Alrighty, school holidays have arrived.
It certainly has been a difficult few months, and while we have been seeing things improve and slowly start to open up again, this current ‘second wave’ sweeping Victoria – namely Melbourne – has caused quite a stir. While we don’t have the usual list of events and shows you’d be used to for school holiday entertainment, there’s still plenty of fun school holiday activities in our region and around if you think outside the box – and all keeping in line with current social distancing restrictions.
Whether you want to get out and about, see something new, or want to keep active, you have plenty of options. Here are our picks of the best activities around the region for kids during the winter school holidays which run from June 27 to July 12.
Werribee Open Range Zoo, Werribee
Why travel thousands of kilometres when a taste of African adventure is available just 30 minutes from Geelong, at Werribee Open Range Zoo? Located within the Werribee Park Precinct, an amazing array of animals live on 225 hectares of wide, open Savannah. Come face-to-face with amazing gorillas, a pride of lions, see monkeys at play, watch cheetah prowl, and feel the sand between your toes and watch the hippos at Hippo Beach. You will also find rhinoceros, giraffes, zebras, antelopes and more grazing together on the picturesque Savannah.
Limits have been placed on the reopening, with state guidelines allowing up to 20 patrons ‘per space’ and a number of measures will be introduced across their sites to ensure safe physical distancing and hygiene practices. Visit the website for the latest details.
Fairy Park, Anakie
This one’s for the young and the young at heart. Family attraction Fairy Park is located just 60 minutes from Melbourne and 30 minutes from Geelong.
Dedicated to tales, myths and legends, the park features 32 scenes housed in awe-inspiring castles, cottages and caves set among beautifully manicured gardens which guests will be able to explore once again.
Stories include all the classics that we know and love, ranging from Red Riding Hood to Rumplestilskin. Visitors can witness Cinderella at the Grand Ball, see Jack in his beanstalk, join the Teddy Bears at their Picnic and hear the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, among many others. There’s even a medieval Camelot Playground that children can explore secret passages, climb daring towers and meet mystical creatures, and the park features one of Australia’s largest collections of rare Marklin (gauge1) model trains. Even if you’re not into the tales and myths, the breathtaking 360 degree panoramic views of Mt Anakie’s extinct volcano and the rich landscape that can be seen from the summit is reason enough to go check it out.
Tickets start at $12 with children under two free. You can purchase tickets on arrivals with cash or credit card.
Admission is from 10am to 4pm. No admission after 4pm and gates close 5pm. For more information, visit the website. It’s located at 2388 Ballan Road, Anakie. As the Park is spread out over a large area, there’s plenty of room for everyone, meaning no caps on numbers and no need to book in advance. Normal social distancing rules apply.
Sovereign Hill, Ballarat
Earning a solid reputation as Australia’s best ‘Major Tourist Attraction’, Sovereign Hill will provide families with a unique Australian experience and a full day of entertainment from Friday to Sunday these school holidays.
A range of hygiene and social distancing measures have been introduced to provide a safe and welcoming experience for all but we imagine you’ll still be able to pan for gold, enjoy walking tours and chat with skilled craftsmen at work in the blacksmith’s forge, the candle works, the wheelwright’s plant, the coach builder’s and the confectionery factory.
For the kids, it will be an experience akin to stepping back in time — from the hustle and bustle of Main Street where costumed ladies and gents parade their new-found wealth, to the excitement of the Red Hill Gully Diggings where you can pan for real gold.
If you’re keen to get out of the house and dive into Australia’s great 1850s gold rushes, you’ll have to plan your visits in advance as tickets will be subject to mandatory pre-purchase via the website.
Hike Erskine Falls, Lorne
Visiting a waterfall is one of the most unique experiences ever, and it’s one that will have your kids on cloud nine for the rest of the day. If your kiddies are fans on the great outdoors, this could make for the perfect day trip down the coast.
In a region known for its magnificent waterfalls, Erskine Falls stands out as one of the best, plunging (or trickling, depending on recent rainfall levels) down a 30-metre drop into the Erskine River.
To indulge in the beauty that it is, there’s an easy walk to the first lookout (about 300m), or a more strenuous but rewarding climb down 230 steps through lush rainforest to the second lookout, where you will see the waterfall in all its glory. The Erskine River Walk to Lorne continues off downstream from here if you are prepared for the 7.5km walk.
Here’s a list of waterfalls close to Lorne if your kids just can’t get enough.
You can find the exact location here.
Kryal Castle, Ballarat
A legendary land of adventure, with knights, dragons, wizards, kings, queens, princesses, fairies and so much more, Australia’s only medieval adventure park will lower its drawbridge once again, providing family fun for the duration of the school holidays (27 June – 12 July).
Visitors can once again set out on their journey through the chambers of the Dragons Labyrinth and discover the legend of Kryal; experience the drama of a medieval joust as knights and their warhorses battle it out on the main arena; get lost in a maze; be enchanted by pantomimes; or learn the ancient art of archery. Guests can even extend the adventure and sleep like a King or Queen for the night in beautifully appointed Castle Suites, capturing the glory and mystery of times past.
Tickets will need to be pre-purchased online to ensure visitor numbers are not exceeded and to avoid disappointment at the gate. The safety and wellbeing of guests and team members will remain the utmost priority, with some changes to the attraction’s operation to ensure everyone’s safety.
