Canberra is one of our fave weekend escapes. There’s just so much to love about the city, from it’s amazing galleries and museums to its delicious cafes, beautiful gardens and family-friendly hotels. We recently stayed at the Crowne Plaza Canberra CBD Hotel, and have nothing but high praise for the hotel and its staff.
I’m a strong believer in first impressions, and the Crowne Plaza impressed from the moment we walked through the front doors and were blasted with sweetly fragranced air conditioning on a face-meltingly hot summer’s day.
The large atrium in the centre of the Crowne Plaza is a stunning, light-filled place complete with comfy couches to read the paper or watch the news on TV. On days like the ones we experienced, with temperatures almost reaching 40dC, it was a welcome comfort to have somewhere air conditioned to relax in for a bit!
The staff at the Crowne Plaza could not have been more helpful or friendly throughout our stay. From our fast and friendly check-in to suggestions for kid-friendly eateries nearby, and warm servers in the breakfast dining room, we felt extremely welcome and comfortable during our stay.
A massive plus for the hotel is also it’s fantastic location. It’s right in the centre of the city, next to the beautiful Glebe Park, and only two blocks from the city’s main shopping area, completely with supermarket, restaurants, cheaper food eateries and every other kind of convenience you might need. Being so close to the main city area mean that we were able to walk to the supermarket for a few groceries as well as cheaper food options for dinner each night.
The Crowne Plaza is also very close to all of the main attractions in Canberra. It’s 2km from the Australian War Memorial museum, and 5 km from the area where you’ll find the National Gallery of Australia, Questacon, Parliament House and Old Parliament House. It’s a really fast drive along Canberra’s smooth roads.
We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in a refurbished deluxe room with a park view. The view was gorgeous to wake up to each day – a beautiful oasis of calm right outside the window. The room itself was light and airy, very modern with flat-screen TV, a couch that our daughter commandeered, two extremely comfortable double beds, tea and coffeemaking facilities and a minibar where we put things like milk, yoghurt and cheese and crackers.
Wifi is now free for all guests, but there are additional charges for parking in the underground carpark and the breakfast buffet.
While our family of three fits perfectly in a room like this with two double beds, larger rooms are available for families such as suites with balconies and kitchenettes with dining tables, or interconnecting rooms. You can also request an additional rollaway bed.
Other facilities offered at the hotel include a sauna, outdoor pool and fitness centre. The pool was a welcome relief on the very hot days that we visited. There were so many kids using the pool I wasn’t able to get a shot of it for this post!
The Crowne Plaza Canberra CBD supplied me with the below pic of the pool so you can see how great it is. In the afternoon the pool is shaded by the building, making it the perfect time of day to swim without worrying about sunburn.
If you choose to dine at the hotel, there’s the modern bar, Binara One, open daily from 4pm. It offer drinks and light meals. Redsalt Restaurant is an upmarket option open daily for breakfast lunch and dinner, plus there is 24-hour room service. Both Redsalt and room service have dedicated kids’ menus.
We enjoyed breakfast in the hotel each morning with eggs made to order, barista coffee and a variety of fruit, breads, cereals, baked goods and juices.
While the Crowne Plaza does offer entertainment in the family room during school holidays, we were too busy out and about to enjoy it on this trip. It’s a great option however to be able to take littlies to a place in the hotel to play when one parent needs a rest back in the room!
If you’re visiting with your family, check the Crowne Plaza website for special family getaway deals. At the time of our stay they were offering a package that included accommodation for two adults and up to two children, with included breakfast and 3-in-fun tickets to Questacon, Cockington Green Gardens & the Australian Institute of Sport.
Australia is home to some incredible coastal drives that showcase its majestic natural beauty. While Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is the most well-know drive to take, it turns out that Queensland has a stunning drive of it’s own, the Great Beach Drive.
The drive from Noosa to Rainbow Beach is an exhilarating experience that needs to be seen to be believed. Accessible only by 4WD, the “beach highway” is actually a 58km sandy beach, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the bush on the other. The drive from Noosa to Rainbow Beach is 70km in total.
What also makes this drive unique is that it takes visitors through two adjoining UNESCO Biosphere reserves: The Great Sandy and Noosa Biosphere Reserves. Along the way you’ll see breathtaking beaches, learn about the local Aboriginal people and their customs, and, if the animals are willing, see an abundance of wildlife.
40 Mile Beach
Exquisite, pristine white sand that you can drive your car on! Humpback whales can frequently be seen swimming right along the beach during their annual migration.
Climb up through the canyon for stunning views over Teewah Beach. Red Canyon is formed with stunning red and yellow sand and if you climb to the top, you’ll find yourself in a spot once used by the local Indigenous people as a secret meeting place for women of the traditional owners of the land, the Gubbi Gubbi people.
Lighthouse at Double Island Point
The Double Island Point Lighthouse, built in 1884, has stunning 360-degree views of the Pacific Ocean and Great Sandy National Park. We spotted pods of dolphins playing down below, but you might also see turtles, sharks, manta rays and Humpback Whales from June to October. Note: access by car to the lighthouse is limited to the tour operators that we used. If you visit on your own you will have to walk up.
We stopped at this lovely little picnic spot in the Great Sandy National Park for lunch. Lace Monitors (goannas) are frequently seen here.
Colour Sands of Rainbow Beach
The beautiful cliffs at Rainbow Beach have sand in more than 40 different shades of colour. Our guide gave us a demonstration in how the Aboriginal people who lived in the area used the sand to create art.
A huge saltwater lagoon is a nice spot for a swim or spotting wildlife. We saw plenty of crabs burrowing their way into the sand when they saw us coming.
We drove down the Leisha Track that links the Pacific Ocean to Honeymoon Bay and Rainbow Beach. The 800m track was named after a ship that ran aground on Teewah Beach in 1954. The rainforest and sand dunes make for a unique drive.
