School Holiday Activities – 13 ideas you might not have thought of
Occupying young’ins during the school holidays isn’t always an easy task. Video games, YouTube, and Netflix have made it easier, but sometimes you need to get out in real life! In all of Australia’s cities, there’re the usual suspects – zoos, beaches, water parks, etc. But we wanted to find something different.
So here they are. Some not-so-obvious school holiday activities we’ve found for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide. Some are free, some can get a bit pricey, but most are very affordable.
School Holiday Activities in Sydney:
Being Australia’s biggest city, Sydney is spoilt when it comes to finding things to do. We’d recommend being a tourist in your city for a day, and hit all the attractions we take or granted for example: take a walk around the Opera House and up over the Harbour Bridge, enjoy a ferry across the beautiful harbour and visit the likes of Luna Park, Manly Beach or have lunch at the iconic Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel.
But beyond that, here’re some other options.
Explore Sydney’s Beach Pools
You might know a few of these already, but have a quick search around – there might be more than you realise! Most are free, all offer a gorgeous view of the water, and they’re a great way to cool off in summer or dip your toes in winter.
And if the beach is closed, the pools are normally open so here are our picks, with links to more information.
Prospect Drive In Cinema
“Watch a film at the drive in cinemas at Prospect. Rent a RAV4 or a Sportage, pop the seats down and lay out some pillows, and enjoy a flick with the family like they did in the olden days.”
While temporary outdoor cinemas do pop up in Sydney over summer, there’s only one year round, old-school drive in left. If you’ve never been to a drive in, it’s a very cool experience, and the Prospect (Blacktown) cinema is really worth a visit, especially with kids.
The Cinema’s been running for over 50 years, but it’s been revamped recently. There’s a 50’s style diner, which serves good food at reasonable prices.
They don’t charge by the car anymore, but at $12.50 a head, tickets are more reasonable than most cinemas. They don’t run all the way through summer, taking most of January off, and they don’t have shows every night. So check out the website for dates and times – plan ahead and avoid disappointment!
Some Seriously Cool Playgrounds
If there are excitable kids in your family, then you know how nice it can be when they have lots to occupy them. Luckily, Sydney’s playground game has gone up in recent years, and they don’t cost a cent!
Here’re a few of the really big, really fun, or really interesting playgrounds to take your kids to these school holidays. They’re all popular enough that they can make friends, leaving you to sit back and relax!
Fairfield Adventure Park: This has to be one of Sydney’s greatest playgrounds! Best for slightly older children (5-12) the park boasts an 11 metre climbing frame, three giant slides, and a 33 metre long flying fox! There’s still lots for little kids though, with sandpits, small climbing frames, and swings.
Birriwa Reserve, Mount Annan (Campbelltown): Another one for older children, apparently designed especially for teenagers, but still little-kid-friendly. There are some really interesting, exciting looking equipment at this one – words can hardly describe them! Click the link to check out some photos.
Wulaba Park in Waterloo: As well as being heaps of fun, this playground looks just incredible! The super colourful playground is home to a three story high slide, which kids will love!
Pirrama Park Pyrmont: This one is great, and has an amazing view! A former water police base, The City of Sydney turned this into a 1.8 hectare harbourside space. Kids will love the killer playground (bring cossies for kids that want to play in the water jets!) and there’s space to throw a ball around for older kids.
This school holiday activity could suit any city, and is best for groups of young adults or families with teenagers. If you’re keen to a novel family experience the kids won’t forget anytime soon, this is a great option! There’re lots of places near each city, so we won’t go through them all, have a search on Google maps.
Note: the initial cost of paintball places might be cheap, but they’ll get you on the price of the paintballs themselves – it can add up! Always make sure you find a promo code or voucher before you book. Doing a search for ‘paintball’ on Groupon normally brings something up. Then, set a limit on how much you’ll spend on extra paintballs, and let the kids know what that limit is to keep their expectations in check.
