Almost every weekend, at locations all around Brisbane you're likely to find some free community events. We are really lucky here that there are so many community organisations, sponsors and government agencies that are always willing to put their hand up and help in putting these events together! We like to support these events by going along, buying a few things at the local stalls and making an effort to contribute to making the event a success! Plus we get to have a fun time as well! The Backyard Bonanza at Bracken Ridge is a really great community event! Heaps of things to check out, rides for the kids, entertainment and to top it all off, it coincides with the Lions Club's monthly running of miniature trains!
We set off on our way to Bracken Ridge at a relaxed pace - it's not too far out (to the north) of the city so even with getting the kids up, fed and ready there was little stress. We realised when we arrived that it is certainly a popular event as there was plenty of cars there - we managed to find a park ok but we had maybe a 500m walk to the event. There is a small car park on site, but it was closed off for the day's events.
Set up in McPherson Park, we found no problems navigating our way around the event as the whole festival was reasonably compact and there was something of interest wherever we walked. It's a nice little playgound and park area, so taking the pram was no hassle at all - there are a number of concrete paths winding through the park, however you do need to watch out for the trains! There was also a few different options for food and drinks so bringing your own food was optional, however the park is nice and shady and is a great spot for a picnic!
Upon arrival, the kids had a bit of a blinkered view of things and headed straight for the little playground - it didn't matter that there were carnival rides or miniature trains in the vicinity, they wanted to play on the playground! That said, it didn't take them long to realise that there was more going on in this park. So, after a few minutes we bought our tickets and had a few laps on the miniature trains! The trains run every fourth month regardless of the BYB festival, and aren't they fun! Really well organised by the Lions Club, these are worth a visit in their own right. But there was more to this festival than the activities that are a regular occurrence here, so off we went to explore!
Once we had prised (with some effort) the kids off the trains, we had a wander around the rest of the festival. We had a bit of time to get through before a special visitor got up on stage! There was a great little exhibit set up by the Brisbane City Council Libraries with a craft table, handouts and books to read! It's amazing how much fun a few pieces of coloured paper, some scissors and some glue can provide! In other parts of the festival there was also music, dancing, skate displays, signing and carnival rides! But the one event that the kids were waiting for was a visit from a very popular character in Captain Barnacles from Octonauts! It was an interactive and very popular show which all the kids loved!
We don't think that we could identify anything really wrong with this event - heaps of things to engage the kids, entertainment, rides, music, craft and of course, the miniature trains! The trains and the carnival rides were paid events and there were plenty of free activities, I think that it would have been difficult to attend with kids without paying for something (the trains are hard to resist!). Captain Barnacles was a crowd favourite and hopefully they will bring back a similar show in future years! This one is certainly worth a visit.
Amenities: Toilet block and port-a-loos! 👍👍👍
Cost: Free to enter, but you will have to pay for the miniature trains and carnival rides! 👍👍
Parking: Limited but adequate street parking! 👍👍👍
Access: No problems at all - pram friendly! 👍👍👍👍
Entertainment: That's what this event is all about! 👍👍👍
Best for: Probably best for kids between 3 and 10! 👍👍👍
Wildlife: Not too much to see here (although we did see a talking polar bear!) 👍
Summary: A nice, simple day out for those in the north of Brisbane! Very easy to get around and enjoy what's on offer, it should keep you entertained for a good half day! 👍👍👍
Hints: Keep an eye out for similar events in your suburb!
After our first night camping at Benarkin State Forest, we awoke to drizzling rain - not really what we were hoping for! We weren't too phased by it though, we have found that our most memorable adventures are those with a little adversity! The rain did however provide us with a great excuse to hop in the car and explore - who really wants to sit around in a tent all day while it's raining outside? With three kids? Anyway, we were pretty keen to get out and have a look around the region in any case, so off we went! We had done a bit of research and Coomba Falls looked like the spot to visit!
From our location camping at Benarkin, it's about a one hour drive to get to Coomba Falls. From back home in Brisbane, it would take about 3 hours. It's situated right next to a small town called Maidenwell, it's about 2 kilometres away. This little town is tiny, but there are a couple of little stores where you should be able to grab a drink from and there are some public toilets should you need them - probably best to stop here when travelling with little kids as there are no facilities at the falls. Nanango or Kingaroy are probably the closest towns of significance around - respectively about 30 and 45 minutes’ drive, otherwise Toowoomba is about 1.5 hours away.