To book tickets and for more information, visit the website.
Great Ocean Road Ice Creamery and Chocolaterie, Bellbrae
There’s no denying this venue’s pull. Chocolate and ice cream, is there anything else your child could need in life?
With a showroom filled with thousands of chocolates, chocolate tastings (with social distancing measures in place) and an international team of six chocolatiers located just 30 minutes from Geelong, it’s the perfect excuse for an afternoon of browsing handcrafted chocolates, enjoying ice cream, and sussing out the sweet and savoury delights to take-away.
For school holidays, the team are even hosting Junior Chocolatier classes. In a 45 minute Junior Chocolatier Class held in their ‘parent free zone’, children aged 6 – 12 years can learn from the chocolatiers how to make their very own chocolate creations. $40 includes personalised badge, chef’s hat and apron, graduation certificate plus take home three chocolate creations to enjoy. There are limited classes to 10 kids per session to abide by social distancing regulations and strict hygiene measures will be in place as usual. Classes available on selected Saturday mornings and throughout School holidays on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings. Booking are essential.
The Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery is located at 1200, Great Ocean Road, Bellbrae. Open every day from 9am-5pm. For more information visit the website.
Whale Watching, The Great Ocean Road
Each year from May until early October, our region’s spectacular coastline is renowned as being prime spotting territory for humpback whales, southern right whales, blue whales and orcas as they make their annual pilgrimage from the feeding grounds of Antarctica to give birth and raise their calves in Australia’s warmer waters. There’s no greater joy than seeing a child’s face light up when they catch a stunning glimpse of the giants of the ocean.
If you’re looking for a sighting close to home, the 243km drive along the Great Ocean Road provides many prime whale spotting vantage points with designated parking spaces off the road. The beaches in Torquay and Lorne are known for occasional visits, however taking to the high-up lookouts will give you a better chance of viewing from afar. There’s a lookout at Anglesea just above the main beach, and another one on the cliff at Split Point Lighthouse in Aireys Inlet that provides prime viewing. Apollo Bay is also well-known in the region for its abundance of whale sightings in the winter season. A two-hour drive from G-town, it’s possible to see whales, especially Southern Rights, from the Apollo harbour and Apollo Bay beach where they come as close as 100 metres to the shore during the day and evening. The pods tend to stick around for a week at a time before heading to their next destination.
You can stay apprised of recent whale sighting on the Great Ocean Road by visiting the road’s official tourism website.
Sea Life, Melbourne
This one will require a trip to Melbourne but it’s definitely a trip that will bring joy to any bright-eyed child.
Families can descend into the beauty of the ocean, and meet SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium’s Fluffy Friends these school holidays. Learn all about Lorraine, Whopper, Sparkie and Quentin who are four fluffy King penguin chicks that hatched earlier this year. Kids can enjoy daily penguin talks from the talented keepers and learn all about the adorable king penguin chicks, guaranteed to bring a smile to any face.
General Admission price includes a Digi Photo Pass giving you unlimited digital photos including a Fluffy Friends photo! To get even closer to these adorable sub-Antarctic birds, you can book a Penguin Passport experience where you can venture inside the icy -2° exhibit and learn more about the King and Gentoo penguins from the dedicated Penguin Keepers.
Booking are essential for all guests – including Annual Pass members – and the daily ticketed capacity has been severely reduced to allow for social distancing and the best possible guest experience. Sea Life is also offering 15 percent off online tickets so win, win. Visit the website.
Visit The Redwoods, The Otways
Located an hour and a half from Geelong and tucked within the heart of the Otways, on the banks of the Aire River south of Beech Forest surrounded by the native eucalypts, stands a spectacular forest of Californian Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) worthy of a day trip with the kiddies. This 85 year old plantation of Californian Redwoods has become a favourite local picnic area, and walking between the massive trunks flanking the river for the first time creates a special feeling of awe and reverence – one that’s really not to be missed in your lifetime. As you’ve already jumped in the car, Hopetoun Falls and Beauchamp Falls are within close driving proximity to The Redwods and are highly recommended to visit while in the region.
After a trip here, they’ll be talking about the HUGE trees for the rest of the week.
Ballarat Virtual Winter Festival, Online
Usually a favourite winter school holidays activity, the Ballarat Winter Festival will live on virtually this year, highlighting all the best elements of Ballarat in Winter through an online platform. Families will be able to explore the city of Ballarat (virtually), play online games at Ballarat’s major attractions, download Ballarat-themed activities and dive into all the winter-specific incentives from local businesses, designed to encourage a trip to the stunning regional city.
And this will all happen with the help and guidance of Ballarat’s new winter characters, the Yarrowees. Bunni, Kurran, Welcome Wally and Betul Begonia are the secret to how the good people of Ballarat find warmth and comfort throughout the chilly Ballarat winters. Emerging in winter to secretly care for the people of Ballarat, each of the Yarrowees reveal a special kind of magic.
Perfect for those who prefer to stay at home by the fire without compromising on quality, informative entertainment.
The virtual event runs until July 19. Visit www.ballaratwinterfestival.com.au
Other activities can include Mini Golf at various location in the region, a visit to the cinemas who have just reopened, the Ballarat Wildlife Park, or heading to a local gallery.