When visiting Melbourne, one simply must see the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere, the Melbourne Museum.
Located in Carlton Gardens, the Melbourne Museum needs to be seen over a full day to do it justice.
Over two floors, it tells the story of nature and culture in an array of interactive and interesting exhibition spaces.
Some highlights for us included:
Bugs Alive – the amazing world of insects and spiders.
First Peoples – this exhibition tells the story of Victoria’s Aboriginal People.
Wild – over 600 taxidermied birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals from around the world.
Dinosaur Walk – plenty of dinosaurs here, plus a huge skeleton of a blue whale in the hallway.
Marine Life – up close with creatures under the ocean.
Dynamic Earth – immersive exhibition about our ever-changing Earth.
Phar Lap – Australia’s greatest race horse has been taxidermied here.
The newly renovated Children’s Gallery is a hit with littles, although it’s only meant to be for kids up to the age of five. The gallery features an indoor play space and outdoor garden with features like water play, rocks, fossil dig zone and chill out spaces.
I would say it’s suitable for kids aged up to about eight, with the older kids needing to be very aware of the younger ones, particularly in the indoor play space.
A cafe near the Children’s Gallery sells basic food (kids’ lunch box pictured), but you can bring your own and eat it either in the garden or outside the museum as a picnic in the park.
The museum features a wide variety of activities for families, particularly during school holidays. Check the website for details in advance of your visit.
Melbourne Museum puts on incredible exhibitions throughout the year – ones in the past have included Titanic and Jurassic Park – so it’s worth seeing what’s coming and planning a visit accordingly.
Old Melbourne Gaol was built in the mid-1800s, as a place for Melbourne to put its dangerous criminals, petty offenders, homeless and mentally ill.
It’s a stark and confronting place, especially when faced with the gallows that are still hanging inside – between 1842 and 1929, 133 people were hung inside these walls, including Australia’s infamous bushranger, Ned Kelly.
A walk through the goal is a step back in time, where a visitor can meet the goal’s inmates and read about life was like for the poor souls who ended up incarcerated in what would have been an absolute hellhole.
The gaol itself is quite small and tours are self-guided. We did a family activity while we were there that took us all around the goal, in and out of cells, to solve clues and “escape” the goal. The activity was an excellent way to engage kids in history and teach them a bit about what happened here – without freaking them out too much.
A warning for families with sensitive children – there are strong themes of death throughout the goal, with models of people hanging and wax death masks.
I found the stories of the inmates most fascinating, if not gruesome, particularly Ned Kelly’s. There is a lot of information on him to be found at the gaol, making it a site that brings in a lot people on the Kelly and bushranger pilgrimage.
Examining the various artefacts on display, such as old locks and restraints, led to a lot of questions from my daughter on what happened here, why people were here and what they had done to deserve it. It’s definitely a good conversation starter!
Entry to the Old Melbourne Gaol also includes admittance to the Old Magistrates’ Court down the road, where you can stand in the dock, sit in the judge’s chair, or dress up in costumes. Between 1911 and 1994, the Old Magistrate’s Court is the place where criminals stood for committal and bail hearings – including Squizzy Taylor, Julian Knight and Chopper Read.
Interestingly, the Old Magistrate’s Court sits on the site of the original Supreme Court of Victoria, where Ned Kelly was sentanced to death in 1880.
Also part of the gaol experience is the City Watch House. Built in 1909 and used until 1994, the City Watch House is where felons were brought to await trial for their crimes. Nowadays the City Watch House is home to a 40-minute experience where visitors are “arrested” and locked up in dark cells. The experience has timed entry, so take careful note of the times on the map you’re given at the entry to the gaol and walk down the block to the City Watch House about 10 minutes before the experience begins.
Note to parents: children might find this terrifying, so judge for yourself if it’s right for your kids or not.
We’ve been talking a lot about money lately – how we earn it, how we need to be careful about spending it, and trying to instil the value of it with a 6-year-old. It only made sense then to visit the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra to continue the conversation in how money is made.
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. That’s a whole lotta cash!
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.
On the ground floor, we enjoyed trying to count how many coins were in the giant coin feature at the entrance (Cheese guessed around 14 thousand, which they said was pretty close), and checking out all the limited edition and special release coins in the gift shop.
This is also where you can mint your own $1 coin (at a cost of $3) and take it home.
Tip: As soon as your skin touches the coin it is classed as being “circulated” and is only worth $1. If you carefully put it into the protective sleeve using, say, a your T shirt to protect it from your skin, then it’s classed as “uncirculated” and automatically worth $5.
Up the coin-filled stairs is the exhibition and factory viewing areas. We really enjoyed looking at some of Australia’s earliest currency, including the Holey Dollar and Dump, Australia’s first minted coins – made by a convicted forger.
