Hannah and Tim both grew up in Sydney. They are both lawyers and neither of them went camping when they were kids. Then in 2017, they moved to Darwin as a family.
And it changed their lives.
I loved interviewing Hannah for this post and you will love it too. Hannah's boys are three and one, and also happen to be my nephews. Their wild outdoor adventures are sure to inspire you. Enjoy!
On life in Darwin
Darwin is a pretty extreme place. It’s the top end of Australia. The weather is full on. It’s roughly 33 degrees celsius all year, except when it’s storming, and then it drops to about 28 degrees.
Most of the time it feels hotter because of the extreme humidity. The storms are huge and dramatic. And cyclones are a real threat (we just experienced one). Darwin is a wild place.
It’s also very beautiful. There are heaps of birds and every night the sky fills with amazing colours at sunset.
On surviving the heat
At first, Darwin felt like a very difficult place to raise two small kids…so hot and sweaty all the time! And mid-morning visits to the park were just not a good option. But we are getting much better at picking the right moment and the right space for the weather. The play space has to be shaded or wet, preferably both! And mostly our outside play needs to be early morning or late afternoon.
But within those limits, we’ve still found some great things to do. Walking through rainforests, sliding down shady sand dunes, climbing over rocks to find little rock pools along the coast, riding bikes and scooters along the excellent coastal paths, swimming at the pool, and when we need to be close to home: running under the sprinkler, digging in the mud, playing with the hose, hooning around with trucks and buckets during a storm.
On outdoor food
Our standards are: chopped cucumber and carrot, wraps with peanut butter, and a bit of tropical fruit to sweeten the deal.
And always water-bottles!
We also have a backyard garden that mainly consists of native and tropical plants and shrubs, but we try our hand at a few herbs. The boys love to pick the basil and add it to dinner.
We knew when we moved to Darwin that we wanted to get out and explore the NT. We bought a tent, swag and a blow-up mattress at the start of the dry season, from there we have added bits and pieces as we saw the need, and as friends have shown us their tricks.
It’s season dependent. During the dry season last year (May-August), we got out quite a bit, about every second or third weekend. Last year we mainly explored Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks as weekend trips. Hoping to do more of that this year, together with some longer trips to the Red Centre and through the Kimberleys.
When we’re camping, we explore, play in the bush, watch the wildlife, find waterfalls, cook meals around the campfire, and swim if it’s safe (the croc-threat is real.) They boys love camping. To them, it’s a big adventure in which they get lots of Mum and Dad time, and lots of space to run and play.
Tim and I weren't campers before we moved to the Northern Territory. We hadn't camped as children or adults. It’s been a big learning experience. We’ve learnt that most difficult part is getting out the door. From there it’s great. Camping has been an awesome reminder of how refreshing it is to be in nature. We come back tired and dirty, but calm.
It’s also an exercise in living simply. We don’t take any toys with us, but so far we’ve not had any issues keeping the boys entertained. Some sticks for drawing and building, an amazing landscape, and adults to help them explore is all they need. Once we get out the door, it almost becomes an easier weekend experience than if we were at home.
On surviving the wet season
The rain during the wet season actually makes it a lot easier to be outside. It’s not like being down south where the rain makes you feel cold. Here, the rain is no colder than your bath! It’s actually a great time to be outside, run around, ride a bike etc. Obviously we get indoors if there’s thunder and lightning, or it’s torrential. But otherwise, we enjoy the rain.
Yes, sometimes it does feel like there are lots of things in Darwin out to get you. Stingers, crocodiles, cyclones, melioidosis (a soil-borne disease that comes to the surface after the rain), snakes… the list goes on! We try to be aware of the risks and make appropriate choices about where and when we play. For example, we do play a lot in puddles after the rain, but I make the kids wear gumboots (because of meliodosis). We do swim in natural water spots, but we choose spots that crocodiles cannot get to (e.g. up high and surrounded by rocks) and we get outside and run like crazy before the cyclone strikes!
On the benefits of outdoor play
Playing outside wears them out so they go to sleep easier. They are calmer when we do come inside. They don’t fight with each other so much (especially when we are camping and there are no toys to fight over). They are more creative. And they (and we) are more relaxed.
On new persectives
We’ve learnt respect for “country”, in all its beauty and harshness. Places like Kakadu, that are so un-touched, are a striking reminder of how beautiful and awe-inspiring the Australian country is – and what gifted custodians of the land Australia’s First People are.
And we’ve come to value wild, open, natural space a lot more than we did when we lived in the city.