The vibrant history of Australia’s gold rush of the mid-19th century is brought to life in the Goldfields region of Victoria – a living museum and the best classroom a kid can possibly have. From the magnificent streetscape of elegant cities such as Ballarat and Bendigo, to the history-themed Sovereign Hill, to working mines and digs, stepping back in time has never been so much fun!
Sovereign Hill is a recreation of Ballarat in the 1850s, complete with more than 200 volunteers dressed in period costume. You can do all the traditional activities like pan for real gold, ride in horse-drawn carriages or buy boiled lollies from an old-world confectioner. At night the town becomes the setting of the Eureka Rebellion during a spectacular light and sound show called ‘Blood on the Southern Cross’. The 80-minute show tells the dramatic story of the uprising in 1854 by Ballarat’s miners against corrupt colonial leaders … but be warned, you may get caught in the crossfire www.sovereignhill.com.au
The mighty Murray River is one of Australia’s great waterways, and there’s no better way to appreciate it than to get out on the water. The choice is yours – from houseboats to paddle steamers, fishing dinghies or kayaks – with each form of transport showcasing the river’s many moods.
‘Taking it easy’ is the mantra on a houseboat holiday; simply sit back and let the world float by. If you’re not into self-drive, luxury historic paddle steamers that ply the river take you back to days gone by when river transport opened up the region.
The Murray is also a canoe and kayak paradise, with long stretches of calm water in the lower stretches contrasting to the furious white water action in the Upper Murray near Corryong. Take the kids for a gentle paddle, then find a secluded spot on a river beach to soak up the sun or cast a line.
Best family fun
The Mornington Peninsula is known as ‘Melbourne’s playground’, and that’s certainly true for families! There’s a plethora of fun activities for all ages, from beaches to parks, playgrounds and family attractions, with nature always at the forefront of the fun.
The Mornington’s beaches are an elixir to the soul any time of year; choose from calm bay waters to pumping surf, with a string of almost unbroken sand including Frankston, Portsea and Sorrento.
If underwater life is more your thing, don a wetsuit and jump into Port Phillip Bay for a chance to swim with dolphins. Tours with Moonraker Dolphin Swims only operate between October and June when sightings are more prevalent, and children need to be confident in the water and have basic swimming skills. www.moonrakercharters.com.au
Be ‘amazed’ at the Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens, home to Australia’s oldest and most famous hedge maze (set with 1000 cyprus trees), a beautiful rose maze and a lavender labyrinth; or ride the chairlift at Arthur’s Seat, floating over the treetops. Whatever your family loves to do, there’s always plenty of choice on the Mornington!