What says fun like a long drive with kids, no iPads or DVD players and lots of walking? I know right! Exactly my idea of fun (well it would be if you swapped out the kids for some peaceful music!).
Well, we decided that it was time to get the kids out of the house and get ourselves into nature. I'm not actually a huge nature person - I mean, I love nature but generally from a cozy room looking outside, or if I have to get really close to it then I really like elevated boardwalks so I am up, up and away from mud and bugs. With that in mind, our day trip suited me to a T!
So early one sunny winter morning I packed some tasty lunchboxes for the kids, lots of bottled water, some treats for emergency bribery and our sunscreen. We then drove down to the Illawarra, a beautiful area of NSW, roughly a 2 hour drive south of Sydney.
The drive down was quite peaceful - well as peaceful as one would expect with three kids in the back. The first leg of our trip consisted of lots of giggling, a sudden toilet stop by the edge of the road and a large assortment of rocks that were collected as "treasures".
The second leg of our trip consisted of some sibling rivalry, some whining about how much longer till we got there and a packet of chips in which the crumbs were used to make a delightful artwork across the floor of our car.
We stopped at a beautiful place in Budderoo National Park and visited Carrington Falls, a beautiful small waterfall from the Kangaroo river which drops about 50 metres (164ft) into the gully below. The views were really beautiful and I was reminded that nature can be a nice thing after all.
After a short hike to the falls and back we returned to our car to head to our main destination for the day which was the Illawarra Fly Treetop adventures. The Fly is a 1.5km (.93 mile) loop track that takes you into the forest area and up through the trees on an elevated steel bridge structure. The steel bridge runs for 500m (1640ft) of that walk and parts of the walk are more than 35 metres (115ft) off the forest floor.
We joined another family to enjoy this fun day out and I was surprised to find out while on the elevated walkways that every one of my family are afraid of heights! Yep, so that was fun! Jonathon, with all three of our children, walked along the walkway gripping the railings tightly and trying to avoid looking down. I, on the other hand was leaning over the edges, taking photos and enjoying the feeling of being up high. I stared incredulously at my family wondering how they were possibly mine. The fun increased even more (for me) when we got to climb the 106 steps up to the Knights Tower. This tower takes you above the canopy of the rainforest into the emergent layer (yes, I'm learning quite a lot during homeschool ha!) The views were really amazing and you can see beaches in the distance. I enjoyed the feeling of being up there and would have spent more time had it not been for the green colour spreading across the faces of my family. Alas we climbed back the tower steps to the main walking area and continued our walk through the trees.
My idea had been to doing a listening exercise with the kids and have them listen for various birds and animals that we had been studying in preparation for this trip. The trouble with this was the noise emanating from my children and the other children we were with. I'm sure the poor animals and birds in the near vicinity promptly relocated and as such I was unable to hear the noise of the Eastern Whipbird which I was very much looking forward to.
As we neared the end of the elevated walkways my toddler suddenly gained some courage and decided that being up high wasn't as bad as he first thought. Wouldn't that have been nice half an hour prior?!
We finished our time at the Fly with some lunch and jumped back into the car to head to the Blue Pool back near Carrington Falls. We got some lovely photos, had a lovely short bushwalk (the perfect kind when you have kids) and achieved the impossible with not one of the children falling in the water. Parenting for the win!
Our drive home was now on the horizon and we decided to make two more quick stops on our way back to Sydney. Firstly we stopped in Robertson to see the Big Potato. This year we had already seen the Big Merino, the Big Prawn and the Big Banana so obviously we needed to stop and see the Big Potato. I must say I was very underwhelmed when it came into view. Honestly my first thought was that rather than a potato, I thought it more closely resembled something that related more to a type of waste than a food. Even so, we ticked it off our to-see list and headed off again.
Our last stop before heading home was Belmore Falls, a short drive from the Big Potato. I navigated while my husband drove and the other family followed us in their car. I did a really good job at annoying the people in the car behind us by getting distracted and forgetting to tell my husband where to turn, so we got to enjoy a few 3 point turns as we got back on track. Fortunately my sweet smile and sparkling personality made up for it and no one was too angry.
The falls were really lovely and once again I got to enjoy a nice view from up high. My husband, who loves taking photos, did an extra walk to a different vantage point so he could see the waterfall from a different view. I stayed at the car with the kids while he did this and they amused themselves by collecting even more rocks for our rapidly expanding collection.
Here, we said goodbye to the other family and packed the kids back in the car with a snack and turned our car towards home. The car drive home was (thankfully) uneventful and we got home not long before the children's bedtime. All in all it was a really enjoyable trip and I dare say, the children may even have learned something.