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The Pod Playground at the National Arboretum


After downing a couple of freakshakes at Canberra’s instafamous cake and shake emporium, Pastissez, Raffles (8) and Sugarpuff (5) were on a sugar-fuelled trajectory to crazy town, so we elected to skip our planned museum visits to expend a little of that artificial energy in Canberra’s great outdoors. And with so many glorious nature reserves, expansive recreational areas and playgrounds dotting the city, we’re quite literally spoiled for choice.

But my kids are keen on checking out what would have to be the capital’s coolest playground, The POD at the National Arboretum, a sprawling 250-hectare site just 6km from the centre of Canberra.

The kids go nuts, if you’ll pardon the pun, at the magical playground. There are giant banksia pods with cool musical features and a series of enormous acorn cubbies on stilted legs, connected only by tubes and rope tunnels, which they clamber through gleefully. They slide and hide and sneak and seek while we kick back with a coffee from the café in the Village Centre, and soak up the incredible views across the newly planted forests of threatened, rare, and symbolic trees.


With zero hope of ever tearing them away from the playground, I suggest to my husband that he start sizing up which of the banksia pods will best make our new home while I head off to further explore the terraced grounds and sculptures that dot the Arboretum.

Before 2003’s devastating bushfires, most of the Arboretum site was covered by a series of pine plantations, but these were razed during the blaze. The ACT Government resolved to replant the site as a national arboretum with a focus on establishing forests of rare, threatened and iconic species. The newly planted forests now form a gorgeous green patchwork across the grounds punctuated with striking outdoor artworks.


It’s a must-visit for families coming to visit, but be prepared to stay a while because if your kids are anything like mine, getting them to leave will require negotiation skills worthy of one of the politicians who call Canberra home.

When she’s not treading on Lego and being forced to watch Frozen on loop, Aleney de Winter is a travel, food and parenting writer. She shares tales of travelling and eating along with the hilarious antics of her globetrotting eight-year-old foodie son and daredevil five-year-old daughter on her blog, Boy Eats World.

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