Over the new years break, we went camping at Stradbroke Island for a few days with several other families. We have never been camping with the kids before. They have never even slept in a tent in the back yard before. It all went a good deal easier than I expected.
In the days before children, we used to go camping quite a bit. It was all very simple. We would pack a tent, some food, a small bag each, and that was it. Neither of us wanted to sleep in a tent with a baby or toddler, however, so camping took a rest for a few years. Camping with kids is a very different experience to what we remember.
The car was packed like an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. Every bag had its own particular space. Even the passengers were packed as carefully as the baggage, with only a minimum of room to move. A last minute cull still saw us leaving stuff behind.
Driving straight from our place to the Stradbroke Island ferry would take about five hours if we did it without stopping. We took a day and a half. Previous road trips have taught us not to hurry these things.
Along the way, we got to visit some friends and stop in at some nice places. One of our breaks was in the rainforest at the base of Wollumbin (Mt Warning), a great example of a volcanic plug.
It was a very easy campsite we were in. This type of holiday is a fairly common Australian summer experience. When I described it to a friend she classed it as ‘tenting’ rather than camping. It seemed a reasonable distinction.
We were there as part of a group of four couples, each with two kids, giving us sixteen people all up in our group. It was a bit experimental for all of us. We were impressed by the tarpaulin palaces that other, more experienced groups had put together.
Stradbroke Island is very much a place for a beach holiday. We could sit at our tent, and look at the surf. It was incredibly hot. Most of our time seemed to spent trying to avoid sunburn and heat exhaustion.
The kids would wake up at the first glimmer of light, a bit before five o’clock. If they were not playing in the camp, then someone would take them down to play in the surf. It was a very shallow and protected beach – ideal for small kids.
By midmorning, it was too hot to stay there any more, so we tended to make our way up to Brown Lake. This is a shallow freshwater lake surrounded by tea trees. The tannin from the trees stains the water.
Tea tree lakes like this are dotted up and down Australia’s east coast. They are very pretty and refreshing to swim in. We would take a picnic and spend a few good hours there during the heat of the day.
In the afternoon, we would drift back down to the beach again. I was a bit worried that the novelty of sleeping in a tent would keep the boys up for hours. After six hours of swimming and the rest of the day spent playing hard with friends, though, they were just too tired.
On the whole, it went very well. This is great because we used to really enjoy camping, and would like to do more of it. It was an encouraging trial run for further adventures down the track.