Digital Detoxing in the Hunter Valley

Kids at Banjo's Bush Retreat Hunter Valley

“Mama, what was it like in the olden days?” asks my soon to be e-bayed offspring. Geez. How old does this kid think I am? While searching the site for the best category to list him under and thinking about a fair “buy it now” price, I explain that when we weren’t saddling up our dinosaurs or hunting wild animals to eat raw in our caves, life was actually pretty good.

We played, we wore bad clothes with pride (it was the 70’s after all), we rode our bikes (when the dinosaurs needed a rest) and we managed to have a good time without the presence of DVDs, iPads and PS3s.

“How did you even survive?” is the horrified response.

I decide 50 bucks is a fair price for a pre-loved and extremely cheeky 6-year old but just before I upload my auction listing decide that I’ll keep him after all. But only after letting him find out for himself what the “olden days” were like by taking him back in time for a gadget and screen free weekend.

Which is how we find ourselves driving up a roller coaster of a road to the Hunter Valley’s Moonabung Mountain passing fat, happy cows and wallabies grazing by the road, signs of civilisation slipping away as fast as the signal bars on my phone…

Moonabung Mountain

As we arrive at Banjo’s Bushland Retreat located in the Hunter’s Barrington Tops region, panic starts to set in as the last bar on my phone vanishes and it becomes glaringly apparent that it could actually be me who will most struggle with our digital detox. Gulp… Whose bright idea was this? Oh, that’s right. Mine… bugger.

While I hold my phone aloft in desperate search for a tiny sign of life, the kids race off to say hello to the welcoming committee waiting by the front door at Banjo’s Bushland Retreat – a family of curious kangaroos –  and are so entranced that they don’t even notice the enormous flat-screen TV in the lounge area of our accommodation.

Kangaroo with Joey grazing at Banjo's Bush Retreat

Instead they’re off to check out who else might be nosing around.  It doesn’t take long for them to find a kookaburra waiting on the deck and a couple of king parrots sitting on a feeding perch squawking expectantly.

Birds abound at Banjo's Bush Retreat

While we unpack the car, the kids sprinkle wild bird seed around the balcony and are soon joined by a supporting cast of wallabies, rosellas and magpies.

Our accessible, architecturally designed cottage is just perfect. It’s incredibly spacious with an open kitchen, massive living space, fireplace and floor-to-ceiling glass on every side plus an enormous verandah overlooking the bush and valley.

In fact it has everything except a mobile phone signal…

With the thrill of his own personal zoo starting to wane, Raffles explores the house and soon finds a cupboard full of games which we play together, snuggled on the couch in front of a roaring fire, the enormous television still unnoticed.

We breakfast with our feathered friends before heading to Banjo’s recreation room for billiards and table tennis, both of which are somewhat scuppered by the fact that Sugarpuff, resplendent though she is in face paint, is pretty much the same height as the table.

A game of giant chess sees Raffles resoundingly thrashed by Sugarpuff  whose skills in shameless cheating are a thing of spectacular beauty.

Banjo's Bush Retreat Chess

Mini-golf proves almost as challenging as our kangaroo pals have decided to provide a rather unorthodox handicap by plonking their sizable backsides across the holes.

A round of golf with the roos at Banjo's Bush Retreat

Conceding defeat, the boys decide instead to bash a ball about on the tennis-court while Sugarpuff and I test the swings and slides in the playground – activities that prove far more successful.

Game on at Banjo's Bush Retreat

We ask the kids if they’d like to jump in the car to head off exploring further afield as there is plenty to see around this beautiful part of the Hunter Valley but the answer is no, my enamoured duo are not budging from this place. Instead we decide to take a stroll down to the lily filled loveliness that is Goonarook Lagoon.

Goonarook Lagoon HUnter Valley

Within minutes of setting off we stumble across a ridiculously cute echidna going about his business just metres from our feet.

Echidna at Banjo's Bushland Retreat

Banjo’s certainly knows how to put the wild into wildlife.

Kookaburra landing at Banjo's Bush Retreat

Our weekend is spent barbecuing, making pancakes, sipping fine Hunter wines on the deck, playing and relaxing together and by the end of it we’re all so chilled that the kids have even stopped arguing with one another. This place isn’t a retreat. It’s a freaking miracle.

Games at Banjo's Bushland Retreat

It has been a wonderful opportunity to step back to simpler times and to reconnect with each other instead of with our gadgets and as we pack up the car in preparation for the trip home, Raffles finally notices the giant television that’s been front and centre for the last 48-hours. “Look Mama, they have a television”. Observant he’s not.

Loathe as we all are for our weekend to end we decide on a quick pit stop for a pub lunch in Paterson, an idyllic old town on a willow strewn river.

The lovely town of Paterson, NSW

There are quite a few to choose from but we settle on the Paterson Tavern, a place that proves to be pretty much a playground with beer.

The first thing I do is switch on my phone while the kids play pirates on an old timber playground made of tyres and rope swings… just like the ones we used to play on back in the “olden days’. Though I’m overjoyed at the sight of a phone signal, I look up to see the kids enjoying their technology free fun and put away my phone to join them.

