Discovery Parks Lake Bonney – Barmera, South Australia

shady outdoor setting
A perfect shady spot for a drink at the end of the day

As term 1 hurtles towards its end parents may be thinking about booking a short holiday during the break. At least, that’s what we do.

Invariably we spend time umming and aahing and not going anywhere, but, miraculously, last October saw us head up to the Riverland for a few days away before school went back. Not having done really anything in the way of road trips, we were anxious to choose somewhere that was not too far away and I had a Discovery Parks membership that I had won that I was keen to use. 

Because Andy and I prefer not to go to bed at 7pm, it was essential also to choose accommodation where we had two separate bedrooms. Our really positive experience at the Port Elliot Big4 in 2015 pretty much sealed the deal, in terms of heading to a caravan park and splashing the cash for a two bedroom cabin.

I’ll wrap up some other useful hints and tips for Barmera in another post. This one – all about the park itself.

The name gives it away, that the park sits on the shores of Lake Bonney. This means that there are plenty of water-based activities available – there are water trampolines and various water sports equipment to hire and if boating, fishing, waterskiing etc etc are your thing then you’re well catered for. The park also has a swimming pool – and despite the weather not being ideal for swimming, Master 5 made sure we checked it out. 

For children there is a playground, a jumping pillow (this appears to be a KEY piece of equipment in terms of how good a holiday you have) and there is also a games room, with a pool table, air hockey and a couple of video games. Despite the fact we were there in October when you might expect some sunny weather, we had one very damp morning and playing a couple of games of pool as some down time was just perfect!

shady garden
Go for a walk and check out some of the amazing gardens in the park

The park itself is home to quite a few static caravans and (I’m guessing) permanent residents. Some of these residences have really beautiful, well maintained gardens. Nearby Renmark is home to an annual rose festival and many of the static caravans had absolutely stunning roses. Clearly, there is something very special in the soil in the area! Besides looking good, this helps the park look really well maintained.

We stayed in a ‘standard holiday unit’ – and while I took photos of the interior, you’re better off looking at the Discovery Parks website because they’re better quality photos (there’s a surprise!) and they are totally true to what you get. Yes – the interior is a little beige and feels a little 1970s, but our unit was very clean and (critically) the shower was hot with good power. Seriously – all I need for a holiday to be good is a hot, high pressure shower and a clean space!

The park is reasonably close to quite a busy road and our cabin was on the road side of the park. We’re pretty heavy sleepers so the odd noise of a truck going past didn’t bother us but if you are a light sleeper, I suggest you look at a park map and choose accommodation closer to the lake (I think if you’re camping you’ll be OK on that count anyway).

apricot rose
October was perfect for rose spotting

Each of the cabins has an outdoor setting and it was really lovely at the end of the day to sit outside, have a drink and chew the fat.  There are onsite bbqs which is great if you want to have a night off dining out without resorting to cooking a serious meal inside the cabin. I recommend reading the welcome manual as we thought we had to feed the BBQ 20c pieces and only discovered after the fact that they’re actually free!

Crucially, the staff at the park were really friendly and offered good advice when it came to both coffees and evening meals. 

We really enjoyed our break at Lake Bonney and while I probably wouldn’t want to be there in the height of summer (or, indeed, in the depths of winter), I think it makes a perfect destination for the break between terms 1 and 2 and that between terms 3 and 4.

If you’ve been on other great short breaks in SA (that can fulfil our two bedroom requirement!) let me know in the comments as we’re determined to take the time to explore a bit more of our state!

Lake Bonney Caravan Park
Lakeside Drive
Barmera SA 5345

Avoca Hotel, Clarence Gardens

 

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date of visit: Saturday 20 June 2015

The new Entertainment Books have been on sale for quite a while and we took a while making a decision about which charity or cause we were going to support (for the record, the RSPCA) and whether we were going to go digital or paper. A friend of mine had already bought her digital version so we had a look at it and decided to give it a go. So far we’ve used it twice and there’s been no issues … so fingers crossed things stay that way.

Newly acquired app in hand, we were keen to use it so we embarked on the torturous process that is making a weekend dinner decision. Obviously, this time round we wanted somewhere in the book and it needed to be somewhere that started dinner service at 5:30 pm at the latest. Master Four cannot be waiting for his dinner!

Andy rang up and booked and reported that we were booked into the restaurant, which didn’t mean much to either of us. Like many suburban pubs, the Avoca has undergone overhauls in recent years and it now has a range of areas, including the restaurant but also the Glasshouse and the Decks and beer garden. In fact, there are enough areas that when you arrive they have signs pointing in different directions to help you find your way!

