with disability who rely on guide, hearing and assistance dogs to access residential and holiday accommodation.

The changes came into effect in December and provide a right of access to places of accommodation for people with disability who rely on a guide, hearing or assistance dogs. Learn more.

Family friendly ghost tour impresses younger visitors

Despite her bravado just a couple of hours before arriving, Miss 8 dug in her heels and refused to enter the cottage to hear of the haunting tales being told within.

“No mummy, no mummy, no mummy,” she said as she clung to my hand, before turning and running along the veranda, back to relative safety outside the property fence, where she could once again be brave.

We were at Port Arthur on one of the new summer attractions – the family friendly ghost tour. Now, don’t let the name fool you. Despite being held in early evening, when the sun continues to light the grounds, you will still hear tales of convict era murder and death – and their related hauntings.

However, for older children, it is a perfect combination of history and horror that will intrigue. In fact, Mr 11 was in his element and almost overwhelmed with excitement and bravery. And for many younger children on our tour, what they were hearing went over their head.

Port Arthur, Australia’s best preserved convict era penal settlement, is about a one and a half hour drive from Hobart. The ghost tour is icing on the cake for this must-visit tourist attraction.

With her soft, dare I say haunting lilt, our guide, Bridie, was the perfect person to lead our tour. She started by asking for volunteer lantern bearers to take up positions in the start, middle and end of the group.

With Mr 11 unable to do this role (over 18 years only), Hubby bravely volunteered and ended up in the middle position – ably assisted by Mr 11. First stop was the iconic church. I won’t give away the tales told, but you WILL start expecting to hear or see something.

portarthurchurch

The church at Port Arthur – beautiful by day, hauntingly beautiful at night.

Next was the parsonage (the third most haunted building in Australia), where the front female lantern bearer refused to enter the house by herself to check that all was okay for us to follow. So, hubby & Mr 11 volunteered to do the honours and went in ahead.

“When I opened the door, I had a sense of dread and nervousness. I did not want to go in there by myself, ” Hubby said.

“It was hair-raising – I couldn’t look at the house because of the stories they’d said about seeing ghosts in the window,” Mr 11 added.

Miss 8 (right) and her cousin were too scared to enter the parsonage.

Miss 8 (right) and her cousin were too scared to enter the parsonage.

Staying outside with Miss 8 and her cousin, who got caught up in Miss 8’s fears, I am once again blown away by the beauty and majesty of a site that has seen so much violence and heart-ache.

On this tour, we learn about the hard lives that not only convicts lived, but those who serviced them (and their families) – and how those hardships may have led to the many hauntings experienced on site.

portarthurwalking

Walking through Port Arthur on the family friendly ghost tour

Next at the junior medical officer’s house, we learn about the playful child ghosts and the sad woman who searches for her stillborn child, who she was not buried with because the baby had not been. Such brutal times they were.

We then walk down to the basement, where we hear a haunting tale that also turns out to be one of the funniest stories of the night.

Our last stop is the model, or separate, prison. This place is the most oppressive of the tour. Here convicts were imprisoned in total silence and never referred to by name. Many went crazy.

It is a fitting place to end the tour, as we make our way back past the imposing penitentiary ruin to the visitor’s centre where more people wait to take part in the later ghost tours, that will take place in darkness.

The family friendly ghost tour runs at 7.30pm until 26 January.  And in true convict-era family friendly fashion (thank-you Port Arthur Management), a family ticket ($65) consists of 2 adults and up to 6 children aged under 17 years.

P.S Miss 8 was not scarred by her experiences on the ghost tour. However, she did sleep with me that night. Not that she needs much of an excuse to want to do that anyway!

Learn more about the family friendly ghost tour and other summer activities and make a booking.

If you are planning to stay the night, check out family friendly accommodation or Port Arthur Accommodation.

August Update

Feeling “blah”

A couple of weeks ago, I told my daughter (Miss 8) that I felt “blah”. I should have  known better as that has now become her favourite phrase, “Mum, I feel blah”.

But the fact is sometimes we do feel like that and 18 months after my website went live, I hit a wall. Trying to turn it into an income-earning business that will allow me to leave paid employment, as opposed to it being an extremely time-consuming hobby, is difficult.

Competition in the on-line travel field is so strong and I am just a small fish amongst a sea of giants from around the world, who have millions of dollars to promote themselves. So, I went through a couple of weeks of feeling disillusioned. I felt sorry for myself – I felt “blah”.

