Category Archives: Walks

Pulau Ubin, Singapore with kids

Pulau Ubin, Singapore

In 2016, armed with umbrella strollers, baby carriers, and two massive backpacks, Andrew and I took our then two-year-old son and four-year-old daughter on a backpacking trip through 15 European cities with a couple of stopovers in Singapore. This is but one of our many memories from that trip.

I first heard about Pulau Ubin on a CNN ad in 2016 while unpacking our bags in an air-conditioned Singapore hotel room.  “Surely if we leave early enough, we will miss the heat,” I explained to Andrew as I organised our belongings to make the hotel room feel like home, something I would do 16 more times in the coming months. Eager to explore Singapore beyond its city limits, Andrew agreed. Miss 4’s pleas to go back to the Jacob Ballas children’s playground we visited earlier in the morning were replaced with questions like “Will there be sharks?” and “Will the boat sink?” after I explained to her that we get to go on a bumboat to get to the island.

Continue reading Pulau Ubin, Singapore

Fog over the Hawkesbury River. Section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.

Berowra Waters Scramble

Last summer, my cousins and I planned a camping trip to Mt Kosciuszko, as we do every few summers.  Lightning storms were forecasted and the trip had to be relocated as one of our friends had a metal plate in his arm.  We decided to change our camping location to Wolgan Valley, closer to home and near the Glow Worm Tunnel Walk.  Twenty four hours before the trip, bushfires erupted in that area of the Blue Mountains.  Running out of options and time, texting alternative tracks close to midnight, we settled on the Berowra to Cowan section of the  Great North Walk, the section frequented by Seven Summit enthusiasts and ultra marathon runners. 

Thanks for introducing me to the Great North Walk Mario!

I thought that the boulders along the Berowra Waters section of the walk were the perfect free rock climbing playground for my five year old daughter so I shortened the route from my initial trip with my cousins, making the walk as kid and parent friendly as possible.  By autumn, me, my daughter, and my friend Mia, set off on our inaugural Girls Only Berowra Waters Scramble. Our itinerary for our weekender  was simple:

Day 1:

  • Lunch at Berowra Waters Fish Cafe
  • Catch the ferry and walk 3.2 km up to Ridge Top Camp Ground
  • Set up camp, have dinner, sleep

Day 2:

  • Breakfast at the campsite 
  • Walk back down 3.2 km to Berowra Waters
  • Lunch at A Chef Secrets 
  • Catch the ferry and drive home
Cafe start and cafe finish. Almost glamping, but not quite as we carried our own tent, food, water, Jetboil, and Uno cards. That’s all the essentials right? 
Section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
After lunch, we caught the ferry then walked to the end of Kirkpatrick Way. Keeping the water to our left, we followed a flat dirt track to the track entrance marked by some steep metal steps.
"This is the worst day of my life," Miss 5 complained with each step up. I had the same thoughts filled with expletives which I kept to myself.
Mia, with two out of the seven "Summits" and plenty more summits not on the list under her belt, led the way with ease, patience, and modesty as only a genuine mountaineer bestfriend can.

Runners made themselves known to our trio, soft ploddings on the ground carried by even puffs, getting louder and louder, culminating to friendly breathless hellos and encouragement for my daughter as they neared then disappeared. We were in no hurry as we still had a good five hours of the autumn sun ahead of us. 

"I don't want to wee or poo on the ground. I already went at the cafe."; "Are there other people at the campsite? What if it's just us?"; and "When are we going to play Uno? You promised!!!" went on loop until...
Section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
The steps finally led to boulders and my daughter was ecstatic. Her litany of reasons why this was the worst day of her life was replaced by "This is the best day ever."
Section of the Great North Track, Berowra Waters
Short break for drinks and Uno at Berowra Waters view point.

The short yet drastically steep ascent was painful, but we were rewarded with instant views of the Hawkesbury River and the satisfying knowledge that we covered a lot of ground in just a few steep steps and boulder-hugging scrambles. Mia and I kept going, slow and steady, catching up on life updates and pondering existential questions that have moved us since we last caught up a few months prior. Long breaks between boulder after boulder, we encouraged and challenged Miss 5, mindful that we were opening new possibilities to our brave yet inexperienced 5-year-old. 

Section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
"This is easy peasy," she said before getting boosted from below and pulled up from the top.
Section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
"I don't think you'll fit," Miss 5 gravely assessed when it was my turn.
Section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
There were gentle undulations just before and right after Roland's bench. Perfect places to catch breath and to calm down screaming legs.

We arrived at the campsite at 3 pm, pleasantly surprised with our speed and at a loss on what to do  with the remaining three hours of daylight. With only cup noodles and marshmallows to prepare, we settled on gathering firewood for our campfire then setting up our tent.

