As a Brisbane-bred gal, we often jet back to the River City with our little miss to spend time with family (and friends who are family). This holiday season, we arrived with Miss One with almost no plans and managed to pack a load of fun days into our vacation. As I type this, post-holiday, we actually find a bunch of unfulfilled toddler ideas left to do on our next visit …
Here’s some of my summer faves:
With the celsius sitting around 31 during our stay, we take the toddler to the manmade beach at South Bank for a paddle. Despite many visits to the parklands during my adolescence and early adulthood (it opened in 1992), the parklands continue to evolve. I’m impressed with the venue as it is today – the beach continues to be a convenient inner city swim venue for little humans (against a backdrop of the city’s skyline); now flanked by water play parks for kids of all ages and an impressive playground. The Bougainvillea Arbour brings colour to your saunter along the parklands and facilities in the area abound. It’s a short walk to cafes or eateries onsite, or you can just wander an extra block inland to Stanley Street’s string of offerings (as we did). If the timing works during your visit, South Bank holds the Young Designer Markets the first Sunday of each month and more than once I’ve walked out with a little something unique.
The precinct is connected to Brisbane’s museum quarter: Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), Queensland Museum & Science Centre, Queensland Art Gallery and Queensland Modern Gallery of Art (GOMA) are at the northern end of the parklands and a great extension of your time at South Bank. We were wowed by the Yayoi Kusama exhibit (ends February 2018) at GOMA during our stay.
Just 15 minutes from Brisbane’s CBD, Mt Cootha’s Botanical Gardens are a fab little oasis to head to with little ones. It’s pram-friendly, there’s shady spots for a picnic, and there’s loads of interesting trees, flowers and animals for toddlers to point at. Miss One had a ball watching the ducks and locating ibis; she tried to play along as we pointed out lizards in gardens, and turtles and fish under lily pads, in the gardens’ lake.
The Gardens also include a Tropical Dome, a Cafe and a Planetarium (some cool shows for older kids). If you’re keen to get a good look at Brisbane you can also head up to the lookout for a panorama of the city’s skyline.
Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre sits where the suburbs meets the mountains: just prior to ascending the road to Mt Glorious and Mt Nebo, you can explore this natural nook of Brisbane. Excluding the Wildlife Centre, access is free: we take the toddler for a wander along the walking tracks that weave past Enoggera Reservoir and up to Mountain Bike Tracks she can speed along when she’s older. We’ve packed a picnic and we enjoy it amongst the tranquil sounds of the fringe to D’Aguilar National Park: birds singing, the wind whooshing, and the toddler rock-collecting (don’t worry, her efforts only amounted to some displacement; all rocks remained on site!).
Another lovely outdoor space in the heart of the River City is Roma Street Parkland. Accessible by public transport or car (metered car parking available), we toddled through the numerous areas of the parklands: Fern Gully, the Spectacle Garden, the Children’s Garden and Allee Bridge to the Lakeside Meadow for a lunch picnic. Miss One’s highlight was the ‘choo choo!’ (Parkland Express); spotting it from a distance and then enjoying a ride for a gold coin donation along the Parkland’s pathways.
New Farm Park
This was my favourite park to visit as a kid. My love affair with this inner city sanctuary continues into my adulthood — we often visited here even before we became parents, picnicking with friends under the Moreton Bay Figs, snacking our way around the Jan Powers Farmers Markets (at the Powerhouse; which borders the park), or enjoying a cooling refreshment at Watt.
New Farm Park is 37 acres big with an awesome kids playground, gardens to explore and borders up to the Brisbane River – offering you the chance to enjoy a saunter with mini humans (by pram, if you like) with views back to the River City itself. It was a destination park back in the 90s, and remains so today.
Drive to a beach for littlies
We took the day trip approach to a splash in the sea: Caloundra’s Happy Valley Reserve & Rock Pools (near Bulcock Beach) were our destination based on a friend’s recommendation. I couldn’t stop Miss One running into the water. Full steam ahead she was. There’s a shady and grassed picnic area between the beach and the carpark, and a fortress of a playground; this destination has embedded itself in our future itineraries for toddler fun times.
Excluding the aforementioned South Bank, there are also some toddler-friendly beaches along Brisbane’s northern fringe: Shorncliffe has a wonderful seaside-village feel and is a lovely base for a morning of exploring. We breakfast at Matthew Thomas before taking the pram-friendly boulevard to the Shorncliffe Pier for bird-spotting and fisherman-watching. Back on terra firma, a well-shaded playground is flanked by picnic seats and lovely Moreton Bay figs, prime for some fun for Miss Toddler (whilst many adults sip caffeinated beverages).
Based on Miss One’s enthusiasm for the water, we hope to also explore Redcliffe, Scarborough and Clontarf on future visits.
Kangaroo Point Walk
Even as a once-local, I love to experience the many perspectives of the city from the banks of its winding river. After descending the super steep stairs to the water level (baby carrier territory), wander the boardwalks at the base of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs along the Brisbane River towards South Bank (opposing the City’s Botanic Gardens).
Brisbane’s toddler adventures don’t end here; there is a load on my wish list for our next trip starting with: a little hike and picnic at Mt Glorious, CityCat ride along the Brisbane River, explore Roma Street Parklands, return to Frew Park (with the kid as a toddler), strawberry picking at the Sunshine Coast … and that’s before we consider any animal parks/zoos or other man-made attractions when Miss 1 is older.
In summary, the Queensland capital has plenty to do; don’t overlook spending some time here if you’re set to transit through ’Brissie’ to one of the many holiday gems in the Great (QLD) South East.
TOT TRAVEL TIPS
- Pack a picnic. Albeit not literally, travelling with a toddler has taught me one new skill: ALWAYS HAVE FOOD. Miss One is still breastfeeding occasionally, so it was handy to turn to that if need be; but the necessity for carrying snacks and meals has hit the daily to-do. In the Queensland capital’s summer heat, it’s important to carry food that won’t spoil (plain biscuits, bananas, cut apple, simple sandwiches) or carry a kid’s cool bag with an ice brick.
- Slip Slop Slap. This is important across Australia, but especially in Brisbane and to the north. Always carry a hat and sunscreen and dress your child in sunsafe clothes (covered shoulders etc). It’s best to do outdoor activities early in the morning (until 10am) or in the late afternoon (3pm onwards) in the ‘Brissie’ conditions. Shade is king.
- Sleep Schedules. Miss One naps twice a day, with the lion share of that occurring after lunch. Often her sleeps are too long for a car ride so we split our day into two so we can be home for her to sleep in the travel cot (and per point two, it was the hottest part of the day and we’d be inside anyways!).
- Time: 10 days
- Accommodation: Staying with family
- Transport: By air from Sydney and by Mum’s car around town