Augusta Easter traditions – Western Australia

Last weekend saw our family head to Augusta for our annual Easter camping trip. Looking back, I think this was our 7th year in the same camping ground, same site, same tent with many of the same campers surrounding us. As a family who loves to travel and explore new things, we had considered perhaps it was time to move on. There is however a certain kind of calm heading to a place you know well. The kids love the camping ground comradery and as they get older are finding Flinders Bay camping ground presents new possibilities. For us parents, the best thing is the knowledge we don’t need to rush out and do anything in particular because we have done it all before. This is a holiday to truly relax and unwind ………..that is once the tent is up!

For those that have read my Augusta blogs before, you will know setting up the tent is not Mr Travel Bee’s favourite pass time. Every year he mutters ‘this is the last time’. Every year I book for the next. This year was no exception and to add to his woes we had to put the tent up in the rain. As you can imagine, this was not fun but with a bit of coaxing and cracking the cider open part way through, we managed to get the tent up in good time. Once the puddles were dry and the BBQ was on, all was well in the world again.

Camp Bee 2021

The next three days saw us wander along the path to the Colourpatch Cafe at the Blackwood river mouth, in the opposite direction to the Augusta Harbour and swim in Flinders Bay. There was no rush and no stress. Our walks took as long as they took and we spent as much time as we felt like watching the kite surfers, paddle boarders, boats, stingrays and birds going about their business. We joined friends for meals, drank wine and read books, while the kids rode their bikes and hung out with friends. The Easter bunny did his usual Easter egg hunt around our site (albeit inside due to a rainy night) and we ate chocolate. It all felt very familiar and very comforting.

Spot the dog

But no matter how many times you have been somewhere, you can bet there will always be something new to see. For 2021 our new thing just happened to be a shark. On Monday morning there was a bit of a commotion in the park as the rumour circulated there was a shark at the beach down near the toilet block. Miss 11 alerted us just as Mr Travel Bee and I were getting ready to go for another 1.5km swim! At her insistence we headed down to the beach where a small crowd had gathered. We climbed up on some rocks and watched stingrays circling before glimpsing a dorsal fin and a long, dark shadow heading towards us. They weren’t tricking……………….. there really was a shark in the bay!

This was the first time I had actually seen a shark from the beach. It wasn’t huge and definitely not a great white, but it looked big enough to leave a mark if you know what I mean! It looked to be around 1.5 – 2m long with quite a long prominent tail. From my limited knowledge and those around, we think it was probably a Bronze Whaler. Whatever it was, it was enough to put me off my swim! It seems someone had been gutting fish earlier in the day attracting it and the stingrays.

River mouth walking

After the excitement and deciding against our swim, we headed for another walk and then to the Augusta Bakery for our last pie before heading home. We parked up at the boat ramp to eat, knowing there is always something to watch when there are boats. Sure enough within a few minutes we spotted some entertainment. I feel awful calling it that because in reality it didn’t look much fun for the two poor men involved. Out in the middle of the river was a stranded tinny with two men attempting to row it in. One with an oar and the other with what looked like the paddle part of an oar, minus the stick.

These were not small chaps and it looked to be rather hard work. It was disappointing to see several boats zoom past them. Not one checking to see if they were ok. It was fairly obvious to us they were not. Anyway, it took them some time but they made it to the jetty with their 1.5 oars and successfully docked (although things were a bit shaky there for a while, one nearly ended up in the drink).

Row row row your boat

Once we made sure they had mobile phones (and a smoke!) we knew they would be okay and it was time to head home to Busselton with the camp site safely booked for 2022.


Lucky Bay – Cape Le Grand National Park – Western Australia

Well one thing is for sure, you certainly feel lucky when you find yourself on this beach. It really is sublime. The colours are truly picture perfect; pure white sand and the ocean an array of blues and aqua. Several times I have had to take off my sunglasses just to check there isn’t some kind of trick or optical illusion. We have made two trips out to Lucky Bay in the Cape Le Grand National Park which is around 64km east of Esperance. It is well worth the 45 minute drive and $15 entry fee into the park.

