Flying Away – So Long New Zealand

Well, it has been 4 full weeks of traveling New Zealand and we have boarded our plane home.  We have explored both islands of New Zealand and seen some incredible things.

From the still present earthquake damage of Christ Church to the majestic beauty of the mountains and oceans, we have seen so much of this country and yet have only scratched the surface.

Traveling with our children has been tough but rewarding and we have seen them grow so much on this long holiday.

For now, we board our first flight from Auckland to Las Angeles in hope of getting some sleep along the way.

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Our first plan of attack to airport and flight survival is being realistic.  Our children are 3 years and 9 months old.

We always get to the airport super early.    It was so interesting to see our flight status as “Relax” (a term that is used by my husband would not have the same effect”

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I don’t like spending any more time here than I need to but I also know feeding, diaper changes, security, feeding them again, finding a place to play, and so on takes a lot of time.

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We found this quiet out of the way little spot, super clean and the wall toys entertained both kids!  Now that Scarlet is crawling and of course putting EVERYTHING in her mouth, finding a good hangout location is a little more tricky/requires WAY more paying attention to what the hands put in the mouth!!

We play to our sons wants a little more when we travel.  So when he says he wants a $9 smoothie, we go with it.  A fed child is always a happier child.

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And yes, he loved it, and yes, he did require cleaning after…

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We also know that he loves to watch anything with wheels so we try to find a spot to park with a good window view.

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Beyond that, we just try and have fun.  We play with toys and usually find other traveling families to hang out with so our kids can play and we get to have Adult conversations!

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For long flights, we book our seats with no one in front of us and the ability to get a bassinet on the wall.  When we first flew to Australia Scarlet was 6 1/2 months old and not crawling yet.  The bassinet on the wall was AMAZING.  Now that she is 9 months, she is so much more mobile. I desperately tried to keep her in it so I could eat dinner but she just moves too much.  It was still great once she fell asleep but I had to keep one eye open if she woke up and wanted out.

Our other survival method for these crazy long flights is to take advantage of screen time.  As much as I might hate Roland totally zoning out with a screen and the tantrum that ensues when it is withdrawn, it does help us all get through such a long journey.

We are so fortunate out children are excellent travelers.  Any child will cry, complain, run, and just be a kid because they ARE A KID.  Our kids are by no means perfect and I still feel like crap when they cry, scream, throw food, kick the back of a seat and so on and so on but they are just trying to cope with the boring plane as best as they can and the more you fight it the worse it will be.

Keep little tools and tricks (Like a Busy Book) with you and survival is possible.

What are your go to survival tips for traveling with kids?

We Lost Teddy!!! – Auckland, New Zealand

Yesterday I packed up everything in the camper and we moved into a hotel for a few nights.  Then, at 2 am after both kids had woken up and taken forever to go back down, it dawned on me.  I haven’t seen Scarlet’s Teddy!!!  The Incredible Shrinking Teddy!  Her “First Teddy” from Grandma and Grandpa!

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We have been using this teddy from birth to show just how much she grows.  We did the same thing with our son and now Scarlet’s Teddy is gone.

Now, apparently my brain was actually functioning at this odd hour and I immediately remembered the last picture we had taken with the dynamic duo.

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We had been visiting the Weta Workshop (http://wetaworkshop.com/visit-us/workshop-tours/)  for a tour and some cool photos with the Troll.

We put Teddy down for the tour and never picked it up again!!!

Now again this is 2 am so there was nothing I could do about it, so I went back to bed and called first thing in the morning.

I called the gift shop, it seemed like the right place to start my search.  They were SO EXCITED when I called.  Apparently, they had been looking for us and were about to start a Facebook campaign (kinda wish they had, now that would have been cool!!).  There was something about Teddy getting around the shop but I didn’t understand what they meant at the time.  I enquired about overnight shipping it to the hotel and if it might arrive before he left for the airport (thankfully it was an evening flight home the next day!)  If there is any business that knows how to get something where it needs to be quick, I figured a prop studio would know how!

It would cost a whopping $8! (HAHA I would have paid soooooo much more than that).

That brings us to Today.  We waited until checkout and still no Teddy.  We paid for a few more hours and that got us our room until noon.

Still no Teddy.

All packed up and sitting in the “Lobby” and still no Teddy.

Dan, getting nervous about time, asked me when I thought it would arrive.  Being optimistic I said 1.  It will get here by 1.

A few false alarms (clean sheets got delivered) we finally saw our “Knight in Shining Armour” (Postal Truck) arrive and boy were we excited!!!

 

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Now we can head to the airport and I feel like the weight of the world has lifted!