Ridge Top Campground, Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
"I don't have the instructions," I announced and was met with Mia's "These days tents are intuitive to build. Green pole goes to green part, black pole to black then you work it out from there."
Ridge Top Campground, Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
Intuitive indeed and built in 10 minutes. Thank you to the Morins for lending us your Lansan Ultralight Kathmandu tent!

At 4 pm, light softening to afternoon yellow, repeated clicks on the Jetboil yielded no flame.  The firewood and kindling set up for maximum oxygen penetration sat neatly stacked, lacking the matches or a lighter to start the fire! As I questioned Mia about Jetboil fuel levels, suggested the travesty of having dry noodles and uncooked marshmallows for dinner, and contemplated accosting passing walkers for a lighter, Mia refused to give up. She worked out, with Google, that slight adjustments needed to be made to the igniter. A few minutes of face-twisting metal bending and we welcomed whooshing Jetboil flames. Another few more minutes and the Jetboil flames were replicated on our campfire.

Ridge Top Campground, Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
Mia tended the fire.
Ridge Top Campground, Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
Miss 5 was in charge of making hot chocolate.
Ridge Top Campground, Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
I readied our sleeping gear in the tent and scouted for suitable spots for nocturnal wees.

That night, Mia and I continued catching up, while Miss 5 slept, oblivious to our musings. As we talked, orange light glowed outside of our tent – embers reignited to slowly burn and crackle for a few more hours.   After all talk seized, I lay content taking stock of almost two decades of friendship with Mia marked by new endeavors, adventures, and dilemmas dissected, analysed, supported, debated, celebrated, or commiserated in phone calls, texts, and long catch-ups.   

"I couldn't sleep," Miss 5 declared bright-eyed the next day which was followed by Mia's recounting of her dreams from the previous night. I tossed and turned, cold and sleepless, the whole night, but I snored apparently so I must have been asleep like Miss 5.
Ridge Top Campground, Great North Walk.
A quick breakfast of oats and camp was packed up quicker than it was set up.

As we retraced our steps back down to Berowra Waters, the steep scrambling from  the day before turned to vertical drops. As a parent, I held my breath a few times ready to hold on to Miss 5’s hands or any available body part as she descended. But I couldn’t and I didn’t, knowing first hand how empowering it is to find your own footholds and committing to your own line, in life, and in rock climbing. Mia was also conveniently leading, sharing my parenting style, and ready to catch and cushion any falls of which there was only one – at a flat section with loose gravel.

This is a hard track for adults and for kids alike, but with preparation and patience, it is worth the weekend scramble. I thought to bring Miss  5 back in summer to immerse her in cicada song, but we ended up coming back two months later in winter when work camping plans fell through. Minus Mia who was baking in the warmth of Singapore, this time Miss 5 and I made sure to pack not one, but two boxes of matches.

Berowra Waters view point, section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
Thanks Auntie Mia, you rock!

Want to give this track a try? Check out the the Berowra Waters to Cowan track notes prepared by Wildwalks by clicking here. We followed the track notes from The Fish Cafe to Ridge Top Campground.

Distance:

6.4 km return

Pram/Wheelchair:

No

Map:

Top of Truganini Lookout, Bruny Island, Tasmania

Truganini Lookout, Bruny Island

With the Grass Point Trail and the Lighthouse Walk taking up the most of our day, Andrew and I decided to keep walking after dinner by heading to the Truganini Lookout.   The Lookout, with its 200 plus steps, is on an isthmus of land connecting north and south Bruny Island and was conveniently located near our accommodation.  

Entrance of Truganini Lookout, Bruny Island
7pm: found the walk entrance.
Truganini Walk, Bruny Island, Tasmania
7.10 pm: waiting for our turn for a selfie at the top.
7.20 pm: kids hurry down to the beach below before selfie is taken.

The beach near the track is open until dusk during Tasmanian summers. When we reached the beach, Andrew and I sat on the sand, satiated and sluggish with pizza and steak from the Bruny Island Hotel. The children spent a few minutes repeatedly teasing then running away from the crashing waves.  

Bruny Island, Tasmania
7.30 pm: found an abandoned sandcastle.
7.45 pm: made our own family sandcastle.

At around 8 pm, Ranger Stacey and her junior rangers asked beach goers to get off the sand. We were informed that the shearwaters and the penguins needed the beach to be clear so they can come back to their rookery located under the platforms above the walk. Estimated time of re-entry in burrows: 9.45 pm for the shearwaters and 10.00 pm for the penguins.  

Truganini Lookout, Bruny Island.
Of course, we stayed!

