Where is it: Surfers Paradise Beach, Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast
What's it all about: Simple - build 3,000 sandcastles in an hour!
Tell me more: The Gold Coast is well known for its sandy beaches, so what better place to attempt to break the world record for constructing the most sand castles in one hour! It also fits in perfectly with their really cool Sand Safari which showcases amazing sand sculptures! The record attempt sounds simple enough, but the sandcastles have some strict specifications to be counted for the record - a conical castle 600mm high (that's a lot of sand to shovel!) with a formed castle turret on top - and it has to be perfectly formed! Thousands of people joined in to help - we were in a team of 5 that had to build at least 10 sandcastles and after a full hour of shovelling in the sand we were very relieved when the final hooter sounded! It was a really well coordinated and super fun day but after all of the hard work we came up short - there were definitely 3,000 attempts, but the strict specifications meant that not all were counted! It just means that we will have to try again next year!
We like to think that we are pretty good at building a sand castle. Especially when compared to our kids' efforts. In all reality, that's exactly where we should leave our sand castle comparisons - slightly better than a 2, a 4 and a 6 year old. We have seen some sand sculptures in the past, usually partial views as we walk past of some very talented individuals putting together a sculpture on an event day with limited time, but we have rarely seen the finished product. We understand that they could be impressive, yes, but are they worthy of a specific, month-long event? We didn't know, so to find out we decided to head south down the M1 to Surfers Paradise to see what some sand sculptors can do - surely they can't be that impressive?
The Sand Safari is an annual event held at the Gold Coast at Surfers Paradise. It seems that they have a specific theme each year, a couple of years ago they had Disney characters. We wanted to go but we were having quite a bit of rain at the time and we thought that the sand would get washed away (apparently, no, the sand doesn't get washed away)! Last year the theme was DreamWorks Experience. Parents of kids under 20 will know the characters of the movies of Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to train your Dragon, and this year it's 'Mermaids and Mythical Creatures'!
Getting to the Gold Coast from Brisbane on any weekend through summer can require a bit of patience. That said, if you leave reasonably early you shouldn't have a problem. In any case, the traffic moves a whole lot better than it does on a workday during start and finish times. We parked close to Cavill Mall in a privately run, paid carpark which, compared to Brisbane rates, provides for a pleasant surprise when paying. On our way into the carpark, we got to drive past some amazing, giant, inflatable octopus tentacles coming out of one the motels - they kids were crazy excited when they saw this, although they did get a bit concerned when we drove close to them!
Well, what can we say. These sculptures were amazing! It's unbelievable that these artists can scrape, mould and manipulate the sand in the manner in which they do. All of the sculptures on display were equally impressive. There was also a number of little activities and sessions on to involve the little ones so they could learn how to do some sculptures themselves! They were help in covered gazebos so you could escape from the sun which was great. The kids really enjoyed it, but we could see from their sculptures that they were not too interested in following the instructions of the artist, but regardless they had a great time building a few sand castles!
We've really enjoyed our visits to the Sand Safari! The location is really well suited for this event and like we have already stated, the sculptures were amazing. There were enough activities and displays to keep the kids engaged and if that wasn't enough, you could easily wander across the sand for a dip! Us Brisbanites are really lucky to have such a variety of different spots to visit so close. We have no doubt that we will be back again in the coming years!
Amenities: In the centre of The Gold Coast so finding amenities shouldn't be a challenge! 👍👍👍👍
Cost: A little bit for parking, travel and some paid activities, but free to check out the sculptures!👍👍👍
Parking: Enough parking but be prepared to pay (but so much cheaper rates than Brisbane!)!👍👍👍
Access: Really easy to get around, the sculptures are all reasonably close together! 👍👍👍👍
Entertainment: The Gold Coast will always entertain! The sand sculptures, amazing as they were, were great to look at but not really that entertaining… 👍👍
Best for: Toddlers will love the characters of the sculptures while the older kids will marvel at the talent required to do them! 👍👍👍👍
Wildlife: Seagulls. That's about it! 👍
Summary: Well worth a visit as the sculptures really are that good! If travelling to get here it might not keep you engaged for too long so best if you can plan some other activities to make the most of your visit to Surfers Paradise! 👍👍👍
Hints: The sculptures can take a few days to complete, so plan your trip so that you can see the finished product!