But the beauty of having a passion for what you do, is that you get over it. I believe in what I am doing and how it is, and will continue, to help more families discover the very best in family friendly accommodation.

So, I am re-motivating myself. This weekend, I cleaned up my desk and updated my ‘To Do’ list so I can make a fresh start.

This Thursday, I am off to see Russell Howcroft from the Gruen Transfer (amongst others) speak at the Small Business, Big Marketing event – part of Victoria’s Small Business Festival. I am really looking forward to hearing from such positive and enthusiastic people.

And soon, I aim to have some great new properties to showcase – as well as continue to promote those wonderful property owners and managers who have already come on board and supported me and my vision.

Media coverage

During my recent trip to the Sunshine Coast, I met the lovely Jennifer from Northwind Apartments at Mooloolaba. Jennifer had contacted me earlier this year after she discovered my website during a Google search.

As well as running the apartments, Jennifer is passionate about her community. So, she joined with me in pitching an article to the Sunshine Coast Daily. I was so happy when the paper decided it was a great story for their business section.

I was also asked to write an article for Yahoo about holiday activities for a range of budgets.

And just last week, my latest contribution for Mouths of Mums, planning for a holiday on a budget, was posted with some lovely feedback and comments.

On my own blog, anyone interested in Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit has to read about our visit to Hobbiton earlier this year.

After a weekend away – organised by the lovely blogger, Claire Hewitt, I had a bit of fun talking about our family’s competitive table tennis obsession. If you have any family holiday quirks, leave a comment.

Coming up
I am really excited about speaking at the Australian Regional Tourism Network Convention in October. More about that next month.

And given it is almost September, don’t forget to start thinking about the Christmas school holidays. Get in early and book your flights (or in our case, Spirit of Tasmania) now as the prices will only increase. You should also start your accommodation research now, as you will find many popular places may already be booked out.

 

June Update

I hope many of you are planning winter get-aways – whether it is snuggling up in the colder southern states or escaping to the warmer northern climes.

My get-away

Some of you may know I maintain a part-time job while I continue to grow www.familyfriendlyaccommodation.com.au. I am currently enjoying 6 weeks’ long service leave.

Instead of sitting in my home office (surrounded by housework I keep putting off), I have decided to hit the road for a week. As well as catching up with one of my best friends in Brisbane, I will spend a week visiting accommodation owners along the Sunshine Coast.

I am really looking forward to letting people know about my website and hopefully encourage a few more family friendly properties to come on board.

Offering a cross section of properties to suit the varying holiday needs of Australian families is the key to our success.

Our latest Premium Partners

I am excited to welcome two more Premium Partners on board this month.

Paradise Resort on the Gold Coast was one of the first to really focus on the family market, offering kids clubs and other activities to keep the children (and therefore their parents) happy.

It is continuing to evolve and offer new experiences and earlier this year opened an ice-skating rink.

If your family is after a full family resort experience on the Gold Coast, you can’t go Paradise Resort.

We also welcome On the Beach Apartments at Trinity Beach. This stretch of coast is considered by many locals to be the Cairn’s northern beaches’ most beautiful.

On the Beach is actually a series of five buildings located across from the patrolled area of the beach.

Free WiFi and complementary boogie boards and beach toys are bound to keep children of all ages happy.

If you are considering a beach holiday in the Cairns area, you need to check out On the Beach Apartments.

Listings

After 18 months, I am no longer able to offer free listings on www.familyfriendlyaccommodation.com.au

I have put in a considerable amount of time and money into building up a professional website. I love doing it. But it needs to be viable too.

As of 2 June, any accommodation owners wanting to list their property are now required to pay a small annual fee. In recognition of those properties who came on board at the start of my journey, I am not making this retrospective.

All basic listings created prior to 1 June 2013 will remain as is and no fee will be requested.

However, the new basic listing will feature a small introductory paragraph on the listings page. Any property owners wanting this enhanced feature will be required to pay the annual fee.

If anyone has any questions, they can email me, enquiries@familyfriendlyaccommodation.com.au

Happy holidays

School holidays are coming up & even if you are not going away, there is heaps to do.

There are some great websites around that detail activities and events to keep families entertained. Here are a handful of them:

If you are after information about what to do in Queensland, check out Brisbane Kids, Gold Coast Kids, and Sunny Coast Kids.