Carlo Sand Blow
A 15 hectare sand mass formed by a lightening strike around 50,000 yeas ago, the Carlo Sand Blow sits directly behind the Rainbow Beach and is a top spot for watching sunrise and sunset. We visited at sunset and saw people with a glass of champers and picnic basket enjoying the serenity.
Rainbow Beach Town
This idyllic little coastal town with a cool beach vibe is the southern gateway to Fraser Island. We stayed at Plantation Resort, a relaxed apartment-style hotel with one-to-three-bedroom units, kitchen, living area and some with balconies and terraces. Chris Hemsworth stayed there not long before we did, so it must be a good spot!
Enjoy a drink at the Rainbow Beach Hotel with the locals, and dinner at Arcobaleno on the Beach, a little Italian restaurant that’s not to be missed. Owned by a local family, Arco’s, as it’s known, make their own pasta and use plenty of local produce to create delicious meals.
NOTE: We drove the Great Beach Drive with the Great Beach Drive 4WD Tour company. We left from Noosa, drove up the beach to the lighthouse at Double Island Point and then through the rainforest to Rainbow Beach.
We stayed the night at Rainbow Beach and then returned the next day back down the same road on the beach. You can also do the entire trip in one day, either by tour or by yourself, or camp on the beach in designated camping areas, and stay longer.
I experienced the Great Beach Drive as a guest of the Sunshine Coast. All opinions are my own.
Brisbane is a fantastic city to visit! It ticks all of the boxes for a great family vaycay – excellent weather, plenty of activities that range from cultural to artistic and high tech, plus loads of free things to do, too. Put Brissy on your bucket list, because there are plenty of things to do in Brisbane with kids!
Things To Do In Brisbane
City Botanic Gardens
Take a self-guided tour through the gardens to discover a bamboo grove, a cannon, brolgas statue and an all-abilities playground. Walk up to The Gardens Club for a great view of the gardens from a relaxing deck chair and enjoy a scenic lunch or brekkie.
This is kind of screen time parents will approve of! The Cube at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is a two-storey high series of interactive displays using 14 high-definition projectors, more than 40 multi-touch screens and sound technology to create one of the world’s largest digital interactive learning and display spaces.
The Cube provides an inspiring, explorative and hands-on experience, and is available for visitors to use daily (for free!) from 10am-4pm at QUT’s Science and Engineering Centre, Gardens Point campus (right next to the City Botanic Gardens). thecube.qut.edu.au
Museum of Brisbane and Clock Tower
Located in City Hall, the Museum is a place to visit and learn a bit about what makes the city so special. It’s a small, modern space with interactive sections and plenty of interesting exhibitions to look at.
Tours of the clock tower are free, with tickets allocated on a first come, first served basis. Head to the Museum of Brisbane reception counter on level 3 the morning of the day you wish to visit to secure tickets.
The quick tour takes visitors up the Brisbane City Hall Clock Tower in a beautiful, old, hand-operated lift. On the way back down, the lift stops to let visitors see the inside workings of the clock.
South Bank Parklands
As well as being the cultural centre of Brisbane, the South Bank is filled with family-focussed entertainment. In my opinion, a visit to Southbank should be top of the list for things to do in Brisbane with kids.
This art installation is popular for photos and also climbing! Find it at the Cultural Forecourt outside the Queensland performing Arts Centre.
South Bank has two excellent playgrounds: Riverside Green Playground (pictured) and Picnic Island Green. Riverside Green is close to Streets Beach, whereas Picnic Island is further south and is a great spot to set up for a picnic.
Learn about the natural history and cultural heritage of Queensland at the Queensland Museum.
It’s free to enjoy this museum, as well as ENERGEX Playasaurus Place, an outdoor area for kids to learn about dinosaurs and energy, and Whale Mall, an art installation located outside the Queensland Museum gift shop featuring enormous suspended whales and their songs.
Grab a bite to eat at the museum’s cafe for a reasonably priced, delicious meal. qm.qld.gov.au
Sciencentre is housed in the Queensland Museum but has a seperate entrance and entry fee. It’s a place to engage kids in all things science through hands-on educational (and fun!) interactive displays and experiments. sciencentre.qm.qld.gov.au
Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)
The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art is a top choice for adults and children. Most of the gallery is free entry, including the Children’s Art Centre. QAGOMA is one of my favourite art galleries period, and should be top of the list for things to do in Brisbane with kids.
It’s free to head inside the State Library of Queensland and read a book or two. They have an excellent selection of kids’ picture books. Kids under eight will enjoy “The Corner”, a program for littlies to explore and engage in a creative hands-on digital exhibition, online games and reading activities. slq.qld.gov.au Image courtesy of the State Library of QLD
Segway Tours with X-wing
Older kids will love seeing Brisbane’s South Bank on a mini-segway. Zoom along the river bank with a helpful guide to tell you all about Brisbane. xwing.com.au
Wheel of Brisbane
Get a birds-eye view of the city on the Wheel of Brisbane. We really enjoyed flying over the river in our air conditioned pod! thewheelofbrisbane.com.au
Australia’s only inner-city, man-made beach is a summer oasis on the Brisbane river shore. It’s perfect for families, with lifesavers on duty, shallow lagoons, sprinklers and crystal clear water. It’s free to enjoy this beach and its facilities.
Brisbane’s first dessert and cocktail bar offers build your own fro-yo, ice cream and a range of other sugar-coma inducing desserts. cowch.com.au
Book a table at Buzz for lunch right next to the gasring. You’ll enjoy the delicious food (the quinoa salad was divine) and gorgeous interiors by local designer Anna Spiro of Black & Spiro, and the kids can run off steam in the adjoining park. gasworksplaza.com.au
After lunch, take a stroll down to the nearby riverbank. Kids can bike or scoot along the river, and will enjoy the street art and statue of Gloria the sheep, a tribute to the Teneriffe wool stores that lined the river in the early 1900s.