The drive to Coomba Falls doesn't really give away any indications of the beauty that you will see when you get there. It's a nice drive through typical rural settings, and it's a real surprise when you arrive. A short 2 km drive from Maidenwell and you will have arrived at Coomba Falls - there's no defined carparking area however there's enough room for a dozen cars or so to find a convenient spot. The first things that you will notice are the boulders and the grass-trees - the boys couldn't resist climbing all over the boulders and we couldn't resist snapping a few shots of the scenery!
You will need to carry everything that you will need with you before you head down to the water - there's an excellent-quality staircase leading all the way down, however there are a lot of stairs! You should note that it is not at all suitable for prams and the like and unless you really feel like some good exercise - don't forget anything!
There was no flow at Coomba Falls when we visited, but it didn't really detract from the beauty of this area! The waterhole was full and very inviting, however we didn't come prepared for a swim so we had to sit out and simply enjoy the view - there is a nice, flat grassed area which was a great place to sit down for a relaxing picnic lunch with the kids. After lunch, there were plenty of rocks to climb on and places to explore for the kids, but next time we visit we will be ready for a splash! The boulders at Coomba Falls were an attraction in themselves for the boys, they just couldn't help themselves and had to climb all over them! Great fun! The rock formations were really beautiful, too! There's a big cliff face which was being well used for abseiling on the day we visited, we would expect that it is well used for this type of activity!
We were really stunned by Coomba Falls - it was so nice! The rocks were magnificent and the waterhole was so tranquil - the whole area just seemed to be out of place with its surrounds, which we think is why we loved it! It was so peaceful as well - we're not sure how busy it gets here but given its relative isolation (compared to other spots closer to Brisbane), we can't imagine that it ever gets too crowded! Perhaps it may be a bit of an ask to drive here specifically from Brisbane, however if you are in the mood for something a little quieter, or if you are exploring the region, this one really is a must see!
Amenities: Nothing at the site itself so bring your own food and water, and don't forget to stop off at the toilets at Maidenwell! 👍
Cost: Completely free other than the travel costs! 👍👍👍👍
Parking: Limited parking but we think that there's enough! 👍👍👍
Access: Lots of stairs to get down to the waterhole! 👍👍
Entertainment: If you are here for a swim then you should have heaps of fun! Lots of boulders to climb on too! 👍👍👍
Best for: Keen photographers will love this place! And capable swimmers too! 👍👍👍👍
Wildlife: Great for spotting birds and butterflies and dragonflies, we imagine that you should be able to find some wallabies here as well! 👍👍👍
Summary: If you are in the area you really need to visit Coomba Falls, or it would make a great addition to your 'Explore South Burnett' day trip itinerary from Brisbane. 👍👍👍
Hints: Don’t exhaust yourself swimming - it's a long walk back up those stairs!
We were a bit nervous about this one. We (mum and dad) have been camping before, but the thought of taking our little kids out into the bush and spending the night in a tent with them had us a bit worried. Plenty of other families get out camping all the time, so we figured that it must be possible and so we made the commitment to do it! We spent as much time planning as we could (it was a bit of a snap decision so this was only a couple of weeks or so!), researched potential campsites (we figured that we go somewhere with lots of room so as to not embarrass ourselves) and tried to block out of our mind all the things that could possibly go wrong (not the best way to manage risks, but sometimes that's what parents do!). Although there are lots of great camping spots around here in Brisbane, we thought that we'd have a look further afield, and decided on Emu Creek campsite at Benarkin State Forest, about 2.5 hours' drive from home!
We didn't really own much camping gear, so everything had to be rustled up from somewhere - we did splash out on a tent and a few other things but we tried to make the most of the things we had around the house. After all, this was our first camping trip and we weren't sure if we would enjoy it, so we tried to keep our spending down to a minimum. One of the reasons that we decided on Benarkin was that they do have toilets and (cold water) showers there, so there was no need for use to bring a camping toilet or shower along. It didn't take long for the car to fill up, though. It seems even a quick drive down to the shops with kids will fill the car up, so packing to be relatively self-sufficient for 3 days did require a bit of tetris-style stacking of the car! We have a medium-size SUV but we couldn't have fit anything else in.