Ranger Stacey started with an Acknowledgment to Country for the traditional custodians of South Bruny Island, the Nuenonne, before giving the growing group of families a background on short-tailed shearwaters and little penguins, the magnificent birds we were about to witness coming home that night.  Some shearwater oil and a stuffed little penguin were passed around, morbid yet poignant reminders of the millions of birds killed for human use and amusement.  I’m not complaining, I eat chicken…

As informative as the talk was, it made me reflect on how sometimes what is not mentioned in a story is as important as what is mentioned. There was no mention of Truganini or her people that managed to survive the genocide of the 1800s. Truganini was a Tasmanian Aboriginal woman who even in death, could not escape the brutal dispossession and destruction of her land and culture. Her bones were exhumed for public display shortly after her death in 1876 and some of her body parts were sent to different institutions for “scientific study”.  It was only in 1976 that her request to be cremated was finally honoured.

As to what was mentioned in the talk, at 9.45 pm, the shearwaters made their precision landings into or near their burrows. Shortly after, a raft of about 15 penguins landed on the beach. With red cellophane on our mobile phone lights, we witnessed the graceful swimmers turn into bumbling waddlers. With mingled bird cries filling the air, penguin and chick and burrow were reunited for the night.  My son whispered “Good night,” to each penguin he spotted while my daughter had to be sternly reminded by Ranger Stacey to stop jumping so as not to scare the penguins. It was 11 pm when we finally pulled out of the car park and into the dark roads of Bruny Island, smug with the thought of walking three bushwalks in one day, with kids.  

Looking for child-friendly materials that promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural awareness and don’t know where to start? Click here for a copy of Aunt Annie’s Sorry Day to start your journey. 

Want to learn more about birds? Click here to visit the Birdlife website. Identify some birds in your backyard, read up on their current campaigns, and start your own bird survey family project. Click here to buy a copy of Adam Nicolson’s book on oceanic aviators. See below for his description of shearwaters.

Adam Nicolson, The Seabirds' Cry
Bruny Island Lighthouse

Lighthouse Walk, Bruny Island

Fresh from our two-hour walk at the Grass Point Trail, still full from our 11 am cafe brunch, and with four hours to spare before our much coveted pub dinner booking at Bruny Island Hotel, Andrew and I decided to drive to the Southern end of Bruny Island to visit the lighthouse. Past endless horizons of cloudy sky and eucalyptus-scented tree-filled green, Andrew focused on getting our family safely through narrow dirt roads as I drifted in and out of my afternoon nap like our kids on the back seat.  

On the road to South Briny Island to visit Bruny Island Lighthouse.
We lost radio reception long before we hit this part of the road.

When we arrived at the main entrance to the lighthouse, Andrew, not one for naps, stepped out to brave the gusts of wind blowing in from the Tasman Sea to explore.  With a quick “I can see the lighthouse from my window, have fun,” I moved to the driver’s seat to resume my nap with the kids, occasionally nudged back to consciousness by conversations carried by the wind into our half open car windows.  Twenty minutes later, with Andrew content with his share of alone time and myself refreshed and resuming the driving duties, we slowly drove away from the lighthouse. 200 metres later, our son woke up, filling the car with guttural screaming to match Sepultura, one line repeated over and over: “I want lighthooooooouuussseeeee!!!!!”.

Bruny Island Lighthouse, South Bruny Island
Faced with the prospect of 17 kilometres of screaming with limited places to stop, I surrendered and drove back to the lighthouse. Carpe diem. We might as well walk.

From the bottom car park white gates, we walked towards an old cottage housing a small museum. Looking out one of the windows, I found myself romanticizing the solitude unperturbed by earlier sign reading, “A welcome and a Warning”.  The lighthouse is claimed to be the oldest existing tower under Australian Commonwealth Control. Completed with convict labour and lit by whale lamps in 1838, these days the lighthouse is decommissioned, replaced by a solar-powered automatic light located on a hill east of the lighthouse.

South Bruny Island, Tasmania
"The story of lighthouses invariably begins with shipwrecks." The loss of 134 lives on George III in 1835 and the earlier Actaeon shipwreck were the impetus for the lighthouse being built.
The view from the Bruny Island Lighthouse Museum, South Bruny Island, Tasmania.
"Imagine living in a remote location, often cold and wet weather, cooped up with two other families and all under rule of an ex-naval man that one may or may not get on with." Reading through some lightkeeper logs.
Bruny Island Lighthouse Museum, South Bruny Island, Tasmania
"Despite their long hours on duty, Tasmanian lightkeepers were poorly paid and many toiled for years without leave." Browsing through equipment while pondering which union, if any, would have covered lighthouse keepers.

After the small museum, we headed towards the wire gates to follow the concrete steps leading to the lighthouse.   My daughter led the way as Andrew and I took turns piggybacking the reason why we got ourselves on this impromptu walk in the first place. 

