Well here we are. Only one week until the kids will be back at school. How have the holidays been for you? Are you revelling in the time with the kids, each day more fun than the last? Or perhaps you started strongly, but your enthusiasm is waning. Hopefully it hasn’t been a hard slog from go to whoa.
Christmas was in Melbourne for us. All our family is there, so it’s a good opportunity to catch up with everyone. There was a lot of swimming, Lego building, playgrounds, movies and hanging out with family and friends, but it’s the new things that we tried and loved that I wanted to share with you. Perhaps you might fancy rounding out your school hols with one of these ideas –
The Smurfs High Tea
I love a high tea, but this one is completely kid-focussed and they do it really well. The kids’ food is all marshmallow mushroom houses and blue smurf cupcakes, while the grown ups get lovely indulgent cakes and tarts of their own.
Possibly Mum and I enjoyed this more than the kids did, but between the toys, activity books, cute food and drinks (and extra colouring books and stickers that we took), they weren’t bored for a minute.
The Smurfs High Tea is at The Langham in Southbank, Melbourne on weekdays during school holidays until Jan 30.
In Sydney, the Sir Stamford in the city does a very affordable Kids’ High Tea during school holidays (until Jan 27).
Being just outside Melbourne, we had never got around to taking the kids to this recreation of an 1850s gold-mining town, but this year we finally made it. And it was totally worth it! So much better than I remembered it being as a kid. It was one of those rare experiences where we all genuinely had a fantastic time. And the bonus is that you can go back the next day for free, so we took full advantage of that to do the things that we ran out of time for on the first day.Over the school holidays there’s extra activities on like a pirate pantomime, a giant-size puppet show, candle making and gingerbread decorating, which added to an already full day of panning for gold, taking a horse and coach ride, watching the Redcoat Soldiers firing their rifles, taking a gold mine tour, ogling the contents of the lolly shop and learning to write with a pen and ink at the school. We didn’t see everything, but by goodness we tried! If you would like to stay overnight, I highly recommend the Big 4 Ballarat Goldfields caravan park. The cabin accommodation is basic, but, as awesome as Sovereign Hill is, the kids will still tell you that their favourite part of the trip was the jumping pillow and pedal cars at the caravan park. Plus it’s only a short walk to Sovereign Hill.
If you’re thinking of getting out of Melbourne or Sydney for the long weekend, then these spots are well worth a few hours’ drive.
It’s gold-mining and Ned Kelly that put this beautiful town on the map, but these days it’s a sophisticated gourmet mecca, with the delicious Beechworth Honey and the Ned Kelly pies and Beesting buns at the Beechworth Bakery just the tip of the culinary iceberg.We didn’t have nearly enough time to explore, but the Sweet Shop is the best I’ve seen with an enormous range of treats.
I couldn’t resist a magnificent kantha quilt at The Sophisticated Peasant (64 Ford Street). And the book shop (73 Ford Street)! Not massive, but beautifully edited. One of those where every book you pick up looks wonderful.
We even managed to squeeze in some history with a wander around the original Courthouse, where Ned Kelly stood trial for murder. The kids hadn’t heard of him before, but were fascinated. We found a brilliant children’s book about him in the book shop too.
We found the Armour Motor Inn extremely conveniently located with a fabulous pool. Perfect for cooling off after a long drive. There’s so much more to see though – Woolshed Falls, Milawa Gourmet Trail, Brown Brothers Winery … Next time…
Even though Christmas has been and gone, the Hunter Valley Gardens are still well worth a visit. Both during the day for the Storybook Gardens, as well as for the Christmas Spectacular lights, food and entertainment on offer after dark (until Jan 26).
Peterson’s Champagne House is our favourite spot for breakfast. And when you get served up pancakes that look like this, why wouldn’t it be?While we only bought one lonely bottle of wine during our stay, the magnificent scenery and food in the Hunter Valley is enough to keep us coming back.
While there’s plenty of fancier accommodation around, for an overnight stay like we had with only about 2 waking hours in the room, the Cessnock Motel is friendly, clean and comfortable. And close to Peterson’s Champagne House!
But while these are the special times that are bright in my memory, if you asked my kids they would probably tell you that their favourite thing was the plaster painting at the local shopping centre that we did last weekend. It may not have had the glamour of the high tea, but it was easy, great value and the kids loved every minute. And that’s a great combination.
Where did you spend Christmas? Did you head “home” too?
Is there something that your family has done these hols that you would recommend?