I think the thing that makes this place so attractive, is the ability to take your car right down onto the beach. This means everything is accessible, which is particularly attractive when you have children. There is no need to worry about lumping your Esky down steps or trudging through soft sand when someone leaves their hat in the car, everything is right there (providing you packed it in the first place!). You can even slide the gazebo out of the car and pop it up to provide shelter from the midday sun.

Lucky Bay (the photos do not do it justice)

There are several other things that make this beach different. The first is the sand. Not only is it the whitest, it is the finest I have ever come across and it does a few strange things………… it squeaks when you walk on it and it clumps when it gets wet. It actually resembles and behaves, quite like snow but without the chill factor! This provides hours of fun for the kids making videos of squeaky sand, building sand castles and burying oneself.

Sand or snow?

Lucky Bay is also famous for it’s visiting Kangaroos. They are very tame and more than happy to be around eager tourists. Local guide books and tourist information do tell you not to feed them but I am quite sure some people do. Although we weren’t ‘lucky’ enough to have any visit our day camp, we did see one and it’s joey sheltering under a Landcruiser as we wandered along the sand to the next unique thing about this beach….. the Lucky Bean – a coffee van!

Now this is pure perfection. Coffee, beach, chair, shade and happy kids …………… what a combination! I do just have to add, it is the most expensive coffee we have had for a long time (perhaps ever) but I guess you are paying for the remoteness and the experience. It was worth every cent. The water itself at Lucky Bay was lovely and we spent hours throwing the skim ball and frisbee around in the shallows. Recent shark sightings did mean deeper swims were only on the agenda for dare devils though!

Much nearer to Esperance itself, you can find the relatively new Lucky Bay Brewery. Whether you choose to do this on your way home from Cape Le Grand National park or on a different day as we did, we do recommend a visit to this place. To start with, the beers are very good. Apparently this is something to do with their use of locally farmed barley. They are the only brewery in Western Australia that are able to do this as most of the grain grown in WA is exported. Whatever the secret, it is a really nice brew.

We were lucky enough to visit on a day they had visiting caterers in the form of Kamal’s Paella. Our kids were introduced to this Spanish treat and immediately fell in love with it. This made for a happy family with full tummies. The usual menu does however also look good, as does the live music schedule. Overall, it is a very relaxing place to chill out after a day at the beach or after a 4WD adventure.

Seafood Paella

One thing is certain, Lucky Bay is definitely going to go down as one of The Travel Bee’s favourite spots for a chilled day out.


Great Aussie road trip – Busselton to Esperance WA

Finally……. here we are on holiday! It isn’t quite what we had planned for January 2021, but it is a getaway nonetheless and for that we are grateful. Sri Lanka and the Maldives will have to wait but will give us something to look forward to when this pandemic is all over. For my family and friends stuck in lockdowns or battling health problems, I hope that my blogs over the next few days will transport you out of your living room and into the beauty that is Western Australia so that you too can enjoy what WA has to offer.

Yesterday, we set out from Busselton at 7am ready to drive some 700km south east to Esperance in the Great Southern region of WA. The Travel Bee mobile was loaded to the brim with beach gear including chairs, umbrellas, body boards, snorkels, bathers, rashies, wetsuits and flippers. Inside the cab we had snacks, audiobooks, games and music. We were set for another great Aussie road trip.

Now, one might think that an eight hour journey across anywhere in Australia would be boring. You imagine long plains of brown grass, red dirt, sand and not much else……………….. perhaps a few kangaroos. Yes, there were kangaroos and yes there was brown grass but we did see a few things to capture our attention along the way.

The first, was the flocks of brown sheep (very unlike the shampooed version of sheep in New Zealand!) huddled together under the smallest patches of shade. They looked so funny all squished up and I imagined how hot it would be under all that wool with the harsh Australian sun beating down. Then one of the sheep spotted the farmer’s ute coming. He jumped up to head towards breakfast and in true sheep style the rest all followed. It was quite entertaining, watching these animals run like maniacs after their leader.

Next we saw the weird silhouettes of the Porongurups burst their way out of the ground and onto our horizon. This is one of the very few ‘mountain ranges’ of Western Australia. They are actually large granite domes that only rise 670m (again I compare something to New Zealand and conclude these are not really mountains but more like………. bumps). They are however, over one billions years old making them the oldest range in the world!!