Bruny Island Lighthouse, South Bruny Island, Tasmania
Counting her steps as she went, "35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 30, 31, 32, 33..."

As we arrived at the lighthouse, we met the keeper who just finished the last tour and was locking up for the day.  “Don’t blow away kids,” he said as he made his way down the hill. Taking the keeper’s words literally, my son tightened his grip on my hands.  Despite much squinting, because I left our binoculars back in the car and because of the cloud cover, it was hard to discern Pedra Branca and Eddystone Rock. These rocks are said to be white-tipped due to generations of pelagic birds’ droppings. 

Bruny Island Lighthouse, South Bruny Island, Tasmania.
Holding on to each other so they don't get blown away.
Bruny Island Lighthouse, South Bruny Island, Tasmania
"Have you ever...ever felt like this?"
Bruny Island Lighthouse, South Bruny Island, Tasmania.
"Hold on to my head. No! No! Stop! Take your hands off my eyes! Don't let go! Hang on! Ok Andrew we're ready." Picture perfect finish.
Tasman Sea from the Bruny Island Lighthouse, South Bruny Island, Tasmania.
Thank you, Mr 3. We would have missed out on this experience if we ignored your epic tantrum.

Some say “Your life is a product of your choices.” By making a choice to turn around, our family found three more tracks to explore for another day: to the white sands of Jerry Beach, to pristine and secluded beaches of Cloudy and Mabel Bays, and to the dolerite cliffs of Quiet Bay. Three more of the thousands of reasons why our family will continue to come back to Tasmania over the years to come. 

Distance:

Pram/Wheelchair:

Map:

1 kilometre return

No

Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island

Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island

Away from the Australian island continent, on the lower eastern side of the island state of Tasmania, lies Bruny Island. Five years ago, Andrew and I were lured to Bruny by the prospect of fresh seafood and cheese.  Five years and two toilet-trained and non-stroller dependent kids later, we went back ready to explore some of the bushwalks the island had to offer.  We started with the Grass Point Trail which started on the beach to the right of the Fluted Cape parking area.  

Start of the Grass Point Track, Adventure Bay, Tasmania
What started with "We'll just touch the water mummy," led to a wardrobe change for my son who, as usual, ended up jumping in.
At the start of Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
Cold receptors triggered, the kids moved to dry sand.

At 11am, there were already families coming back from the trail as  Andrew and I lingered at the start dusting off wet sand. A passing walker recounted how the track took 40 minutes walking in, then 20 minutes walking back. I thanked him and waved to his school-aged children. In the background I could hear Andrew imploring our kids to continue walking.  I mentally doubled, then tripled, the kind walker’s figures.  

Start of the Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
The start was in sight.
Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
The Tasman Sea to the left, land for sale to the right.

The land for sale to the right of the start of the track triggered my memory of a conversation I overheard at the local oyster place the day before. “You must have to travel out of the island to find things to do,” said a lady in her 40s. “It’s so quiet here, what do you do for fun?” her friend added swilling her white wine. Not missing a beat, the stubbled beanie-wearing waiter, the object of condescension or perhaps flirtation, replied, “Oh I keep busy, I bought 40 acres of land in South Bruny a few years ago and I spend my time camping in and exploring it when I’m not working here.”  Anyway, I wondered, will that part of Bruny be subdvided, sold, and commercialised in a few years time or will the owner protect it and keep it wild ala JD Tipper and Mougamarra Nature Reserve? Time will tell.

White wallaby at the Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
Squint view of a white wallaby.
Basking cormorant at Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
Cormorant basking in the 16°C Bruny Island summer.

Andrew and I trailed behind the kids, him taking photos, me finding gaps in the trees to look for seabirds through my binoculars. Our children busied themselves inspecting and collecting what I hoped were gum nuts and not scat, assessing sticks for walking stick suitability, and pointing out insects along the track.   

Shedded cicada skin, Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
"They're sort of like hermit crabs then mummy," my daughter observed when I explained this might be a discarded cicada shell."
Ants on the Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
My son followed a few to try and locate their "ant house".

At one point, my son tripped on the track. I suspect it was because his shoes didn’t really have much tread. He was left with some shallow cuts on his forehead imprinted by the gravel he fell on.  Andrew dispensed some lollipop treats that comforted our son enough to stop crying, but he refused to walk. Some reshuffling of cameras, binoculars and bags between Andrew and I, followed by a safety talk on how to eat a lollipop while sitting on mummy’s shoulder, then we were ready to continue on.  

Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island Tasmania
The Grass Point Trail branches off to the right leading to the Fluted Cape Trail. Another walk for another year.
Through a grove of trees with blackened trunks and bare branches.

