Category Archives: Adventures

Hunter Valley Zoo

If you haven’t been to the Hunter Valley Zoo in Nulkaba, then pack a picnic and head there pronto! We went for the first time on Boxing Day with Nanna and the Sydney cousins, and we had an absolute ball.

The Hunter Valley Zoo originally opened its doors in 2006 on the site of a former deer park. Although it hasn’t been around for long, the zoo has built up a lovely collection of animals (both furred and feathered) and an excellent reputation.

Wallabies, lions, alligators and – my personal favourite – a tapir, are just a few of the creatures on show. And the site is small enough to be totally manageable with little people. It is also beautifully kept, with clear signage to tell you what you’re looking at. Just in case you think that the brown camels are in fact llamas, like muggins here . . .

We loved that you can get up really close to some of the creatures – like these goats, deer and llamas (er, correction: camels). We actually went in a pen with some goats, too, but I didn’t get a pic as they were super-excited to see us (i.e. leaping around, rearing up on their hind legs as they tried to reach the cones of food we had bought on arrival). Yes, we weren’t feeding the friendly creatures ice cream, in case you were wondering from the photo below; the cones actually contain special animal pellets.

The zoo is open every day during the school holidays. Ickle and Mivvy both gave it a big thumbs up. Ickle particularly liked the dingoes and wolves and Mivvy thought the sheep were great. Looks like we’ll be going back again in 2018!

Happy New Year!

Happy Campers

The school holidays may now be a dim and distant memory, but I didn’t want to miss out on sharing our special camping trip with you.

“We’re heading to Treachery for a few days,” I’d been telling friends.

“Treachery?” they replied. “Where’s that?”

It turns out that Treachery is the name of a campsite at Seal Rocks, about 2.5 hours’ north of our Lake Macquarie home. And it is a popular holiday destination … to those in the know.

With some trepidation, I booked us in for three nights. What if the girls hate it? I wondered. What if they get freaked out by life under canvas and want to leave?I needn’t have worried. They loved it. Pitching a tent, toasting marshmallows on the campfire, watching spontaneous puppet shows, playing ‘Beanie Boo go’ (don’t ask – I’ve got no idea), hanging out with their cousins at the beach …And – hey – the campsite even had its own little café with barista-made coffee. We were practically glamping!

We didn’t venture much further than Treachery Beach this time. But we did go for a beautiful nature walk along the clifftops where we intrepid explorers spotted a diamond python, a scary spider, and a pod of dolphins in the water below.

On our next visit to Treachery – and we’ve already decided on a next visit – we plan to check out the local lighthouse and maybe some of the eateries at nearby Blueys Beach.

The Other Side of the World

UK 2016-001Why has it been so quiet on Icklegen of late?

Because we have been on the other side of the world. Obviously. Light years away from computer technology and the blogosphere.

Well, not exactly. The UK may be a long way to go (an exhausting 24-hour flight away to be precise, and let’s not forget the ensuing jet lag), but we were still *connected*. Just not that active online.

But very active elsewhere. We had family and friends to see, a very special wedding to attend, and places to explore. It wasn’t a whirlwind four weeks – we tried to pace ourselves, honest! – but we created some wonderful memories to carry with us until our next visit.

Rather than reduce these to a few lines each, I am going to treat you to a few individual posts over the next couple of weeks. Or sooner if I find the time to tap away on my trusty keyboard. Although given that it’s the end of July already, that might be a little ambitious…

Here’s a taste of what’s to come:P1030824Punch & Judy, ferret racing, and so much more at a classic country fair.P1030879The discovery that visiting an English stately home and gardens isn’t so dull after all.P1040011Getting up close with some pretty amazing flying machines.

Newie Rocks

In the 3.5 years we’ve lived on Lake Macquarie, I’ve only ventured up north to Newcastle once. On that occasion Ickle and I visited Carrington, met up with a friend in a boho café on the main drag, and picnicked in a nearby park. A return visit was long overdue.

Although it’s our nearest big city, Newie is a fair drive from our little patch of paradise. I know from previous experience that 48 minutes on Google Maps can quickly turn into an hour plus, especially with my lamentable sense of direction. I needn’t have worried, however, as the journey turned out to be a sinch this time.P1030371We met up with friends, Ettie and Bear* and their mummy, at Newcastle Museum. As Newie regulars, they were already waiting for us in the Mininova soft play area. What a great spot for tinies to escape from their strollers and crawl and clamber about! Ickle and Ettie are big girls now though, so promptly left their younger siblings to explore the hands-on exhibits in the adjoining Supernova space. They pulled on giant ropes to lift a car off the ground, floated colourful plastic balls on an air stream blown through a funnel, and much more. They also particularly enjoyed the historic train exhibit in the Link Gallery, or was it the gravel alongside the locomotive that proved the real attraction?P1030380We had intended to spend snack o’clock in the very sleek-looking café on site, but it was closed for a private function, so we headed out into Honeysuckle instead. An inspired decision. Here, derelict industrial land has been transformed into an attractive waterfront precinct, buzzing with trendy restaurants and cafés; there is also a fabulous 7-km promenade that runs all the way from Carrington to Nobbys Lighthouse.P1030389Ickle and Ettie had a good splash in the fountains and then took turns (mostly) to zip along the waterfront on Ickle’s scooter, while the mummies enjoyed sipping on their beverage of choice. And the tinies had a ball scrambling around underfoot.P1030408Newie rocks! Can’t wait for our next visit…

*Names have been changed.