In Victoria, Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula are covered with Little Melbourne, Peninsula Kids, and Melbourne Playgrounds. And don’t forget one of Victoria’s biggest event for kids in the lovely seaside town of Warrnambool, Fun 4 Kids.

Those in NSW can check out Ella’s List, To Do Kids and Sydney for Kids.

If you are in Tasmania, check out Hobart Kidz

Visit Play & Go Adelaide if you live in South Australia, or Out & About in Perth if you live in WA.

Nationally, find some great playgrounds at Playground Finder.

Don’t forget to check your local tourist information and council websites, many of which list local and community activities and events.

If you know of any other websites, let us know in the comments section.

Port Albert – discovering a Victorian coastal gem

Wandering towards the Port Albert jetty, I hear the sounds of children squealing, water splashing and a dog barking its encouragement. Such a quintessential Aussie scene, it makes me smile – until I realise it is my 7-year-old “baby” about to jump.

“No”, I yell to my husband. “I don’t want her doing that – she’s too young.”
People around me laugh. I know why as my husband tells me it’s too late – she’s done it 3 times already.

Re-assured by a local mum with a 4-year-old jumping veteran, I take a deep breath and watch my ‘babies’ having the time of their lives, urged on by Red Dog (as they named him) a blue heeler who joined in on their fun.

Don't be scared mum - we're not.

Don’t be scared mum – we’re not.

This was one of the many wonderful experiences of our 5-day adventure into this “undiscovered” corner of Victoria’s scenic Gippsland region.

It was my husband, a keen recreational fisherman, who wanted us to go to Port Albert. Indeed, it is the town’s boat ramp that is the busiest place in town.

Today it remains a quaint, historic fishing village full of charm. To me it is more ‘Pearl Bay’ than Barwon Heads, which has experienced a burst of modern development since the much-loved TV series was on our screens.

This sort of development is yet to reach Port Albert (and dare I say, maybe I hope it never does).

Our home for 5 days was Blithe Spirit, a comfortable homestay run by local couple Carol and Wynne Hobson. This local couple were involved with the town’s once thriving gummy shark fishery, before turning their hand to tourism.

Blithe Spirit - homestay accommodation.

Blithe Spirit – homestay accommodation.

As well as running Blithe Spirit, they also run a charter business, taking visitors on their yacht, Nooramunga, to explore the waterways of Port Albert and beyond.

Settled in 1841 as Gippsland’s first port, Port Albert was the entry point for migrants seeking their fortunes in the goldfields. Its waters also claimed many ships, the most famous of which, the PS Clonmel in 1841, was integral to the town’s development.

Today, a lot of that history remains through its old buildings, including the old Bank of Gippsland (1862), which houses the Gippsland Regional Maritime Museum.

I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the artefacts and information, including a display of the Omega global positioning navigation system equipment that was located at nearby Woodside.

The Omega system was the fore-runner to GPS and provided navigation systems for aircrafts and ships, with eight towers positioned at various points on the globe.

Port Albert is a hidden gem amongst Victoria's many coastal towns.

Port Albert is a hidden gem amongst Victoria’s many coastal towns.

But Port Albert is not just about history. It is also about nature. The town is located within the Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park. As well as the Old Port Walk Trail, there are numerous bike paths in the wider area, many of them part of the rail trail network.

While coastal park means more mangroves than sand, children will find a way (hence the wharf jumping). There is a small stretch of sand children can paddle in at low tide and Ninety Mile Beach is less than half an hour’s drive away.

Ninety Mile Beach - great for beach walking & exploring

Ninety Mile Beach – great for beach walking & exploring

Another option is the outdoor heated pool at Toora.  This delightful country swimming pool ended up being a highlight of our trip for the kids, with its poolside basketball and tractor tyre tube. Not to mention the fact we had the pool to ourselves!

However, it is for those with their own boat that Port Albert comes into its own. With some 100km of sheltered waterways, spits and islands, the boating is magnificent and picturesque.

Although a slight motor issue put a halt to our marine expeditions, we did manage to spend a lovely day on the water, motoring out to Clonmel Spit. This is a beautiful stretch of sand, but with a tide going out, we were loathe to get too close to shore in the shallow waters.

Instead, hubby and the kids jumped off the side into waist deep water and snorkelled and dug for yabby bait.

In addition to our motor problem, the windy weather was not on our side either. But that lead us to explore the local area, including Tarra Bulga National Park.