The trail ended on a pebbly beach. A few hundred metres away, a tour boat gently bobbed up and down to the beat of the waves.  Our  kids waved and shouted, their hellos muted by the wind. Some people on the boat waved bacwhile most continued to look intently to the right of where we were standing.  Intrigued, I urged the kids to continue walking along the beach to investigate. We were rewarded with a view of a rocky outcrop in front of Penguin Island where terns, seagulls, and cormorants rested.  

It's not often that we come across a variety of seabirds in one spot.
An old man resting on a large piece of driftwood patiently explained to my son that these were kelp - slimy and soft when wet and rough and leathery when dried.

Our walk back the way we came was spent by everyone listening to my son pointing out where his blood dripped all over the trail although in reality, only a pin prick blood was spilled where his forehead hit the gravel. We played along as this distracted into walking most of the track back.

Grass Point Trail, Bruny Island
Miss 5-year-old: "That was a fun walk mummy." Mummy: "Which bit was fun?" Miss 5-year-old: "The beach at the start. Hurry up!"
Beach in front of Fluted Cape Parking Area, Bruny Island
Back to the car to get more dry clothes.

Some shelf back in Sydney lay a partially read copy of Adam Nicolson’s “The Seabirds Cry: The Lives and Loves of Puffins, Gannets, and Other Ocean Voyagers” and Jeannie Baker’s children‘s book about kelp, “The Hidden Forest”.  The Grass Point Trail enriched our reading nights when we got back home, bringing us closer to the world and creatures we thought we’d only ever see through books  

Distance:

Pram/Wheelchair:

Map:

4 kilometres return

No

Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain

On a recent visit to Launceston, Andrew and Neil, foodies at heart, wanted to explore the region’s wine route. Alicia and I, with many hikes shared together, wanted to go further afield for a short day walk at the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. We were only in Launceston for less than a week so we decided to go our separate ways. My son decided that he would go with the foodies while my daughter volunteered to join her womenfolk on a mini-hike around the Dove Lake Circuit.  This is a quick recount of the girls’ day out.

Team National Park left first with the aim of starting the walk early and finishing early. We didn't want to risk driving down forest roads at dusk and hitting wombats, wallabies, kangaroos, etc.
Team Vineyard set off later in the day, checking out cafes near Alanvale before hitting Launceston's wine route.

The drive from Launceston to the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre took two hours of driving bliss. We passed towns like Promised Land and Nowhere Else while listening to traffic reports proudly reporting “no traffic” and weather forecasts announcing clear blue skies and pleasant twenty-degree temperatures throughout the week. It was no wonder Alicia and I spent nights throughout our Tasmanian holiday, texting each other links to houses for sale and dreaming of endless trails to explore. No doubt like millions of mainlanders who have holidayed in Tasmania before us.

Blue skies and quiet roads ahead.

We arrived at an almost full Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair carpark where Alicia and I decided to catch a shuttle to the start of the walk instead of driving in. This ended up being a good decision because the roads into the park were narrow gravel roads more suited to four-wheel drives. We also got some helpful tips from the ranger like it’s best to walk the track in a clockwise direction for better photos of the Cradle Mountain saddle and that the quickest way to finish the Dove Lake Circuit was to get off the shuttle, walk to Glacier Rock, take a selfie, then get back on the shuttle.  

We could have easily ended the walk here, but we didn't of course!

The start of the track was very busy and made me suspect that the ranger’s whole spiel about walking clockwise on the track was aimed more at facilitating the traffic among the herds of tourists, than for the supposed Cradle Mountain photo opportunities.  When we got to Glacier Rock, a giant quartzite boulder scratched by ancient glacier debris, I urged my daughter to avoid the people taking selfies on the unfenced edge by crouching low near the edge of the rock that was closest to the footpath.  The crowd disappeared when we continued our walk, away from Glacier Rock. The ranger’s words on the quickest way to finish the walk rang true.

Walking with kids at Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
We were overtaken by groups of people many times at the start of the track, but we savoured each minute, having planned to spend a whole day to explore.
Dove Lake Circuit from above, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
I didn't manage to take a photo of or on Glacier Rock, but here is the view from another, significantly less crowded, rock.

The walk was straightforward and no map was required. Looking out from the higher sections of the track, we could see faint trails leading to the water’s edge, a few of which we followed.  When we reached the sandy pebbly shores, small waves of icy cold glacial water were a most welcome respite for our weary toes.

Dove Lake shore, Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Shortly after this photo was taken, my daughter's hat was blown into the water and was kindly retrieved by a gentleman in, I hope, waterproof boots.
Dove Lake shore, Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Testing the water with her aunt wearing her wet hat.
Dove Lake shore, Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Might as well wet the toes.