The factory wasn’t in action when we visited on the weekend, so I would suggest visiting on a week day to see the coin-making in action. We did however still Titan, the Mint robot capable of lifting 1000 kilograms. He does a little wave and dance to keep himself active on days when he isn’t lifting coins.
I would highly suggest joining one of the free guided tours that are run seven days a week. They run for around 30 minutes – perfect for short attention spans. The guides have a lot of really interesting insights into the history of coins in Australia and detailed info on how they’re made at Mint.
On the tour you will hear some interesting stories about the history of coins in Australia and look out over the factory while you learn how coins are made.
If you’re after an extra activity there is a Mint Treasure Hunt in the My Visit to the Mint Activity Book available at the front desk or shop.
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
On our recent trip to the ACT, we took out little bird-lover to the Canberra Walk-In Aviary. 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 aviary contains around 500 birds of over 60 different species from Australia and around the world. We spotted parrots, finches, doves and quails, plus plenty of others we didn’t recognise.
As part of the admission fee visitors are given a small plate of food (we were given apple slices) and tub of live mealworms. You can buy extra tubs of mealworms if you run out.
The birds typically will approach humans for the food, unless you visit on a stinking hot day like we did. If the weather is hot, the birds tend to stay in their trees and not come out – if it’s over 34 degrees Celsius, the aviary closes for the day.
We had a fantastic time, even though the birds were generally too hot to come out, and are planning to visit again in cooler weather.
Note: the aviary is in full sun so wear a hat and bring sunscreen. The path is wide and flat so I would think strollers and wheelchairs would be ok to get around. There is no cafe on the premises but there are cafes nearby. The birds like sparkly things so it’s advised that you leave jewellery at home (including earrings).
The Canberra Walk-in Aviary is located in O’Hanlon Place in the village of Gold Creek. Gold Creek Village is situated off the Barton Highway (road to Yass) in the Northern Canberra suburb of Nicholls. The drive will take approx 20 minutes from the City Centre.
I have to be honest, the National Dinosaur Museum wasn’t on our list of must-visits in Canberra, and we stumbled upon it completely by accident. We’ve seen a lot of dinosaur bones over the years and really thought we’d seen it all before.
I wandered into the museum while seeking shade on a blisteringly hot summer day and was amazed by the incredible dinosaur statues outside, plus the amazing mineral and crystals inside decorating the gift shop. That was it, our interest was piqued, and we all had to take a look at the rest of the museum.
We loved the museum and can’t believe it hadn’t been on our radar previously. 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 museum has two floors. Downstairs is the gift shop and family activity room with books, an education video playing and various fossil and dinosaur crafts and toys for kids to play with. The gift shop is incredible – jam packed with not just cool things to buy, but also giant crystals and minerals and even a few huge fossils from the ice age.
Upstairs is the main exhibition area, with with fossils from 700 million-year-old marine fauna through to fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. The 12 animatronic dinosaurs dotted around the exhibits entertained the littlies while older kids could read the educational info panels.
There are two scavenger trails/kids hunts that visitors can complete, divided by age groups. The trails take you around the museum to answer questions. If you answer all the answers correctly you take home a certificate with a tiny fossil attached. A really neat idea that gives kids an extra way to engage in the exhibits and really pay attention to what they’re seeing.
Outside is a Dinosaur Garden featuring life-like fibreglass models. Kids are welcome to climb the dinosaurs if they like.
There is an undercover seating area but no cafe, so bring your own food.
We were surprised by how much we all enjoyed the National Dinosaur Museum, so highly recommend it, even if you and your dino-fans think you’ve seen it all before!
The National Dinosaur Museum is located in the village of Gold Creek. Gold Creek Village is situated off the Barton Highway (road to Yass) in the Northern Canberra suburb of Nicholls. The drive will take approx 20 minutes from the City Centre.
LEGO-lovers rejoice, there is finally a LEGOLAND in Australia! The LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre in Melbourne is billed as the “ultimate LEGO indoor playground”, which is a great description for the centre and how it differentiates from the other LEGOLANDs around the world.
The LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre can be found in the amazing Chadstone shopping centre, which is a bit of a drive from the Melbourne CBD.
Like the other LEGOLANDs, it’s aimed at younger kids, I would say under 12. It features 2 rides, 10 LEGO build and play zones, a 4D cinema and cafe. For my 6-year-old, it was enough to occupy her for an entire day and have her asking to go back to do it all over again the next day.
LEGOLAND begins with the LEGO Factory Tour, the first room of the centre that visitors are guided into when they enter. The “tour” is virtual and so fun for kids as they watch LEGO secrets on the screen and use their joysticks to navigate their own LEGO choices.
