Clearly the king of all Aussie road games, Windmill is fantastic on so many levels. The premise of the game is simple: passengers scan the landscape for windmills and fight to be the first person to shout ‘windmill’ upon spotting one. The first person to ‘claim’ a windmill gets to add that windmill to their tally. Anyone caught claiming a fake windmill goes back to zero, no questions asked, no negotiations, do not collect $200. This rule is key; you’d be surprised how much trees on the horizon begin to resemble windmills after a while.
The game of Windmill brings out the best and worst in people, forcing passengers to look up from their screens to engage with the countryside but also revealing a dark competitive streak that can, and frequently does, end in tears. People will lie, cheat and steal to win windmill, it ain’t pretty.
2. SPIN A YARN
Ever noticed how every creek you drive over in Australia, no matter how small or seemingly non-existent, has a little white sign with the creek’s name on it? Ever wondered how it got that name? This game is an exercise in creativity and imagination, designed to ‘solve’ the mystery of Australia’s kooky creeks. It’s perfect to stimulate the minds of little people and big people alike on long, tedious road trips.
Passengers take turns to create a story as to how the creek you just crossed got its name. The more detailed and far-fetched, the better.
As we crossed the Mammy Johnsons River in the hinterland of NSW’s Mid North Coast, my friends and I imagined the river’s namesake to be a wet nurse from the southern states of America with a thick southern drawl. It turns out our story wasn’t so far off! The real Mammy Johnson was an Aboriginal midwife who delivered hundreds of European and Aboriginal babies shortly after European invasion. Hats off to Mammy!
3. PUNCH BUGGY
This one is an oldie but a goodie, simply punch a fellow passenger whenever you happen to spot a VW Beetle. One punch for a new Beetle, two punches for a classic.
4. THE ALPHABET GAME
Great for kids, this one is where a passenger nominates a topic or theme, for example fruit, then each passenger takes turns to name a fruit working through the alphabet. So the first person might say ‘apple’, then the next person says ‘banana’, and so on, until you reach the end of the alphabet. Things get tricky around ‘x’, ‘y’ and ‘z’!
5. FIRST TO SPOT
This game works well on frequented trips, if your family has a certain spot that you visit regularly. Before you set off, make a list of landmarks along the way, and try to be the first to spot them all.
6. ROAD TRIP BINGO
Write a list of things you might see along the way and write them into a grid, with each passenger’s grid slightly different. The first person to complete a line and yell ‘bingo’ wins. If you’re going outback you might include generic things like emu, shearing shed, silo, dry creek bed and budgie, as well as known landmarks such as Lake Eyre, Uluru and the Big Bogan.
7. WHERE ARE THEY GOING?
This one works best on multi-lane highways. When overtaking (or being overtaken), take a good look at the person or people in the neighbouring car. If you can, look at what they’ve got in the car, a business suit hanging, loads of surfboards, and so on. Then take turns to come up with a story around who they are, where they’re coming from, where they’re going and why. They might wonder why you’re all staring at them, but it’s a fun game that stretches little imaginations.
8. LEARN A BUSH BALLAD
There’s nothing like being captive in the car to commit something to memory, after all. I have a friend whose parents encouraged their four daughters to memorise the words to classic Aussie bush poetry on their many long family road trips. As an adult, reciting Clancy of the Overflow has become somewhat of a party trick for this friend, and she has even been known to drunkenly murmur it into a microphone to a captive audience who thought they were in for karaoke. Win and win.
9. ONE WORD STORYTELLING
In this game, passengers combine forces to create a story by each adding one word at a time to the narrative. Someone might start with ‘once’, the next person says ‘upon’, and so on. I guarantee you’ll be amazing and amused at where your story might take you!
10. I WENT TO THE SHOP
A classic game of memory, passengers take turn to say what they bought from the shop, but the catch is they have to remember all items that came before and say them in the correct order. For example, the person who starts might say ‘I went to the shop and I bought a Mars Bar’. The next person then says, ‘I went to the shop and I bought a Mars Bar and a monkey’, followed by ‘I went to the shop and I bought a Mars Bar, a monkey and a diamond ring’, and so on. Memories will be strained and wacky (and often inappropriate) items will be purchased!
11. ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MINERAL
The game of questions. One person chooses an animal, vegetable or mineral, but does not tell the rest of the car. They then fire questions that can be answered either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, until they have figured out what the answer is. For example, I might choose kangaroo. Questions could include, does it walk, is it hot blooded, is it a mammal, does it have a pouch? Each answer forms a clue leading the car closer to the answer: kangaroo.
12. LAST LETTER WORD GAME
Someone chooses a category, for example films, animals, chocolate bars, and so on. They then kick the game off by saying a word, for example 'Titanic'. The next person then has to come up with a film (or whatever the category is) that starts with the last letter of the previous person’s answer. So in this example, the second person might say Cool Runnings. The next person could then say Scarface, and so on.
13. HEY COW
The most juvenile yet hilarious game on this list, this classic Aussie favourite involves passengers taking turns to yell ‘Hey cow!’ out the car window when they see cattle. If the cow in question looks up, they get a point. It’s the little things in life, isn’t it? Cows are interchangeable with sheep, horses, goats, etc.
14. MILLS AND BOON
More a game for teenagers and adults, Mills and Boon involves one person saying four unrelated words and the other person then having to use all four words in a sexy Mills and Boon-inspired paragraph. Hilarity ensues.
15. COLOUR SPOTTO
Perfect for younger kids, this game involves having to spot 10 things out the car window in a particular colour. Get the littlies to jot down their findings, and the first with 10 wins.