The redeveloped powerhouse is a centre for art and culture. Check out the (often free) events for families, or just drop by on a Sunday to experience live music and markets (the pop-up Suitcase Rummage markets are on once a month).
Kids can roam inside the powerhouse, spot some cool graffiti art and dance to indie-pop and rock bands. Make a day of it by enjoying an early dinner or glass of wine at Bar Alto. Grab a balcony table overlooking the river while babies are napping and older kids are playing with your iPhone or colouring in. brisbanepowerhouse.org
New Farm Park
Set the kids free in 18 hectares of gardens and open green space. The attached New Farm Park playground is a local family favourite with fortress-like constructions winding through huge fig trees. newfarmpark.com.au
Eat Street Markets
The perfect dinner option for families with no pressure for kids to sit down and behave. 60 industrial shipping containers have been converted into mini shops and restaurants. Choose your meal from local food vendors (Italian, Mexican, potato rings on sticks, sweet potatoes fries and much, much more is on offer) then camp out on astroturf covered giant blocks to enjoy live music while the sun goes down. eatstreetmarkets.com
Free city tour with Brisbane Greeters
Our tour guide, AnneMarie White, was a local expert who showed us the best places to eat and shop in the James Street district with and without kids. A remarkable woman with a background in broadcasting, it was a pleasure to learn about Brisbane through her own experiences. visitbrisbane.com.au/brisbane-greeters
Chic shopping and dining at James St
Leave the kids with Dad for an hour or two while you check out local Australian designers and boutiques. Sass + Bide, Camilla, Zimmermann and more await your credit card. jamesst.com.au
If you’ve got a serious sweet tooth like I do, be sure to pick up a treat from the iconic Joceyln’s Provisions. While you’re deciding which delicious cake to order, poke your head inside their kitchen to see the pastry chefs hard at work.
Moreton Island, the world’s third largest sand island, is only a hop, skip and a ferry ride away from Brisbane, Queensland, making it one of the easiest island getaways we’ve found yet.
We visited Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island for a three-day mini break. With only a 75 minute ferry ride from Brissie to get there, it’s a quick trip to this little slice of paradise and a very doable weekender or even day trip option.
The ferry departs from Holt Street Wharf in Pinken. Luggage is checked and it’s a very comfortable ride to Tangalooma. On Moreton Island, the ferry lands at a jetty right outside Tangalooma Island Resort. Paradise awaits!
Tangalooma Island Resort accommodation and facilities
Tangalooma Island Resort includes several types of accomodation, ranging from basic rooms to luxury villas. We stayed in one bedroom family suite with kitchenette facilities. It’s an older-style room that is very basic, but is also extremely spacious and is fitted out with everything we needed for our short stay.
Our suite featured air-conditioning, a seperate bedroom, large bathroom, hairdryers, TV/DVD, dining table and kitchenette that included a 3/4 size fridge, convection microwave, electric frypan, toaster and kettle, plus barbecues outside the rooms. You could very easily prepare your own meals as a way to cut down costs of eating out while on the island.
The room we are given was located only 50 metres from the beachfront, which made for easy beach mornings.
Facilities at the resort include a convenience store where you can buy groceries and snacks (I would suggest bringing as much as you can with you on the ferry however as they’re a bit pricer than on the mainland), five casual and upmarket cafes and restaurants, a bar, two swimming pools and, of course, the stunning beach!
There are an incredible variety of tours that can be booked to enjoy the island’s stunning natural beauty – but you can also just spend a few days enjoying the beach and pools and relaxing.
The island is made up of 98% sand and 2% sandstone and rhyolite at Cape Moreton, where you’ll find also find the first lighthouse in Queensland. Moreton Island is also home to the tallest coastal sand dune in the world, Mount Tempest, which is 285 metres high. You can climb the sand dune and enjoy a 360 degree view of the island, but the hike to get there is a bit longer than our legs could manage!
Sandhills feature all over the island, free from vegetation, some up to 60 metres in height. This “desert” of undulating sand dunes makes for unique landscape as well as adventurous fun.
A stroll down the beach from Tangalooma Island Resort lies the Tangalooma Shipwrecks: 15 ships that were sunk by the Queensland government and are now a popular snorkelling spot.
The island is located in Moreton Bay, where dugongs, stingrays, dolphins and turtles make their home. In 1993 the Moreton Bay Marine Park was established to protect the Moreton Bay habitats and residents therein. It’s the only place in the world where significant populations of dugongs and turtles can be found at such a close proximity to a large urban centre.
What to see and do at Tangalooma Island Resort
Wild Dolphin Feeding Experience
This is what the resort is best known for and is a highlight for guests. Two close-knit families of bottlenose dolphins have been visiting the shores of Tangalooma for over 25 years, and return every evening to be hand-fed by the island’s guests.
The current program was put into place when resorts guests were found to be feeding the dolphins bits of bait and fishing offcuts, and the owners, the Osbourne family, decided to implement a regimented feeding program to protect the health of the dolphins.
Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Feeding is only permitted for guests staying in Tangalooma Island Resort accommodation or visiting on selected day cruises. The experience is included in selected accommodation and day cruise packages from Brisbane.
The resort has a government permit to run the dolphin feeding program and has very strict rules and regulations. The dolphins arrive just after sunset of their own accord, and are fed between 10 and 20% of their daily food requirement. This ensures that they maintain their natural instincts and don’t become dependant on humans for food.
Dolphins have sensitive skin and some do not like being touched by humans, so touching the dolphins is not permitted. Hands must be washed in advance to disinfect guests’ hands before handling the fish so as not to pass on any bacteria to the dolphins.
If you do the dolphin feeding, I highly suggest putting your camera away and just enjoying the experience. Flash photography from the beach is not permitted anyway, and the beach is too dark to capture photos without a flash. You can however take photos with a flash from the jetty. Close-up camera flashes can be harmful to dolphins’ eyes as well as causing them stress.
