I was a reluctant staycationer but this trip had me convinced. We’d executed two trips (to Margaret River) as a family of three by January last year and the driving left us more stressed than when we’d left. We were not eager for a 3.5 hour – that bloated out to 6 – road trip again.

I’d been on a trip in the summer holidays with my nephews and niece for a few years before having a baby and we didn’t want to lose out this year, either. At this time Jack was in the thick of training and coursework for his new job so he joined us when he could.

We stayed three nights at the Nautica Residences in Hillarys Boat Harbour last January. Despite being virtually in our own backyard, we enjoyed ourselves so much that Jack and I actually booked in for an extra night.

The resort itself knows exactly what it is. It’s smack in the heart of the boat harbour with pinnacles of cream-brick-and-blue-trim buildings. It’s a little like taking a step back in time and evoked the unfussy rooms of a school trip. Utilitarian. Just exactly what you need – nothing more. If I closed my eyes you could almost feel the pine needles underfoot of the Rottnest Lodge. It maintains a 90s innocence.

When we walked into the the main courtyard, the smell of chlorine, sunscreen and hot pavers hit me like a sense memory.

It was a hot January and we mainly lazed by the pool. Ollie was only a year old at the time but toddled around in the little paddling pool. There a cute little gated “crèche” which we ultimately didn’t use but the concept is sweet.

It’s only a short walk from the back entrance to the apartments and the string of shops weaved throughout the boat harbour. Hillarys is a bit of a tourist trap but we saw the whole place with a new lens as holiday makers.

In a gift shop we picked up some pool floaties and the kind of gimmicky toys you can only get from an equally gimmicky shop. The kind you’d treasure for the remainder of the holiday until they are lost at the end, maybe in the flurry of packing or under the couch of the hotel. The gift shop worker inflated our purchases and the kids happily tucked pool inflatables under their arms to bring back to the resort.

The apartment was recently renovated and both of the bedrooms had ensuites. The kitchen was spacious and kitted out. We jerry-rigged towels over the windows to stop the light filtering through the venetians.

We stopped back at the apartment at dotted intervals between dips in the pool to get a snack, some lunch or to have an afternoon nap.

In the evening we got dressed to find dinner at a nearby restaurant. The first night we had fish and chips, the second takeaway pizzas and the third night Jack, Ollie and I ate at Jarrah Bar & Cafe. Our final day we had lunch and cocktails at The Breakaway before the short drive home.

The twilights and early evenings of the holiday we picked up ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s before taking a leisurely walk across the jetty and along the beach. Overall, a laid back and simple few days and that can itself be rare with small kids.

After checking out, we moved our car to the AQWA carpark and spent our morning in the aquarium. Oliver was perhaps a little too young to fully appreciate it and we were all probably a bit weatherworn and tired on our last day.

It’s strange. When you have a one year old, they seem so big. On reflection, Oliver was so little back then and our expectations were absolutely too lofty.

Oliver’s eyes lit up drinking in all the patterns and movement of the schools of fish, the kite-shaped stingrays gliding over and above us, the trashing tails of the sharks. The bright colours of the coral, neon phosphorescence. It all captured his attention beautifully.

To a small child, the ocean must seem otherworldly. Honestly, it feels like that to me as an adult. Now that Ollie is older I’d be keen to see how the experience would differ. Our learning theme for January this year was sea life and it would be fascinating to watch for connections between what he sees and what he knows.


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