What We Did:
As we drive up the coast towards Brisbane and explore more of New South Wales (our Ford Everest and Move Yourself trailer together again at last), we arrived in Salamander Bay in the region of Port Stephens. Checking into the Oaks Pacific Blue Resort (more on which below) there’s a real holiday-town atmosphere to the place. Dad lined up a bucket list quad-bike trip to explore the largest coastal sand dunes in the southern hemisphere, but there was plenty of fun for the kids too. We’re all about giving the kids hands-on and educational experiences. When we saw a road sign for Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters, we just had to check it out. Lia and Ryan care passionately about the oceans, and dispelling the misunderstanding and fear surrounding sharks and rays. We slipped into wetsuits and walked into a small pool called the Ray Lagoon where dozens of blue spotted mask rays, and southern eagle rays (plus a baby zebra shark) quickly surrounded us. Although they’re friendly as puppies, the kids (and Mom) were a little freaked out. Lia patiently explained to Raquel that there was nothing to be scared of, and handed her a peg with a piece of squid. As with our tuna encounter a couple weeks ago in Victor Harbour, Raquel had more success feeding the creatures outside the water. Next was a bigger pool with lots of eagle rays, huge smooth rays, and Port Jackson sharks. Marine life loves catching Mom by surprise, practically ambushing her for cuddles! The rays and sharks were friendly and curious, and Lia explained all about their eco-system, why the ocean has too much jellyfish, and the tragedy of overfishing and killing sharks. Gali was still not convinced, less so when we hopped into the next pool with even larger rays! We were invited to touch and interact with the giant smooth rays, with their slimy skin and curious eyes. . The final pool had three large tawny nurse sharks, and we had to wear gloves so they didn’t mistake our fingers for shrimp. One was 2.7m long, and his name is Gigantor! Gali was happy to stay back as Lia fed the sharks with shrimp and fish. We learned about eating sustainable fish, avoiding the overuse of plastic and looking after the oceans for future generations. Sometimes, it’s well worth turning off the road when you see the a sign that appeals to your curiosity.
Not far from the hotel is Toboggan Hill Park, where we could put the kids between our legs and blitz down a one-kilometre metal track with 11 bends, using only a simple brake mechanism. It was a total blast, but there was so much more to do. Raquel conquered her first rock climbing wall, tried hot-ice skating (a silicon surface you can ice skate on), and got competitive with a dad in a water fight. Both kids went on bumper cars, the bouncy castle, and had a go on a couple rides. C’est fun, as they say in Quebec. With lots of space to swim and play at our resort, we’ve had a short yet busy and memorable visit to Port Stephens.
What We Ate:
Lunch: We picked up groceries at the nearby Woolworths and decided to eat in for a couple days. Jaci made a delicious ricotta salmon bake with chickpeas, cheese and veggies.
Dinner: We don’t have a BBQ, so Dad cooked up some brisket in the oven with some roasted yams and eggplant. We ate out a lot in Sydney so we’ve relished the opportunity for some great home cooking.
Where We Ate:
In our holiday apartment at the Oaks Pacific Blue Resort.
My Favourite Pictures Today
Where We Slept:
We have a lovely two-level holiday apartment at the Oaks Pacific Blue Resort. All the units face a massive circular pool (the largest pool in Australia!) with bridges and hot tubs and palm trees. It was a real challenge to walk around the whole thing, especially with a kid on the shoulders! Mom loved the layout which let us watch the kids from the kitchen, and reminded her of home. Lots of kids about and the whoops of children really add to the holiday atmosphere. Dad loved sleeping with the patio doors open in ideal temperatures that needed no air conditioning or heaters.
So much about sharks and rays and why it’s important to understand and protect them. We learned that the temperatures can swing from one extreme to the other in a NSW autumn. We learned that some sharks are like puppy dogs and some sting rays don’t sting. We learned that Gali has a natural fear of some ee-i-ohs (animals). That kangaroos and vending machines and horses kill way more people in Australia every year than sharks. Way more. We learned that some sharks don’t need to swim to stay alive, and are so heavy they sink when they don’t swim. We learned that the irukandji is the smallest and deadliest jellyfish in the world. We learned that Raquel and Mom don’t like cold water pools. That Raquel wants to do everything and loves going fast. We learned that the word midden shouldn’t be used to describe an Aboriginal ganya, or campsite, which also served as burial sites. We learned that there are so many different aboriginal cultures and languages, sometimes located close to each other. That the New South Wales coast is lovely and tropical.
Reflection of the Day
The Best Part:
Patting the sting rays and sharks, and walking around Australia’s largest swimming pool (it’s not too deep).
The Worst Part:
Gali thought Mom was getting eaten by a giant sting ray, and let everyone know his displeasure at such an event.
We'll Always Remember
- Name: Lia
- Favourite Place: Here at Irukandji
- I Love Travel Because: by visiting different people around the world, I get to share knowledge about helping animals
- My Advice for Kids: The planet is going to be yours so it's most important that you protect it
- Name: Ryan
- Favourite Place: The ocean
- I Love Travel Because: I love to learn
- My Advice for Kids: Learn everything you can
Today's Random Thing
A Note from Mom and Dad
It’s so good to be out the big city. Kids are just so manageable when it’s quieter and there’s not so much traffic and so many people. After conquering the obstacle course yesterday, Raquel took on her first climbing wall with aplomb (Mom wants her to go climbing with her back home, Dad is less thrilled about his daughter hanging off mountains – like he should talk!) With the split level layout of our apartment, Gali slept through the night primarily because we put him downstairs and he couldn’t rouse us from our sleep.