Miss 10 and I were also entertained by the Giant (or Humongous) Jenga stacks of hay bails and the strange trees that looked like exotic mushrooms, with long naked trunks and branches and only a few leaves on top. All the way, we were reminded how scary it can be in outback Australia with evidence of many bushfires.

We took note of the town names and tried to work out their meaning. Most are named by the Noongar people who are the native Aboriginals in the south west of WA. In their language the suffix ‘up’ means ‘place of’ and a good portion of the towns included this term. Boyanup, Mumballup, Noggerup, Kojonup, Gnowangerup, Jerramungup. We were also counting the towns we passed but when Miss 10 took a nap we lost count! I think it was about 12.

We made one significant stop in Kojonup. ‘Kodja’ refers to the stone axe made by Aboriginal people from the stone in this area. We had been recommended the Black cockatoo cafe where we enjoyed a coffee and homemade sausage roll before checking out the native rose bush maze. This followed the story of three local women and would be very interesting if you had the time to read all the information.

After some 9 hours we made it to our destination of Esperance. Not one game was played, the audiobooks were not listened to and there was very little music heard or snacks eaten. As it turns out, there are plenty of things to keep your attention while travelling in Australia.


Back to it…

Don’t you just hate the end of a holiday? The day when you realise you have to return to the hum drum of home, work, school. It is one of the most deflating feelings in life.

For me, the only solace is making sure the next holiday is already booked so that I can redirect my focus. Shame I have to wait 6 months this time. For many, that might not seem long, but to me it feels like an eternity. Yes, I am lucky…….. but then again that is why I work hard – for the holidays!

I love traveling to new places and exploring the unknown. Sometimes you come across somewhere you just know you were meant to visit. With my love for the water and sea creatures, Exmouth was always going be be one of those special places. Ningaloo reef did not disappointed. From the amazing corals, to the vibrant fish, turtles, rays, whale sharks and humpbacks, it felt like another home to me.

But, here I am back to reality and saving for the next one.

Someone who has been super pleased to see us home, is the cat. In fact, more so than ever before. I think she might actually be entering middle age and mellowing out a bit because usually when we get home she is quite stand offish and snobby (those with cats will know exactly what I mean).

But, not this time, it seems a few little habits are beginning to change. For example, she has never really been interested in me (other than for feeding purposes!). The first three nights back and she has slept at my feet and stayed there all night! She has tolerated more of my patting and even been willing to play with me! One day soon I am hoping she might even sit on my lap (but that might be a step too far)!

She seems rather happy to have the fire on again too!

So, as I try and settle back into the normal routine, I am going to be mindful of the phenomenon I see all around me at the moment, the ‘busy’ craze. Somehow, we (I think particularly mothers) have rated ‘busy’ as a good thing. If you are ‘busy’ you are worthy and doing well, achieving lots. In reality, we are just driving ourselves into the ground trying to be everything to everyone.

It is time to slow down a little bit, enjoy life, enjoy the warmth of the fire and the comfort of my bed (yes, just like my cat). Allowing myself time to just be and not rush…….because if I carry on like I have been, the next 6 months will be exhausting! There is no point going on my next adventure wiped out is there?!


Coffee and food – Melbourne

Before coming to Melbourne, I honestly thought we had good coffee where I live, that we were spoilt for cafes. I still think for a rural town we are, but this place is something else! How can the humble coffee bean be transformed in so many different ways?!!

I am a strict flat white, one a day drinker. I mostly drink coffee from the same cafe at home or blends from a local coffee roasting company. I didn’t realise I was restricting my palate or that coffee could be so varied.

I have had 4 since I have been here (last one tomorrow), each so different, but all equally as good. One slightly richer, another more bitter, one with fluffier milk, one that it was obvious milk was not the focus! All outstanding.

Then there is the world of food. I am amazed at the number of restaurants, cafes and takeaway outfits that line the streets here. There is food of all cultures and nationalities side by side. The choice is abundant and varied with a price range to match. It makes me wonder if any city dwellers cook at home at all because there really is little need!

Queen Victoria Market blows that theory out of the water though. My goodness the array of fresh ingredients on offer is huge from the fruit and vegetables to fish, meat, cheese and chocolate. The foodie is in heaven in this city. For us, the freshly cooked corn on the cob and hand made chocolate truffles was enough for some wide, happy smiles and satisfied tummies.

