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6 cheap school holiday activities

Amy Henderson rounds up some of Australia’s best last-minute school-holiday adventures on a budget.

Just like the pesky electricity bill that chooses the most inopportune time to come into your life, the holidays wait for no man, woman or child. They swan about as if they are above the rule of law and just appear out of nowhere, so it’s great to have a plan up your sleeve for when they swoop. Wherever you reside, we have some suggestions for activities sure to absorb the attention and energy levels of your whippersnappers this holidays.

Launceston, Tasmania

Tasmania’s vast natural wilderness (nearly 40 per cent), quaint historic towns and breathtaking views ensure a holiday here is fab for families. One productive and merry summer experience for the whole family is the opportunity to pick berries at Hillwood Farmgate, a 30-minute drive from Launceston. This family-run farm provides sprawling hectares for the kids to run around on, rows and rows of delicious berries to pick and a cafe for mum when she just needs her latte and space. Entry is free to the cafe and berries are charged $10 to the kilo, so it is affordable and makes for a berry fun day in the sun.

Sydney, New South Wales

A melting pot of international cuisine, artisanal objects and brilliant bargains, the Glebe Markets happens every Saturday. Best of all, it’s never the same twice. Brimming with live music acts, interactive stalls and an open lawn, this is the place to see, smell and taste to your heart’s content. Buy a couple of dishes to share and find a spot on the soft grass to bask in the mellow acoustic tunes of Australia’s up-and-coming talent. Whether you’re seeking your next vintage item or a handcrafted wooden horse for your little one, it’s all there at Glebe Markets.

After splurging on market finds, it’s time to meander along to the foreshore where you’ll spot every breed of dog under the sun. As your kids pat friendly pups, you can appreciate the Anzac Bridge view. Here, the grassy areas are also ideal for kids to kick a ball or work on their cartwheels.

Kuranda, Queensland

Look no further than the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary for a day of enchanting fun and learning. Home to over 2000 butterflies, the sanctuary provides the chance to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most beautiful creatures. Great value family packages are available to make it a bargain day out. Encouraging the kids to count how many butterflies land on them and identify species is a great way to keep them absorbed and entertained. With guided aviary tours, an extensive laboratory with microscopes, museum and more, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda will get the holidays off to a flying start and provide an exciting day of fun for budding biologists.

Adelaide, South Australia

Some things are too good to be true and then there are things that are so good and true that you just have to raise your fruit juice up high in toast to your lucky stars. Adelaide has 500 bicycles ready to be hired – for free. With 14 city pick-up locations, it’s never been easier to hop on a bike and get cycling with the family. After getting your fix of mischievous meerkats and cheeky chimpanzees at Adelaide Zoo, hop on the bikes just outside and head along the River Torrens Linear Park bike path. This easily navigated path is safe, flat and accessible for the kids, so it’s all systems go to have a wheely good time. The Linear Park trail takes you on a picturesque route from the city to Henley Beach where you dismount, have a picnic and sip on some fine South Australian wine while the kids enjoy the beach and waves. If your brood is keen for more adventures, head to the hills, hire a bike from Bicycle SA and choose between the Sturt Gorge, Shepherds Hill, Belair and Fox Creek trails, to name just a few.

Melbourne, Victoria

Unleash you pint-size Picassos on Melbourne. Explore the laneways to see some of the city’s most innovative street art or head to one of the galleries for masterpieces in frames. The Melbourne Museum has seven main art galleries, includes a Children’s Gallery for kids aged three to eight. The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) has 70,000 artworks along with international exhibitions across two centres: the NGV International and the Ian Potter Centre. Families can pick up a free activity sheet when they arrive and draw their way around the galleries. The NGV Kids program has a range of specially developed exhibitions, programs and publications for children and families and during the summer school holidays, there are free artist-led workshops and spectacular performances.

"Pack a picnic, grab the kids and their bikes and head outdoors to explore the botanic gardens."

Brisbane, Queensland

Brisbane’s gorgeous gardens are just the place to keep your budding botanists busy and active this summer. Pack a picnic, grab the kids and their bikes, and head outdoors to explore one of the city’s two botanic gardens: the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens with its new playground and boardwalk, and the sprawling Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha. Here, kids enjoy the hide-andseek trail while future astronauts visit the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium. At Roma Street Parklands, littlies enjoy a ride on the great Parkland Explorer train. There are two playgrounds and kids get down and dirty among the veggie patches in the Children’s Garden. In the Moreton Bay region, wannabe chefs visit Redcliffe Botanic Gardens Herb Garden, where they learn about 500 species of edible plants.

There’s no place like home

You know what they say about location, location, location… Well, there’s no location quite like home. You don’t have to go anywhere, pack anything or navigate any hairraising roads. Just gather every blanket, sheet, piece of linen and scrap of fabric that can be found in the house and grab as many stick-on hooks as you can from Kmart (easily taken off the wall after). Appoint a chief of operations (a good job for your sprightliest child) and spend some time on plans. What’s going to hang from where? Are you going to colour-code areas? Should there be a tunnel going from nap corner to snack central? After negotiation time, get going on your blanket fort. It’s a great way to bond as a family and gives your kids the opportunity for leadership and collaboration.

This article appeared in volume 54 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

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