You will however still come away with a photo if you wish to buy it later, as the Tangalooma Photoshop team attend the feedings each night and wade out into the water behind the dolphins to take flash photos of guests and dolphins from an angle that won’t cause them stress or damage their eyes.
A note on clothing to wear during the feeding: you will absolutely get wet. Prepare to get soaked up to your chest just to be safe, as some nights that’s how far out into the water guests will have to go to meet the dolphins. Waders are available for hire at $15 if you want to keep dry during the dolphin feeding (waders are a waterproof boot extending from the foot to the chest, similar to overalls.)
We were lucky enough to meet the “grandma boss” of the dolphin family, Tinkerbell herself.
Things to do for free at Tangalooma
It’s important to note that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on activities to enjoy a stay at Tangalooma. You can very easily spend your time here enjoying the beach, swimming and snorkelling in the ocean (if you bring your own gear), hanging out at the playground, hiking through the wilderness, jumping in the pools or just generally relaxing.
We had a fantastic time walking up the beach to the shipwrecks and just investigating nature along the way. A big storm had washed up plenty of starfish on the beach, so we had an up close view of these animals.
The sunsets are spectacular at Tangalooma, so be sure to set aside a good hour to watch it go down. Kids run up and down the beach and into the waves while adults pull up a beach sandbag (free to borrow from the bar) and take a drink to watch the sun go down in style.
Tangalooma also offers:
A daily demonstration to learn more about these popular residents on the island.
Pelican Feeding & Sea Bird Talk
Held every morning at the jetty, the feeding started as a way to stop the pelicans from stealing bait from fisherman and getting tangled in their nets. Now, it’s an informative way to learn about these sea birds.
Sporting equipment hire
Tangalooma Island Resort has a selection of casual sporting areas including tennis, squash, boule, basketball, badminton and croquet just to name a few. Equipment hire is free but some require a refundable cash deposit. You can also bring your own gear and use the facilities.
Tours and Activities at Tangalooma
The resort offers a wide range of land and water-based tours and activities that enable guests seeking a more active or adventurous holiday to enjoy the stunning scenery and nature that Moreton Island has to offer.
Water-based activities include: kayaking, snorkelling, stand up paddle boarding, whale watching tours, the Marine Discovery Cruise and Sightseeing and Fish Feeding Tour of the Wrecks.
We highly enjoyed the Marine Discovery Cruise with some bonus fish feeding. Sadly no dugongs were sighted, but we did see several green sea turtles as well as the shipwrecks up close, and fed large schools of fish.
Land-based activities include: tours of the island including the lighthouse, beach segway tours, quad bike tours, helicopter flights and, the tour that we did, the Desert Safari Tour with Sand Tabogganing.
We had a fantastic drive over very rocky terrain into “The Desert”, where we climbed up a 30 metre high sand dune and lay on small boards on our stomaches to slide back down again. Absolutely exhilarating! Cheese even went solo on her last flight, so kids can definitely have a go at this.
How To Get There
You can catch the 75 minute ferry to and from Brisbane, take a 4WD car on the daily ferry, or arrive in style by helicopter. There are three settlements on Moreton Island, all on the western side; at Kooringal in the south, Cowan in the middle and northern Bulwer.
The Novotel hotels are renowned for their well-priced, comfortably appointed rooms situated in convenient locations. They’re a staple of our holidays as they hit the right price point for us and are a good mix of family-friendly, trendy and ultra convenient.
Our stay at the Novotel Brisbane was exactly as we had anticipated it to be. The hotel is rated as 4.5 star accommodation, featuring 296 contemporary guest rooms and suites. With a location that is only a four-minute walk from Central station, 1.8km from Queensland Gallery of Modern Art and Queensland Museum and a short stroll down to Brisbane’s Eagle Street Pier and Queen Street Mall, it’s a great location to spend a few days seeing all the sights in Brisbane.
The Novotel Brisbane is a modern hotel with bright, cheery rooms. Ours included two double beds, a sofa, iPod dock, flat-screen TV, WiFi (additional fee unless you’re an Accor member) and tea and coffeemaking facilities.
Other features in the hotel include a large outdoor pool, gymnasium and sauna, plus a kids’ corner in reception and three dining options: “The Pantry”, where the breakfast buffet and evening dining are served, “GourmetBar”, which is a relaxed place to eat or have a coffee throughout the day (and a drink at night!), plus the external cafe, “Two Donkeys”, which is perfect for a grab ‘n’ go coffee or brunch.
GourmetBar was our fave dining option and we highly enjoyed our meal of pizza, mac and cheese and burger with fries.
One of the things we love about visiting the Novotel hotels is their excellent kids’ welcome packs. They’re a great way to encourage families to stay as they really tell guests that they, and their children aren’t just welcome, they are going to be well looked after. The welcome pack at the Novotel Brisbane included an activity book, foam picture pack, popcorn, colouring in, markers and more. It was a huge hit with Cheese and kept her entertained for ages.
We also received complimentary water in our room and milk cartons in the fridge.
If you bring a car and need to park it at the hotel, undercover self parking is available for $35 (Mon-Fri) or $25 (Sat & Sun).
Noosa’s only 5-star luxury hotel is the relaxing, elegant and sophisticated Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort. Located in the heart of Hastings Street with its hip cafes and boutiques, and close to the beautiful Noosa beachfront, the hotel has a relaxed beach vibe to its 176 spacious studios, suites and villas.
Inline with the classic Sofitel brand, guests at the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort are greeted with a cheery ‘Bonjour’ when they check in – a little touch of France on the Sunshine Coast.
The Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort is renowned for its spacious rooms. Mine, at 55 square feet, is so big that I get lost in it when trying to get from the entrance to the bedroom and through the walk in closet back to the entrance again. It is the largest hotel room I have ever stayed in.