For those that might be taking our advice, this is what we crammed in: tent (obviously), gazebo, tarp, folding table, folding chairs, inflatable mattresses, doonas (we haven't splashed out on sleeping bags yet), heaps of torches and batteries, eskys (x2), drinking water (slab of bottles), 20l drum of water, portable bbq, buckets, picnic set and all of our clothes. No room for the kids' bikes (probably regretted this) but we did bring a few toys. Frisbees and footballs were well used! Our poor car didn't know what had hit it! Benarkin State Forest is around 2 hours' drive north west of Brisbane, off D'Aguilar Highway, so it’s not too much of a hike. The drive is pretty easy and the traffic drops right off once you get out of Caboolture, however we did stop a few times along the way, just to double and triple check the gear that we had strapped onto the roof. Getting closer to our destination, the scenery changes in an instant. It really is stunning - one minute you are just driving through bush and farmland and then without warning you are in the middle of beautiful pine covered hills! Once you turn off the highway, the campsite is reached by following a dirt road through the pine forest for about 20 minutes before reaching the site on the edge of Emu Creek!
Emu Creek campsite is a large area, capable of hosting 150 campsites (and the vehicles that go with them). Making a decision of where to pitch your tent was harder than it was to find a spot, although there were a lot of people arriving when we got there. We found a clear spot, close to the creek with a little shade around and prepared for our second attempt of putting up our new tent, we did a practice run at home, although this time we had to do it with the pressures of seasoned campers watching on! Well, the tent went up without a hitch! A little bit of help from our 5 year old made a big difference - probably not the actual work that he did, but the fact that he wasn't running off getting into trouble! The little ones tried their best at helping, picking up a few sticks and banging on some pegs! Regardless of their actual contribution, they all had heaps of fun and we loved seeing the look of satisfaction on their faces!
So far, we had successfully packed the car up, made it to the campsite, pitched the tent and now we were settling in for the night. This was the part that we were a little nervous about! Luckily, our little kids were absolutely shattered from the day and went to sleep without a problem! Which gave us a little time to sit next to the campfire and enjoy each other's company under the stars! As we were shattered as well, we managed about 5 minutes before joining the kids for a well-earned sleep! Night-time proved to be no issue - it was a little noisy at times as there were a lot of people camping, but nothing that really bothered us. A little bit of rain in the morning tested out the water-proofing of the tent, which passed with flying colours.
The campsite itself has enough around to keep the kids entertained, although more than a two days here might be stretching it a bit – we used day two to head out of the campsite and explore the surrounds – places like Coomba Falls are within easy reach! There is a nice, large creek that you can explore - it was largely dry when we visited which was great for the kids as they could run around on the creek-bed, searching for nice rocks and sticks which they don't always have access to in the city! There were lots of other kids at the campsite (we stayed over a long weekend) so there were plenty of opportunities to make new friends. Lots of push bikes and balls and Frisbees! We didn't see too much wildlife although there was a bit of commotion with the kids when a large sand goanna wandered through the campsite. It was a real adventure for us and really worthwhile, it's great to be somewhere where you can be removed from the day to day distractions and spend some quality time together. We will definitely be scheduling in a couple of camping trips annually in future years.
Amenities: A bit limited - toilets and cold showers, however this is a bush campsite so we shouldn't complain! 👍👍
Cost: A reasonable price to maintain the facility! 👍👍👍
Parking: 150 pre-booked campsites so you shouldn't have a problem. 👍👍👍👍
Access: A bit of a drive down an unsealed road to get there - it's all part of the adventure! 👍👍
Entertainment: Camping is all about relaxing! 👍👍
Best for: Really good fun with kids, probably best for those 3 and over! 👍👍👍
Wildlife: Not as much as we would have liked, but I'm sure that there's plenty there that we didn't see! 👍👍
Summary: With a little bit of preparation, Benarkin State Forest is a great spot for first time campers! Heaps of room, lots of friendly, experienced campers to help out and plenty of kids to play with! And you really do feel like you are isolated! 👍👍👍
Hints: Don't forget to bring your own firewood!