Parts of the track housed cool temperate rainforest vegetation of ancient towering myrtle-beech trees carpeted in moss and lichen like the ground they stood in. Native flowers, trees, and grasses, common in the mainland, sprinkled the scrub and lake shores.  We walked to the sounds of rustling leaves , water gently slapping rocks, conversations carried in the wind, and cawing of  what appeared to be forest ravens. Such a peaceful setting made it easier to absorb the finer details of our surroundings. 

By the lake shore of Dove Lake, Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Gnarled trees too dramatic to sit at and much better admired from the comfort of a log on one of the pebbly banks.
Plants found at Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Plants found at Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Plants found at Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Plants found at Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Plants found at Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Plants found at Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Plants found at Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Plants found at Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Plants found at Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Some Australian wildflowers and a tree covered in furry moss.

The track was made of loose gravel, meandering boardwalk, and some sections were paved in stone.  We exchanged fleeting greetings with other hikers, some parents, the most dedicated of which was a father with a front carrier with a baby and a back carrier loaded with a toddler. I uttered a silent thanks to the universe when my daughter only asked to be carried once. Down hill. Towards the end of the walk. 

Walking with kids at Ballroom Forest, Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain- Lake St Clair National Park
Through the Ballroom Forest.
Walking with kids at Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
To rocky paths.
Walking with kids at Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain- Lake St Clair National Park
Slowing down and resting on paved steps.
Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain- Lake St Clair National Park
To finally earning a piggyback.

Towards the end of our walk, my daughter kept looking up at the sky and walking faster. I asked her what was bothering her. She confessed that she was worried it might get dark soon and that the shuttle might leave us. I showed her my watch and explained the last shuttle leaves at 7.00 pm and the ranger will wait for us, having logged our trip intentions in the guest book before the start of the walk. 

Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
My daughter continued her brisk pace despite my reassurances, this time fueled by the ice cream treat I promised we'd have to celebrate her longest hike to date.

In the end, we finished the walk in four hours with plenty of daylight left for the drive back to Launceston. My daughter said the best part of the trip was spending time with her aunt and chomping on our stash of chocolate bars. No doubt, Alicia, my daughter, and I will continue sharing outdoor adventures together for many many years to come. Someday perhaps exploring the Pacific Coast Trail, the Appalachian Trail, or the Camino together. But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, one step at a time close to home, is good walking. 

Distance:

Wheelchair/Pram:

Map:

6 kilometers, circuit

No:

Tamar Island Boardwalk, Devonport, Tasmania

Tamar Island Boardwalk, Launceston

The Tamar Island Boardwalk meanders through wetlands  that lead to the grassy Tamar Island then ends on a wooden platform overlooking the kanamaluka/Tamar River. The Tamar wetlands is home to a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, frogs, fish, and insects. The wetlands currently supports over 1% of the world populations of pied oystercatchers and chestnut teals.  A few years ago, Andrew and I walked along the Tamar Island Boardwalk with our then eighteen-month-old daughter who wobbled along slowly next to the pram. Fast forward to 2017 and we were back with two children along with our new-found family walking buddies: my sister-in-law, Alicia, and her partner, Neil,  which you may remember from our previous Forest Path Walk. 

Tamar Island Boardwalk Devonport, Tasmania
"You put your eyes on the black bit," Andrew explained.

We started our day at the Wetlands Centre where we picked up maps and the kids inspected preserved specimens of native animals common to the area. My son kept whispering “Is that dead?” then pointing to each display, which Andrew and I took turns in answering with varying versions of yes. Our kids are familiar with the sight of stuffed animals having visited many museums and I have explained, to my daughter at least, that although some animals are killed just because people want them in a collection, most are required to die naturally before they are preserved. At this stage, the age-appropriate version of “naturally” is old age which has recently led her to question why her great-grandmother is still alive. Some drawers were accessible to the visitors, one of which housed a replica of a copperhead snake that was enough to entertain the kids for a few minutes while us adults rummaged through the reference books, peeked through the spotting scopes, and checked the recent lists of bird sightings

Echidna at the Tamar Island Information Centre
Echidna on display.

After the Wetlands Centre, we continued walking for about 500 metres before veering to a side track sheltered by a small patch of melaleuca forest. Here, we were treated to the sight of a bevy of swans slowly navigating their way around trees in the shallow waters. When they sensed us watching, they hurried their pace and broke away from the forest to slow float on the lake next to the bird hide. My daughter said the bird hide smelt like our chicken coop which was enough to deter Neil from going in. 

We welcomed the cool shade cast by the melaleuca forest. There is limited shade between the Wetlands Centre and the picnic area on Tamar Island.
Tamar Island Wetlands, Devonport, Tasmania
I explained to the kids that these trees were the inspiration behind their cousin Leuca's name.