My room is perfection, from the comfortable bed with elegant covers and crisp sheets, to the excellent kitchenette facilities (including a kettle, microwave and toaster), work desk and dedicated living room space. There’s room for not just my suitcase but a family of four’s.
The entire hotel exudes relaxed luxury, from the bright and elegant lobby with comfy couches for lounging on, to the delightful outdoor pool area, with tropical landscaping, plenty of beach chairs for lounging, and a swim up bar in the middle of the pool. It’s the perfect spot for a relaxing beach vacation.
For families visiting the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort, the hotel offers a kids’ menu, resort activities particularly during school holidays and use of their beach boogie boards, buckets and spades.
As the hotel is just a 2-minute walk from the Noosa Main Beach, the location is perfect for sun-seekers who want to stay a few days and just relax.
The Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort also features a casual restaurant, lobby bar and wine cellar. We dine in the restaurant the following morning and highly enjoy the made-to-order omelettes and freshly cut fruit.
My stay at the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort was brief but highly enjoyable. I would recommend this hotel to anyone staying in the Noosa area who is after a touch of luxury on their next beach holiday.
Australia Zoo, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is famous for two things: the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, and his saltwater crocs. What is less well-known is the zoo’s strong conservation focus and role in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, as well as the many other furry and scaly animal residents who call Australia Zoo their home.
The zoo is a family affair, and it always has been. Australia Zoo’s story began in 1970 when Steve’s parents, Bob and Lyn, bought four acres of land in Beerwah, where the zoo stands today, with the intention of building a wildlife park. The park opened and eventually passed down to Steve to manage with his wife Terri in 1992, when Bob and Lyn retired. It was rebranded as Australia Zoo the same year.
Australia Zoo has expanded over the years and is now spread over 105 acres, home to over 1,200 animals. In 2002 Australia Zoo’s non-profit organisation Wildlife Warriors Worldwide was established by Steve and Terri Irwin; a non-profit organisation designed to support the protection of injured, threatened or endangered wildlife.
In 2004 the zoo’s next major conservation project opened: the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital.
The Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital is a 24/7 community service that treats all Australian native wildlife. The facilities include a veterinary hospital with an intensive care room and laboratory, outdoor holding facilities, and an orphan enclosure for hand-raised koalas to develop climbing skills and minimise contact with human carers before being released back into the bush.
From a humble beginning, set up in a converted avocado packing shed, the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital is now Australia’s largest wildlife hospital has treated over 70,000 sick, injured and orphaned wildlife since opening; an average of 5,500 animals each year.
When planning your day at the zoo, take note that it’s a really big place and you’ll need a full day to see everything – and even then you’ll probably miss a few things. There are so many animals, experiences and shows to enjoy that it’s hard to know where to begin.
We highly enjoyed our experience at Australia Zoo: the zoo itself is in fantastic condition, the animals well-cared for, and there’s plenty for kids to enjoy. From statues climb on, fossil pits to dig in and a free jumping castle, you’ll be hard-pressed to get kids to look at the actual animals!
If you’re making a special day of the zoo, put these must-do experiences on your itinerary:
The Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital
A small donation (that goes to funding the hospital) gives you entry to the hospital. We enjoyed seeing behind the scenes of the great work carried out by the vets and carers. While we were visiting we met a few orphan possums and joeys being cared for by locals, as well as a koala who has been brought in for surgery and rehabilitation.
Climb up the three-storey treehouse and get up close to ring-tailed lemurs, who freely roam this area, as well as giant Aldabran Tortoises and colourful macaws.
Grab a seat in the shade and enjoy an incredible free-flight bird show and saltwater crocodiles stalking the keepers.
African Safari Shuttle
Hop aboard and experience the wide open plains of the African Savannah without leaving the zoo. Giraffe, rhino and zebra roam the enclosures – keep an eye out for the cheetah!
Our favourite part of the day was meeting these beautiful animals up close. Book well in advance to meet animals such a koala, wombat, macaw, snake, lizard or echidna – the experience is well worth it!
There are also plenty of animals who roam the zoo during the day that you don’t need to pay extra to meet, such as this wombat taking a walk, kangaroos and lizards.
1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah QLD
Hours: Open daily, 9am-5pm, every day except Christmas Day. australiazoo.com.au
We were hosted during our visit to Australia Zoo as part of the Australia Society of Travel Writers Annual General Meeting. We paid for the echidna experience ourselves. All opinions are my own.
Additional photos courtesy of Australia Zoo / Ben Beaden
Australia’s capital city is pretty much a playground for kids to engage in art, history and nature. You won’t be short on ways to spend a fun (and educational!) few days in the nation’s capital city – there are so many things to do in Canberra with kids.
National Gallery of Australia
The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) is the national art museum of Australia and is home to than 166,000 works of art, including over 7500 works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. We particularly enjoyed the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works including a lovely Waterlillies by Claude Monet and one of Degas’ exquisite sculptures of a dancer, and the Ned Kelly series by Sidney Nolan.
Outside, in the grounds surrounding the NGA, are 26 sculptures on display by both Australian and International artists. It’s an extremely pleasurable experience to walk through the bush discovering these incredible works of art, and also a very easy way to introduce kids to art if you’re a bit nervous of taking them inside a gallery with their sticky hands.
The NGA has the dedicated NGAPLAY section for children to engage in the arts. Check their website closer to your visit to see what they are currently offering. In my opinion, a visit to the NGA is top of the list for things to do in Canberra with kids.
National Gallery Australia Parkes Pl E, Parkes Hours: Daily, 10am-5pm (closed Christmas Day) Prices: Free nga.gov.au Parking: Free underneath the gallery on weekends.
Visit Australia’s most magical Harry Potter-themed store, Quizzic Alley, located in Fyshwick, ACT.