Getting Prehistoric – Auckland, New Zealand

As I returned the camper yesterday, I spied a sign for this little place by the airport called Butterfly Creek.

With the morning a bit wet we ate leftover pizza for breakfast and splashed in some puddles.

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We took a quick 10 min cab ride and arrived only to get attacked by a giant dinosaur.

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Don’t worry.  This momma knows how to take a dino down to protect her babies!

We headed inside grabbed some tickets and headed off to explore!

Filled detail some of these dinos even move and roar (a little too much for Roland)

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There is an informative display too.

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Dan and Roland saw this raptor trying to escape so they tried to keep him under control.  Unfortunately, there was a large hole in the cage where both Roland and Dan got out.

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Roland got bored of his usual family and joined this one for some Jurassic fun!

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There is plenty more than dinosaurs here.  There is a Farm and other animals too.

We got to pet a Guinnie Pig and I got some awesome Rat cuddles from a boy named Dave.  There are also bunnies, birds, goats, pigs, chickens, sheep and a wallaby plus the resident black lab who is all too happy to get his ears and belly scratched.

This is the enclosure they have built for the goats – at first glance, I though it was a high ropes course!

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By the cafe (great food by the way) there is a playground too.

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King Roland finally found his throne!

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And don’t forget, no matter where you go and what you do, your child will always want to play with the box.

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Good Bye Beast 2.0 – Auckland, New Zealand

Today we say goodbye to “The Beast 2.0”

We woke to some spectacular fog.  A truly beautiful gift from mother nature on this early morning.

Every minute the landscape changed.

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Today we return “The Beast 2.0” our camper that has been our home for the last month.

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Our plan of attack for returning the motorhome was going to be far less stressful than how we did things in Australia.

Step 1: get other people OUT of the camper.

SO, while I packed and Scarlet slept, Dan took Roland to the Museum of Transportation and Technology.

 

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Step 2: Get everything into carrying bags of some kind.  This was not our final packing.  We still have a few days in a hotel and access to laundry.  I separated the dirty and clean clothing. Kept the “electronics” together and bagged up the leftovers (our hotel has a mini kitchen too).

Once the boys were back we ate a quick lunch with leftovers in the fridge and headed off to the hotel.

Step 3: Drop off all our stuff at the hotel BEFORE dropping off the camper. It was SO much easier dropping everything off there and leave Dan with the kids.

 

Step 4: I dropped off the camper and simply walked the 1Km back to the hotel!  We had extra liability insurance so there was no walk around to check for damage and we had also purchased the express return package so I did not need to fuel up or dump water/sewage.  Easy Peasy.

I spied this while returning the camper.  This place looks interesting….perhaps tomorrow.

 

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A day for Play – Auckland, New Zealand

We woke up this morning to one of those brief few peaceful moments with our two young children playing together.

Happily sharing the same toys with no tears or bloodshead.

With nothing major planned today we took our time and gave Roland every opportunity to play.

There was a park close by.

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And a quick google search showed a Chipmunks play place close by.

By the time we arrived Scarlet was fast asleep in her seat so Roland and I left Daddy and Scarlet behind.

 

We grabbed some lunch down the road and happily found a small outdoor playground in the shopping center.  Chatting with some other parents we got a great tip on visiting the Museum of Transportation and Technology.  Could be something fun to do tomorrow!

Kelly Talton’s Sea Life Aquarium – Auckland, New Zealand

When your 3 and your days starts out by seeing a Shark Boat, you know you’re going to have a good day!

Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium is perfectly located right on the shores of Auckland.

 

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We started our tour with the Scott Base exhibit.  It looked really interesting with all sorts of artifacts and reconstructed rooms.  Roland, however, had no interest so I have no pictures for you.

He did, however, love the Penguins!  These King Penguins are huge!  They can weigh as much as 20 kg or 44 lbs (That’s bigger than Roland!)

And if that wasn’t enough, they have huge fluffy babies!!!!!

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There are also Gentoo Penguins, they are the fastest swimming penguin out there!

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We were mesmerized watching them swim around the large tank.  I was surprised how cold the glass was but I guess that is real temperatures for them.  It was also real snow in their enclosure.

Past the Penguins we found these cool looking globes.  They gave such a good view into the tanks.

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Not too far into the Aquarium, we found the kids area.  By now Roland was on full over stimulation mode or something because we couldn’t keep him still.  There were these cool stations with colouring pages of fish and this wall was lit up with an aquarium scene.  There were even a few spots you could touch the wall and things would happen.

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What you could do was colour your very own fish, scan it below and it would start swimming on the wall!  How awesome is that!!

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Roland, however, was not interested apparently.  This is the room we lost him in and somehow he snuck out of the room.  It didn’t take long to find him, however.  He simply made his way to the play area because he “needs to play” as he always says.

