GEOCACHING is the name of the game these school holidays.
This modern-day, real-world treasure hunt gives families a good excuse to get into the Great Outdoors and they need look no further than their Global Positioning System (GPS) screen to start their adventure.
The unusual sport of geocaching, which has become popular worldwide, encourages people of all ages to explore their neighbourhoods and experience the thrill of the hunt.
Using free downloadable coordinates on their GPS or smartphone, players are fully equipped to search for hidden boxes or stashes known as geocaches, and discover what other players have left behind. Players then come home after logging in their finds, and share stories of their adventures online with other geocaching community members.
The sport has already made its way to the Sunshine Coast, with local families signing up as players on Australia's geocaching website: www.geocaching.com.au.
The Dougherty family, of Nambour, is one team of enthusiastic geocachers, which has been finding "treasure" all over the Coast with a handheld GPS for more than a year.
Mum Selina said that after her husband Jason had found out about the sport online, the whole family went on its first geocaching excursion.
"I thought it was a bit silly the first time, but then you really get into it," Selina said.
"We might head out with the kids one morning, and whatever area we're going to be in, we spend the whole day finding any caches we downloaded coordinates for.
"It's quite fun actually. The kids love it and so do we."
Selina said her three sons were always eager to turn off the TV or drop their X-box controllers to go on another cache hunt with mum and dad.
Even three-year-old Brayden, the youngest, goes out on the family excursions and helps his older brothers find the hidden caches.
"It gets the kids thinking, gets them outside, and when we're walking around and looking for the plastic boxes, they each take turns holding the GPS and telling us where to go," Selina said.
The boys believed the best part of the adventure was what they found hidden at the bottom of the mysterious boxes and canisters: their finds have included
McDonald's toys, stationery, and plastic jewellery to swap with items from their own toy boxes.
Geocaching has also taken the Dougherty family all over the Sunshine Coast - from climbing mountains and following forest trails to searching creek beds and camping grounds.
Downloaded coordinates also helped find a plastic box at Airlie Beach on a family holiday in January.
"We've found caches basically everywhere, and I didn't even know half these places (where caches were hidden) existed," Selina said.
"It's the enjoyment we get out of exploring, and the kids love bushwalking and nature trails, so it's fun to take the GPS with us and maybe find something on the way."
Despite a busy September school break for the Doughertys, Selina believes she and Jason will organise another day of geocaching fun.
"If we have the chance to, we'll probably have one over a weekend. The boys have been asking for it, so we might as well make a whole day out of it."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.