Quizzic Alley is the passion project of Michael and Penni Milton. Michael and Penni have stocked the store with the most incredible range of Harry Potter goods from all over the world, including lollies, board games, jewellery, toys, clothing and accessories like bags and wallets. Quizzic Alley carries the biggest range of Harry Potter merchandise in Australia.
Learn about the nation’s social history, including the issues, people and events that have shaped the way we are today. The museum’s National Historical Collection features more than 21,000 objects that represent Australia’s historical and cultural heritage.
Kids will love the 3x10m cast of the Australian dinosaur Muttaburrasaurus in the Main Hall and the award-winning Kspace robotics adventures game.
National Museum of Australia Lawson Crescent Acton Peninsula, Canberra Hours: Daily, 9am-5pm (closed Christmas Day) Prices: Free Parking: 8.30am to 5pm weekdays, $2.90 per hour or $14 per day. Short-stay machines accept Visa, MasterCard and coins.
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
A 40-minutes drives from the CBD, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is home to koalas, kangaroos, possums, reptiles, echidnas, platypus and more. After spotting all the animals and enjoying the easy walking trails, take kids to the excellent Nature Discovery Playground to burn off steam and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve Paddy’s River Road, Paddys River ACT Hours: Visitors Centre daily 9am-5pm. reserve gates daily, winter 7:30am-6pm, summer 7:30am-8pm.
Prices: A day pass is $13 for a vehicle with seats for up to 8 people. Parking: Free
CSIRO – Tidbinbilla – Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex
Blast off into space at the Canberra Space Centre. The centre is home to the largest steerable antenna in the Southern hemisphere, with their visitors centre presenting exhibits on the past, present and future of space exploration. There are several hands-on exhibits to be enjoyed, plus a fenced playground next to the excellent Moon Rock Cafe.
CSIRO – Tidbinbilla – Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex 421 Discovery Dr, Paddys River ACT Hours: Visitor Centre daily, 9am-5pm, Moon Rock Café daily 9:30am-4pm. Prices: Free Parking: Free
Questacon National Science and Technology Centre
Questacon has been THE place to take kids to learn about science since I was a kid myself and it’s amazing how over the years it’s changed but kept the same wonderful focus on engaging kids in science and technology.
Questacon is filled with more than 200 interactive exhibits relating to science and technology. There’s plenty of hands-on fun to be had, from robots to slides, simulated earthquakes and science experiments. If you have a kid who loves science, put Questacon top of your list for things to do in Canberra with kids.
Questacon King Edward Terrace, Parkes ACT Hours: Daily 9am – 5pm including holidays. Closed 25 December. questacon.edu.au
Parliament House is the meeting place of the Parliament of Australia. The building was opened on 9 May 1988 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. The distinctive grass ramps on the sides recreate the shape of Capital Hill before Parliament House was constructed. They’re a lot of fun to run up and roll back down again!
Of the 4,700 rooms in Parliament House, many are are open to the public. It’s incredibly easy to just turn up at any time and visit Parliament House – no booking or tours are required. There is a short queue to get through a brief security check, and then you’re on your own to discover the house. Be sure to take the elevator to the roof for an incredible view. If education is top of your list, then Parliament House is one of our top pics for things to do in Canberra with kids.
Parliament House Parliament Drive, Canberra Hours: Parliament House is open every day except Christmas Day. Non-sitting days 9am-5pm, sitting days Monday-Thursday 9am-6pm Prices: Free aph.gov.au/Visit_Parliament
National Arboretum Canberra
The National Arboretum Canberra is one of the world’s largest living collections of rare, endangered and significant trees. With over 44,000 trees from over 100 countries are growing across the huge 250 hectare (618 acre) site, it’s a place to visit to to feel at one with nature and enjoy discovering trees from around Australia and the world.
Its easy to drive into the Aboretum and up to the visitor’s centre where there is a cafe, incredible Pod Playground (more on that on that HERE) and maps to the various sections and sculptures. You can walk around the Aboretum, from feature to feature, if you have the time and legs that enjoy walking. If you have a little one in tow you will find driving between the significant features much easier and quicker. Make sure to visit the ‘Nest III’ and ‘Wide Brown Land’ sculptures before you leave. A visit to the Pod Playground alone, which I consider to be the best designed playground I’ve ever seen, is a prime reason to put the Aboretum top of your list for things to do in Canberra with kids.
National Aboretum Canberra Forest Dr, Canberra City Hours: The Arboretum grounds and Pod Playground are open daily from 6am to 8:30pm during Daylight Savings Time and from 7am to 5:30pm during Eastern Standard Time (Non-daylight Savings Time). Prices: Free entry nationalarboretum.act.gov.au
Old Parliament House
A visit to Canberra is a journey through our nation’s past. It’s impossible to visit Australia’s Capital City without recognising where we’ve come from and, also, where we’re going. An important place to make a stop to learn about our past is Old Parliament House, the seat of the Parliament of Australia from 1927 to 1988.
The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House has incredible programs for families all-year round as they are is committed to engaging families and young people in conversations about democracy and their voices in it. From free Family Action Packs to the PLAY UP and DRESS UP sections designed specifically for kids, there is plenty to engage little ones at the House.
We particularly loved the outdoor rose gardens, which are free to visit and a beautiful spot to scoot through or have a picnic.
Old Parliament House 18 King George Terrace, Parkes Hours: Daily 9am-5pm (closed Christmas Day) Entry to the gardens is free but a small fee is required to enter Old Parliament House. https://moadoph.gov.au/
Australian War Memorial
The Australian War Memorial is Australia’s national memorial to the members of its armed forces and supporting organisations who have died or participated in wars involving Australia.
The Memorial caters to children, aiming to educate and engage them in history through story time, museum theatre shows, family tours, holiday workshops and drop in craft. A Discovery Zone has been set up as an educational space for visiting school groups (and the public on certain days and times), featuring five environments inspired by Australia’s military history.
