Canberra is often an overlooked holiday destination for Australian families, but there is much to offer for kids and it’s only an easy three-hour drive from Sydney. NSM Melissa Dibben went recently with her young family for a few days of fun.
Our chief aim was to see the sites in Canberra and take the kids (ages 6 and 4) to see snow for the first time. I’m pleased to be able to say that we had a ball and will probably do a similar trip next year. There really is lots to see and do, and it’s an incredibly easy city to get around.
We rented an apartment through www.airbnb.com.au and stayed for two nights. When we go again, we’ll probably stay for three nights because there were so many things to see and do.
We left Wahroonga at 7.30 am, had one stop along the way and were in Canberra by 11am. We had lunch at a Weston Park in Yarralumla, which has a fantastic play area for kids as well as roaming kangaroos and walkways by the lake. After this we visited Cockington Green Gardens, which the kids loved, particularly the Miniature Steam Train ride through the miniature village. After this it was time to head to our apartment because it had been a busy day. Although there were plenty of suitable eating venues nearby, we chose to stay in each night because we packed too much into each day.
Day two saw us drive (about 50 minutes) to Corin Forest for a ‘My First Snow’ Snow Play session. We had pre-booked online for the 11am session (there are three three-hour sessions each day). For a first snow experience, it was absolutely amazing. We hired a toboggan and it wasn’t long before both children were sliding down the slope on their own, drama and crash free. You can buy food there, but it’s quite expensive, so we took a picnic and enjoyed that. We did buy some large marshmallows to toast on the open fire which gave the whole experience something else. We all were wearing snow pants, jackets, boots, gloves and beanies. Despite it not being windy it was very cold, and once the snow started to melt a little bit, the waterproof clothing was invaluable. Gloves are a must, particularly for little fingers to make snowmen and snowballs. There were people in jeans and gumboots, but they quickly became wet and cold. Three hours was more than enough time and we’d barely travelled a few kilometres towards Canberra again before both kids had both fallen asleep.
On day three we visited the Australian War Memorial, which has a large number of interactive exhibitions, planes and tanks. And although much of it went over the kids’ heads, they still got a lot out of it. If you decide to go with children, you need to think carefully about which exhibitions to go through as some images can be confronting. We visited the Gallipoli and WWI exhibits, Vietnam, the Midget Submarine and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is beautifully set up and is very easy to get around. Parking is free.
Day three finished with a trip to Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre, which was just fantastic. It is opposite the National Library of Australia and parking is metered. The kids loved the Dinosaur Show, where they learnt about Australian dinosaurs, and the Awesome Earth space. We could have spent a lot longer here.
Overall, Canberra is a very worthwhile place to visit with small children and there were many things we didn’t get to do but would have liked to. For example, The National Dinosaur Museum, a bike ride around the lake, some more time at any of the parks and walks around the city. We will be repeating the trip next year, but adding another day, for sure!
Have you taken the kids to Canberra? What would be the first attraction you’d visit, and why? Tell us in the comments section below.
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