Before this trip, I’d never been away with Oliver on my own. I packed everything and stacked it by the front door the night before in our beach trolley. Using the beach trolley was handy – I could get all our stuff in and out of the car without Jack’s help and in less trips. We took a big cardboard crate chock full of snacks, fresh fruit and easy meals.
Optimistically (naively?) I left during Ollie’s nap time anticipating that he would sleep the entire drive. He instead screamed until I pulled over 30 minutes later at the rest station in Baldivis. Ollie only slept from Bunbury to Margaret River, so we had a few pit stops.
The rest areas on the side of the highway are life saving. They were initially a necessity but now I enjoy them. Sometimes they’re just a slip road and some bins. I’d quietly pull over whenever he started to fuss, then stay just long enough to stretch our legs and have a feed.
We stayed in humble Witchcliffe with two mums and their sons from our playgroup. Witchcliffe is just a speck on the map but really gorgeous and a stone’s throw from Margaret River.
The whole trip was very chilled out and distinctly without itinerary. The kids played with buckets and shovels in the pea gravel in the backyard, kicked a ball around and explored all the beautiful plants and flowers.
They watched some TV, read board books and played with toys about as communally as little boys can. For meals we had fish and chips from in town, mini pizzas and cheese boards. YARDBYRD and the bottle shop were within walking distance so the stroller brigade took off every morning for coffee. YARDBYRD has a basket of toys and a beautiful little alfresco area so it was perfect for kids.
The first morning we drove out to Prevelly and stopped for another coffee (Ollie didn’t sleep very well in a new environment the night before) at The Sea Garden Cafe.
Prevelly and Gnarabup beach are very special to my heart and it was so nice to share that place with friends.
I love everything about Prevelly – the caravan park, the barefoot walk from the holiday houses up to the shop for ice creams and pies, the cafes. The rough sand on the beach and watching surfies from the cliff edge of the Point. The hushed fizzes and crashes of rolling waves at night.
We parked at Riflebutts, where my nephews and niece have ridden bikes and scooters in the dim golden light of the sunset and I’ve taken my dogs on countless walks in the calm, cool quiet of the morning. The kids ran around the playground for a while before we walked to the beach.
It was an unseasonably cold November which didn’t stop us from having a dip. All together we explored rock pools bathed in sunlight, dropped stones into the water and watched crabs. All the while us mums were chatting, chatting, chatting. The topics ran the gamut from the cliffs around us to sharks, Montessori, nature play to parenting philosophy.
We stopped in town for a trail walk and some lunch. All three kids fell asleep in the car so the other boys stayed asleep in their prams, Ollie slept in the Ergobaby for a little while. Given he was nearly two at the time, I thought our days with the baby carrier were done. It was really nice to baby carry a snoozing child – if only for fifteen minutes – potentially for the last time.
Once he woke up I set him down to walk. We love bush walking so this was perfect for him.
Settlers Tavern was closed, instead we ate at Burger Baby in town. Eating in a restaurant with small kids isn’t always easy, pubs can be a little more forgiving. For a little while they were parked in high chairs in front of the fish tank, then I resorted to putting Curious George on my phone for Ollie so I could eat.
It was a late lunch, so for dinner the kids had mini pizzas and the mums snacked and cracked open a couple bottles of wine. The boys were all exhausted and they were in bed by 7 (might’ve even been 6). While we didn’t manage to stay up much longer we sat outside for a bit, talked and laughed until we cried.
Our final morning was pretty much the same; coffee at YARDBYRD and then bush walking. We did a quick explore of Witchcliffe.
The boys toddled and wandered amongst the trees as we walked along a trail at the back of the houses. Then, with a twinge of sadness and a lot of collaborative watching of the kids, we packed up the cars and headed into town for one last walk and a play to tire them out for the drive home.
We ate pies and sausage rolls from the bakery and grabbed coffees from The Hairy Marron in the Rotary Park, which is also a mountain bike rental and repair shop.
Ollie loved the playground at the Rotary Park and checking out the old engine (“Old Kate”). Once again I hoped he would be tired enough to sleep on the drive home. He did not.
We stopped a bunch on the drive back. I really loved it. Those stops were amazing, quiet bonding experiences. They became part of the trip. We’d pull over, throw open the boot and sit in it for a snack. I cut up tomatoes left over from the trip and we ate those with mozzarella and basil. We held hands and I talked about where we were on the map. Ollie walked around and climbed on bench seats, enough to relax back in the car seat again. We stopped just outside of Bunbury, Lake Preston, Busselton, near Mandurah and Baldivis.
We left Margaret River at around noon and by the time we reached the outskirts of Perth it was nearly 6pm. Jack was going to be waiting for us at home but the peak hour traffic on the Kwinana is pretty heavy, so I thought it would be for the best to stop one last time, even though Ollie looked ready to nod off. Our final stop was at the service station in Baldivis again and this time we went in to grab McDonalds since it was dinner time.
I ate while he ran around in the playground and then we went to the parents’ room to change him. It was refreshing to be somewhere that catered families. The parents’ room had change pads, wipes and recliners which beats the passenger seat of the car. And the sink had steps for Ollie to access it! It’s really helpful when places are designed with consideration for children.
In the past I would’ve tried to smash out the drive to and from Margaret River in one go. I’d get home with a numb bum and hunched shoulders. Taking those rest stops was just as important and necessary to Ollie as they were to me – the experiences along the way were just as special as the destination.
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