A short 4WD ride from the lush rainforest of Cunningham’s Gap (approximately two hours south-west of Brisbane) brings you to Spicers Peak Station, a 5000-hectare property that is home to Spicers Canopy – a permanent luxury camping site. Brisbane Kids writer, Cath Johnsen, spent two nights at Spicers Canopy in 2020 with her family on their School Holiday Family Adventure Program and discovered a little piece of country paradise. All information is current at the time of writing but also subject to change. Please reach out to Spicers Retreat prior to booking for an updated program.
It’s mid-afternoon on a brisk winter’s day and our family has just joined three other families at Spicers Canopy lodge in Maryvale, Queensland. On the deck are tables laden with warm scones, locally-made jam and cream whipped with vanilla beans, served with tea and coffee. Jugs of lemonade sit next to bowls of popcorn, chips and jars of lollies.
Inside, a fire is crackling in the bluestone fireplace, and a group of kids are already preparing to toast marshmallows. My daughter looks at me, wide-eyed with delight and says,” Mum! This feels like a party, except we don’t know any of the guests!” I laugh, because it’s true, but by the end of our three-day stay at Spicers Canopy, we not only now know the other guests, we’re exchanging Messenger Kids’ friending codes and social media handles with promises to keep in touch.
Spicers Canopy Family Adventure Day One
Spicers Canopy Family Adventure is a three-day program which runs each school holidays at their country campground; an expansive area with 10 safari-style tents, communal bathrooms, fire pit, hot tub and an open-plan lodge with a kitchen, dining room and lounge with fireplace. But before we get to the campsite, day one begins with a guided hike to the top of Mount Cordeaux in Main Range National Park. Our guide, Casey, points out bush tucker to sample, stinging plants to avoid and timid pademelons skipping through the rainforest.
Although we’ve done the hike before, this time we feel like we’re seeing it with fresh eyes, and with Casey pausing to point out the little things, like a flourish of wild ginger or a tiny scrub wren, we take in so much more, including a sighting of a rare Albert’s Lyrebird, a pheasant-sized bird known for its ability to mimic the calls of other birds including whip birds.
The adults have been given packs to carry, which contain our morning tea, lunch and water bottles, all thoughtfully pre-prepared. At the top of Mount Cordeaux, we pause to devour our lunch (an antipasto salad for the adults and ham and cheese rolls for the kids) while soaking up the expansive views over the Great Dividing Range.
Refuelled, we make the descent, this time marvelling at trapdoor spider homes, brown cuckoo doves in the forest canopy, and the impressive girth of giant brush box trees, all flora and fauna living in harmony within this ancient Gondwana rainforest.
We then follow our guides to camp and enjoy afternoon tea with the other guests before checking into our digs for the next two nights. Our family of five has been assigned two tents – each luxuriously decked out with hotel quality beds and linen, and with a private deck for relaxing on with a drink.
The stay is all-inclusive, which means everything from shampoo and towels through to the gin and tonic we’re sipping on our private deck while the kids happily play archery (with a supervising leader) is all included.
A camp chef is busily preparing dinner, so the only thing for the parents to do, while the kids are happily discovering the wide-open spaces, is to gather around the roaring open fire, where a cheese platter awaits and sunset drinks are being served.
Dinner sees the kids all seated together at one table, and the adults at another, comparing photographs and swapping stories about the day that’s been. Our chef serves up pumpkin and coconut soup for entree, made with a fresh pumpkin he picked up that morning from a local farm gate pumpkin stall.
The main meal follows – slow-cooked beef cheeks with parmesan polenta, green beans and lemon gremolata (and beef sausages with vegetables for the kids). And just when we’re sure we couldn’t possibly fit another thing in, a sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce is put in front of us, and we seem to somehow find room to polish it off.
After dinner, the kids rush off to play spotlight, and the adults all agree we really should round them up for bed, in preparation for another big day tomorrow.
Spicers Canopy Family Adventure Day Two
The promise of waffles for breakfast has the kids out of bed early and shadowing the chef before the parents stagger out of the tents in pursuit of coffee. Once amply fed and dressed, we are on the trail again, this time exploring Oakey Creek, located on the privately-owned Spicers Peak Station.
As we scramble along the mostly dry creek bed, two wedge-tailed eagles circle overhead, and we all scan the blue gum trees for koalas while listening to the metronomic soundtrack of unseen bellbirds.
Morning tea is served creekside, with guides Rob and Casey boiling the billy for tea and hot chocolates while passing around banana bread and homemade slice.
A highlight of the walk is undoubtedly the opportunity for the females of our group to view a historic meeting place for Aboriginal women- an unexpectedly cool and green respite in an otherwise rustic creek walk.
Back at camp, our chef has fired up the wood-fired pizza oven and is employing our kids to roll the dough while he caters for the many topping requests, including a dessert pizza to round things off. To keep the kids busy, the leaders have also got them making berry smoothies and apple crumble in the kitchen, playing badminton and trying their hand at landscape sketching/painting.
Seizing our opportunity, the parents make a dash for the hot tub, set in a secluded location with stunning views of the golden afternoon light on the surrounding mountains.
Eventually, the kids discover us and join in. But that’s ok, as it’s now time for the parents to enjoy aperitifs and a cheese platter by the fire before dinner in the lodge. This time, the chef has treated us to chicken ballotine with stuffed mushrooms, sweetcorn puree, roast pumpkin, broccolini and chicken jus (with a simplified version of chicken and vegetables for the kids).
Dessert is the apple crumble with custard that the kids helped to prepare earlier.
Spicers Canopy Family Adventure Day Three
Despite vowing that we could never eat again after the previous day’s indulgences, on day three we’re up early and feasting on bacon, eggs and smashed avocado with orange juice. It’s time to pack up and head home, but the kids squeeze in one last game, and we all drag our heels when it comes to packing up and leaving this little piece of paradise (especially the live-in chef!).
Things we loved about Spicers Canopy Family Adventure
Spicers Canopy Family Adventure really offers a total break for tired parents with no preparation, cooking or cleaning required, and nothing to do but enjoy a rejuvenating dose of peaceful country views and immersion in nature. There are no televisions at the lodge, and your kids won’t miss their devices as there’s plenty to keep them busy, including other kids to play with.
All dietary needs are catered for including my daughter’s severe nut allergy. The chef was scrupulous about checking each meal with me to ensure it was safe for her. The leaders are incredibly patient with the kids and ever-cheerful, happy to answer any question (or research the topic for you if they don’t know the answer). Nothing is too much trouble, and you certainly won’t go hungry!
Things to consider about Spicers Canopy Family Adventure
Of course, luxury on this scale is a bucket list experience, but it’s perfect for celebrating special milestones. For us, it was a significant wedding anniversary (one with a zero on the end!). It would also make the perfect place to gather for a special reunion with family and friends. Being an all-inclusive experience, we also didn’t have to worry about the additional cost of food and activities that would usually add to our holiday costs.
It’s also important to note that the guides, while fabulous at engaging the kids in various activities, are not full-time babysitters. You still need to know your child’s whereabouts and be mindful of dangers such as snakes, the open fire, and the hot tub as a potential drowning hazard for younger children.
To make a booking, or to find out more about the Spicers Canopy Family Adventure, visit the Spicers Retreats website. Spicers Canopy is located at 1095 South Branch Road, Maryvale, Queensland.