Hello Jugiong free camping!
4th to 6th February: So, it was time to leave Gunning, we’d only planned on an overnight stay, and in our usual style hadn’t really thought too much about where we were heading. We knew there were several options further down the Hume Highway, and we figured we’d just drive until we found something suitable with enough room for us, that was a free camp, dog friendly camping, and of course suitable for kids. It turns out that place was Jugiong.
On arrival we found a tiny town, with a huge showground, which is where the free camp is located. Next door is the local pool which has hot showers, a definite plus for travellers, and there’s a service station just down the road with all the basics you’ll need as well as a top little cafe across the road that boasts lots of local tasty treats.
Another bonus – A kids playground. It turns out it was everything we needed with plenty of space, and we even managed to score a shady campsite, what more could you ask for.
Generally when we arrive in a place, we set up then head off for a bit of a look around, there is lots of gorgeous farmland around Jugiong and the Murrumbidgee River flows just behind the showgrounds too, perfect for taking the kids for a fish.
For a quiet little place, Jugiong turned out to be quite an eventful little stop for us. We tested out the Weber with our first ever roast, and we weren’t disappointed in the least.
Byron lost his 2nd tooth in two weeks.
Byron also learned how to skateboard, totally unrelated to the loss of his tooth by the way, and Amahli, not one to be beaten decided she couldn’t let her little brother beat her to learning a new skill, so gave it a try too. The flat road made a perfect skate arena.
We made friends with a couple of horses in the paddock behind the swimming pool, cheeky things they were getting lots of pats and we couldn’t resist giving them a carrot each in reward for their cheeky charms.
If you’re ever travelling down the Hume, then we can definitely say that Jugiong is a great little town when you’re looking for campsites between Sydney and Melbourne, with lovely locals. It’s a nice way to spend a few days relaxing, fishing and enjoying the space and peace.
3rd February: Saying goodbye to Bulahdelah free camping was a farewell of mixed emotions. Heading off on our journey toward the Spirit of Tasmania, and yet, not quite knowing where it was we would end up for the night. Being flexible is part of what we love about being on the road, always with a rough plan of where we might end up but never quite knowing what we’ll find en-route or if our intentions will quite work out.
It takes a lot of time to pack up our camp, a side effect of three kids, a dog and not having quite worked out what we don’t need. By the time we were organised, we chatted and said goodbye to our new-found camp mates, along with Paddy the 21 year old Maltese terrier (it’s true I promise), we hit the highway ready for the next stretch.
The biggest thing on my mind for this stretch of the trip was getting through Sydney. I used to love the fast pace of my birthplace. The city to me, always seemed to pump with action and vitality running through it’ veins, the streaming cars and people forcing it to life with their hurry to be somewhere. Now, the same sense of urgency that brings such life to the concrete cascades leaves me feeling suffocated and wanting to find peace and wide open spaces.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the occasional visit to the city, it is an amazing place that holds within it a wonderland of excitement and opportunity, but, driving the streets, especially with a caravan in tow wasn’t at the top of my list of things to look forward to. We drove straight through, grabbed fuel at Eastern Creek, an 85 litre top up, with the diesel priced at $164.9, so $140 later we drove out the other side toward the unknown.
It’s the simple things in life that help you choose a free camp site sometimes, and on this occasion, a children’s playground and hot showers won us over before we arrived in Gunning. We arrived fairly late in our usual style, so made-do the best we could as far as getting the van level, cooked up a feed and enjoyed real hot showers! We do carry a hot water service with us, but it’s really important to be careful with water when you have to carry what you need, on board, so it was great to enjoy a good rinse and hair wash!
Gunning is a gorgeous little NSW town, full of history, and buildings with personality. The camp site isn’t a huge area, but it’s large enough to provide space for travellers on their way along the Hume, there was around 12 vans and tents the night we were there, with space for more. The camp site is situated along a small creek, and offers paid access to the local pool, hot showers and toilets that are clean and well maintained, as well as a children’s playground and a picnic area with gas BBQ’s.
We knew we were only staying for one night, but, as always, it’s important to support the towns that support free or low cost camping, so we did a walk through town to take in the sights and grab a couple of coffees and some breakfast.
If you’re ever travelling the Hume highway, then it’s a great little spot to park and rest for the night.
Jan 28th to Feb 3rd: It’s a surreal existence when your dreams are happening around you. It’s a spectacular sense of accomplishment, mixed with a dash of disbelief, a slight twist of vulnerability, and a nagging sensation that it’s all going to crash down around you sometime soon. At least that’s how it felt to me.
Our first few days on the road, well I guess, closer to a week were spent catching up with friends and family before we travelled off into the sunset to enjoy our nomadic dream. It was nice, and a sort-of in-between, where we were officially on the road travelling Australia, and yet floating around the familiar tracks of our past lives, not yet truly on our way.
