It’s no secret that our family loves to go camping. This time though, we headed further afield, six and a half hours north to Arrawarra, just north of Coffs Harbour on the NSW North Coast. Although we love bush camping, with two small children the lure of on-site amenities, pool with a waterside and a giant jumping pillow was still attractive so after a little research we found the perfect location for our five day camping adventure.
Darlington Beach Holiday Park has 10 acres of sub-tropical bushland in which you can set up your campsite. The unpowered sites are a good distance from the rest of the park and allow the feeling of bush camping but with all the amenities of a holiday park. Mobs of wild Kangaroos move around the park freely, some with small joeys aboard tucked away in their pouches, other large male roos standing tall keeping watch over the rest of the group, and others just lazily lying around watching the world go by.
Hungry kookaburras perched themselves on tree branches above our campsite with views of our sizzling BBQ, biding their time for just the right moment to swoop down and collect their dinner direct from our plate.
In the morning, we often found ourselves awake with the sound of native birds chirping at first light and would hurriedly make our way to the nearby Arrawarra-Corindi Beach or Arrawarra Headland to watch the sun rise over the ocean with views of the Solitary Islands Marine Park. I’m not a morning person normally, but this was an amazing way to begin the day, even for me, and the kids loved the novelty of racing to get to our chosen destination and watched the ocean intently waiting for the first glimpse of the sun to peak over the horizon. We would then have a picnic breakfast on the beach or headland as the sky turned from gold to blue and sunrise became day.
We spent our days exploring. The nearby Woolgoolga Creek Waterfall in Sherwood Nature Reserve provided a fantastic bush-walk adventure on our first morning. The girls loved the excitement of keeping quiet while they listened out for native birds and animals. The walk also has a number of creek crossings that required us to remove our shoes and balance on river stones in the shallows to make our way to the other side in order to continue our walk to the waterfall.
We saw patches go mushrooms growing out of fallen trees which the girls assured me was a fairy village.
Every now and then during our walk we looked up in awe at the rainforest canopy peering down on us from high up into the air.
It wasn’t long until we reached the waterfall. We took the opportunity to have a snack and a drink while we spotted rainbows forming from the mist of the waterfall before returning via the series of creek crossings back to the picnic area where a goanna was searching the picnic tables for food scraps.
We had lunch overlooking Coffs Harbour from the Forest Sky Pier then drove past hills full of banana trees and views of the Solitary Islands back to our campsite where we spent the afternoon taking advantage of the onsite pool and the waterslide.
We heard of a local swimming hole not far from our campsite, about a 20 minute drive down a dirt road then a short walk from a small road bridge crossing a creek. After getting a little lost, we pulled to the side of the first road and walked up a small bush track, over fallen trees and climbed up a rock ledge to discover a gorgeous little swimming hole complete with small waterfall cascades surrounded by sub-tropical rainforest. It was a little slice of paradise and such a special place to discover and have to ourselves as a family.
We swam in the crisp clear water and basked in the sun on the big warm, smooth boulders that surrounded the swimming hole. Not only were we reconnecting and rediscovering nature, we were reconnecting and rediscovering the value of spending true quality time with each other as a family. We weren’t rushing to our next appointment, we had nowhere else to be but where we were- and it was magic.
On our final day, when the weather turned to showers, we spent time walking along the beach near our campsite, sorting through the pebbles and shells on the shore and wading in the warm waters.
We played cards under shelter when the rain came and we explored the inland hamlet of Bellingen and wandered through the galleries and studios of artisans displaying their wares at The Old Butter Factory– even buying a pair of hand-made leather shoes direct from the maker.
This holiday proved to me that ‘entertaining’ the kids is not about paying a fortune to go to theme parks, organised kids activities, zoos, museums and attractions; although each of those have their place. Entertaining the kids can be about introducing them to the adventure that awaits in our own environment and helping them learn the tools to actively find enjoyment in exploring their surroundings for themselves. More importantly, it was about teaching them that creating these special moments and experiences together was all part of the adventure and we didn’t need ‘entertainment’ delivered via a paid attraction, a television or the iPad. This was an important lesson for all of us.