2017 - Mermaids and Mythical Creatures
2016 - DreamWorks Experience
Australia is renowned for its coastline and its beaches. We have some of the best (best looking) beaches around. Brisbane, situated on a major river, however is not really thought of for nice beaches. An hour to the south and an hour to the north you will find some of the premier tourist beaches in Australia, however closer to the city, we are not so lucky. Is that altogether correct? We set out to explore and find out. We are already big fans of the beaches at Redcliffe, and I think all those parents of little kids might understand us when we say that what we look for in a beach changes somewhat with little kids. It's not always about the beautiful sandy beaches with consistent rolling waves.
Nudgee Beach is just to the north of Brisbane Airport, about half an hour from the CBD. Quite easy to get there by car and it is reasonably well serviced by public transport, however for us the car was the best choice. It's worth checking the tide times as at a high tide you may not see any beach. Nudgee Beach certainly has a different feel to it - you feel like you are in a small beachside village, so don't expect the touristy atmosphere that you get from the Gold or Sunshine Coast (or even Wynnum or Redcliffe, for that matter!). There is a small convenience store in Nudgee Beach but not much else in the way of shops, but at least you know that you can pick up an ice block!
The carpark at Nudgee Beach is right by the water. There is also a boat ramp there but I would image that it is only suitable for small tinnies and you would have to be very well timed around the tides - the tide goes out a long way so I would expect a long wait if you missed your timing! We made sure that we brought along enough towels and a change of clothes and plenty of water bottles for cleaning off - we came prepared to get muddy! There is a toilet block and water tap for cleaning off as well, however we find a plastic water bottle with a sports-cap drinking nozzle to be great for washing the kids off quickly!
The beach is so easy to access! Straight off the carpark and you're there! Not the best for sand castles, but you can get strait into the mud and get dirty! There are a few mangroves around which a great for exploring, however you will need to be careful of the mangrove seeds and barnacle-covered mud whelks (those are the long, cone shaped snails you will find everywhere). A pair of water shoes might be an idea! We had so much fun! We arrived just as the tide was receding and just followed it out over the morning! The beach is very flat, so there was lots of mud and the shallow water was great for even the littlest ones to splash in! There were a few little organisms around - crabs and snails and a few fish in the water so the inquisitive kids had some things to search for. The beach is also covered in heaps of little pot-holes which capture the water as is recedes, so again it was great fun for the kids! The Peppa Pig fans can jump up and down in muddy puddles to their hearts content!!
Our visit to Nudgee Beach was one of our most fun outings! We're not sure if it was because of our limited expectations, or maybe it was that we could have a relative stress-free visit to the beach (the shallow water and open spaces meant that we could give the kids a bit of a longer leash) but we really enjoyed it! The kids loved being able to get dirty and muddy and then clean it all off with a splash in the water! There was heaps of flat area for them to run around in, a few sand-bars were exposed creating islands which was a real treat for the kids, and there were a few creatures to investigate! Thanks Nudgee Beach, we will definitely be coming back again!
Amenities: Typical of a Brisbane park / playground, so no problems here! Toilets and drinking water available! 👍👍👍
Cost: Free beach and playground - just the cost to get out there! 👍👍👍👍
Parking: Plenty of parking available! 👍👍👍👍
Access: So easy to get down to the beach from the carpark! 👍👍👍👍
Entertainment: If you are after waves then probably not the best. If you want mud, then this is great! 👍👍👍
Best for: Really good fun for toddlers! Pet friendly too! 👍👍👍
Wildlife: Birds, snails, crabs and fish kept the kids intrigued! 👍👍👍👍
Summary: If you are looking for a pretty beach with golden sand and rolling waves well this is not your beach. But for little kids wanting a bit of freedom to run around and if they like to get dirty, this may be the place for you! 👍👍👍👍
Hints: Take some water on long walks out at low tide, it can take a while to get back!
Where is it: Harrys Lane or Quorn Close, Buderim
What's it all about: It's a lovely waterfall and swimming hole right in the heart of the Sunshine Coast!
