Everyone enjoys a little highland fling once in a while, right? Turns out my kids are especially keen when said flinging is flung above the treetops. We’re in the NSW Southern Highlands at the award winning Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures, home to Australia’s premier Treetop Walk – a stunning, suspended, cantilevered one way ticket to vertigoland.
While I am known to be a bit of a wuss, the one thing I’m not normally afraid of is heights, but after a recent ear infection I’ve been enjoying ransom tête-à-têtes with vertigo and, rather inconveniently, it’s up for one of our clandestine hook ups right now, as I’m standing on a steel walkway in a treetop canopy 50 metres above the forest floor.
My kids, on the other hand, are oblivious, leaping and gallivanting along the formerly peaceful 1.5-kilometre Treetop Walk through the native rainforest. I do my wobbly best to keep up until we reach the first of the Treetop Walk’s two gently swaying cantilevered arms.
Now, by gently swaying I actually mean shaking with all the intensity of a 6.5 scale tremor, as Sugarpuff has elected to jump up and down like a turbo-charged baboon to test the darned thing.
I remove myself self from the aerial quake zone and return to the safety of the non-cantilevered walkway where, after a few deep meditational breaths of the glorious rainforest air, I get a handle on my vertigo and soak up the views over the rainforest, without fear of being jiggled to death by my offspring.
My dizzy kids finally stop long enough to soak up the breathtaking surrounds and, satisfied I’m not about to keel over, lure me a further 15 metres up a central tower.
Positioned 710 metres above sea level, the extraordinary panoramic view takes in everything from the rainforest canopy of the dramatic 30 million-year-old Illawarra Escarpment, to the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
A leftover morning mist adds to the beauty of the rainforest and delicious waves of it curl up through the trees, creating an otherworldly vibe. Even the kids are wowed into a reverential silence, and we stop to listen to the birds twittering and the breeze whistling through the leaves. It is a moment of pure bliss.
And I mean a moment. Raffles and Sugarpuff are soon back in giddy gyratory motion and dragging me off for more aerial adventures.
The Illawarra Fly Zipline, officially the highest zipline tour in Australia, is a series of elevated cable spans and sky-high suspension bridges connected by tree platforms through the Southern Highlands rainforest. Our experienced guides control all our leaping and landings whilst providing us with an insight into the forest’s history and its features with truly unparalleled views.
In the safe hands of experienced zipline tour guides, we’re harnessed and helmeted up before being attached to a continuous steel cable and flung into the abyss. Ok, so that last bit was just me being dramatic. We launch ourselves off the cloud stations only when we’re ready and comfortable.
My wee daredevils don’t even stop to think before they take the leap on the first flying fox. At each platform our gorgeous guides stop to share a little lesson in the ecology of the forest, and the kids eagerly listen and learn about the region’s flora and fauna and the ingenious engineering behind the Treetop Walk and zipline structures.
By the last zipline stunt boy Raffles is hanging upside down in his harness laughing and whooping it up and encourages his flapping little sister to do the same.
When we reach the end of the course, around 40 minutes later, they’re both eager to do it all over again. Sadly for them, their lazy-arsed mother would prefer a cuppa, so instead we head to Illawarra Fly’s Café 106 (named after the number of steps you’ll need to climb to ascend the Tower).
When the kids start begging and pleading for another high-flying session in the trees, we remind them that we have a Merlin Annual Pass and can come back anytime they like for more tree top adventures. In fact, this school holidays, they can take it one step further on lllawarra Fly’s Rainforest Ranger interactive trail to discover even more secrets of the rainforest and its animal residents. And yes, they can jump from great heights into the jungle. As many times as they like.
Tip: The Merlin Annual Pass offers our whole crew 12 months unlimited entry to 10 amazing Australian attractions – Madame Tussauds Sydney, Sydney Tower Eye, SEA LIFE Sydney, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Melbourne, SEA LIFE Melbourne, Otway Fly Treetop Adventures, SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast and WILD LIFE Hamilton Island – as well as discounts on food, shopping, tours and experiences as well as special member events at each. At just $79 per person for families, it is great value, but if you grab one between now and 13 July 2018, you can nab one for just $65 per person for families (3+ people).