Family Adventure!


Packing up the car and heading off on a 10,000km fishing holiday from SA to Queensland sounds like a great adventure, right? Try it with three small kids in tow. JAMIE CRAWFORD reports on an epic family holiday.

TAKING a 10,000km drive with a small caravan, kayaks and fishing gear in tow for two months sounds like a cool adventure, eh? However, when you tell people you also have three young children under five on the trip, even some seasoned adventurers shudder at the prospect.

We have recently returned back to SA after completing a road trip up the east coast of Australia. It was a fantastic trip; we saw a lot of cool places, caught some good fish and spent some great family time together. Sure, there were moments when my wife and I looked at each other, confined in the car with loud children, and asked the question “why are we doing this”? Overall though, the great experiences and fun times clearly outweighed the difficult times.

We did a similar road trip a few years back, although to a different area. We only had one little one at that stage and from this trip we knew of the travelling and sleeping challenges that were lying ahead of us … although now multiplied by three. The initial stages of any trip is always the hardest with children in tow. We found that it took us around two weeks to settle into a new routine and after that time the travelling and sleeping got a whole lot easier.

In this feature I’ll discuss briefly the route we took and some of the fishing we experienced, but above all I’ll try to offer some tips on travelling, camping and fishing with a family and the logistics of such an excursion.

Our Trip
We left home on the Eyre Peninsula and made our way to the River Murray. The Murray was flowing really well after the heavy rains of early 2011, and the river level was up considerably. The high levels meant the backwaters and lagoons were full of water for a change, and the yabbies were running well. The kids had a great time catching yabbies, and we cooked some on the campfire in the evenings.

We also fished off the bank trying to catch carp to use for yabby bait, but had hard time fishing through the tandanus catfish. These River Murray catfish have been protected for several years so it’s encouraging to see good numbers starting to rebuild. In two short fishing sessions from the bank we caught & released 16 catfish and only one carp.

After spending time up the Murray we made our way to the Snowy Mountains. We met up with Fisho’s Patrick Brennan at Jindabyne, where we spent a few nights. Pat has fished extensively throughout the Snowies so it was great to have some local knowledge. We fished the Thredbo River for a morning and scored several rainbow trout, and then fished Lake Jindabyne the following day from Pat’s boat.

Lake Jindabyne and the surrounding area is beautiful country, and aside from the fishing we did some scenic drives, visited Thredbo and also checked out the Gaden trout hatchery. After visiting the Snowies we ventured across to the South Coast of NSW, arriving on the coast near Narooma. We spent the following week working our way up to Jervis Bay, fishing some great beaches for salmon and tailor.

We spent a few days with Fisho editor Jim Harnwell in his local area of Jervis Bay. We got amongst bonito, tailor and salmon in the bay, and we also spent a day up the mighty Shoalhaven River. Former British MP and fishing activist Martin Salter joined Jim and I for the day on the river, which started out with a 5am jewie session near the mouth, followed by an estuary perch and bass session in the upper reaches later in the day.

Jim and Martin gave me a lesson on catching EPs (I’m sure they smeared petrol over my Jackall Chubby), with the lads both landing some cracking EPs while I watched on. I ended up with one EP for the session which was about the same length as my lure. We had a pretty cool bass bite late in the day though, locating good sized bass feeding on prawns up against a rock wall which was pretty exciting fishing.
leaving JB, we visited Sydney and the Blue Mountains before moving on to Port Stephens where I caught up with good mate and local fisho, Ben Doolan. We had some good beach fishing sessions for tailor and salmon, and had a morning fishing wide of the bay for snapper. Ben scored a good fish of around 5kg on a 7” Gulp jerk shad, and we also got a couple of smaller reddies as well.

We spent the following week making our way up the North Coast of NSW, enjoying more beach fishing for tailor and a few salmon. We eventually made our way up to Fraser Island, before venturing inland. We spent a few days at Lake Somerset, Lake Wivenhoe, the Severn River and Lake Keepit as we made our way south.

Most of the fishing in these areas was trolling and casting diving minnows from our kayak around bank side structure, but I also did some vertical jigging with lipless crankbaits in some deeper holes which was pretty effective.

Keeping it Family Friendly
Of course, when you are on a family holiday there needs to be a balance of fishing and family time. Personally speaking, I would be Mr Unpopular if I were to disappear during daylight hours to pursue my own selfish fishing ambitions. Taking this into account, we need to keep the fishing family-friendly, and limit solo fishing time if you want the holiday-harmony to continue.