Today, we caught the City Sightseeing bus out to St Kilda. Even as the bus meandered through the suburbs the cafe scene was alive and strong. My goodness were we happy with our hot chocolates upon reaching our destination. We happened to be visiting St Kilda just as storm fronts began battering Victoria! We certainly didn’t see it at its best but I am sure St Kilda is beautiful in summer. Today, it was rather reminiscent of some UK beaches I have visited!

We squeezed in a spot of shopping this morning but tomorrow we have three hours to explore the shopping on offer before heading to the airport. All in all a very successful girls mini break!


Culture to creatures – Melbourne

Day 2 of the mini break was amazing for so many reasons.

I am loving getting back into travel mode, of course being mum and the only one who has been to Melbourne before, I am in charge of planning. So yesterday morning I dutifully studied the map and planned a schedule which included City Sights Bus tour, Queen Victoria Markets, a big climbing wall the girls had heard of, then finishing in China Town for dinner. We set off for the circular tram which would take us to the start of the City Sights Tour.

We found the stop we needed fine. Unfortunately there was a long wait for the tram (unusual there had been a problem somewhere along the line). There were a number of the I’m hungry, I’m bored comment from Miss 9.

Finally we were onboard. I was enjoying the view and commentary while Miss 9, apparently now completely depleted of fuel was slumped beside me. My phone rang.

It was the tour guide for our trip to Phillip Island tomorrow. He asked if there was any chance we could do the Penguin tour today instead of tomorrow. He explained they had a half full tour today, only us booked tomorrow and he was sick (he did sound full of cold).

I implemented my ‘do not say yes immediately’ strategy and asked if I could call him back. I spoke to the girls and we all agreed that yes we should go a day earlier, the weather was good, we felt fresh after our big sleep and we couldn’t wait to see the little penguins.

My plan for the day was deleted and I didn’t care in the slightest!! No stressing or fretting, just straight to plan B.

We still had 3 hours until the tour left, so after filling up on a second breakfast (and purchasing a bag full of snacks for Miss 9) I suggested we checked out some street art before going to the meeting point.


We were blown away. What a truely fantastic use of space. Back alleys and lanes, including bins, fire escapes, bollards and poles all canvas for the most amazing and skilful artists. Who would have imagined what could be achieved with a spray can and a bit of flare?!!

And these photos barely do it justice.

From there we headed to the meeting point for our Little Penguin Tour. We had a 2 hour drive out to Phillip Island. We drove through the city with the guide pointing out the sights, experienced a Melbourne freeway before leaving the city behind and crossing through the lush green fields of southern Victoria. We passed asparagus market gardens, animal sanctuaries and holiday towns before reaching Phillip Island and the Parade of the Penguins.

Once we reached the south western corner of the island, we jumped out of the minibus for a short walk and a look at the Nobbies (an unusual rock formation). The cold blast of air reminded me we were actually on the edge of Bass Strait and Tasmania wasn’t all that far away!

Then we headed towards the main event, the Penguin Centre. Along the way we saw an array of wildlife including wallabies, brush tail possums, sea eagles and Cape Barren Geese. There were Penguin burrows everywhere.

After spending some time in the centre we made our way down to the viewing platform at 5:25pm as per our bus drivers recommendation. The platform was packed. We stood at the back and waited. At 5:38pm there were ohhhs and ahhhs as the first group of penguins emerged from the water. Our view was blocked somewhat, but all three of us were overawed with the spectacle of at least 100 little penguins making their way up the beach in a huddle.

Our driver told us to hold tight. It was cold down on the platform but he had armed us with blankets and ponchos. The aim he told us, was to wait out the crowds because most would drift off not coping with the cold. Then we would get a good view.

We went from standing to sitting on the side to sitting dead centre, wrapped in our blanket. There are at least 10 groups in all that we witnessed waddle up the beach. There were the scared one, the bold ones, the slow, the fast. We watched as they drifted off into their pairs, literally arm in arm (flipper in flipper), they cuddled and coed. They squawked and squeaked. Then they sat outside their burrows, seemly drying off before retreating inside. Some danced, some mated, some sat alone.

