Loud, carefree and utterly infectious, the sound of my daughter’s laughter is caught on the breeze and swept straight into the lounge room of our cabin where I’m still unpacking our bags. When a second voice follows, sounding a little less jovial, I already know what to expect. Resigned, I head out to our veranda overlooking a lovely section of lake to spot my son trying to herd my modern-day Moana out of the water, where she is frolicking, fully clothed.
It’s a signature move by my water baby, and one I should have foreseen when she asked to see if there were any “shells” on the sandy golden shoreline. There are, confirms my drenched daughter, who has by now been steered up the stairs of our cabin. Dropping her waterlogged clothing at my feet and slipping into a swimming costume, she races straight back out, her slightly more sensible big brother hot on her heels, and her father and I content to watch her safely from our villa.
While I lament the sodden skirt that I will now need to wash, I take it as a sign that we’re in for a particularly fun break.
We’ve packed up the car to escape for a weekend of surf, sand and soggy children with NRMA Parks and Resorts, for a break that has all the ingredients we need for a perfect holiday: access to nature, safe surrounds, modern facilities and, most importantly, each other.
Mind you, adding a fancy cabin with a spectacular lagoon view and a golden beach within walking distance to the mix certainly helps to elevate this particular recipe to perfection. And that’s the beauty of a NRMA Parks and Resorts holiday. Whether it is a beach break, mountain escape or lakeside leisure you seek, they boast some of the most convenient locations around, close to attractions and nestled in stunning natural surroundings filled with native animals and twittering birdlife.
The great appeal of NRMA Parks and Resorts is that they are for every family. Whether you’re travelling on a budget or want to big it up, there’s a range of accommodation available at their 33 parks and resorts dotted throughout some of the most picturesque, and kid-friendly destinations along Australia’s East Coast.
Get back to basics and pitch a BYO tent or pull up a van at a powered or unpowered campsite. Some parks even offer en suite sites and pre-erected safari-style glamping tents for a little luxury. Or if, like us, you’re looking for a bit more convenience, most parks offer modern self-contained luxury and family cabins, villas and studios with everything from full kitchens, air conditioning and cable television to family-size spas.
Oh, and for something truly out of the ordinary, some parks are offering brand new ‘Glamtainers’ – a stylish, sustainable, portable accommodation option, offering families a hotel-style stay with a back to nature experience.
Whatever works for your family, shared facilities are on hand to support guests in every park, with modern amenities blocks, laundries, undercover camp kitchens and barbecue pavilions.
We like to soak up the local attractions when we’re on a break, so we take a stroll to a nearby beach, passing a conga line of power walking puppies and pelicans drifting happily in the afternoon sun. But the kids soon get antsy. Passing up beach time is unheard of in this family, but they want to get back to the holiday park! And I get it. NRMA Parks and Resorts are destinations in themselves, with features ranging from resort-style swimming pools and water slides through to giant jumping pillows, playgrounds and mini-golf. And depending on the location, there are activities like bushwalking, boating, fishing and kayaking, plus school holidays activities, movie nights and even kids’ clubs!
My two have been sizing up an on-site kids’ water park, and they’re desperate for a drenching. While I head down to the nearby shops to grab us some goodies to whip up for lunch, the kids suit up for a splash down. When I return, they’re dancing under the spraying water, giggling with delight.
They stop to gobble down lunch under the shelter of the park’s impressive camp kitchen, before heading straight back into the splash zone. Only the mention of the park’s pedal go-karts can lure them from their aquatic playground. While they dry off, I hire pedal-carts from reception and they’re soon off and tearing around the park again, thrilled with the refreshing amount of freedom we are able to offer them within the confines of the park’s expansive, but safe family environment.
As an unashamed helicopter parent, it is the freedom to let my kids have a little independence that is the thing I most love about our holiday park stay. There are few places I feel confident to let them go free range, but NRMA Parks and Resorts are all about families and the sense of community that flourishes within their boundaries allows me to relax and them to spread their wings. They are free, and it’s a special kind of free. More laidback than a hotel, the kids can squeal, get dirty and run about with giddy abandon, unrestricted by space and unconstrained by any sense of decorum, something my young wildlings are more than happy about.
That sense of community is fairly unique to holiday parks as the relaxed atmosphere, combined with communal facilities, leads to more interaction. And more often than not that leads to wonderful new friends (for both children and parents alike). You are never short of company, should you want it. It is something I remember from the caravan park stays of my own childhood, but it has to be said that today’s holiday parks have evolved into something new, and infinitely more wonderful, especially for families.
More than a hotel, NRMA Parks and Resorts are places of nurture and nature, of family connections and beaming faces. Places where from the first sunrise stroll to barbecue dinners and snuggling under the stars, priceless childhood memories are made.
Speaking of barbecue dinners, we’re sizzling sausages when my daughter explodes with excitement. She’s spotted a couple of furry critters scampering about nearby. Nuzzling in to my side, she sighs dramatically and declares, “I love it here, Mama”. I feel exactly the same because happy kids make for happy parents, and this parent is positively jubilant.