A few tips to keep in mind when fishing on a family holiday is try to choose child-friendly fishing locations where possible. Jetties, estuaries and low-energy beaches are pretty good options when the little ones are in tow. If your kids are not into fishing, then pick a possie where they can amuse themselves by looking for crabs, playing in the sand etc. Try letting them pull in the fish you hook – sure, you might lose a few along the way but at least it involves them and get them interested.

We did a lot of fishing from the kayak while on our trip, and our kids had a blast sitting in the ’yak with us. We would play eye-spy while paddling around lakes and up rivers, trolling a lure behind the kayak at the same time. It goes without saying that life jackets are a must for kids in kayaks, even if the water is shallow. If you remember to pack little treats like biscuits, muesli bars and fruit boxes, then you will generally extend the fishing session.

If you go on a few solo fishing missions while on holiday, make sure the rest of the family aren’t stranded back at camp with nothing to do. Camping close to a little town or near a playground is often enough to satisfy the rest of the family while you disappear for a few hours fishing by yourself.

Our Set-Up
Our camp set-up was nothing fancy, but it was comfortable and economical to run. We bought an offroad Jayco Eagle caravan a few months before the trip. The van was second hand at around 10-years-old but was pretty well set up for what we wanted. It had great road clearance, and was fairly self-sufficient in regards to power and water. We towed our van behind our 3.0L Prado, and averaged 14L of diesel per 100km, as opposed to 11L per 100km without the van.

Before we left home, we got a copy of the Camps Australia Wide book, which we referred to on a daily basis. Not only did it show camp grounds (both free and fee), but it showed detailed maps of all areas and also showed day parking bays so we could plan where and when we would stop for a break.

We found plenty of free camp grounds using this book which saved us a lot of money over the course of the trip. We would pay on average $38 per night for a campsite when we stayed in a caravan park (that was off-peak), so over a few months you can save quite a bit of cash if you pursue the free grounds.  The free campgrounds are pretty basic on average with compost toilets usually the only amenities.

On our caravan we have a 60L underfloor water tank, plus 20L of spare water in jerry cans on the back rack. Also on the back rack we had 20L of spare diesel for backup. We have a deep cycle battery in the van which runs the auxiliary lights and also runs the fresh water pump. Our fridge is three-way, so we can run it on gas, mains power and 12V.

We could be fairly self-sufficient with water and power for around four nights in a row, and after that time we would have to recharge the van battery and top up water tanks. We would plan to stay in a caravan park for a couple of nights, before venturing off to a free campsite for a few nights, and ended just rotating between the two options.

Our Routine
Our daily routine involved packing down camp (which took about 30 minutes) after breakfast, before loading our three kids in the car for a day of driving. Our 12-month-old girl would generally fall asleep at around 10am, so this became our designated departure time – maximising quiet-time in the car. We would plan ahead how far we we’d like to travel on a given day, but we had to remain flexible and quite often we didn’t reach our pre-determined location, which was fine. We found that around five hours travelling time per day was enough for the children – any longer became pretty hard work.

My wife (being a school teacher) came up with a few strategies to keep the children amused while in the car. Aside from our car DVD player (which is a beautiful invention, although not brain-stimulating), we had a pile of games and activities to fill in the time. My wife made some “window socks” which were pockets that hung next to the children, holding an assortment of activities, stationary, books, toys etc. And they each had their own so there wasn’t any fighting.

Once we arrived at location Bek would take the kids for a walk or would do a treasure hunt to keep them happy while I set up camp; it was a lot quicker this way. I reckon we re-hid the same Easter eggs several times, but our kids never noticed and had a blast each time!

We came up with a reward system for our two older boys while on holidays, so each time they helped with chores in the van they would get a star on their chart, or if they misbehaved we would remove a star. Once they had tallied five stars they got a small reward. This seemed to work pretty well for our kids. At the end of the day though, all children are different and what might work for one child may not work for another.

If you are thinking about doing a road trip with your family, I would recommend doing a couple of small trips close to home before you head off. This will give an indication of how well the sleeping arrangements will work, of what needs altering, and also gives you time to figure out what other equipment is needed for that big excursion. We’re already talking about our next big trip!


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