Gold medal-winning Olympic sailor Mat Belcher OAM, who was chosen as the Australian flag bearer at the closing ceremony in Tokyo, has been lucky to take his family on trips with him around the world. But his favourite holidays are much closer to home, he tells ANGELA SAURINE
Congratulations on your gold-medal winning performance in Tokyo! It must be great travelling all around the world as a professional sailor. Does your family get to join you much?
Yes, I have three kids, Anton, 8, Amelie, 5 and Zoe, 2 (and another one due in November), and have done a fair bit of travel with them. My wife, Friederike, was born in Germany. She’s also an Olympic sailor and we met just after the Sydney Olympics. Before Anton started school, we used to spend six months of the year based in her home city of Hamburg for the European racing season, and the other six months in Australia. We’ve taken the kids on holidays to Denmark with her family, and to Majorca in Spain and skiing in Austria. They all came to the Rio Olympics in 2016 and to the pre-Olympic event in Japan in 2019, before COVID-19 hit. We went to Tokyo Disney Resort and explored the coast. We tend to stay away from the big cities if we can help it and spend time in local villages. I think you can get a better appreciation for Japanese culture. It’s more authentic and not so touristy.
Sounds like you’ve done quite a bit of long-haul travel with kids! Any tips?
Our kids don’t watch much TV at home, but when we’re on planes we let them do what they want to save arguments. The kids travel pretty well. Obviously, you have your moments, but we don’t get too stressed about it.
What kind of holidays do you prefer when you are back home in Australia?
Our favourite place to go is Tommerup’s Dairy Farm and Farm Stay in the Kerry Valley, which is around 1.5 hours’ drive from where we live on the Gold Coast. It’s a sixth generation working farm, and we stay in a small, old-school cottage. The kids get to milk the cows, feed the pigs and collect the eggs. We go there two or three times a year for a couple of nights at a time. There’s no mobile reception. We pick up Scenic Rim produce on the way there. I would love to have acreage, but with the practicalities of training we can’t do that, so we made a conscious effort to find somewhere we really like and go to the same place regularly. We know the owners well and the kids get really involved and feel really comfortable and open up. We also recently hired a campervan and travelled up to Yeppoon, visiting places like 1770, Hervey Bay and the Sunshine Coast.
What kind of things do you like to do when you’re at home on the Gold Coast?
We live off Tallebudgera Creek at Palm Beach, and we love letting the kids wild in nature. We have some dinghies out the front of the house and we go sailing with the kids there. The Broadwater, which is a large waterway that extends from Southport in the south to the southern end of Moreton Bay in the north, is a great place to go sailing with kids. It’s protected and there’s lots of nice places you can anchor overnight. We also love going to the Burleigh Headland and to the beaches there, and to Currumbin, where there’s a wildlife sanctuary which the kids love.
Why do you think travelling with kids is important?
It’s great for the family to be together. We don’t do any work while we’re away, so we have so much more family time. It’s also good for the kids to understand how big the world is. For me, it’s a little bit normalised. For them to experience some of that is important.