The 28th of January saw us drive out of Matt’s Nan’s driveway with no real idea of where we’d stop for the night, it was everything we’d wished for; point the car in the direction we wanted to go, and just drive. Take things as they come, trust the universe would lead us to where it was we should go, and enjoy the journey, after all, the journey really is the destination!
As evening began to hit, we decided to pull up in Bulahdelah. This is a pure case of deciding to take a chance on a place we’d driven through probably hundreds of times before, and yet never really looked around. Living on the Mid North Coast made Bulahdelah the fuel and toilet stop of the Pacific Highway when travelling to Sydney; a nice mid-point. But, the highway has since by-passed the little town, and we’d noticed there was a free camp in the area so it was worth a look.
Truly, camp sites don’t get too much better than this one. It’s a dog friendly and family friendly free camp.
We arrived to find a nice big vacant area right on the bank of the river, with a jetty to our left and the walkway to the bridge not too far away. There wasn’t any shade in our new found yard, but we figured we were only staying a night or two, so it we’d work around it.
Van up, table out and a couple of chairs, and we were dishing dinner before we knew it. We’d anticipated a late arrival so had thrown a big feed of beef stroganoff in the Dream Pot before leaving, it was perfect by the time we were ready to eat, and a nice reward after the drive and set up.
There was no time like the present for the kids. Bellies full, they had the rods unpacked, bait net in and were keen for a fish. It didn’t take long before the bait net was host to a small fish. Jackson didn’t like the look of it, with a few ominous spikes giving a warning not to get to close. He gave a yell to Matt to come take a look, and before Matt made it to the Jetty, a lovely guy in the campsite near went to take a look and not wearing his glasses put his hand in to retrieve the little thing.
Ouch! He’d been stung, and boy did we feel bad about it! First night in camp and we’d already inflicted an injury on some poor bloke! We dug out the bites and stings book and I enlisted the help of good old Google to identify the sucker, which we soon realised was a Bullrout. Luckily we carry plenty of pain relief and creams in the van, so we offered him some, and then advised to wash it with hot water as per the first aid directions, also assuring him if it got too bad we’d be happy to run him up to the hospital for them to take a look. Thankfully it was all fine and not too major, but lesson learned for the kids, not to let others touch their nets until we’re there. I’d hate to feel responsible for something bad happening to someone else, even if it’s unintentional.
Crisis averted, Matt and the kids fished well into the evening, before it was time to hit the sack, we figured we’d stay another night, and then see where the road led us.
This plan, to leave the next day happened for several days, and we ended up staying there for five nights. We didn’t realise at the time that the site actually has a 3 night maximum, but it wasn’t full and we spent money in town every day which we thought the small businesses would appreciate so not a major issue.
Our days were filled with swimming, fishing, wandering through town to stock up on supplies, and hanging out with our new friends, the resident geese and ducks, who would often make their presence known and had quite a bit of character about them.The kids enjoyed having a go at camp cooking, and even washing the clothes, although the fascination wore off pretty quickly 🙂
We chatted to locals, met lots of other travellers, some who’d been on the road for some time, others who were testing the waters and deciding whether to dive in and head around Australia full time on the big lap. (of course we told them to go for it, life’s just too short, we hope to meet up with them on the road) 🙂
If you’re in the area, then we can highly recommend this free camp. It’s an initiative of the local Lions Club, to help aid the community after the highway bypass. You need to be pretty self-contained, there is a tap on site for water top-ups, and there are toilets just a short 100 metre walk across the bridge, we carry our own shower, so that wasn’t an issue for us but I think there may be a shower at the showground for a fee.
Please, if you do decide to stay, support the local businesses, it’s a great spot, one of the best we’ve experienced, and by doing some groceries, going to the pub just for a drink or even for dinner, topping up with fuel, or grabbing lures from the hardware like we did it helps prove that the camp is bringing income into the town, as there have been rumours that there has been some objections to the existence of the camp there. We injected around $400 into the town, and most other travellers we talked to spent relative amounts depending on their length of stay, so the small businesses are truly getting extra income from travellers like us, and goes some way to show that towns offering free camping as an alternative definitely benefit.
It was definitely a difficult place to leave behind. Our deadline for reaching Melbourne to sail on Spirit of Tasmania was looming, and we knew we needed to be there by the 8th of February, so we had to give in to the demands of time and wave goodbye to our riverside home and continue on our way.
You’ve been longing to escape the hustle and bustle that everyday life demands, to spend some peaceful, quality time with the kids. So imagine waking to the sound of sweet rainforest birds, whistling outside, perched on the balustrade of your own private verandah. You slowly roll over, remembering where you are. You look around your luxurious apartment, nestled amongst stunning rainforest as the morning sun glistens through the leaves, and into the window.
Ok, so in reality, this precious moment is possibly about to be invaded by little feet echoing through the fabulous living area, but when surrounded by the best that Byron Bay accommodation has to offer, then nothing can break the magic.
