Can­berra’s key pol­icy – have fun!

Out & About with Kids - - CONTENTS -

It might be Aus­tralia’s im­por­tant cen­tre of pol­i­tics but, as JULIE JONES dis­cov­ers, our na­tional Cap­i­tal is also a fam­ily-cen­tric, fun place for a get­away – with wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­ble ac­tiv­i­ties aplenty!

Can­berra may be Aus­tralia’s seat of pol­i­tics but, over a week­end stay in the Cap­i­tal, JULIE JONES dis­cov­ered it also has a great pol­icy around fam­ily fun – in­clud­ing many well-dis­guised ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties. Sh­h­hhh … don’t tell the kids.

Cater­ing to ev­ery­one on a fam­ily hol­i­day can be tricky, and we have the ad­di­tional need of find­ing wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble ac­com­mo­da­tion and ac­tiv­i­ties. I’m happy to say that Can­berra de­liv­ered on all fronts. Al­though within easy reach of Syd­ney for a week­end visit, there was so much to do we wished we could stay for a week.

Ac­ces­si­ble, fam­ily-friendly ac­com­mo­da­tion

With only two days to ex­plore Can­berra we chose cen­trally-lo­cated ac­com­mo­da­tion at the Novo­tel Can­berra, in the heart of the city and within easy reach of all the main at­trac­tions. The ho­tel is fam­ily friendly with kids menus, an in­door pool and a small play area for young chil­dren, and our two in­ter-con­nect­ing rooms - one was an ac­ces­si­ble room and the other a reg­u­lar ho­tel room - had all of the fa­cil­i­ties we needed, like a wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble bath­room, as well as plenty of space to spread out.

The cost of trav­el­ling as a fam­ily adds up so any in­clu­sions in an ac­com­mo­da­tion pack­age are al­ways wel­come! Novo­tel Can­berra’s 3in­fun Fam­ily Pack­age in­cludes a buf­fet break­fast daily and a fam­ily pass to three of Can­berra’s most pop­u­lar at­trac­tions in­clud­ing Ques­ta­con, Cock­ing­ton Green Gar­dens and the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport.

Be­fore head­ing out for the day the kids loved mak­ing their own juice and us­ing the pan­cake ma­chine at the Novo­tel’s buf­fet break­fast. Then they were rar­ing to go, and well-fu­elled for their jam-packed day.

Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport

I felt a bit of a fraud do­ing the AIS tour. I don’t have an ath­letic bone in my body and only take an in­ter­est in sport when the Olympics roll around ev­ery four years. So it was sur­pris­ing that I loved the AIS. Our guide for the morn­ing was Reece, an ath­lete train­ing in track and field for a fu­ture Olympics, and the first stop on our tour was an in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence that was a hit with kids and adults alike. We tried out lots of ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing wheel­chair bas­ket­ball, soc­cer, bike rid­ing and row­ing.

With the Olympics so close it was lovely to be able to show the kids real Olympic medals, an Olympic torch,

team uni­forms and pho­tos from pre­vi­ous games.

We spent the rest of the tour learn­ing about the train­ing rou­tines of the ath­letes, in­clud­ing the Par­a­lympians, and at the train­ing fa­cil­i­ties we were lucky enough to see male gym­nasts prac­tis­ing their rou­tines, and other ath­letes work­ing out in the gym. For any bud­ding ath­lete it’s a good in­sight into the ded­i­ca­tion and work that goes into be­com­ing an elite ath­lete. For the rest of us, it’s a re­minder of why we never be­came one!

Cock­ing­ton Green Gar­dens - Minia­ture Fun

We’ve vis­ited Cock­ing­ton Green many times so there was an el­e­ment of sen­ti­men­tal­ity to see­ing the minia­ture vil­lage and gar­dens again. We watched our old home movies be­fore our trip and I was re­minded just how quickly kids grow! It also re­in­forced the ways in which travel bonds fam­i­lies, through shared ex­pe­ri­ences and mem­o­ries.

