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It’s been 16 months since our friends Beth, Wes (Jake’s childhood buddy), Charlie and George left us in Hove to return to their Australian life. We had been lucky to have them living round the corner for three years, but have missed them terribly since they’ve been gone. So it was that our entire year-long trip was planned around making sure we could spend special Christmas times with them!

Having moved into their new house in Bellingen just days before we arrived, Beth had incredibly already made it look like something out of Livingetc!

We spent two wonderful weeks with them, as they shared their favourite places with us. This post could be the longest one we’ve contributed because we did so much, so we’ve consolidated a list of our fave places and moments.

1. Christmas Eve – spent listening to a cool band play at The Bellingen Brewery.

2. Christmas Day – opening pressies together under the (real!) Christmas tree, swimming in the pool, cooking prawns on the barbie, eating duck pancakes, eton mess and pavlova, and playing games.

3. Discovering the ‘Never Never’ in The Promised Land. This unreal sounding place is as magical as the name implies. We swam in the river, fished off the rocks, dived off huge fallen trees and swung on rope swings.

4. Sawtell – beautiful beach, an estuary, delicious fish and chips, a rock pool and fabulous views from the headland.

5. Fishing in Mylestom – a netted estuary pool to swim in, a river to fish in and an RSL to have cheap eats.

6. Bellinger river – just stunning scenery!

7. Beautiful Bellingen town – cast iron shop fronts, old fashioned sweet (lolly in Oz) and gelato shops, cool cafes, Smooze ice lollies from IGA or Kombu, clothes/homeware in Hyde, hiring DVDs from the video store…the list of cute places is endless, and the kids mostly loved roaming the wide streets and going fishing in the river, independently!

8. Urunga – the boardwalk seems to disappear into the sea as it weaves through mangroves. Safe calm lagoon to swim in.

9. Steiner School – where Charlie and George go by bus to enjoy an outdoor education in the middle of nowhere!

10. Big Banana – celebrating Albie’s 9th birthday at a water park!

11. Making gnocchi with Rosie and Nigel.

12. Charlie and Lola’s hair and make-up salon…dubious results (especially Beth’s beard!)!

13. Watching thousands of bats flying over the house at dusk.

14. Playing with Lego and making Harry Potter wands.

15. Chilling out time – travelling and being on the go all the time can be tiring, so our time here was not only special because we were with close friends, but also because we got time to just ‘be’ and enjoy home comforts (thank you for having us stay DonScrutts, we are indebted!).

16. Fat chats, delicious food and glasses of wine/beer (grown-ups!) with our mates.

We couldn’t say sad goodbyes yet, so, instead, we all headed off on a camping weekend to Bryon Bay…await next blog post!