By now, if you’re a regular reader of our blog, you possibly realise that we love camping, and it’s what we mostly do. However, when we’re looking to treat ourselves to a gorgeous place to stay, then places like Byron at Byron Resort are great for families. It may not be somewhere you’d expect to find a family, but never fear, it really is a fabulous place to stay, kids and all!
The rooms here offer all you need along with gorgeous textiles, comfortable beds and a spa!
One of the most amazing parts of this resort is it’s eco credentials.
Sitting on 45 acres of lush rainforest and wetlands, it truly feels like you’re secluded from society all together.
The accommodation is nestled right within the rainforest with the buildings occupying less than 10% of the site, leaving lots of natural habitat so there’s plenty of wildlife around, and a superbly relaxing boardwalk that winds through the foliage leading out to a wetland habitat.
Byron at Byron has an active rainforest restoration and regeneration initiative in place, as well as carbon offset programs and Eco friendly operational systems.
What’s On Offer For Families?
You’re not going to find kids clubs and activities at a resort like this, so if that’s what you’re looking forward to for your holiday then there’s lots of great resorts catering for that market.
The Byron at Byron is for families looking to really escape from the hustle and bustle of the every day and treat themselves to a splash of luxury while they’re at it.
The boardwalk winds through the resort giving children the opportunity to identify bird-life, reptiles, insects and other wildlife that is active.
There is daily yoga on offer (who says kids can’t do yoga), and one of the great things about staying here is the close vicinity of Byron Bay itself. You’re literally only minutes away from some of the most stunning beaches in the world.
While it’s easy to strike spa resorts off your list when looking for family holiday destinations, if you’re wanting a bit of a treat, then I do recommend considering it. We had a great time. You can see from the photos it was a couple of years ago now that we stayed, as the kids were much younger, but we’d go back for sure!
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in outer Sydney with kids, the choices can be overwhelming. The choices can also be expensive.
When our little guy was due to have surgery at Westmead Children’s Hospital, we needed affordable Sydney accommodation that was reasonably close, child friendly and affordable. So we did what we always do and headed over to wotif to take a look at the options.
It can be really difficult to figure out if a motel is really worth staying at purely by what you see online, but when you have a family of 5, options are severely reduced as many hotels and motels only allow a maximum of 4 people per room. Paying for 2 rooms just isn’t an option, so we felt pretty happy when we found the Gateway Motel Vineyard on offer for a great nightly price. So when we headed back down to Sydney for the caravan and camping show in April this was the first place we checked for availability to book a room.
Cheap Family Accommodation in Outer Sydney.
The best thing about the Gateway Motel is it’s price. For a family of 5, you can stay in a comfortable, clean room for just over $100 a night. If you’re a family, you’ll know that this is a great price! If you’re after Hilton style, flashy accommodation, then look elsewhere, but for those looking for somewhere to lay their heads for the night, a place the kids can relax and do their thing. A tv, tea and coffee facilities, reverse cycle air conditioning, foxtel and lots of great conveniences, that’s clean and the staff are friendly, then this motel will be all that you need.
Accommodation Close to Dining in Outer Sydney.
The rooms at the Gateway don’t come with a kitchen, but they do offer something even better! Walk next door to the hotel and you can dine in a huge family friendly restaurant area with super yummy meals that are priced well for families, and there’s plenty of variety to suit everyone’s tastes.
The dining area is open for lunch and dinner and you won’t be disappointed. For breakfast, we were always heading off early anyway, and throw a few up and go drinks in the fridge and the kids were happy with that until we could head off and get breakfast elsewhere.
Something nice about having a hotel with dining next door is that it’s just a few metres to stroll next door and have dinner, mum and dad can also have a wine or beer without having to worry about driving, and everyone gets to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
We threw a few dollars in the juke box, probably much to the dismay of the younger teens who were there, as we pumped out old favourites like The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and others.
Lots of Fun for the Kids.
As mum and dad are kicking back with full bellies from their yummy dinner, and peacefully enjoying a few wines, the kids can play the evening away on the free video games that are provided. There’s also a range of paid racing games, pinball machines and skill testers that will keep them busy.
A Great Place to Stay in Sydney for Families
We have stayed at the Gateway Motel in Vineyard twice now, and we’ll be back again. It’s located in the outer Sydney area, near Windsor, and offers a great outlook as you drive out past paddocks and farms. For those who are looking for a more relaxed option than the hustle and bustle of closer city motels, then this is great.
There is a large service station across the road that’s open for incidentals if you need to buy them, and in the 2 times we’ve stayed there it hasn’t been rowdy or overly busy, although I guess that might change over a busy weekend.
Sydney city is about 45kms away and Parramatta is around 24kms away. Both are easy enough to get to from here.
Would we stay again? YES!
Have you stayed here? Or found a great hotel for kids? Let us know about it in the comments below!