As the pub is on South Road, finding it is easy and there’s a ton of parking out the back, which, given its location, is essential. However, the Avoca is really popular and we might have arrived at 5:30pm but it didn’t mean that we had our choice of car parks. The restaurant was (unsurprisingly!) empty but Andy had been told that other dining areas were booked out. The bonus of dining in the restaurant was that we had full table service. Master 4 approved – you should have seen the look on his face when he got to order his own meal!

Food wise the menu offers the pub standards (schnitzel, pizza, salt and pepper squid) as well as a few more interesting dishes, such as prawn chu chee curry, crispy skinned salmon, pork belly and fillet steak. There is also a short children’s menu which is unexciting.

Master 4 decided he wanted fish and chips so our first priority was to check out what the children’s fish and chips actually was. We’ve been in pubs where the children’s food has a horrible almost pre-masticated pale pale shadow of proper food, so we are always a little bit wary. I’d rather buy Master 4 a full portion of food he doesn’t finish than something I wouldn’t eat myself.

However, our waiter assured us that the children’s fish and chips was identical to the adult version, but only one piece of fish. While the Avoca is to be commended that this fish is sustainably caught, it is disappointing that the choice has been made to use NZ hoki. Especially as hoki is blue grenadier and locally caught is available. And while the fish was nicely cooked, the batter was crispy and the chips were … chips, the addition of a small salad for children wouldn’t go astray. As all the children’s meals come with the option of soft drinks or ice cream, perhaps salad or vegetables could be added to that choice.

Andy chose the chicken schnitzel with gravy (a departure from the usual beef as that is 350g and was deemed too large) and I opted for the chicken burger. Not only was the chicken burger huge but it was also really tasty. Bacon, tomato, cheese, lettuce and dill mayonnaise – with all the salad parts lovely and fresh and the chicken moist. I loved it. In fact, I’m still talking about. I would definitely go back and be sorely tempted to eat it again rather than try anything else on the menu.

The service was good – I definitely enjoyed having table service and the staff were all friendly but at no point intrusive. Of course, this is a pub so things are efficient so perhaps don’t expect a luxuriously long meal. I understand that despite the hotel’s many different areas, the menu is common so you don’t have to worry about different foods in different areas. I was impressed – yes, this is a pub dinner and while I’ve had some great ones recently, I’ve also had some shockers. And an impressed and happy customer talks about it and … guess what … some friends of ours have already (happily) dined there!

The Avoca Hotel
893 South Road
Clarence Gardens SA
8293 1183

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Swissotel, Sydney

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bathroom photos – they rock!

date of visit: Friday 12 October 2012

I know this isn’t a travel blog but I love staying in hotels – can you tell it’s something I do infrequently?!

Our stay in the Sydney Swissotel (on Market Street, in the CBD) was for just one night. We were attending a wedding and the happy couple had opted to stay in the Hilton. At the best part of $400 a night it was a bit pricey so most of our group elected to stay at the nearby Swissotel. We snared our rooms for just under $200 a night, which I think is pretty good for a Sydney CBD hotel.

The hotel is a bit odd in that reception is on the eighth floor. The entrance is actually very small and you are greeted by a concierge/doorman who directs you upstairs.

The real reception is very spacious and is right next to the cleverly screened off bar. We didn’t get a chance to critique the bar but it was obvious that it’s had a recent refurbished. Andy was not so secretly disappointed that he wasn’t going to be able to while away a couple of hours there.

While our room was a reasonable size by the time we’d fitted in a cot bed (one of the best we’ve come across, incidentally) and positioned luggage so it was out of the way of small helpful hands, there wasn’t really a ton of space. For me, this isn’t a criticism of a hotel room but quite often you read those type of complaints on review sites.

The bathroom more than compensated space wise. Bath and walk in shower were separate and the shower was very generously proportioned. It was also hot and high pressure – most important! The usual toiletries were provided.

Everyone we encountered was unfailingly polite and helpful but one thing that needs to be addressed is the ordering of taxis. We ordered one at reception but the staff member was unable to give us a wait time, suggesting we check with the concierge. Of course, he had no idea and while we waited an age what seemed like 100 empty taxis went past the hotel.

Overall the Swissotel rated highly and we’d definitely stay again on a similar room rate. Of course, it is a big hotel chain so aspects of the stay were a little generic but if you’re looking for a slick hotel stay in a big city SwissĂ´tel Sydney will certainly do the job.