When I was younger our family used to go away every summer holidays and stay at a caravan park for four weeks.
It was in Bateau Bay on the Central Coast of New South Wales and the caravan park was called Blue Lagoon.
We went every single year from the time I was seven years old until I was 18.
Our little caravan and annex was situated on the same site each year and so were the other caravans around us, so we came to know our summer neighbours well.
In fact, they were like family, still are.
I couldn’t wait to take off at the end of the school year and head north to spend my days by the water.
Morning swims, afternoon swims, walks around the rocks to drink from the natural spring, long walks to Shelley Beach to experience some real surf, and walks to the kiosk to buy my 20 cent Toffee Apple bar.
The days were spent leisurely and the evenings were full of promise and excitement of waking up another day in paradise.
Of course it wasn’t really paradise.
We had to walk a fair distance to the toilet and shower block, and if you got there and forgot your key, you either had to race back to collect it or knock and hope that someone was inside to let you in.
I remember walking past the onsite vans close to the amenities thinking that was the level of luxury to aspire to, oh to be close to the toilets.
There was an aloe vera plant outside the block.
Once, a sunburnt woman broke off a leaf and squeezed out the juices on her red skin.
I wondered if she couldn’t afford any moisturising cream.
At the end of the caravan park there was an oval that we would sometimes run amok on.
For one week of those holidays, missionaries would set up tents there and go door knocking on the caravans enticing young children to come out and attend their stroll around the caravan park.
After that they would head back to the tents for Sunday School type gatherings.
I went once.
Most families hid in their vans with locked doors when they made their rounds, staying silent until their knocks abated and they had moved onto the next van.
I celebrate my birthday at this time of year, so I always had a bountiful day.
One year I received a Cabbage Patch doll and the adults joked that it should be christened.
So Uncle Jack (all our summer family was called aunty or uncle) dressed up as a priest in his satin bathrobe and poured some water on the doll’s head.
A pretty impressive party followed.
We would have parties on New Year’s Eve, birthdays and any other occasion that was deemed a good enough reason.
Memories from these holidays are some of my fondest.
They were formed with the perfect ingredients of sun, water, family, friends, childhood innocence and genuine happiness.
These are the memories I hope to make for my own children, joyful experiences with loved ones that will sustain them through their hardships and provide exquisite moments for warm reflections.
How about you Bec?
What family holiday memories did you make when you were younger?
Oh take me back Nat.
Those were the days; carefree and innocent, naive to the hard truths of the world; family, fun, friends and laughter.
What more could a girl from the bush want?
I grew up in a very picturesque part of the state, with the impressive cliffs and pristine beaches of the West Coast under an hour away and the magnificent Gawler Ranges on my doorstep; and our family spent time at both these regions.
Every summer we took part in a beach camp with our horses at Elliston.
We stayed in a local caravan park, and like you Nat, made friends with families who also only visited at that time of year.
We spent seemingly endless days riding along the beaches, swimming our horses and traversing trails through the sand hills and along clifftops.
These trips basically taught me to ride, as much of our time was spent bareback without a saddle.
When we weren’t riding we were swimming in the powerful surf, fishing from the jetty or looking for crabs among the rocks.
We also often went camping with friends over the Easter break.
Wilpena Pound, or Rawnsley Park to be exact, was a favourite.
I distinctly remember waking in the quiet dawn, when the sun had not yet fully risen but it was light enough to see, and catching a kangaroo and her joey just outside my tent.
We hiked to the edge of the pound – it appeared deceptively close – and with a wedge tailed eagle soaring overhead, ate cold sandwiches for lunch amongst the rocks and spinifex.
It sounds like something out of a movie.
Coffin Bay was another favourite, with its national park and white sandy beaches, snorkelling under the jetty and trips to the local deli for ice-creams.
A trip to Kangaroo Island in winter opened our eyes to a haven for seals, penguins and other wildlife, as well as cold, wild weather.
Possums ran amok overnight in our cabin but we loved it all.
If it was cold in KI then it was the extreme opposite when my family visited Uluru and the Red Centre of Australia.
The heat was relentless.
But experiencing a trip on the famous Ghan train, the unique McDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs and its famous Henley on Todd Regatta plus a myriad of walking trails through impressive gorges were highlights.
It seems camping was a big part of my family holidays when I was growing up.
We often packed up our little yellow Suzuki and headed off to some beach or other where dad would spend the day trying to catch salmon, mum would sit reading a book and we’d play in the sand and surf until the sun went down.
At night we’d gather around the campfire, telling stories and jokes and then fall asleep under the stars in our swags wondering what this or that noise was that we could hear.
Looking back, my childhood is littered with memory-making times and experiences and I am so very grateful.
It is something I am committed to giving my own children.
And as hard as it is packing up four kids, a dog (at times), and all the paraphernalia they think they need, we’ve already begun.
We’ve camped in the gorgeous Flinders Ranges and taken a ride on the Pitchi Richi steam train.
We’ve visited my childhood haunts, climbed granite monoliths along the way, swam in the surf and strolled along deserted beaches.
We’ve driven for hours along corrugated dirt roads for an impressive view; and spent time enjoying all the beautiful Murray River has to offer.
We’ve been to Kangaroo Island and I have re-lived my childhood memories of this special place.
But you don’t have to travel, or travel far, to make memories.
Time and effort is all you need, and I’m learning to make the time and make the effort.
I hope my kids too will look back on their childhood with fond memories.