Finally, when they give you overalls to wear, pick ones that are a size too big – it’ll make the paintballs hurt less!
School Holiday Activities in Adelaide:
The original 20 minute city, Adelaide is great during the school holidays. Yes, the supermarkets might close at 5pm, but there’s so much to do outdoors during the day! Plus, being just a 20 minute to the hills, a bit further to the Barossa, and an hour to the Yorke Peninsula, there’s no excuse to not have something to do on a day out.
Here are just a couple of options you might not have thought of, or had a chance to check out before.
Visit the Big Rocking Horse at Gumeracha
This suggestion came from David on Facebook, and we think it’s awesome! Continuing Australia’s history of big things, the Big Rocking Horse stands towers 18 metres above the Adelaide Hills, just 40 minutes drive from Adelaide.
To make it a full day out for kids, there’s also an old school toy factory on site. You can walk through the factory for free, or they run tours for school groups, so you can see how the wooden toys are made. There’s also a well populated wildlife park, home to Big Red the Kangaroo, Keith the Emu, Sabu the goat, as well as Alpacas, peacocks and wallabies.
Not everything is free, but the ticket prices are very reasonable. You can climb the Big Rocking Horse for $2.00, play in the animal park for $1.00, and get a bag of feed for the animals for $2.00. They’re open every day except Christmas. For more photos and information, head to the Big Rocking Horse website.
St Kilda Adventure Playground
This is a must do for all ages. A short drive north of Adelaide will see you roll into the coastal town of St Kilda. As you walk over the hill at the end of the parking lot, you’ll see emerging one of the biggest playgrounds in the southern hemisphere!
The playground has had a major renovation in recent years, and now offers something for all ages! Huge slides, great swings, and a very climbable castle await. It’s totally free, and is popular enough that the kids should be able to find new friends to play with quickly.
Brings a picnic rug and you can make a spot for the kids to run back to, but make sure you’ve got some sun protection, be they hats, umbrellas, or sunscreen. There’s not a lot of shade, and the SA summer sun is not a kind mistress! Make a day of it by grabbing lunch and hitting the water. St Kilda beach is not the best in the state, but it’s very swimmable. More information can be found on the Adventure Playground Facebook page.
West Beach Mega Adventure
For the more adventurous family, West Beach Mega Adventure is one of the best School Holiday Activities in Adelaide. Opened just a few years ago, the giant high ropes course has already become a favourite of locals and visitors.
It’s a several story obstacle course that sees kids and adults challenged by rope crossings, tricky traverses, and big drops! We haven’t come across a single review where a bad time was had.
A couple of things to note. There’s no age limit, but there are weight and height restrictions for some activities, with a general minimum height of 120cm. While this is one of the coolest activities in Adelaide, it’s not very cheap, with tickets averaging around $50 per person. However, you do get 2 hours on the course, so your money’s worth, and it’ll be an unforgettable experience. Check out the Mega Adventure website for all the details.
School Holiday Activities in Melbourne
While it’s a city with plenty happening during the school holidays, it can be a case of option anxiety! Just like there’s nothing to watch on the thousands of shows and movies on Netflix…
Here are a few options that might offer something a little different.
Collingwood Children’s Farm
This working farm, just 4km away from the CBD, is a very rare find. Great for young kids, it’s also a way for them to understand how a real farm works, and where their food comes from. As more kids spend most of their lives in the city, this is becoming more important than ever!
There’s twice daily cow milking and thrice daily guinea pig cuddling. The farm is also home to horses, sheep, goats, geese, donkeys, and a whole lot of chickens. Generally, there’s open access to the paddocks for farm goers, though that’s sometimes restricted for animal welfare. They also host Melbourne’s oldest farmers market on the second Saturday of each month.