Away from the melaleuca forest, a constant cool breeze soothed our skins from the stinging midday sun. The continuous rushing noise along the board walk from the wind-swept reeds and sedges served as reminder that these were the dominant vegetation in the area.  My son was intent on finding snakes, unstirred by a bird of prey gracefully circling above us, and the orange-beaked blobs – pelicans – flying towards the water. Alicia and I watched dragonflies darting in and out of the reeds working out the mechanics on how it was possible for our parents to have caught such delicate insects bare-handed. The horizon changed every few bends, from blue skies and cotton wool clouds grounded by farmlands on the mountain sides on one bend, to glimpses of power lines and urban sprawl running along the Tamar Highway the next. 

Tamar Island Boardwalk Devonport, Tasmania
"Mummy is the black thing a snake?" met by "Umm, move away from the side," from me and "You have to stamp your feet and make a lot of noise," from his sister.
Tamar Island Boardwalk, Devonport, Tasmania
"I can see a bridge!"

There are three bridges along the walk, each offering a welcome breeze and views of the river. Each bridge had a few benches ideal for resting, re-adjusting piggy-back or shoulder-riding passengers, and the usual watching of the river, the reeds, the birds, the sky, the nearby mountains, whatever appeals to the beholder.  I am a bad birdwatcher so naming the birds we saw was a result of thumbing through the Birdlife brochures and bird books we had at home, long after our walk, where my kids and I shared small Eureka moments matching the pictures we took and the details we remembered to the photos we found on our bird books.   

Tamar Island Wetlands Devonport, Tasmania
Tamar Island Wetlands Devonport, Tasmania
Tamar Island Wetlands, Devonport, Tasmania
Tamar Island Wetlands Devonport, Tasmania
We saw egrets, black swans, pelicans, chestnut teals, masked lapwings, and seagulls, their tracks imprinted on the glistening mudbanks.

An hour later, our shoes crunched gravel signalling our arrival on Tamar Island. We watched superb fairy wrens dart in and out the bushes along the path. Reeds and sedges behind us, we sat at the picnic area munching on some fruit and muesli bars to my son’s squeals of “I want to go home”.  Under the sympathethic gaze of the family of four at the picnic bench next to us, we carried on for another 500 metres, with my son on my shoulders. 

Tamar Island, Devonport, Tasmania
Grassy meadow on Tamar Island.

The walk ended at a platform overlooking a wide section of kanamaluka/Tamar River.  Here we watched a small boat rip through the small waves, a faint whirring sound in the otherwise quiet setting. Well, as quiet as the gusts of wind, the wet slaps of water on the timber posts, distant bird calls, my children’s giggles while pointing out bird poo patches on the platform, and conversations among us adults about wanting to move to Launceston for good.  We returned the way we came with Andrew and I sharing the load that was our son while Neil, Alicia, and my daughter set a fast pace back to the shady respite of the our cars.  

Tamar Island Boardwalk, Devonport, Tasmania
With Tamar Island behind us, we looked forward to more walks and adventures in Tasmania.

Distance:

Pram/Wheelchair:

Map:

3.2 kilometres return

Yes

 

JD Tipper Loop and Point Loop, Muogamarra Nature Reserve, Cowan

Determined to give the family a break from our routine bushwalks in eucalypt-laden forests (well, okay, we live in Australia), I booked a walking tour at the Muogamarra Nature Reserve in Cowan. Muogamarra is only open to the public six weekends a year, between August to September, when the wildflowers are in bloom. The Reserve is home to over 900 species of native plants, 16 reptiles, and 140 native birds have been sighted here.  We got a sense of the Reserve’s popularity when at 9.30 am on the day of our walk, we arrived to an almost full carpark and lined up for maps behind a throng of nature buffs, young and old, all bright, early, and eager to explore.

Continue reading JD Tipper Loop and Point Loop, Muogamarra Nature Reserve, Cowan

Bungoona Path and Rawson Parade Trail Loop, Audley

Approximately 1 km loop, 30 minutes  

Decades ago when I was growing up in the Philippines, a distant relative we called Lola [grandma] Eling stayed with us one summer.  That summer, Lola Eling took me, my brother, and her grandson on outings with minimal fuss and preparation.  Our recent walk at the Bungoona Path and Rawson Parade Trail in the Audley end of the Royal National Park reminded me of the impromptu days out to parks with Lola Eling with just breakfast leftovers neatly tucked in her handbag. One time she just picked up a pot with some leftover rice that was mostly the brown crunchy bit, dumped the leftover fried egg and tuyo [dried fish] inside, wrapped some plates and cutlery in tissue, put all these in a plastic bag, then off we went to rent bikes at the local park. In Lola Eling style, this impromptu walk was agreed to on the day because the track was short and it was near where we had to drop off my sister-in-law, Alicia, anyway. We brought some leftover fruits and crackers from home.