The Australian War Memorial Treloar Cres, Campbell Hours: Daily 10am-5pm daily. Closed Christmas Day. Prices: Free https://www.awm.gov.au
Additional image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.
Lake Burley Griffin
This ornamental lake was built in the centre of Canberra and is the perfect spot to scoot or ride a bike around, stop for a picnic and meet the wild swans and ducks. In autumn the leaves around the lake are stunning.
Australian Institute of Sport
A guided tour is the only way to go behind the scenes at Australia’s premier elite sports precinct. As well as getting an overview of what goes on at the Australian Institute of Sport (and possibly seeing some of Australia’s top athletes in training), all tours include a visit to Sportex, an interactive sports exhibit. Guided public tours depart daily from the AIS Visitor Centre at 10am, 11:30, 1pm and 2:30pm and go for 90 minutes. Bookings are not required.
Australian Institute of Sport Leverrier Street, Bruce Hours: Tours Desk is open Monday to Friday: 8:30am-5:00pm, Weekends and public holidays 10am-4pm. http://www.experienceais.com/
Cockington Green Gardens
Cockington Green Gardens is a park of miniatures set in beautifully landscaped gardens. This family-owned and operated attraction has been running for over the past 35 years. Take a look at the highly detailed miniature versions of popular attractions around the world on a stroll through these delightful gardens.
The National Dinosaur Museum is home to the largest permanent display of dinosaur and prehistoric fossils in Australia. It’s a really small museum, with lots packed into it to see. The museum’s exhibition follows the evolution of life, with a particular focus on dinosaurs, so a visit gives a very comprehensive overview of the history of life on Earth, displayed in chronological order.
The Aviary is a 1000 square metre, planted, privately owned walk-in aviary where free flying birds can be watched, photographed and even fed. As they are very used to humans, the birds are happy to fly and walk around their huge aviary paying very little attention to the visitors – unless they are keen for a bit of a feed.
The Royal Australian Mint makes all of Australia’s circulating coins. It opened in 1965 and, since then, has produced over fourteen billion coins, with the capacity to produce two million coins per day.
It’s free to drop by the Mint, and, since it’s only a small building, it’s the perfect add-on to a day with other activities on the agenda. Mint your own coin, wave to Titan, the Mint’s super-strong robot and take a free guided tour.
Royal Australian Mint Denison St, Deakin ACT Hours: Mon-Fri 8:30am-5pm, Sat & Sun 10am-4pm Tours: Mon-Fri 10am & 2pm, Weekends and Public Holidays 11am, 1pm & 2 pm. Entry: Free ramint.gov.au
Canberra Reptile Zoo
With over 50 different species of reptiles and frogs on display, the Canberra Reptile Zoo is large enough to be impressive but still small enough to have a very strong hands on approach. Touch a python or dragon and have a chat with with the keepers.
Corin Forest is the closest snow experience to Sydney, located in the Tidbinbilla Mountain Ranges, 45 minutes from Canberra. During the warmer months, Corin Forest is a place to picnic, ride the 1.2km Alpine Slide and visit neighbouring Square Rock, Gibraltar Falls and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.
If you’re planning to visit Cockington Green Gardens, Questacon and the Australian Institute of Sport, the 3inFun Canberra Pass offers a saving of 25% on the usual price plus a free return visit to one of the participating attractions. http://www.3infun.com.au
Places To Eat in Canberra
Home of the freak shake as well as delicious food, we highly recommend visiting Pâtissez for brekkie and a shake.
21 Bougainville St, Griffith
We discovered this new gem at the base of the East Hotel and loved it so much we ate there twice. An absolutely delicious family-friendly Italian restaurant.
6/4 Giles St, Griffith http://www.agostinis.com.au
A really fun restaurant where board games line the walls. There are plenty to choose from that will suit all ages and abilities. The food is a bit average – standard pub-type fare – but you’re really here to play the games while you eat. We ordered pizzas and salad.
LG Baileys Corner, 150 London Circuit, Canberra guild.house
Vapiano is fantastic when you have kids who are picky eaters. There is a huge range of pizza, pasta and salad to choose from. The pizza and pasta are handmade from scratch. Adults will enjoy the extensive cocktail menu.
The menu at Space Kitchen is fun, playful and experimental. Some dishes are incredibly instagrammable but aren’t the tastiest when eaten (such as the cloud waffles shown), however the simple dishes like eggs on toast are divine.
I would advise driving in Canberra if you can either drive to the city in your own car, or hire one when you arrive. The attractions are far apart and the hotels are not within walking distance. If you don’t drive, there is a local bus service you can use. For more info: http://www.transport.act.gov.au
Where To Stay in Canberra
This boutique hotel is 2.3 km from Parliament House and 2.9 km from the National Gallery of Australia. The East Hotel is vibrant, contemporary, and very artsy, offering free bicycle rentals and dishing out lollies in reception.
A big draw of the East Hotel, beyond the contemporary aesthetic, are the bright rooms that feature either kitchens or kitchenettes, balconies, free limited Wi-Fi and Nespresso machines. There are one and two-bedroom apartments that have full kitchens, and fantastic rooms for kids with bunk beds, bean bags and Xbox 360 video game consoles.
69 Canberra Ave, Kingston ACT
Book your stay at the East Hotel
The Novotel Canberra is a 4 ½ star hotel with 286 rooms. It’s located 0.2km from the city centre, entertainment and retail precincts and 8km from the airport, making it a very central base for a Canberra stay.
Bring your swimmers to make the most out of their newly renovated indoor swimming pool. Kids will love the play space in the lobby and the awesome Angry Birds welcome pack.
65 Northbourne Ave, Canberra
Book your stay at the Novotel Canberra
Crowne Plaza CBD Canberra
The Crowne Plaza CBD Canberra is a top choice for a stay in Canberra. The location is incredible – right in the centre of the CBD close to restaurants, shops and supermarkets. It’s also close to all of the main attractions.