Entry is quite affordable, with family passes going for about $20. Nearby parking is metered, but it’s not very expensive – $9 will get you 4 hours. Check out the Collingwood Children’s Farm website for times and details.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out Scienceworks yet – you’ve been missing out! This one ticks all the boxes, being both entertaining and educational for kids and teenagers (and adults for that matter!). Being indoor, this is a great option for the inevitable rainy days this summer.
There’s always a range of attractions and exhibitions, so check out the Scienceworks website for more. Kids under 16 get into the museum for free, adults are $15. There are some additional ticket costs for some of the attractions (eg the Planetarium) but all in the single figures.
More generally, there’s always plenty going on in Melbourne’s museums and galleries, as Renae suggested to us on Facebook. Here are some more Melbourne museums and art galleries that might be of interest to you.
Turpins Falls Day Trip
Ella suggested this one on our Facebook page, and it’s a great idea for the adventurous family! Abour 12km from Kyneton (1.5 hours drive from Melbourne), the billabong hosts twin falls that cascade over basalt rock into a deep pool below.
Swimming clubs at the falls date back to the 1930s, and the pool is larger than an Olympic swimming pool – so there’s plenty of space. Because access and signage isn’t too great, it doesn’t get too busy, even through summer. Watch you don’t jump off the rocks though – billabong water is not clear, and hidden rocks and logs have caused some serious accidents here in the past.
There are no facilities at the swimming hole itself, so bring everything you need (and leave nothing but footprints!). Nearby Kyneton is a charming town, and is a good spot for a quick lunch. More information here.
School Holiday Activities in Brisbane
The River City is sometimes unfairly victimised when it comes to things to do in town – but there’s quite a lot going on when you peer under the surface of the obvious!
Here are a couple of activites to keep the family bonding a little longer!
Tour the City Hall Clock Tower
You might have seen it from the outside, but did you know you get get up close and personal with the City Hall clock tower? The Museum of Brisbane lives on the ground floor of City Hall, and was reopened after a major refurbishment back i 2013. The museum itself has free entry, and always has great exhibitions going on.
But every 15 minutes they also run free tours of the clock tower – and they charge nothing for it! You’ll be lifted up to the top of the tower in a hand operated elevator, and then enjoy an incredible, bird’s eye view of the city from the observation deck.
The tours are popular during school holidays, and tickets are first-come first-served. So, make sure to get to the museum early and avoid disappointment! There’s more information on the Museum of Brisbane tours page.
City Hopper tour
So you know Brisbane, but how much time have you really spent exploring the river? Taking the free City Hopper ferry from stop to stop along the river is a great day out for kids, especially for those who don’t get to the city much.
The ferry has 8 stops along the two main bends of the Brisbane River, from New Farm to the Victoria Bridge. Several stops are worth jumping off at, including exploring Captain Burke Park (pack a picnic perhaps?) or checking out the Maritime Museum. The ferry also stops at Southbank, which is worth an article itself, and offers days worth of entertainment for kids and adults alike.
Check out the City Hopper route to start planning your city day out.
Turtle Hatching in Bagara
This suggestion comes from Elisa on Facebook. If you live in Brisbane it’s definitely not a day trip, but at just a 4 hour drive it would be a very worthwhile weekend. Just east of Bundaberg, Bagara is a small coastal town on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. The town itself offers several family friendly beaches and bays, as well as some very accessible shore diving sites nearby.
But the big ticket attraction is the Mon Repos Turtle Centre. A ten minute drive from Bagara, Mon Repos supports the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles in eastern Australia. The Centre is worth visiting itself, but the Turtle encounter is what Elisa was raving about. From November to March, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Rangers run guided tours to watch the nesting (November to January) and hatching (January to March) of the turtles.
It’s a long, late night affair, with participants arriving at 7pm. There’s plenty of activities at the centre while you wait for the turtles to arrive – which sometimes doesn’t happen for several hours! Tickets are good for what you get; adults are $12.40, kids under 15 are $6.45, with concession and family rates available too. There’s more information the QLD National Parks page about the centre.