Tell me more: Buderim Forest Park is a beautiful patch of tranquil rainforest set aside for public enjoyment! There are walking tracks throughout the forest, as well as barbeques and picnic tables so it's a great place for a picnic lunch! The Quorn Close entrance provides you with direct access to a lovely little waterfall and waterhole. Be aware that the creek does run through urban areas and as such might not be the most pristine - in fact, there have been occasions (after heavy rainfall) that water treatment facilities have overflowed into the creek! But this spot is lovely and even without a quick dip, it's certainly a worthwhile visit!
Amenities: Basic facilities but very usable! 👍👍
Cost: Free to enjoy! 👍👍👍👍
Parking: Limited free parking is available! 👍👍👍
Access: Easy to get to and the walking tracks are generally ok – in some areas the tracks can get a bit rough! 👍👍👍
Best for: Everyone can enjoy this park – the forest and the waterfall are both lovely! 👍👍👍
Summary: For a quick ‘escape’ from Sunshine Coast’s beautiful beaches we can certainly recommend a visit to Buderim Forest Falls! 👍👍👍
Brisbane continues to throw up surprises for us. We know that there are lots of beautiful areas around and fun things to do, but every now and then we are presented with something that we really weren't expecting. Bunya Riverside is one of those places! Hidden away in a strictly residential area, Bunya Riverside allows access directly in to the South Pine River, and right on Brisbane's doorstep! Strictly speaking, it's actually part of Moreton Bay Region right where the suburbs of Bunya, Albany Creek and Eatons Hill meet.
Getting to Bunya Riverside is easy (assuming you are driving), just head right to the end of Dungandan Road, Bunya and you are just about there. There is a road running down to a carparking area right down on the water's edge, although on a warm day expect this carpark to fill up quickly! The access road is gated and closed at night, perhaps to keep the noise down? I imagine they would keep it closed in heavy rains if there is flooding expected too. Regardless, the main reason for heading to Bunya Riverside will be for a swim or splash, so generally you will be going there through the day in nice weather, so expect the gates to be open.
The carpark is directly in front of a large meander of the river - great for swimming. There are toilets, picnic tables and lots of grass to set up for a picnic or barbeque. Having the carpark so close to the water is great for us with families as we can leave most of the usual family baggage in the car! We made sure we had our swimmers on, put on some sunscreen, had a drink of water, grabbed our towel and we were off!
We first headed off downstream, there is a path heading that way and we could see that there the river was shallow and rocky that way. The path itself was reasonably well maintained so it was easy enough to push a pram along should you wish. We had plans of getting down into the water so we left the pram in the car for this visit! It was a nice, easy walk along the riverbank - there were a few little tracks heading off into the bush which the boys were keen to venture in to so that they could do a little exploring. If you are planning to wander off the path (down to the river or up the riverbank), it's a good idea to wear some shoes suitable for bushwalking as the terrain can be steep and the surface a little loose in places.
After a five minute walk downstream, we spotted a worn track of the main pathway which led to to the rocky riverbed, so we had to jump off the path and make our way down there. The water was generally shallow in this area - a few little holes here and there that were suitable for swimming, but for the most part, the kids were happy to scratch around in the rocks looking for the perfect skimming rock! That was our favourite part about this area - we could leave the kids exploring by themselves, it wasn't too slippery and the entry into the waterholes wasn't too steep. After an hour or so of exploring the rocks, we headed back to the picnic area for some lunch. We didn't end up going for a swim in the waterhole area, but plenty of other kids were taking advantage of the water!
Our visit to South Pine River at Bunya Crossing was lots of fun! We weren't really expecting too much, and while there are a lot of more visually attractive creeks around, we had a great time here! It was easy to access, very relaxed and had plenty of places to explore. Being a reserve so close to residential areas did mean that there was a little bit of rubbish left around, but no more than you would see in any other suburban park. It seemed that lots of people were brought down to the river by their canine masters for a walk, so those of you with dogs would enjoy a visit here! It was a bit of a shame that not everyone picked up after their dogs, but again, probably no more than a typical park. Don't forget to bring your picnic mat or some snags for the barbie!
