Category Archives: Travelling with kids

It’s a wild life in the Scenic Rim

Fruit bats and termites aren’t your usual cute and furry tourist magnets, but they’re still pretty amazing creatures.

Last night, we stopped at the local info centre in Boonah to fill up our water tanks – and we weren’t short of company. Thousands of squawking, squeaking fruit bats were roosting in the trees nearby. Here’s a few just hanging around…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Going batty in Boonah

But the thing that fascinated me were the hundreds of termite mounds dotted across the paddocks along the road from Beaudesert to Boonah.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Termite mounds near Boonah

Termites may be a No.1 pest on the urban hit list, but they play a vital role in balancing Australian ecosystems.

What do they do? Apart from building architectural mud masterpieces, these busy little creatures help to decompose dead plant matter and quickly turn it into nutritious soil (clearly not something you want in your woodwork at home).

They are also on the menu for wildlife like lizards, birds, spiders, ants, echidnas and other small marsupials. Some don’t just eat the termites, they nest in ‘the pantry’ or shelter from fire in the mounds.

From weird and wonderful to some dam fine scenery…

On the way home, we swung by Wyaralong Dam and the Mt Joyce Recreation Park, a fantastic place for kayaking, camping, fishing, waterbird watching and more.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

In Queensland’s January 2011 floods, the new Wyaralong Dam filled overnight. Pretty spectacular since, when it’s full, it covers 1,230 hectares!

We also encountered wild life here, of the dusty, sweaty cyclist kind. These creatures are a clue to the fun to be had on kilometres of mountain bike trails in the surrounding hills. They assured us the trails were better than our favourites at Daisy Hill in Brisbane – and not as busy.

Of course, EB immediately decided it was time to dust off our trusty mountain bikes so we can come back here to test the trails ourselves…

Back to bird watching. Gotta hang onto the serenity while you can, hey?

Copyright: Louise Ralph

going fishing, egret style

Copyright: Louise Ralph

making ripples…

The pros and cons of cruising

Copyright: Fiona Craigie 2012

Cruising New Zealand. Photo: Fiona Craigie

Cruising has never been on my bucket list – unless it’s small ship adventure travel in the Arctic with Lindblad Expeditions.

But those big liners? No. Way.

I read the Poseiden Adventure when I was twelve and it scarred me for life.

The Titanic movie didn’t help. Neither did the Costa Concordia running aground and literally falling over off the coast of Isola del Giglio, Tuscany in 2012.

Mais oui, every time I read the travel section of any newspaper, there are super fabulous cruise deals… on almost every page. This weekend there were full- and half-page ads on 12 pages of the 16-page liftout.

With all those amazing deals floating around (and just to prove I’m not totally pigheaded about these things), I asked some very cool cruisers what they liked and didn’t like about their voyages.

Copyright: Fiona Craigie 2012

Cruising New Zealand. Photo: Fiona Craigie

The good stuff

The ‘unpack once’ thing got the biggest tick from everyone.

Jo liked the idea of visiting a lot of different places but still coming back to the same ‘home’ every night.

The next big tick was the food, which Fiona said was “too fabulous (depending on the cruise line you’re with)”.

The best bit, I’m told, is having the food, drink and entertainment included but being able to choose what, where and when you indulge.

Optional organized tours were another positive, especially when you know the ship won’t leave without you.

And of course, there’s that much needed downtime because you have nowhere else to rush off to – except possibly the bar or the blackjack table.

Other ticks go to the fact that everything is planned and looked after – a big one because a lot of us find the planning part so stressful, especially if you’re travelling with kids and need to keep them busy and interested!

Then there’s the safety and security aspects, and an onboard ‘hospital’ (which, as we’ll soon see, is a necessity not a luxury!).

The bad bits

Cyn found having to constantly talk to strangers a tough one. “And there are a LOT of them,” she said.

While it might seem obvious that a fair few people will fit on those floating cities, Jo pointed out that the rooms usually aren’t designed as spaces to hang out in so you are forced to go out and socialise, whether you want to or not.

Lots of people in close proximity create other problems. Like the possibility of being on a ship full of ‘screaming kids’ or people all 20 years older than you. Or the time it takes for the multitudes to disembark and embark in ports. And those dreaded gastric bugs that get around.

As if that’s not daunting enough, Jo says adjusting to the constant movement of the boat is difficult, as is getting your ‘land legs’ back afterwards.

Fiona found travelling between ports at night wasn’t great – especially in the Alaskan Inside Passage, where you miss all the great scenery.

“You also can’t stop in port for a few days, which you might do if you’re travelling independently,” she said.

So while cruising is an awesome (and these days more affordable) holiday choice for many people, I’m still not convinced I could be trapped on a ship for long periods of time – and I know EB definitely couldn’t.

Unless it involves exit strategies like kayaks and zodiacs – with plenty of wildlife (that’s one word, not two) to distract us. Just saying…

Copyright: Fiona Craigie 2012

A small floating city… Photo: Fiona Craigie

Fresh eggs, curious cows and free range kids

My writerly co-conspirator Sandra recently took a short break with her husband and two kids aged nine and 12. For something a bit different, they headed to the country instead of the coast…

Taking a break is often harder work than staying home. You want to see this, do that, go there. For our recent four day break we wanted just that – a break. But how do you do that with children? I decided to try a country cottage nestled alongside the Mapleton Falls National Park.

Normally we’d do a beachside unit, but that can be exhausting when you’re the one lugging boogie boards and cleaning sand out of everything. Mapleton Falls Farm Stay sounded like far less work.

The farmhouse had the basics including a fully stocked pod coffee machine, which was a pleasant surprise. For entertainment there wasn’t much more than a television, a stereo and some aging board games.

eggsThere was also the promise of bushwalking, cows, egg laying chickens and a shaded swing in an old tree to keep the kids amused for hours.

As promised the cows were friendly and delighted the kids with their eagerness to be handfed.

The three chickens produced half a dozen warm, white eggs. And the swing was great for pushing the boundaries of daring as well as for contemplative rocking.

The bushwalk on offer was only a very short track, the Wompoo Circuit – enough to keep everyone interested for an easy half hour walk.

When they’d had enough of that there was always a comfy couch and iPods to listen to – or the massage chair, which was another unexpected luxury and a great place to read!

For a family wanting to get away and really relax, Mapleton Falls Farm Stay was a great option. At less than two hours drive from Brisbane, it’s easy to access – and somewhere our city kids can go ‘free range’ for a while.