After the LEGO Factory Tour we come to the first ride, Kingdom Quest, which sits at the entrance to Miniland and the rest of the centre. We do the ride because it’s right there in front of us, but you can also walk through Miniland and come back to it later.
The Kingdom Quest ride is a super cute ride where kids have to zap trolls and skeletons with lasers to save the princess. It’s a very tame ride and nothing that my very sensitive 6-year-old found frightening. The kids (and adults!) get very competitive with the scores and like to do it over and over to see if they can beat each other.
Miniland is a large room that also serves as a thoroughfare between the entrance/exit and bulk of the activities. The LEGO masters have created Melbourne’s landmarks in miniature using over 1.5 million LEGO bricks. Some parts of MINILAND are interactive and encourage play, but the majority is for looking at the incredible details in the scenes and spotting the mischievous Minifigures.
Miniland changes from day to night, when the “city” is lit up with sparkly lights. When we visit there is a Star Wars “takeover” of LEOGLAND, so Miniland features a few surprise vehicles from the movies that the Star Wars fans were delighted to spot.
Miniland opens into a large room broken up into the rest of the activities in the centre. There is the second ride, Merlin’s Apprentice Ride, where kids can pedal an enchanted cart faster and faster as it flies up in the air and soars through the sky. It’s a cute ride and again nothing scary here for little ones.
The centre has two soft play areas for kids. The DUPLO Farm is for kids aged 2-5 and is designed especially for littlies with a barn, slide and big soft bricks.
The LEGO City Fire Academy is a gated play area for kids aged 4+. It’s themed like a training area to becoming a firefighter, but it’s really like an indoor play centre with a jungle gym and slides.
Important note: socks must be worn at all times in the soft play area.
There is so much else to do that Cheese didn’t stay long in the soft play area, preferring instead to build LEGO in the other areas.
The LEGO Friends in Heartlake City was a particular favourite, with a central table featuring builds of key LEGO Friends kits, including a few familiar ones that we have at home, plus plenty of tables and brick pits for kids to build their own contribution to the city.
Nearby, the LEGO Racers: Build & Test area is a great spot for kids at the older end of the age range, where they can design their own LEGO racing cars and test them against each other. We found the cars quite tricky to build, so it was a great challenge for us and also really enjoyable for the many older kids who camped in this area for a long period of time perfecting their cars.
Science-loving kids like mine will enjoy the Earthquake Tables that encourage kids to build towers from LEGO bricks and then test their strength to see if they will survive an earthquake. It’s a fun challenge to build a structurally sound creation that will withstand the shaking.
The only activity that requires signing up for is the LEGO Creative Workshop. Sheets are regularly placed outside the workshop and fill up fast in school holidays, so keep an eye out for the sheets being released and put your kids’ names down fast.
Inside the workshop, kids are given a box with bricks to build a particular piece, with staff on hand to help if they get stuck. Parental supervision is required. At the end of the workshop the model stays behind for the next kids to have a go, but the workshop room next door has small builds that kids can also complete and then take home as a cute souvenir.
The last activity to try is the LEGO 4D Cinema, where short 3D LEGO films are shown multiple times a day in a cinema with special effects emulating rain, wind and even snow.
There is no outside food allowed at LEGOLAND, encouraging people to dine in the LEGO Cafe. I found the prices and food both reasonable so was happy to try it. The kids boxes were really cute and good value – for $18 you get a LEGO lunch box to take home, and various food choices – a sandwich, drink, fruit crush or cookie, piece of fruit and a LEGO keyring (which retails in the store for $8.95). Cupcake cost extra.
At the exit it’s impossible to avoid the amazing LEGO shop. They have several exclusive and limited edition goodies, so it’s a good place to shop for gifts and put them away for birthdays / Christmas.
The LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is a bit pricey, with admission from $32.50 per person (online price). For best value, I suggest the following:
Advanced online purchase
If you’re only planning to go to this once and no other attractions, then buying the tickets online will save money and also gives you timed tickets so you are guaranteed entry in peak times.
Combo ticket Buy a combination ticket for LEGOLAND Discovery Centre and SEA LIFE Melbourne for $45 per person and save up to $29 off individual admission. The aquarium starts from $33.60 per person so this is a good deal. You have 90 a days to visit both attractions.
The annual pass for LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is $75 per person, allowing for unlimited visits over a 12 month period.
Merlin Annual Pass
This is the best deal of all and the one I highly recommend. for $79 per person per year, you get unlimited entry into not just LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre Melbourne but also 10 other attractions around Australia:
LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre Melbourne
SEA LIFE Melbourne
Otway Fly Treetop Adventures
SEA LIFE Sydney
WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo
Madame Tussauds Sydney
Sydney Tower Eye
Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures
SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast
WILD LIFE Hamilton Island
Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE
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.