Fun ways to spend a weekend in Ipswich with kids

Freelance writer and photographer Jessica Palmer recently spent some time in Ipswich for our sister site Discover Ipswich to uncover great ways to spend a weekend in Ipswich with kids.

Here are her tips.

Visit Ipswich Nature Centre

The Ipswich Nature Centre is perfect for families. Located in Queens Park, admission is free however a gold coin donation is appreciated.

Although you can wander around the nature centre yourself, consider booking in for the VIP guided tour where you will learn the names of the local residents and a tonne of interesting information about them.

You will meet Milly the wombat, Dexter the cow (who adores a brush but is afraid of the vet), Luna the spotted tail quoll, Rocky the rock wallaby, and Hemu the emu.

Hemu is Ipswich Nature Centre’s longest living resident and is very social. He got quite depressed when COVID-19 restrictions meant he had no visitors for a while and is very pleased to be able to talk to people again.

My kids particularly enjoyed the nocturnal bilby exhibit, a dark, man-made walk through cave which allows you to watch them up close. There is also a walk-through aviary, a barnyard, and a variety of Australian wildlife.

The centre is open between 9.30am to 4pm Tuesday to Sunday and daily during school holidays.

The fun at Queens Park does not end with the Ipswich Nature Centre. Kids can let loose on the large playground with a flying fox, large slides, climbing frames and the usual assortment of swings and other things.

The playground is located near the Queens Park Cafe which is chock full of both healthy options, treats and coffee.

Don’t miss the Nerima Japanese Gardens which are both beautiful and strangely calming. Designed in consultation with Ipswich’s Japanese sister city, Nerima, stroll through the picture perfect setting and over the ornamental lake on the boardwalks.

Solve the escape room clues

What is an escape room you ask?

Well if much like I was, you are a bit clueless, an escape room is a puzzle, adventure game where you enter a themed room and as a team, solve puzzles and clues to eventually escape the room before the timer runs out.

We opted for the family friendly Santa’s Cottage themed room. Weeks later, both kids still declare the Seraphim Escape Rooms as their favourite thing to do in Ipswich.

I think the excitement of the challenge and sense of achievement really stuck in their memories, or the fact that a small handful of lollies shot out of the faux fireplace when we solved the final puzzle.

Seraphim Escape Rooms has a few different room themes but the family friendly room is ideal for younger kids. Each room is unique, but they are all incredibly fun.

There is a hint buzzer if you need it (we used it a couple of times) and it’s a great opportunity for the kids to work together. We finished with only nine minutes to spare. Can you do better?

Bookings are essential.

Trains, trains and more trains

The Workshop Rail Museum is suitable for parents and kids of all ages.

Whether you’re a train fan or not, you will appreciate this state of the art museum that features plenty of interactive exhibits to keep everyone entertained.

Me? I just loved looking at the historic steam engines. They capture the romance of the vintage era of rail travel and It brought back memories of a family trip to ride the Puffing Billy Train in Melbourne as a young girl.

The kids? They were engrossed in the science centre activities, loved driving the train in the simulator and I couldn’t get them away from the How Cities Work exhibition where they donned a hard hat and set to work building a city with pool noodles.

Due to COVID-19, bookings are essential and visits are timed for two hours to allow lower visitor numbers and cleaning between sessions. I don’t know about you, but this was a huge plus for me!

Tip – Thomas the Tank Engine visits at least once a year, subscribe to the Workshop Rail Museum mailing list so you don’t miss out.

Koala safari tour

Take a 40 minute drive out to Grandchester for lunch at Spicers Hidden Vale, a luxurious country retreat with sweeping mountain views.

Afterwards, assist researchers with tracking koalas on the Koala Safari Tour.

The Homage Restaurant at Spicers Hidden Vale is registered as a COVID safe establishment. Set on 12,000 acres and offering a unique “paddock to plate” menu, the restaurant has a market garden, orchard, mango trees and beehives to harvest from. Ingredients are grown onsite or sourced from local producers.

After lunch, walk (or drive) down to the Hidden Vale Wildlife Centre, a partnership between the University of Queensland and The Turner Family Foundation, where your Koala Safari Tour will begin with a tour of the centre. 

This centre is most definitely not a zoo, but a facility dedicated to research and teaching. The animals here are part of a regulated conservation program designed to support and restore native wildlife. 

You will learn about the current animals in residence and see university students and researchers moving about in their labs. We all thought this was really cool.

Koalas are under threat in south east Queensland and Spicers Hidden Vale’s large property has a thriving population.

Dr Andrew Tribe is currently conducting a koala research program and you can contribute. Experiencing the Koala Safari will no doubt be a highlight of your weekend.

Jumping in the back of a troop carrier, you will be driven out to the first koala hotspot to help researchers locate and check the welfare of the koala community via a large, blue, hand-held antenna. You will learn tonnes of interesting facts about koalas and what the program is trying to achieve. 

This is a genuinely unique eco experience and is not to be missed.

Numbers are limited and bookings are essential.

Meet adorable farm animals

Take a 20 minute drive out to Haigslea to get up close and personal with adorable farm animals at Ewe-Nique Hobby Farm.

Dave and Penny welcome families to their wonderful hobby farm where you can feed and pet adorable sheep, lambs, goats, alpacas, chickens and geese. 

This experience is particularly suited for younger kids.

Families can grab snacks for themselves and a mini-bucket of feed for the animals on the way in. After a quick briefing by Farmer Dave, you will then be let into the feeding area to interact with the farm animals.

Bookings are essential to ensure numbers are limited so that every visitor can have a great time.

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