As we found ourselves on a winding, narrow gravel road, I wondered if we were on the right track. I was sure we had followed the signs.  I am not a good forest driver at the best of times, and with no other cars in sight, I was just about to blurt out to my hubby “I want to go back” when we arrived in the small forest town of Balook.

We had made it (I later found out we had ended up on a back road). But the journey was worthwhile. Tarra Bulga National Park is stunning.  With its tall mountain ash and lush fern gullies, this area is unique and spectacular. A visitor centre can fill you in on the area’s natural and historical heritage.

This tree is so big!

This tree is so big!

During our walk to Corrigans suspension bridge, we listened to the sounds of the forest. Unfortunately, this was interrupted by my husband, who is currently obsessed with the TV show, Finding Bigfoot.

“This is definitely “Squatch territory,” he said, letting out a Bobo ‘squatch call’ much to the fright and delight of the kids. I just hoped no-one was coming around the next bend to discover this crazy family.

Walking through the beautiful Tarra Bulga National Park

Walking through the beautiful Tarra Bulga National Park

After a lovely lunch in the country charm of the Lyrebird Cafe, we made our way back to Port Albert, following the Tarra River through it picturesque valley, stopping for another walk to the Cyathea Falls walk.

On the subject of food, Port Albert might be small, but you can get a great coffee thanks to the Port Albert cafe & wine bar.

We ate at Wildfish, which, consistent with a small town, is run by the son of our accommodation hosts.

With its chic, fine dining look, I was a bit worried taking the children, but was proven wrong as soon as I walked in and saw high chairs. There was a children’s menu too.  Located on the wharf, the location is superb, as was my crispy citrus prawns on coriander & wasabi soba noodles.

But if you are not up to dining out, get take-away fish and chips from next door. Our flake was like I remember it as a child – thick and well, flakey. To us at least, it did measure up to its reputation of having Victoria’s best fish and chips.

We had a great holiday!

We had a great holiday!

Getting there: Port Albert is about a three hour drive from Melbourne, along the South Gippsland Highway.
While there: A visit to Tarra Bulga National Park is a must. If you have not got your own boat, take a cruise with Nooramunga Sailing Tours. Explore the western end of Ninety Mile Beach. Take a day trip to Wilsons Promontory.
More information: If you want to discover this charming coastal hamlet and surrounding areas for yourself, visit www.tourismwellington.com.au and www.loveportalbert.com.au

Responsibility cannot take a holiday

I recently spent the night at a lovely place – a special holiday treat for my children before they started the school year. The accommodation was great and we had a wonderful time, apart from one thing. And this ‘thing’ was not the fault of the accommodation owners – it was caused by other families.

It got me thinking about why people may cringe when they see children on holidays. Unfortunately, it seems there are a minority of parents who think holidays are a time for them to sit back while they let their children run riot. And, swimming pools seem to be the focus of this lapse. It was in my situation.

Case 1: two mums sitting back, drinking their wine and talking, while a toddler in a swimming ring was left in the care of older children, who were constantly jumping in, often splashing me and my children. Not to mention the pungent smell coming from the toddler…..

Case 2: the teenage girls playing ‘chasy’ in the pool, who decided to use me as an obstacle, as the girl in front of me kept lunging to my side, trying to tag the girl behind me before I told them to stop.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not the fun police, but parents have a responsibility to make sure their children are not ruining an experience for others. Yes, children can scream in excitement and cry in frustration. But I know if my children are impacting on the pleasure of others by doing ‘dive bombs’ in the pool or ‘hogging’ a favourite piece of play equipment, I will pull them up on it.

In the long run, I hope I am instilling in them a sense of responsibility and empathy that will guide them into adult life.

Have you had holiday experiences impacted on by others? Or do you think I am being unfair? Let me know what you think.

Find family friendly accommodation in New Zealand

When I started Family Friendly Accommodation, I had grand visions of having listings from all around the world. But the reality is that being based in Australia means it is easier to get information from Australian operators.

With so many of us travelling back and forth across the ditch, I got in touch with Meg from Family Accommodation NZ and we now have a link to each other’s websites. That means you can use our New Zealand tab to link to Family Accommodation NZ and discover a great range of family friendly accommodation options. And New Zealanders travelling to Australia can also link directly to us from the Family Accommodation NZ website.

Also check out Kidz Go NZ for a wider range of information to help plan your family holiday, including activities, dining and shopping.