Jessica and Mitchell Cooper, and their three kids: Henry (8), Adeline (6), and Truman (2).
The Coopers spent two weeks in Australia over the Christmas break. They landed in Sydney, then stayed four days at a working farm called Mowbray Park in Picton, New South Wales. After that, they headed back to the state capital for ten days and rented an apartment in Manly, a suburb of northern Sydney. Jessica planned the trip using Thai Airways’ website, Mowbray Park’s website (www.farmstayholidays.com.au), and www.rentahome.com.au for the apartment in Manly.
The family flew from Beijing to Bangkok with Thai Airways. Roundtrip airfare cost RMB 10,500 per adult and RMB 8,300 per child. Prices were a bit higher because they flew during peak season. During their 22-hour layover in Bangkok, they stayed at a great hotel called Airyasomvilla. They paid around RMB 852 for the night, which included two bedrooms and breakfast. At Mowbray Park, the weekday allinclusive rate for adults was approximately RMB 1,121 for adults and RMB 580 for kids. In Manly, the Coopers’ rented a two-bedroom apartment for around RMB 20,000 for nine nights.
The Best Part
Mowbray Park was without a doubt the highlight of the Coopers’ trip. The family enjoyed the nightly bonfires, feeding the cattle from the tractor, and the Kids’ Club (open daily from 6.30-8pm). Club activities included trips to the animal nursery, nature walks, games, arts and crafts, and movies. The Coopers stayed in a cottage with three bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen. It was comfortable and had all the necessary amenities. The excellent staff included a fulltime cook; when booking their stay, families can choose between an all-inclusive package and cooking their own food.
The Worst Part
Jessica and Mitchell booked a spur-of-the-moment trip to the Blue Mountains (around 50km from Sydney) on the last day of their vacation. They spent most of the day on the bus getting there, and then waiting in line at Katoomba Scenic World (the destination). The kids were bored for most of the day and the daytrip turned out to be the only disappointment of the vacation.
During the ferry ride from Manly to Darling Harbour, the Coopers’ boat happened to pass the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2011 – a 1,170km circuit that is considered to be one of the most difficult yacht races in the world. The family got to see all the yachts, camera crews, and helicopters from up close.
Mowbray Park was very family-friendly. The kids could run freely around the farm and interact with many animals, including horses, donkeys, llamas, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, cows, pigs, and cats. Some of the kids’ favorite activities were horseback riding, watching a sheep get sheared, milking the cow, feeding baby animals in the nursery, and taking boomerang lessons. Mowbray Park also had tennis courts, ping pong tables, a swimming pool, and a hot tub. The kids were sad when the stay was over and wanted to make sure they would visit the farm again.
• Jessica highly recommends the farm stay to anyone who wants something different. Visitors can be as busy or as lazy as they want. The Coopers chose to participate in all of the activities and weren’t disappointed.
• The food in Australia was excellent. The Coopers recommend Murray’s Craft Brewing in Manly. They liked it so much, they ended up returning three times for the burgers, steaks, seafood, salads, great coffee, and microbrewery beer.
• In Manly, the family’s apartment rental was located one block from The Corso, a pedestrian plaza that forms the heart of the commercial area. This put them within walking distance of restaurants, grocery stores, beaches, parks, and ferries. Having an apartment gave the kids space to run around and allowed the Coopers to cook their own meals; this saved money and gave the kids a sense of normalcy.
• There’s plenty do in Sydney for families: Taronga Zoo, The Rocks, the Powerhouse Museum, and the ferry between Manly and Sydney Harbour.
• As you plan the trip, keep in mind that Australia can be very expensive.