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The cafe was well situated with the play area and lots of fish to see.

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Both Roland and Scarlet really enjoyed the underwater viewing tunnels.  Scarlet should have napped, as she usually does, in the carrier as we walked around but she did not take her eyes off those fish.  In face, Roland liked it so much we went around on the loop more than once!

The tour was rounded out with a few for aquariums and a seahorse exhibit.

We really enjoyed this place.  We spent a few hours and easily could have spent more just playing in the kid’s area.  Our tickets did allow re-entry so we didn’t feel the need to stay for lunch.  Parking was limited and not the best for motorhomes.  We also saved some money by getting out tickets online the night before we went.

 

 

Sheepworld – New Zealand

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Not to far north of Auckland, you can find a place called Sheepworld.

Now I know what your thinking.  “HA! Sheepworld!  Isn’t that ALL of New Zealand already?!?!”

Well, your kind of right.  Back in the early 1980s, there were over 70 million sheep.  The numbers have declined to about 27 million since though.

We’ve seen our share of sheep along the way and we through it would be a great day to actually learn about Sheep Farming.

There was a lot more to this place than just sheep though.

We found a whole farm full of pigs, ponies, goats, bunnies, alpaca, deer, cows…

Oh and birds.  Yeah.  Roland is not a big fan of most birds.  he enjoys pointing them out, seeing them from afar or approaching on his terms.

 

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This duck has the most perfect duck shadow, silly I know, but I just love it!

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However, when the birds are accustom to being fed by every single person holding a brown paper bag….

We tried to get Roland chasing the birds like a Dinosaur to scare them off.  Sometimes it worked.  This kid does not like birds!

You can buy these bags of food that is safe for the animals to eat.  Super cheap and lots of fun.  We had a great time feeding everyone.

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The thing that truly makes the Sheepworld is the show they run twice a day.  This is where you learn about farming.

We got to watch the sheep get rounded up and herded into the show barn.  It turns out there are two dogs.  The well-known dog that goes out, runs fast and silent, convincing the sheep where to go with nothing more than a stare.

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Then there is the loud guy.  Best for close quarters and great at getting the sheep to go places they would rather not.

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That’s this guy on the right.  A mix of English Fox Hound, Labrador and Whippit or Greyhound.  They are loud, fast and driven.

Enter in our new friend Teryn.

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She even got us working.  We helped to sort the sheep by colour.

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She taught us all about the markings used to keep track of gender, age, and ownership of each sheep. Then she sheared a sheep for us.  You can make some pretty good money sheering sheep but you gotta be fast, it’s piece work and hard work.

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After all that work, HA! we got rewarded with the cutest experience you could hope for on a sheep farm.  Just look at the enjoyment of Roland’s face!

 

We spend at least a few hours here with the show and wandering around.  So, we headed into the aptly named Farmer’s Wife Cafe.

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Dan said the Shephard’s Burger is quite possibly the best he has had yet (he didn’t know it was lamb either)

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Plenty for the kids to play with,  Roland gave Scarlet this one.  See the purple dress below?  I bought that one for Scalet.  I’m thinking First Birthday.

 

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We had a great day and now we drive back to Auckland.  We don’t have much planned for the rest of the trip.  We will go to an aquarium and generally hang around the area.

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Auckland Habour View

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I don’t think I have ever seen this many boats.

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I don’t know what it is but we get such a kick out of driving over a bridge.  Perhaps it’s Roland’s excitement.

 

 

Coromandel – New Zealand

After visiting Hot Water Beach we decided to take the scenic route around the top of the Coromandel Peninsula.

Named after the HMS Coromandel who landed here in 1820, the rugged nature of the peninsula has limited its potential growth, despite being relatively close to Auckland.

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We stayed the night and had breakfast in town before heading out towards and past Auckland.

 

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Sorry about the Google Image.  Apparently, we didn’t take any pictures at breakfast.

I have a love-hate relationship with cooking VS going out to eat.  I cook and it’s cheap vs the EXPENSIVE price of eating out. But, when we eat out we have some of the very best experiences and there are NO DISHES.

Today Roland had a blast with two ladies having tea.  He brought them magazines, cutlery and told them stories about feeding dolphins, swimming at the beach and anything else he could think of.  He generally bounced around and we all had a good laugh.
Scarlet worked on her crawling, pulling up to standing and I’m showing her how to use the couch to practice walking.  She shined her best smiles for the ladies and anyone else who dared to look at her.  She is such a ham for the attention.

We headed off in the direction of Auckland with the intentions of going right past.  We will leave the big city for another day.  For now, we are headed to “SheepWorld”!