Amenities: A typical park area - toilets, tables and barbeques! 👍👍👍
Cost: Completely free! 👍👍👍👍
Parking: Limited parking down by the river, as with all swimming spots, expect it to be busy during the warmer months! 👍👍👍
Access: Easy to access if you make it down to the carpark, a bit of a steep walk down the riverbank if you decide to walk from the top! 👍👍👍👍
Entertainment: Lots of room to move, a large meander in the river for swimming and a rocky riverbed kept us satisfied! 👍👍👍👍
Best for: Great for supervised toddlers through to adults and their furry friends! 👍👍👍
Wildlife: A few lizards here and there and I am sure that some kookaburras would love to join in on your barbeque! 👍👍
Summary: Very little effort required to escape the city and get back to nature in a relaxed setting. Although there are prettier settings, we had a great time here and will certainly be back! 👍👍👍
Hints: Bring your fishing gear and try your luck - we think it may be a great place to introduce the little ones to fishing!
Where is it: In the centre of Ipswich
What's it all about: One of the most visited regional art galleries in Australia, the Ipswich Art Gallery will have something for everyone!
How can I join in: Check out their website to see what exhibits or events are on, or just turn up and explore!
Tell me more: One of our favourite spots in Ipswich (along with the Workshops Rail Museum) is the Ipswich Art Gallery! It always has really interesting exhibitions and events on! And the best thing is more often than not there are some really great kids programs - from genuine artistic events, through to some that are more like a playtime - like building the fastest Lego cars! It's a great facility with really helpful and friendly staff, so we think that it is definitely one to visit! Some of the awesome exhibits for kids that we have been to have included 'Wind Tubes for Toddlers' - a really fun event where the kids got to suck and push things around with wind tubes, a Lego car construction event where the aim was to build your fastest car and then race it down a track and we've also seen some amazing Lego towers! We've also seen tunnels made from sticky tape, giant marble runs, foam block constructions and a giant model city made from recycled items from the kitchen! There's something for everyone at the Ipswich Art Gallery and it's certainly worth your while visiting!
Amenities: Well-appointed and some nice little cafes nearby! 👍👍👍
Cost: Some exhibits have a cost, but generally quite reasonable! 👍👍👍👍
Parking: Plenty of options available, and well priced too! 👍👍👍
Access: Quite easy to access - only one lift though! 👍👍👍
Entertainment: Pick your exhibit and you will have so much fun! 👍👍👍👍
Best for: Depending on the exhibits on at the time, but there's generally something for everyone! 👍👍👍👍
Wildlife: Only painted wildlife! 👍
Summary: We always enjoy our visits to Ipswich Art Gallery! It is really well presented and the exhibits are very well considered! We think that the gallery deserves more recognition! 👍👍👍👍
Hints: There are some great attractions in Ipswich - make a day of it and visit the Workshops, Queens Park or River Heart Parklands!
Current Exhibition: Built for Speed
Towers of Tomorrow
Where is it: Corner of Grey and Melbourne Streets, South Bank, South Brisbane
What's it all about: A fun and educational program aimed at children!
Tell me more: The Queensland Museum is one of our favourite spots – little kids are so inquisitive, sometimes it seems that it’s impossible to quench their thirst for learning, so a museum is the perfect place to satisfy their curiosity! But sometimes a museum might seem a little intimidating for our littlest explorers – so the guys at Queensland Museum have come up with a super fun program for the little guys – Discovery Day, aimed at ages 2 – 6! There are heaps of things to get involved in to give the little guys a different view of science, engineering and the museum, including dancing and crafts, and as well as that the museum is always entertaining and intriguing! Plus it’s free!
Where is it: Newmarket Village, 95 Enogerra Road, Newmarket
How can I join in: Book online or purchase tickets at the cinema!
Tell me more: We went along to the Opening Night Party at Reading Cinemas Newmarket, a brand new and state of the art cinema! As you would expect from Reading Cinemas, the facilities are excellent - huge screens and the sound was superb! Such a lovely experience to be there for the opening night and we got to see a really sweet family movie - Coco (see our review here)!
With their 8 wall to wall screens, just watching a movie here really becomes an experience! In addition to their premium movie experiences of the Titan Luxe and Gold Lounge, they also have amazing value ticket prices as well as value packed combo deals, which means that you can top up with a little more at the fantastic Candy Bar! A really great cinema experience and a fun outing for families!