The Crowne Plaza Hotel has family-sized rooms and suites, making it perfect for larger families. It also has a great pool and excellent breakfast buffet.
A must-visit in Canberra, the Australian War Memorial is Australia’s national memorial to the members of its armed forces and supporting organisations who have died or participated in wars involving Australia.
It’s a sobering visit that requires attention and time, and I would advise leaving aside the majority of a day to adequately explore its shrine, museum and garden.
The Memorial’s purpose is to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war and to help visitors interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society.
Covered in detail are Colonial Conflicts, the First World War, the Second World War and
Conflicts 1945 to today, with halls dedicated to the Anzacs, aircraft and valour (distinguished service people). The stories are told through dioramas, artefacts, photographs and videos. It’s a confronting, emotional experience to walk through the halls and learn about the sacrifices made for future generations to live in peace.
The Hall of Memory, set above the Pool of Reflection, is the heart of the Australian War Memorial. The walls surrounding the pool is the Cloisters, where the walls have been created as a Roll of Honour, inscribed with the names of 102,000 people who have given their lives in the service of this country. Inside hall lies the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, a place to stand still and contemplate all that’s past in the hopes of future peace.
For a place of quiet contemplation, I suggest visiting The Memorial Sculpture Garden, located to the west of the main building.
I would suggest timing your visit to co-incide with the closing of the Memorial to witness the beautiful farewell ceremony that is carried out daily. At the end of each day, at 4:55pm AEST, the Memorial farewells visitors with its moving Last Post Ceremony.
The ceremony begins with the singing of the Australian National Anthem, followed by the poignant strains of a lament, played by a piper. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names etched on the Roll of Honour is told. The Ode is then recited, and the ceremony ends with the sounding of the Last Post. It is an incredibly moving experience.
Visiting the Australian War Memorial with Kids
The Memorial caters to children, aiming to educate and engage them in history through story time, museum theatre shows, family tours, holiday workshops and drop in craft. A Discovery Zone has been set up as an educational space for visiting school groups, featuring five environments inspired by Australia’s military history: a trench on the Western Front in France from the First World War, the Australian home front during the Second World War,
an Iroquois helicopter hovering in a field in Vietnam, an Oberon Class submarine, searching for enemy targets and a peacekeeping mission in a war-ravaged community.
Children can climb, jump, crawl, touch and explore in all areas of the Discovery Zone. It’s open to the public from 12.30pm to 1.30pm on weekdays and all day during weekends, public holidays and ACT school holidays.
The Australian War Memorial Treloar Cres, Campbell Hours: Daily 10am-5pm daily. Closed Christmas Day. Prices: Free https://www.awm.gov.au
Additional image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.
A visit to Canberra is a journey through our nation’s past. It’s impossible to visit Australia’s Capital City without recognising where we’ve come from and, also, where we’re going. It’s one of the best things about visiting IMHO. An important place to make a stop to learn about our past is Old Parliament House, known formerly as the Provisional Parliament House, was the seat of the Parliament of Australia from 1927 to 1988.
Old Parliament House is now a Museum of Australian Democracy, and an exciting place to visit to really get a feeling what life was like in politics during this period.
The house itself is a fine example of 1920s architecture and design, and the museum offer a range of exhibitions and engaging activities which explain how the building, its spaces and objects connect us with Australian democracy.
We visited on Easter Sunday when they were running a free Easter Egg hunt that involved an educational scavenger hunt through the house to find answers to clues, finishing up in the gardens with an Easter treat and free games. Such a fun way to spend a day.
The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House has incredible programs for families all-year round as they are is committed to engaging families and young people in conversations about democracy and their voices in it.
If you’re bringing kids to Old Parliament House you needn’t worry they’ll be bored – there’s plenty for kids to keep them occupied.
My favourite were the free Family Action Packs, available to borrow at the information desk. There are two packs to choose from: Stanley Action Pack and Press Gang Action Pack.
Stanley Action Pack takes kids outdoors and into the grounds of Old Parliament House in search of Stanley, the Superb Blue Wren, and his feathered friends. Kids receive a safari hat, binoculars, magnifying glasses, a notebook to observations of Stanley and his friends in the collaborative bird-watching journal, and modelling clay to make their own Stanley.
Press Gang Action Pack sends kids hot on the heels of a breaking news story throughout the inside of Old parliament House. Step back in time to a world of typewriters and shorthand and catch a glimpse of what it was like to be a reporter inside at Old Parliament House.
Littlies will enjoy the PLAY UP section of the house, which is a hands-on space for kids to dress up, get creative and play. It’s an evolving space curated for, with and by children.
Next door to PLAY UP is the DRESS UP space, where kids can discover the changing fashions of Democracy.
Outside, the Old Parliament House Gardens are a gorgeous spot for a picnic lunch, a wander among the roses or a scoot along the wide, flat paths. The gardens are located in the heart of the Parliamentary Zone on either side of Old Parliament House. They feature seating pavilions, pergolas, rose arbours, pathways, gateways, tennis courts and a bowling green.
The Old Parliament House Gardens are comprised of two separate gardens: The House of Representatives Garden, which features the Ladies Rose Garden (Hybrid Tea and Floribunda roses)and Macarthur Rose Garden (China, Tea and Noisette roses), and the Senate Garden, which is home to the Broinowski Rose Garden (Shrub roses) and Rex Hazlewood Rose Garden (Asian and European history of the rose, includes roses by Australian rose breeder Alister Clarke).
Old Parliament House 18 King George Terrace, Parkes Hours: Daily 9am-5pm (closed Christmas Day) Prices: $2 adults, $1 children (free for children under 5 years old) and concessions, $5 family The Old Parliament House Gardens are open to the public year round: Summer hours (during daylight savings): 7am to 8pm, Winter hours: 7am to 5pm. Entry to the gardens is free. https://moadoph.gov.au/