 

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You say To Mata, I say Te Mata…

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Bugger!

We have such a hard time with pronouncing the names in both New Zealand and when we were in Australia.  We have taken to making up the names.  Puke Hole, for example.  Sorry.

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Thinking of home with these names.

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Massive number of ships

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Crazy Toll fees! (HAHA, someone should show this to the 407 at home)

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Interesting bridge

 

Getting into HOT WATER (Beach) – New Zealand

After leaving Hobbiton we headed out to the East Coast in search of the Hot Water Beach.

Located on the Coromandel Paninsula and known for having natural hot springs right under the sand at low tide, this would be an interesting way to spend a day at the beach.

Getting there is almost just as much fun too.  These mountains were definitely formed by volcanos (I’m guessing).  The area is quite remote and there are rest stops that double as an emergency helipad.

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Endless changing views

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Mountains to climb up and down

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Hair Pin Turns

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Clifs that threatin land slides

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Mirrors to see around the corner

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Don’t worry, the kids have a fantastic view too.

When you finally arrive at Hot Water Beach, you will see the beautiful beach from up high.  There are three different parking lots and I suggest you drive all the way to the farthest.  Here you will find a few resturants, cold showers and bathrooms.  There are also a few places to hire a shovel.  You might need one if you are early but there are so many people digging that you can grab a pool, pre dug, when others leave.  You can also simply use your hands, or anything you might have handy. (We brought a large serving spoon and a collander to dig our holes)

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Hot Water Beach

Pack a bag and get ready for a day at the beach!

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Roland took this photo, he’s stepping up his skills!

 

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Steaming hot water will help you forget about the 14C weather.

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Water seeps up  through the sand at up to 64C.  HOT!

Kid’s didnt seem too sure, lol.  Actually they had quite a bit of fun.  A word of caution, though.  The water in some pools is hotter than others and some of the water naturally coming up from the sand can get as hot as 64 decrees Celcius.

You CAN get a burn from this water!!!  Mind your children carfully!!

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Plenty of pools ready to go or simply dig your own.

Kids had a great time today, digging in the sand, splashing in the water and I even got a quick swim in the ocean.  We grabbed lunch at one of the local spots before heading out.

Roland knows how you might look if you actually need to find this sign!!! He is soooo tired.  Apparent we played way past nap time and he is in meltdown mode.  He was also super HANGRY too.

He is soooo tired.  We played way past nap time and he is in meltdown mode.  He was also super HANGRY too.

Bonus to traveling in the camper: you can get your food to go and eat in a quiet low stimulation environment.  Plus you have your own TV with his favourite movie already loaded!!!

 

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Middle-Earth – New Zealand

Most people have seen or at least heard of, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  Most recently The Hobbit movies were filmed and all the movies were filmed in New Zealand.

It’s really no surprise when you think about it.  Middle Earth is an old world with the flare of magic, towering trees, and mountains.  Green hillsides and horse-drawn carts.

Although the movie was filmed all over both the North and South Island, here in the north was where the Hobbits live.

And you can visit the Shire.

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Walk down the very path where Frodo ran yelling “I’m Going On An Adventure!”

and enter into the Shire, home to 300 Hobbits who live in 44 Hobbit Holes.

The set was built for the Lord Of The Rings movies and torn down after production was finished.  So when the land owner was approached for the filming of The Hobbit movies, he suggested that the set should be built for a more permanent purpose, allowing people to visit after filming was compleat.  There is even one Hobbit Hole that you can enter!

Take a walk through the community garden and see what’s growing.

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Do you see that tree, the smaller one on the top of the hill?

It is a very special and unique tree.

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The tree you see up there on the left is not actually real.  It has over 200,000 fake leaves on it and every few years someone has to go and repaint each one.

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There are also some VERY real trees.  A few, in fact, are over 100 years old.  This one, below, started to loose a few limbs while people were on tour so it needed a trim.

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Down the hill and over a bridge you will find  The Green Dragon Inn.  You can put your feet up by the fire, have a drink or even dress the part for some pictures.

 

The area around The Shire is just as breathtaking.  The locations is actually w working sheep farm.  They have a special kind of sheep known for having twin lambs and they are just about ready to pop!

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Naturally, there is a gift shop and a cafe.

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It is from here that you actually start and end your tour.  From the ticketing office, you will hop on a bus to take you on your way.

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With breakfast at the cafe and the tour, we spent a solid 4 hours here.  The tour is one of the more expensive things we have done but it is well worth it.

 

There are a few different places to stay if you are in a campervan like us.  There are even people in the area who have put their driveway up for rent on the Campermate app.

We chose to stay at the Opal Hot Springs and Holiday Park. (they have three different pools and two are natural hot springs!)

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