It was an exhibition I will never forget and neither will the girls. On the way back up the path to the centre, I really wanted to lean over and pick one of them up to take home in my pocket. At 30cm high, it would almost have fit!!

A day of change, a day of contrast. A day to remember!


Hustle and bustle – Melbourne

Oh the excitement of exploring a new city……

Yesterday was a very long and exhausting day. I have to admit there were times I definitely thought to myself, I will never ever do that flight again. 12:30am scheduled time with a 90 minute delay, it was hideous, what was I thinking booking that when traveling with a child?! (I was thinking about my hip pocket of course!). But, in the light of day with 11 hours sleep under our belt, it doesn’t seem that bad.

When we arrived, we were met by an old friend of mine. On our walk to her car we realised it was 11 years since we last saw each other. There are some people you meet in life, that you know no matter how long between meetings, it will always be the same and she is one of them. She took us to a lovely suburban cafe where we enjoyed a strong Melbourne coffee, a big breakfast and a great catch up. For me, she managed to wash away the tired and grumpiness of the flight (maybe not for everyone!).

After a little rest at her lovely home, we were on the train and heading into the centre, ready to check into our accommodation. When we did, we were met by an amazing view over the city. The 46th floor!!!

I then had to force us out the door in a bid to keep in the right time zone. It started off feeling like I was torturing my daughter, dragging her through the streets in a rather cold breeze and the faintest of drizzle. There was all the usual kid questions and comments, how much further? Where are we going? I can’t walk anymore, I’m hungry.

We reached an area where there were more people about, the buzz was increasing, there were more lights and quirky signs. She started to perk up, ever so slightly. Then I found my target, Hardware Lane, we were in Italian Precinct.

The minute we turned the corner, I was transported back to my days traveling in Europe. The waiters jostled to draw us into their restaurant. They were all Italian and telling us about their pasta, pizza and kids menu. Again I felt my daughter relax just a tiny bit more.

We settled on a restaurant and chose to sit outside under the awning with an outdoor heater, on the edge of the cobbled lane. I was determined not to miss any action. The service was quick, efficient and friendly. With only a small delay, there was calamari in front of my daughter and suddenly all was well in the world again!

With my glass of red and risotto and my exchange daughter with her delicious meal the three of us relaxed into the vibe of the street around us. We watched the musician arrive with his little case and the waiters set up his seat. We listened as he played chilled out music. We watched other people arriving in the lane and choosing their restaurant. We sat and filled our tummies.

We even let the waitress convince my daughter she needed to try the chocolate brownie (not much arm twisting needed). We all commented on the way the Italian’s said the word brownie, so exotic and romantic the way they accentuate the o (my daughter informs me it is because their is no w in Italian).

I had one last thing up my sleeve to sell Melbourne to my daughter on night one. She had been cold and coming from the West we really have no need for big coats. We hit the shops!

In her new warm coat, she almost skipped up the hill and back to our apartment. She is hooked! With the big sleep under her belt there will be no stopping her today! I can’t wait to get out and enjoy the hustle and bustle of one of the most cosmopolitan and cultural cities I know. The girls are going to love it.


Home sweet home (after Augusta)

For the first time in 6 days I have clean feet, it feels amazing! Here I am with the third load of washing in the machine (I think I am almost half way through it) and I am taking a few moments to rest and reflect.

What an amazing week we have had. It started out looking bad and bad weather means wet tent, wet gear, grumpy Dad. It finished up sunshiny and smiles all around. There was adventure, friendship, relaxation, coffee, walks, cycling, boating and fishing.

I was hoping to write a bit more and keep you updated with blogs but internet was scarce and in the end a rest from technology was gladly accepted.

Here are the scores on the doors:

Husband/wife arguments: 1 (parking the boat, not one setting up or packing up camp – record, we must be getting good at this!!).

Children arguments: lost count but no worse than at home.

Minor injuries: Mum 1, Daughter 3, Dad 0, Son 1.

Broken bikes: 2

Ripped clothes: 2

Fish caught: 0

Books read: 0

Spills off the biscuit: many

Smiles: countless

Rekindled friendships: so many, I just love the camping ground friendships, some of the kids literally go a year without seeing each other and just pick up where they left off last year.

And the important bit you have all been waiting for…………….

Number of nights booked for 2020: 7!!!!