Continue reading Bungoona Path and Rawson Parade Trail Loop, Audley

Forest Path, Royal National Park

4.4 km loop, 1 hour 45 minutes 

My sister-in law, Alicia, and her partner, Neil, recently joined my family for a winter walk at the Forest Path in the Royal National Park. The Forest Path was built in 1886, seven years after the park was declared a “National Park”.  Logging was permitted in the area during the early part of this century, but public pressure led to the cancellation of the logging contracts. The signboards at the start of the walk remind visitors that “These majestic forests remain a memorial for those people who spoke for them.”

Despite having weeks to check out the Wildwalks track notes for the Forest Path, Andrew and I left reading them to the last minute. This meant we ended up being at the wrong entrance to the walk in Audley, while Alicia and Neil were at the correct entrance, closer to Waterfall.  The kids were oblivious to the slight mishap. With a stroke of serendipity, Alicia and Neil were able to receive Andrew’s voicemail on our whereabouts before their reception failed and it turned out they had to come back to the NPWS Office in Audley to buy their park entrance ticket anyway.

After swooping to a branch then to this bench, this cockatoo warily watched the kids.

Continue reading Forest Path, Royal National Park

Gadyan Track, Berry Island Reserve, Wollstonecraft

750 metres loop, 40 minutes 

 

It was a sunny winter morning when we decided to stop by Wollstonecraft to explore the Gadyan Track in Berry Island. Berry Island used to be a stand alone island until it was connected to the mainland in the 1960’s through a man-made isthmus of rocks and mud, making the flat picnic area enjoyed by many today. The island contains rock engravings, stone grinding grooves, and middens made by the original occupants of the North Sydney region, the Cammeraygal. To the east of the island lies an Australian Navy establishment and to the west lies a fuel import and storage facility.

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Beach Track and Providential Point Lookout Track, Wattamolla

1 km loop

The Royal National Park is Australia’s first national park and the second oldest national park in the world after Yellowstone in the United States.  It was a crisp winter Sunday morning and we started the day lounging at my sister-in-law and her partner’s place in Engadine for a quick visit to return their car that we borrowed last week before heading to the Royal National Park next door. I was so excited to show my kids the ocean-fronting clifftops, the open Pacific Ocean, and coastal heathland that captured me in my twenties but I was met with both of them saying “I don’t like bushwalks,” eyes glued to the TV, intent on finding out how Owlette, Catboy, and Gecko would thwart Romeo’s evil plans. Andrew and I finally succeeded in prying them away from the TV (after all we’re about walking with kids) but it really made me wonder whether they were actually getting anything out of our walks.

Continue reading Beach Track and Providential Point Lookout Track, Wattamolla

Nepean Lookout, Glenbrook

1.4 km return, 40 minutes

After a week of winter rain, I was relieved that the sun finally came out on the last day of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. With our daughter spending the long weekend with my parents, Andrew and I decided to take our two-year-old son for an easy walk to the Nepean Lookout in Glenbrook. The Nepean Lookout boasts stunning views of Fairlight Gorge that was carved by the Nepean River along part of a fault line running along the eastern edge of the Blue Mountains.

Continue reading Nepean Lookout, Glenbrook

Cumberland State Forest, West Pennant Hills

Sensory Trail, 350 m loop, 30 minutes

Forestry Trail, 1.3 km loop, 1 hour

The Cumberland State Forest in West Pennant Hills is home to over 100 species of birds being the last remnant of genuine forest in the Sydney Hills District. The Forest was established in 1939 with parts of it naturally regenerated from earlier agricultural clearing and other parts planted as an arboretum. According to the Forestry Corporation, the Dharug, Guringah and Gummeriagal Aboriginal people traditionally visited the Forest.

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Waterfall Track, Hunts Creek Reserve, Carlingford

2.5 km return, 50 minutes

After a lazy Saturday breakfast of rice bubbles, leftover Thai, and what turned out to be stale peanut butter on toast, our family decided to go on a bushwalk. Andrew and I consulted our trusty go-to list of bushwalks then  agreed to take the kids to the waterfall at the Hunts Creek Reserve in Carlingford. A bushwalk leading to a waterfall and only 25 minutes away? It was hard to say no.

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Leura Cascades Circuit, Leura

844 metres loop, 30 minutes

“I am not wearing that raincoat because it is not raining!” my four-year-old daughter cried as our small family of four packed into our car. “But it might be raining up the mountains today so we have to be prepared.” I answered in exasperation looking up towards the overcast sky.  Her expression changed to wonder as she asked quietly “Why is it raining up the mountains and not here?” I made a mental note to Google how to explain it better in the future and settled with “The world is a very big place and sometimes it rains in one place but not in another.”

Continue reading Leura Cascades Circuit, Leura