Cock­ing­ton Green is set on just over 2ha and the dis­plays are all at per­fect pram and wheel­chair height. Chil­dren ex­cit­edly rush from one dis­play to the next and there is so much de­tail to be ap­pre­ci­ated in the small build­ings that set a scene of vil­lage life, with quirky touches in­clud­ing a dog run­ning off with sausages from the butcher shop, Stig from Top Gear hid­ing, and some­one per­form­ing CPR in the street! The kids al­ways love the in­ter­ac­tive dis­plays where they can guide the trains or make the wind­mills move. An ab­so­lute must is a ride on the steam train - not only is it fun but it gives a great view of the dis­plays – fol­lowed by a stop at the café, be­cause the home-made scones are divine.


We saved our favourite at­trac­tion for our last day. Ques­ta­con’s aim is to make sci­ence fun for all and judg­ing by the an­tic­i­pa­tion around our visit, they suc­ceeded. Ques­ta­con en­cour­ages hands-on ex­per­i­ments and play and it’s won­der­ful to see the in­ter­ac­tion

be­tween par­ents and kids as they ex­plore the sci­ence be­hind the dis­plays. We caught the lift to the top and worked our way down, stop­ping at each level.

The earth­quake ex­hibit has had a makeover since our last visit. We were asked to use blocks to cre­ate a build­ing that we thought could with­stand an earth­quake, and our ef­forts were then put to the test with a sim­u­lated earth­quake! As many of them came crash­ing down, we were given the op­por­tu­nity to learn from our build­ing’s weak­nesses and try again.

Mini Q is an area of Ques­ta­con de­signed for chil­dren 0-6 years where lit­tle ones are en­cour­aged to ex­plore and use their imag­i­na­tions in the dif­fer­ent spa­ces – from the wa­ter play area (my per­sonal favourite) to role play­ing fun in en­gag­ing ac­tiv­i­ties across var­i­ous set­tings in­clud­ing a bak­ery and a vet surgery. Mini Q is very pop­u­lar and at peak times vis­i­tor num­bers are lim­ited. Get there at open­ing to en­sure you don’t miss out.

The Aus­tralian War Memo­rial

Al­though we didn’t have time to look in­side the War Memo­rial we vis­ited at clos­ing time for a spe­cial cer­e­mony. Each day at 4.55pm the Last Post Cer­e­mony starts with the singing of the Aus­tralian Na­tional An­them, a lay­ing of wreaths and the story of one of the 102,000 Aus­tralians who have given their lives in war. It is mov­ing and a won­der­ful way of con­nect­ing chil­dren to the sac­ri­fices made by our ser­vice men and women.


Novo­tel Can­berra was the per­fect base for our week­end ad­ven­ture. All ar­eas of the ho­tel are wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble and staff went out of their way to en­sure we were com­fort­able.

All the at­trac­tions in the 3in­fun pass are also wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble and suitable for fam­i­lies trav­el­ling with a pram.

Can­berra is home to a pop­u­lar in­clu­sive and ac­ces­si­ble play­ground, aptly named Bound­less. With ramp ac­cess to the main play equip­ment, sand dig­gers that can be used by wheel­chair users, and an ac­ces­si­ble boat, the play­ground’s in­clu­sive el­e­ments mean that no one misses out.

Can­berra is truly a won­der­ful fam­ily-friendly and ac­ces­si­ble des­ti­na­tion but be warned, there is so much to do you’ll wish you had stayed longer –

TIP: The Old Bus De­pot mar­kets are on 10-4pm ev­ery Sun­day. The mar­ket is a mix of hand made items, gourmet foods and live en­ter­tain­ment. The bagels are the best!

Boat at Bound­less play­ground From far left: Kids at Cock­ing­ton Green Gar­dens Play­ing wheel­chair bas­ket­ball at Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport Fam­ily fun at Ques­ta­con

© Shutterstock have­wheelchair­will­

Above: A statue of Simp­son and his don­key field am­bu­lance in Can­berra in Aus­tralia Julie Jones is the creator of Have

Wheel­chair Will Travel, where she com­bines her skills as an ex­travel con­sul­tant with her life and ex­pe­ri­ences as a mother to her daugh­ter AJ and son BJ, who has cere­bral palsy.

Mak­ing juice at Novo­tel Can­berra

Novo­tel Can­berra

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