Long weekend at Pretty Beach – May 2024

Coins scrounged from around house for showers

With ACT celebrating Reconciliation Day in May, we decided to head to the coast for a late-May camping trip with some friends. We also brought along our nephew for another trip as he always enjoys camping with us.

After spending almost all Friday packing up and getting ready for the trip, we picked up the kids from school and managed to head off at 4pm. A bit later than we usually leave, it would mean that we would have to find the campsite and set up in the dark.

As we left our street I noticed that the camper brakes weren’t engaging. Getting out and pressing in the trailer electrical connection fixed that issue.

Robot lawnmower was stuck in gutter again

Travel was fairly uneventful until just past Bungendore when we noticed that the trailer side lights weren’t illuminating constantly. They were flickering on and off, indicating a bad or loose connection somewhere. Given that this is the same connection that engages the trailer brakes we had to pull over to fix it. On the side of the Kings Highway with cars whizzing past I had a play around for 10 minutes with a multimeter trying to find the issue.

As far as I could tell, the trailer connectors had some corrosion or dirt on them, preventing the trailer lights and brakes from working. I scuffed up the connection points and pressed them in as hard as possible which seemed to fix it. Back on the road, now in the dark, we were constantly checking the brake controller light and side mirrors for evidence that the trailer had electrics. Fortunately, there were no other issues for the rest of the trip.

We got to the Pretty Beach Campground around 7.30pm and disturbed all the campers already there by driving around with the headlights blazing trying to find site 10. The site itself was fairly sloped and rocky, but we managed to drive through and level the camper. We were setup by around 8pm, with the boys enjoying some mac&cheese inside out of the cold by 8.15pm. Same as last time, we chose to set up the underneath room for the kids. With the kids fed and put to bed, Rosie cooked up some ramen which went down very well.

We had a few beers and went to bed early. The overnight forecast was 6 degrees and I’d say that was about right – it was cold, but not icy and there wasn’t much wind. The kids had our -3 degree sleeping bags, while me and Rosie just had a couple of thick blankets. We were all fairly warm and the kids stayed in bed all night.

Unfortunately we hadn’t noticed that some of the zips for the underneath room were open from the last trip, so mosquitos managed to get on the kids while they slept. As the only skin they had visible was their faces, both of them woke up looking like they had the chicken pox.

The next morning was a fairly early start for me, making sure the kids were okay and checking out the campgrounds before everyone got up. The kids had fruit loops and played a few board games once Rosie was up, then at the kids insistence we headed down to check out the beach. It was still bloody cold, but that didn’t stop them making a few sand castles.

Murramurang National Park campgrounds and caravan parks are fairly well known for their ridiculously tame native animals, and they were all over the park. Magpies, possums, kangaroos and wallabies would all come straight up to you looking for food which is a nice novelty at first, but eventually gets old.

While we waited for our friends to arrive we played some scavenger hunts with the boys, and they amused themselves with colouring and other games.

The sun tried to come out that afternoon, but the grey clouds persisted. Max temps were around 17 degrees, which apparently is fine for a Canberran to wear a t-shirt and thongs? We must be more acclimatised than we realise.

Time moved very slowly that first day, with both myself and Rosie having very confusing moments throughout the day when we thought it was, say, lunchtime, but it was actually 10.30am.

The campground filled up pretty quickly that Saturday. We had a big group of girls camping down the way that I’m sure Rosie wanted to join at a few stages, and some 4wd youngsters next right next to us that taught us some innovative drinking games.

At around 2.30pm we all headed down to the beach to check it out as a group. Despite the overcast and nippy weather, the kids all ended up in the surf and got soaked through in their clothes. They had fun though, and we called a stop to it before any limbs or lips turned blue.

Once back up at camp, Rosie took the boys to the showers ($1 coin for 3 minutes) to get cleaned up and warm. We set up a fire as it started getting colder. I had brought a new cheap projector, so we had that setup in the kids room. Unfortunately most of the movie files I had transferred for this weekend weren’t playable by the projector natively, but we found a few movies that the kids could enjoy.

That night’s dinner was pre-cooked bolognaise sauce and pasta. It eventually got cold enough to break out my XL-sized adult sleeping bag onesie. This magnificent outfit doesn’t come out very often due to how warm it is, but it worked perfectly this weekend (despite snide comments from frankly jealous camping companions).

Projector was a big hit

That night we made sure all the gaps in the kids rooms were filled in, and gave it a buzz with fly spray just in case. They didn’t get any new mozzie bites that night.

The next morning was another early wakeup, though to a bright and sunny day this time.

We decided to do a day trip to Mogo Zoo, so we gathered up some snacks and headed down south. Instead of going the tarmac route back to the Princes Highway though, I thought it would be fun to check out the fire trails through Murramurang NP – we’d done it a couple of times before and found the roads were fairly well maintained.

This time though we did discover a few of the roads had been washed out in some places, with large washed-out ruts in crisscrossing the road. Ollie was not a fan and asked us to go back to the ‘smooth road’. Still, there was nothing too deep or challenging, and we ended up back at the highway in around the same time it would have taken if we had used the tarmac road.

At the zoo the kids got a map of the place, and were told to get stamps outside all the major animal enclosures. The zoo is a bit run down in places, but the animals seem well looked after and you are able to get closer to them compared with other zoos. My favourites are always the meerkats, while Rosie liked the young gorilla. Ollie declined picking a favourite animal, and our nephew just growled at us when asked, so we didn’t press.

After one loop of the zoo the kids were a bit feral, so we headed back to Bateman’s Bay for some supplies and the drove back to the campground (no dirt roads this time). We headed down to the beach mid-afternoon a bit more prepared that last time – taking towels, swimmers, drinks and sunglasses.

The kids had a ball throwing sand at crabs and running away from the waves, this time on the northern side of the beach. A very nice afternoon was had by the adults as well, with quite a few drinks consumed. I managed to hurt my neck falling over a rock playing with the kids.

With the kids and adults showered and warm, I packed up the underneath room for the kids. For this last night we figured they could sleep up in the camper with us, saving us pack up time and preventing any further mozzie bites now that the first day’s bites had faded a little. Once packed up, we set up the projector screen underneath the camper and watched a few movies that night. It worked very well, with even a few kangaroos and possums coming over to check it out.

The next morning we had to wait for the sun to burn off most of the dew on the camper before we could pack up. At around 11am we were all packed up and managed to hit the road for an uneventful trip back to Canberra.

A big thank you to our friends for a great weekend away.

Boring technical stuff

Things were pretty smooth with our camper setup, although we really do need to get a new mattress made up soon. After three days in the same location on the same mattress, my spot was completing collapsed with no bolstering or comfort left. This is obviously the mattresses fault, and has nothing to do with my weight…. Ultimate sell replacement mattresses, but the forums recommend some alternative manufacturers that I’ll check out.

Everything worked very well on our friend’s camper trailer. We didn’t have to help them at all, in any way, for the entire weekend.

Pretty Beach Campground is relatively expensive for a NP campsite – there are other less expensive options in the area with similar beaches and facilities. In fact there’s several caravan parks in the area that cost the same as the NP, without the need for $1 coins for the showers. Our site (10) was pretty crap, but 9 was okay. The best sites are 14-16, with 16 being our choice of best site due to its beach views. All the other sites can hear the surf, but you only get glimpses of it.

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