Yes that is right, after all the packing and unpacking, planning and fretting, even the husband agrees it was all worth it. The great Aussie camping trip really is something else!


The family camping trip – Augusta

The great Aussie camping trip….. always an adventure, always a story or two to tell! At the start we claim we will never do it again, by the end, the deposit is paid for next year.

Ours begins with Dad saying ‘I don’t want to go this year’, the kids agree (only because there won’t be an Xbox) and decide they don’t want to pack, Mum runs around trying to remember everything for everyone, in a completely stress free manner of course! This sounds familiar right?!

This year we had the added drama of inclement weather. Easter in late April is always a dodgy one, particularly when you head south as we do, but a full storm front due to hit Good Friday….. not fair!

We delay leaving by a day (very smart move we hear, those that came had a rather rocky couple of nights). This allowed a full 24 hours extra to pack and get organised. What a luxury, no rushing about, completely well thought out and organised packing….. OR NOT! In the end, it is always the same, just fling it in and hope for the best.

Every year we forget something major or something happens, this year was no exception. It is sort of like a fun game to see what drama will unfold. It was apparent as soon as we got out of the car what this year’s was. A completely buckled and deflated wheel on the son’s prized bike! Mum freaks out, how on earth are we supposed to survive the camping ground with two kids and one bike? After all a bike is the single most important possession for any camping ground gang member.

Fortunately, our friends at lunch spot a bike shop across the road. Bike is checked in immediately for an overnight stay. Night one of bike wars starts.

Somehow though, the kids figure it out as the parents try not to watch the creative ways of dealing with more kids than bikes. There is bike trading, the good old Aussie dinky, running behind, riding mum’s bike, you name it we saw it. The local police pop in and lecture them all about helmets, we laugh as they follow the police car like the pied piper.

Now that the tent is up and the kids are off doing what kids should be doing, the parents breathe a sigh of relief and suddenly remember what this camping malarkey is about. Relaxing, reading, inventive camp food, wine, good friends and conversation. No screens, no work, no stress.

Then eventually the sun comes out……

It is too early to tell, but it is entirely possible this may happen again next year. I will keep you posted!


I am remembering who I am!

For anyone who has been following my blog, you will know, I am in the process of reinventing who I am? Or possibly just trying to remember who I am, having got lost somewhere along the way.

My biggest issue, I have realised, has been that I have my whole identity tied up in being the person who takes on multiple things at once, is always busy, is a high achiever and is never satisfied with what I am achieving (particularly at work). I worked out through writing this blog, I do all this because I want to feel important but it is causing me an endless string of stress. When you strip it all away and I think of disassociating this from my identity, it scared the shit out of me (excuse my French), because who the heck am I?

Another really important point I have discovered; is that a high proportion of humans seem dissatisfied with what they have. They always seem to be striving for more, no matter who they are, where they are or what socioeconomic status they are. Only the select few are satisfied with what they have. In my opinion these are the people leading the most fulfilling lives.

I want to be one of them!!

The place to start (I guess) is in knowing who I am and feeling happy and satisfied with that person (not the one who is constantly striving for more).

This is going to take me some time but, I think the last month of travel and holiday has taught me a thing or two about me.  I have realised one of my true core values is my absolute love for travel. The experiences my family and I have had over the last month, has made me feel more alive than I have in years.

I have realised I am not a material person. I don’t care so much for things and clothes etc. I care for the experiences of meeting new people, seeing new cultures and appreciating the beauty of different places and countries.

This in turn, has made me realise why I do what I do in my everyday life. I remembered that I chose a job that I knew I could travel in (which I did in my younger years) and one that I knew could pay me enough to pursue travelling into the future. So, the very work that has been stressing me out in recent times, I have realised is actually my vehicle. It is not my entire life purpose, but a tool to enable me to live the way I want to.

So, when I return to work later in the week, I return with a different attitude and a new love for what I do. I return knowing that the next few months of hard work are merely my ticket to the next adventure!!

I am going to continue to work out more of my core values in my bid to discover who I am and the person I want to be. I feel great knowing I have found my starting point, my homing beacon. Incidentally, this process has also reminded me why on this day 13 years ago, I married my husband. He too shares my love for travel and together we are introducing this love to our children.