When, inspired by family road trip flick, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, you plan a weekend driving holiday only to have your car implode three days before you’re due to hit the road, some people would take it at as a sign that said weekend was not meant to be, particularly given the disastrous outcomes in that particular story.
But then there’s Raffles, a kid who would never let a little technicality like a car that is so broken we’re holding a memorial for it get in between him and a road trip. You see, Raffles is a glass half full kinda kid, and always throws things out to the universe to come up with a solution. Which is how we’ve found ourselves in an enormous Apollo Euro Deluxe 6 berth motorhome, chugging up the highway to family friendly Port Stephens, our first time attempting life on the road in a portable home.
Hotel on wheels
While my nerves are all over the place at the very thought of driving this beast of a vehicle, it turns out that they’re not much different to driving a van, and we happily motor our way to our destination, the kids kicking back in the cabin, playing cards and watching the brand-new DVD release Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul on DVD, for inspiration. As long as they don’t get too much inspiration from the movie’s recalcitrant protagonists, Greg and Rodrick Heffey, because this mother can’t afford the therapy bills.
While the kids love the novelty factor of a motorhome, especially that their bed is up in the roof above the driver’s cabin, I love the convenience of the kitchenette, cupboard space and bathroom. And the fact that everything we need is permanently in place inside so all we need to do is pull up at our allocated site at the BIG4 Koala Shores Port Stephens Holiday Park and plug ourselves into the power. There’s no setting or packing up camp, no searching for a place to cook and clean everything up – it’s already there and good to go, leaving you to take advantage of all the great activities at the park.
Our holiday starts now.
Well at least it would if it wasn’t bucketing down. You see, in true Wimpy Kid holiday disaster style, our plans to embrace the great outdoors are somewhat scuppered on the first day of our break when we awake to find it raining, biblical style.
The best laid plans
We have two options. The first is to remain trapped in a motorhome with two children, the second is to build an ark. The thought of squeezing all those animal twosomes in a six-berth motorhome, spacious though it is, lacks appeal so hunkering down inside it is.
The gloomy start to our day is immediately brightened when Raffles whips us up a gourmet breakfast of Brioche French Toast with caramelised walnuts, berries and cream in the motorhome’s efficient little kitchenette.
We’re so full afterwards we don’t even want to leave the comfort of the van and instead snuggle in around the dining table for games, and spend an age Wimpifying ourselves on the http://www.wimpyourself.com website, which sparks giggles and plenty of wild conversation.
Unlike the Heffeys, who seem to have an uncanny ability to turn the smallest of problems into unmitigated disasters, we prefer to find solutions; like turning our broken car into a rental motorhome, and turning rain in to fun family time. The kids assure me they’re having a blast because to them the motorhome is just a big cubby house we can all fit in.
Nobody is bouncing off mobile walls and the kids assure me they’re loving just hanging out with us, which is a huge relief, because the kids tell me that when Mama Heffey tries to do the same thing in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, (spoiler alert) she comes across as hugely naff and a bit of douche bag.
We leave the confines of the motorhome only to head to Coles, where we stock up on hot chocolate and marshmallows and other sneaky rainy day treats as well as some barbecue goodies for dinners. Though finding a big enough parking bay is a bit of a challenge, we find the motorhome fairly easy to manoeuvre.
So much more at Koala Shores
By late afternoon, the deluge eases and we are able to get a better look around BIG4 Koala Shores Port Stephens Holiday Park.
The kids jump themselves breathless on the massive undercover jumping pillow, which is thankfully dry despite the earlier rain, they challenge each other to some of the worst ping pong playing I’ve ever seen performed by two humans and they race pedal karts around the park.
There’s a tennis and basketball court, kayaks and paddle boards and a lovely lagoon swimming pool, Sugarpuff even manages to take a dip before darkness falls.
We barbecue up a storm at the camp kitchen, then head back to the motorhome to eat. Our site overlooks pretty Lemon Tree Passage and after dinner we take a hike along the beachfront to watch a sunset that bodes well for a brighter tomorrow.
We quickly wash up and transform our dining table into a double bed where our Wimpy family snuggles up together to watch movies on the television. This motorhome malarkey is working out pretty well for us indeed.
I wake up early and enjoy an insane sunrise on the beach.
The morning sky is perfectly clear and a couple of happy dolphins swim past.
It is a most auspicious start to the day.
The kids wake up and join me on the beach, where we pick our way past rocks and shells and splash about in little puddles before breakfast, which we enjoy on the wharf along with a little wild dance performance by the divine Miss Sugarpuff.
Along with an audience of pelicans.
We came to embrace the great outdoors and with the sun shining in the cloudless sky that’s exactly what we do. The kids getting prepped for a hike.
We head to Tilligerry Habitat, a nine-hectare reserve just a few kilometres walk along the foreshore from Koala Shores.
The waterfront reserve is packed with wild fauna and we’re lucky enough to spot dozens of rare birds flitting about as well as a lone koala up a tree.
It’s all downhill from here…
We don’t even need to pack because everything is already tidily packed away in the motor home, we just unplug ourselves from our site and drive off for one last adventure.
Stockton Beach, Australia’s largest coastal dune system, covers around 32 kilometres of stunning coastline. But we’re not here to admire the spectacular dunes in this epic sandpit, we are here to ride them.
We bump over the moon-like terrain, Sugarpuff riding shotgun with our driver Anna in the front of the Sand Dune Safari 4WD, until we reach a 40-metre sand dune with our names written all over it.
With our knees up for balance and fingers trailing behind for control, we ride the boards down the soft slippery sand, squealing all the way.
Sugarpuff is the first to decide that sitting is for wimps and is hurtling down the slope standing with all the poise of a pro surfer, Raffles soon doing the same.
We slide, we tumble and we laugh as we hurtle down the 40-metre dunes until our every last orifice is filled with fine grains of sand which we carry with us on the return trip over the dunes – a passing train of camels disappearing into the mounds of sand only adding to the surreal desert feel.
A shower in our magic motorhome means we’re sand free and on a high for the drive home. The kids suggest that like the Heffeys we choose a road trip theme song, on condition that its not the Spice Girls. So we pump up a little Green Day, which is far more more in keeping with this family’s pseudo punk sensibilities.
Our road trip may have been the reverse of the Wimpy Heffey clan, ours starting with a broken car and theirs ending with one, but like them we’re driving the long haul home reconnected and road trip happy.
Top tips to road trip bliss
While you can find all our practical tips to road trip bliss here, you can watch Greg Heffley’s Rules or for what NOT to do here…
Or grab a copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, which is out on DVD and Digital on Wednesday 1 November.
Disclosure: The Eats Worlds were hosted by Apollo Motorhomes and BIG4 Koala Shores in collaboration with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment to celebrate the launch of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, but as always, all opinions, blowing up of cars, wilderness wandering and wimpiness is our own.