Just to the west of Brisbane (about 10 minutes from the city limits) is the busy but charming little town of Samford, and not too far from Samford is Cedar Creek - one of our favourite little getaways! It's a rocky creek that is generally calm and in most spots not too deep, so it's great for inquisitive little kids who love to explore! The drive out to Cedar Creek is really nice and picturesque. To reach this spot from the CBD it's about a 50 minute drive, but the last 20 minutes is through some really nice windy, rural and hilly roads and it's such a change from the city that you've just left. Turning on to Cedar Creek Road you will feel a world away on this winding road which criss-crosses the creek a couple of times through bush and rainforest - the road ends at the Cedar Creek Retreat, so once you are on this road you can't really get lost. You might even get to see a stone replica of a medieval French bridge! It's a private bridge but it looks really great in this setting.
The creek at Andy Williams Park is rocky and the water is clean and clear and not very deep, so it's great for little kids, however you will have to keep an eye on the little guys as some of the rocks can get a little slippery. There are a number of deeper waterholes further along up the creek as well. One of the more popular locations you will find if you drive right up to the end of the road (another 2 km). You will then have to follow the creek further upstream for another 800 metres or so before you come to a series of swim-able waterholes! The walk along the creek can be a bit tricky in places, but it's great for adventurous kids - and the waterholes are great!
If you are looking for a creek for little kids to splash in and explore, we think that Cedar Creek is up there with the best! We've been visiting Cedar Creek since our oldest boy was just a toddler and it's always been heaps of fun - a really worthwhile day out, and the best part is that there is so much of the creek to explore! We're really looking forward to getting back and finding a new favourite spot!
Amenities: Full park amenities at Andy Williams Park but nothing elsewhere! 👍👍👍
Cost: All free! 👍👍👍👍
Parking: Limited parking at certain points along the road and at Andy Williams Park, however it is a popular spot in summer! 👍👍👍
Access: Not the best access for prams or those with mobility issues - very limited access at Andy Williams Park!👍
Entertainment: Plenty of opportunity to entertain yourself in the water here! 👍👍👍
Best for: With shallows and deeper waterholes everyone should be happy with Cedar Creek! Andy Williams Park is great for the little guys! 👍👍👍👍
Wildlife: Birds, little fish and tadpoles - and watch out for those cheeky bush turkeys who will rummage through your belongings if you leave it unattended! 👍👍
Summary: An easy and fun day out for the whole family! A great way to escape the city and cool off in the warmer months! 👍👍👍👍
Andy Williams Park
Where is it: Mt Samson, Queensland
What's it all about: Situated in the Samford Valley, The Lyell Deer Sanctuary has approximately 20 deer and a small gift shop with tea and coffee.
How can I join in: You can visit the deer farm on the weekends between 10 and 4pm, or through the week if you call ahead to make an appointment. They also cater for group tours or excursions and often have special events.
Tell me more: The kids love checking out animals so we went for a drive out to Mt Samson to have a look at some deer! It's always a nice drive out in the Samford Valley, so close to the city but you feel like you are miles away! The sanctuary has a few different types of deer and you can purchase some food pellets to feed to the deer as well - the kids really liked this! Just a point to note is that you are separated from the deer by a fence, so you have to feed the deer through the fence. You don't get to walk amongst them. The experience here is pretty much limited to this, but this was exactly what we came out here for - to get up close to some deer, and it certainly ticks that box! Overall, we were all quite happy with our visit here to the Lyell Deer Sanctuary, a nice and quiet morning out!
Amenities: A little gift shop and café! 👍👍
Cost: A little expensive for the experience! 👍
Parking: No problems with parking! 👍👍👍
Access: Well maintained and grassy access! 👍👍👍
Entertainment: Just a quiet day out! 👍👍
Best for: Deer loving kids! 👍👍 Wildlife: Not too much native wildlife, but lots of deer! 👍👍👍
Summary: This was a nice, relaxing morning out. The experience was rather limited however the deer are lovely and the kids really enjoyed it! 👍👍
Hints: Might be best for a Mum's or Dad's day out as with two adults the cost may be a little off-putting!
Brisbane Family Explorers