Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
School holidays were upon us and we planned to camp in the beautiful Jervis Bay National Park until we received a wedding invitation in the small Riverina city of Wagga Wagga and so we designed a small road trip instead!
The wedding was held at the lovely Magpie’s Nest Restaurant which is set in a stone stable and overlooks grapevines and olive groves. It was the first wedding that our children have attended and they had a good time, enjoying dressing up and fortunately the wedding couple have a child so there were kid foods and toys to keep the little ones entertained. After the wedding we strolled along the banks of the Murrumbidgee River and settled on dinner at Romano’s Restaurant where we had a decent meal and our children could relax and we didn’t disturb other patrons too much! The next morning we continued exploring the Murrumbidgee, played at Wagga Beach, and admired the churches.
We had lunch in the sunshine on the hill at the Rotary Lookout in South Gundagai that is reached via Mount and Luke Streets. We sat at the concrete table and chairs but there were no other amenities. Just before arriving at the lookout I realised that I had left our children’s coats at the home of the wedding couple so we were heading off camping in Spring with wedding clothes but no coats! We tried the op shop in town but found that it was closed because it was Sunday. Next we headed to the Dog on the Tuckerbox monument. We had enjoyed reading the story with our children earlier this year and I had been to the monument as a teenager so we were keen to show them the monument. We were disappointed to find that the area has been commercialised so much that there is a mini shopping district there, with abundant tourists, many of whom didn’t seem very interested in the dog itself and we felt that it detracted from the experience.
Our next stop was afternoon tea at the lookout on Rocky Hill associated with the Goulburn War Memorial and Museum. The War Memorial is a 20m tall, square tower that commemorates those who enlisted in the armed services from the Goulburn district. The views over the Goulburn and surrounds are panoramic but not very exciting. The Lookout is open 7 days a week from 7am-5pm and there are public toilets near the carpark.
From Goulburn we continued on our journey to Wombeyan Caves and I’ve written a separate post about camping there. The caves were beautiful, the bushland was tranquil with lots of wildlife so we enjoyed those aspects that we miss from pre kid life. Our children found things to enjoy everywhere we went and did lots of imaginative play with sticks and dirt etc (no gadgets or screens).
Mittagong and Bowral
By following Wombeyan Caves Road to the East we arrived in Mittagong at lunchtime and we were keen to enjoy some cafe food but were disappointed by the dearth of options other than greasy fast food so we settled on some Turkish food that was probably the worst that we’ve ever had. From there we continued 10 minutes driving to Bowral via the Mount Gibraltar Reserve lookout and found dozens of delightful looking cafes and kicked ourselves for settling in Mittagong! We spent some happy times exploring op shops and buying some new treasures there and had a great coffee at Palate Pleasure Cafe.
Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan
Our next stop was to have a picnic in Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan on our way to camp in the Blue Mountains. Our children delighted in playing in the water garden, rolling down the grassy hill, and identifying water birds on the lake. We were able to refill our water bottles from the taps and use the toilets but were disappointed by the policy of not providing bins, especially because we were about to camp in a national park with no amenities! It looks like there’s a lot of work underway to improve the infrastructure available in the gardens but in general I was disappointed by how small the plant displays are.
Blue Mountains National Park
We had tried to book a camping spot at Euroka Campground but it’s too popular in the school holidays so we were left with the unpopular option of Murphy’s Glen and I’ve written a separate post about camping there. The most famous feature of the Blue Mountains is the Three Sisters rock formation at Echo Point, Katoomba. We had 2nd breakfast in a 1930’s cafe called Cafe Zuppa. We had deliberated because there are several atmospheric looking cafes along the strip of Katoomba Street. It was fine in Cafe Zuppa but not great and not warm either which we really needed after a cold night of camping. The area at Echo Point is very touristic and I can see that it’s necessary to provide the kinds of facilities that are desired by international travellers on tour buses but for us that’s a good reason not to go there (although I did enjoy the warm water in the handbasin and Dyson hand-dryer at the public toilets at Echo Point!). The nearby town of Leura has some lovely alternative shops and provides access to the view of the Three Sisters from the east at the lookout for Gordon Falls. We had a picnic lunch in the park there with picnic tables, public toilets with toilet paper but no soap and shelters for bad weather. We took a walk to the East towards Leura Cascades and the views were lovely! The Blue Mountains were lovely, especially the wild flowers but we were rained on and it was even colder than Wombeyan Caves and our campsite had no amenities other than a pit toilet so we ended up cutting the trip short and fleeing to the comfort of a house instead to finish off the school holidays.
We finished our road trip by driving the Grand Pacific Drive in the Illawarra. We parked on the southern end of the Sea Cliff Bridge and walked across the bridge with our children, marvelling at the blue-green sea below us, and pointing out the many rock-falls on the cliffs and explaining that’s why the bridge was made. We had a picnic lunch at Austinmer beach which is my favourite of all the beaches in the Illawarra, made extra special for our low-sugar family by the indulgence of a nice gelato from the gelateria.
We did the whole trip with our hatchback and rooftop box and somehow managed to fit everything that we needed into the small amount of space but I really wish I hadn’t forgotten those coats! It was really nice to take a break from routines, work, and school and spend uninterrupted time as a family out of range of mobile networks and encourage a love of nature in our children.