“Is this what it was really like in the olden days, mama?” asks a beaming Raffles and I nod as I climb up to join him.



Playing in the beer garden at Paterson Tavern, Hunter Valley NSW

21 Comments on Digital Detoxing in the Hunter Valley

  1. Fairlie
    April 1, 2015 at 3:41 pm (9 years ago)

    What a great break from the technological life. And so funny that you thought you struggled the most with the digital detox! (I think I would be the same…)

      April 3, 2015 at 12:35 pm (9 years ago)

      I felt like such a hypocrite. But in the end I loved it. IN fact I’ve found myself ignoring my phone a lot since.

  2. Leah
    April 1, 2015 at 10:07 pm (9 years ago)

    We travel to my parents farm for Christmas most years, sometimes an additional trip or two through the year. Whilst it isn’t that far our of Melbourne, it is captured within the Wombat State Forest where the internet has been very slow to arrive (they have satellite connection). Arriving means instant electronic cold turkey. TV channels are limited to the ABC. There is not one game console on the property either. Total bliss! (except for my iPhone 6 which somehow picks up a slight connection from the toilet which enables me to do my daily updates 😉 ) The removal of technology instantly produces more talkative Master R who is interested in everything the farm has to offer. Yah! #teamwanderlust

      April 3, 2015 at 12:37 pm (9 years ago)

      Sounds perfect! No gaming, no telly but still a wee (pun unintended) little signal for your phone… 🙂

  3. Lyn (aka) The Travelling Lindfields
    April 2, 2015 at 12:00 pm (9 years ago)

    Isn’t it wonderful to be able to show your children wildlife in bush surroundings. A magical experience for them and you.

      April 3, 2015 at 12:36 pm (9 years ago)

      Absolutely magical. The echidna made me squee louder than them! 🙂

  4. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    April 2, 2015 at 11:32 pm (9 years ago)

    Sugarpuff looks so innocent-I’m sure that’s how she gets away with shameless cheating! 😉 And you know thinking back about it, it really was different growing up the way we did! 🙂

      April 3, 2015 at 9:24 am (9 years ago)

      TOtally different. We had so much less in the way of material things but so much for freedom.

  5. Sally@Toddlers on Tour
    April 3, 2015 at 11:56 am (9 years ago)

    Sometimes I wander too who really misses the digital world when it is taken away. Kids just adapt to their surroundings and find something to play with. For us adults we have become to accustomed to being in touch with the world constantly and have forgotten what else to do, like read a book (that big thing with lots of pages – in case you forgot 🙂 ).

      April 3, 2015 at 12:34 pm (9 years ago)

      I agree. We’re too attached to technology but I’ll never forget my books. They’ve been some of my BFF’s over the years.

  6. yinyangmother
    April 3, 2015 at 4:37 pm (9 years ago)

    Sounds like a lovely break. The wildlife were certainly ready to party. Kids, and we need, weekends like that a lot more of simple stuff in their lives.

  7. Christine
    April 3, 2015 at 7:01 pm (9 years ago)

    Looks like a perfect getaway. And your pics are so gorgeous!

      April 3, 2015 at 9:31 pm (9 years ago)

      Thanks Christine. It was a perfect weekend.

  8. Kirsty @ My Home Truths
    April 3, 2015 at 9:00 pm (9 years ago)

    That’s all in my backyard (sort of) – I’m currently in Newcastle but grew up in Maitland and spent many hours in Paterson and other parts of the Hunter Valley. I will be looking into the retreat as it does look and sound like a freaking miracle!

      April 3, 2015 at 9:30 pm (9 years ago)

      It’s incredible KIrsty. We’ll be heading back.

  9. Blah Blah Magazine
    April 5, 2015 at 7:54 pm (9 years ago)

    Nice pics of some gorgeous kids in a fab sounding place. Being from the dark ages, this is my kind of heaven x

      April 6, 2015 at 9:38 am (9 years ago)

      I think our kids all think we lived in the dark ages… but it was perfect 🙂

  10. maidinaustralia
    April 6, 2015 at 11:23 am (9 years ago)

    That looks like the best retreat ever. Freaking miracle indeed. And the smiles on their faces speak a million words.

      April 7, 2015 at 8:19 am (9 years ago)

      They loved it. And so did I 🙂

  11. Malinda (@MBPaperPackages)
    April 20, 2015 at 7:44 pm (9 years ago)

    What a perfect ‘switched off’ holiday. I know what you mean though, we went hiking in the rainforest and I automatically pulled out my phone to share it on Instagram and lo and behold, no signal and I was cursing. How silly we are sometimes.

    Thanks for linking up for #wednesdaywanderlust. Sorry for the late reply but I’ve had a few technical glitches. All back on track again this week though.

  12. Talia
    April 28, 2015 at 8:59 pm (9 years ago)

    Yay, I love trips like this! Glad it was such an enjoyable time. 🙂 it’s good to do that detox every now and again!


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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