The Gold Coast is one of Australia's most loved tourism spots. It has fantastic beaches, great theme-parks and attractions and an awesome atmosphere to boot, so there is shortage of visitors to this great area. As Brisbanites, we think that we are really lucky to have the Gold Coast on our doorstep! But we are all about exploring. We like to seek out and experience the things that are not always so obvious from the well-advertised attractions. That's not to say that Hinze Dam is not well known around the area, it's just that it's probably not the first place that comes to mind when you think of the Gold Coast.
About an hour’s drive south of Brisbane will get you to the Gold Coast suburb of Advancetown, where Advancetown Lake and Hinze Dam (the dam is the wall that holds the water back, creating the lake) is situated. From the Gold Coast it's perhaps a half hour drive to the west. It's the main water supply for the Gold Coast and as the Gold Coast has grown, so has Hinze Dam. It recently went through a major upgrade which was completed in 2010, so the facilities are nice and modern. The drive down from Brisbane is generally quite easy, however as many commuters know, pick the wrong time - perhaps on a Saturday morning through summer, or through the week in the afternoon heading south - and you could be in for a long journey.
Once you arrive at Hinze Dam, you will find 3 main stopping points - up on top of the dam wall, a carpark with viewing area of the spillway, and further down there is a park, playground and barbeques. We started on top of the dam wall. Up there, there is an information centre and a little cafe which has some beautiful views out across the lake. It's open over the typical hours but best to check out their website prior to heading there if your main intent is to sit down at the cafe. I imagine that it might be reasonably popular through the warmer months too, and even more so if the water is spilling! The information centre is a great spot which provides some good information on being water-wise, as well as the history and engineering behind the dam.
Up on top of the wall you can walk out across the spillway which I would think most provide some amazing views when the water is spilling! The engineering behind the dam is pretty amazing to consider when you walk out there! There is also a nice park land up on top as well. While there's no playground, the kids had a great time just running around on the grass. There are concrete paths running through the area as well, so pram access would not be a problem. After a bit of a run around (we must have easily spent an hour up there!), we headed on down to see the spillway. There is a carpark and viewing platform and from here you can get a real sense of the scale of the dam - it really is impressive! There was no spill or flow when we were there but it must be quite impressive when it is flowing! Still, it's worthy of a quick stop off to check it out. The carpark is really close to the viewing platform as well.
Our final stop on our little sightseeing tour of Hinze Dam took us right down the bottom of the dam wall where we found a nice shaded playground, barbeque area, amenities and tables and chairs. The playground was a welcome sight for our boys who at 5 and 3 can only take so much sightseeing in one day. We relaxed in some pleasant surroundings, cooked up a few snags and enjoyed the tranquil setting while the boys played. The whole area is in a semi-rural setting so even though we were only minutes away from the Gold Coast suburbs, it felt like we were a world away. Nice and quiet - no traffic noise and a bit of wildlife (birds and lizards) made us feel like we were out in the bush somewhere!
All in all, we had a really enjoyable half - day out at Hinze Dam. The facilities are well considered and modern due to the recent upgrade. There are limited options for food, however the café is really nice for those not wanting to pack a picnic or barbeque. The only thing that may be a bit of a deterrent for visitors is that swimming is not permitted in Advancetown Lake. It might be a little difficult on a hot summer's day to explain to you little ones that they can't go in the water when there is so much around! But for us, the impressive views of the water, parks and structures, along with the barbeque area and playground provided us with enough enjoyment to ensure that we will be back for another visit sometime - maybe next time the spillway is flowing!
Amenities: Toilets and (lots of) drinking water available! 👍👍👍
Cost: Completely free unless you visit the nice little café! 👍👍👍👍
Parking: Lots of parking - it may get busy when the spillway is flowing! 👍👍👍
Access: Most areas are pram friendly! Due to the scale of the dam you will need a car to get there and get around! 👍👍👍
Entertainment: The information centre is worth a visit! Some impressive views and a great little playground! 👍👍
Best for: Maybe the adults will get more out of this one! 👍👍
Wildlife: Some birds and lizards around the picnic area - maybe some kangaroos around sunrise / sunset? 👍👍👍
Summary: If you are looking for something a little bit different to do at the Gold Coast we can really recommend a visit to Hinze Dam. It's maybe a bit better suited for the adults but our little ones didn't seem to mind and were suitably impressed with some of the structure! The little playground should tip this one in the favourable balance! 👍👍👍
Hints: Expect it to be reasonably busy when the spillway is flowing!
Brisbane Family Explorers