Ah, Iluka

What a wonderful few days we spent in Iluka, a small village at the mouth of the Clarence River, just a couple of hours south of Byron Bay.P1010862

I’ve been trying to put my finger on what made this time so special, as Iluka itself didn’t immediately inspire me. The landscape is flatter than flat, and the gloomy weather meant that each day we were greeted with a dull palette of greys and faded yellows. And yet, there is so much more to this location than meets the eye.P1010891

First, Iluka is relatively unspoilt. Yes, there is a caravan park and signs for holiday rentals are dotted around, but it is still very much a fishing village. Real commercial trawlers venture out all year round returning with their catch, much of which is provided to the local fishermen’s co-operative. When we visited, there were fresh prawns, whiting, mullet, homemade fishcakes and Balmain Bugs*. And recreational fishing is a popular activity too.P1010871P1010867

There are local beaches for surfing and swimming, although some of these can only be accessed by 4WD; littlies can always go for a dip in the dedicated area by the riverside near the local playground. The village is surrounded by national park and boasts the largest remaining expanse of seaside rainforest in NSW (World Heritage-listed in 1986). There is so much to do…or so little.P1010858

Iluka is a great place to wind down away from the rat race, but still comfortably close to civilisation. Our holiday cottage was within easy walking distance of the shops, the river, and pretty much everything else. It did help that the wonderful Cowrie Cottage was a particularly welcoming and well-equipped place to stay, complete with enclosed garden and play equipment for Icklegen (and it was a bargain at the price, I might add).

We did venture a bit further afield on my birthday, but that’s another story to look forward to in due course. In the meantime, farewell Iluka, ’til next time.

*The Balmain Bug (now there’s a great name) is a type of lobster native to Australian waters.

Nambucca Heads

I mentioned in my last post that I would be writing about our holiday in a series of instalments, rather than one giant missive. So here, people, is the first of these, starting at stop number one: Nambucca Heads.P1010835

At 4.5 hours’ journey time from home, I did wonder whether Icklegen would last the distance (or me, for that matter). I needn’t have worried. She dropped off to sleep shortly after departure and snoozed for an impressively long time. We then had a decent snack and leg stretch at a playground en route, and the last part of the journey was made bearable by Daddy Ickle’s inspired idea to load some episodes of Peppa Pig onto his iPad for our backseat babe.P1010819

Nambucca Heads is located just off the Pacific Highway. In fact, it used to be on the main road north, but has been spared the traffic thanks to a bypass. What a relief that must have been for the locals and the tourists. Once a bustling port, it is now a quiet little place, or at least it is in the low season.P1010837P1010844

‘Nambucca’ derives from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘entrance to the waters’, and it couldn’t be more appropriate. The view of the river estuary from the higher slopes is spectacular and two of the town’s must-see attractions are defined by their relationship with water. The first of these, the V-Wall, runs parallel to the Nambucca River as it enters the sea. The wall is a graffiti artist’s dream: hundreds of boulders providing the perfect canvas for works of art and declarations of peace and love. Icklegen loved it. She danced along the concrete path and clambered on the rocks to have a closer look at the varying designs and bright colours.P1010840

‘The River’ mosaic outside the police station on Bowra Street is also well worth a look. Old china plates, tea cups, tiles and pottery have found new life as a plethora of water-dwelling creatures in this artwork depicting a river winding its way to the sea. Oh, and just down the high street from here, there’s a great little bakery Wild Terra where you’ll find beautiful bread loaves and French-style pastries for sale. Mmmm!

We enjoyed strolling along the boardwalks along the water’s edge, too.P1010832

Much as we appreciated our 3-day stay, I’m not sure we would return to Nambucca for a holiday, although it’s a lovely and very convenient place to stop when you just can’t face any more travel time on the Pacific Highway.

NSW Road Trip

FAMILY ROAD (1)It’s been a little while since our last post on Icklegen, but there are plenty more to come! We’ve had a busy few weeks planning, and then going on our first family road trip; in fact, our first proper holiday as a family ever! And what a fabulous time we had. I can’t wait to tell you all about it, but thought the best way to do that would be in several instalments. Otherwise, you’ll be bombarded with text and photos before I’ve even got underway.

Our plan wasn’t too ambitious: just to set out from home and follow the Pacific Highway north towards Byron Bay. Given that Byron is an 8.5-hour drive from home, we figured a few stops along the way wouldn’t go amiss, especially with a young toddler in-tow. Besides, it also provided the ideal opportunity to explore some of the coastal regions of New South Wales.

To give you a little taster of what will follow, here are a few snapshots from the various stages of our journey.P1010837

Glorious graffiti on the V-Wall at Nambucca HeadsP1010871

Iluka: a fishing village on the Clarence RiverP1010916

Birthday dessert with a difference!IMG_4979

Farmstay in the Byron Hinterland

P.S. I whipped up the blog graphic at the top of this post for free on Canva, a fantastic online tool I’ve used a few times now. It’s pretty straightforward once you get a hang of the basics and the possibilities are endless.