East coast's cooler for school holidays
Photo: Andrew Quilty
From getting your hands on the biggest train set you could find to surfing in Byron Bay or canoeing with cows, the east coast offers plenty for families this summer.
Try any one of these ready-made escapades for a day to make your summer:
WORKSHOPS RAIL MUSEUM, IPSWICH, Queensland:
When a six-year-old announces a desire to drive a diesel train around Queensland over the summer holidays a parent can either look on with disbelief or horror.
Until, that is, you discover the 1700 class simulator diesel train at the Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich.
The "drive a train" exhibit is one of the many activities that fuse interaction and enjoyment to make the museum a great holiday day out.
Hands-on experience is a high priority at the Workshops and the play station (no, not a computer console) encourages all manner of interactivity from role-play in the child-size train station to track building and go-kart fun.
When the kids have exhausted all avenues of station management and kart crashing, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the longest continually-operating rail workshop in Australia.
The sparks and heat jump right out at you here as if you have entered the dragon's lair while reality is kept in check by the many expert trades as people share their skills while maintaining the QR train fleet.
Time it right and you can also catch the annual Friends of Thomas display, based on the popular children's character. This year the display runs from December 26 to January 28 and includes the cast of characters, puppet theatre and train block toys.
It caused audible excitement from our group, with Julian exclaiming, "Oh look it's Thomas". Julian is 48.
Workshops Rail Museum director Andrew Moritz said: "The Friends of Thomas event has gathered a following over the years due to its reputation as a fantastic family day of entertainment, combined with information about the role of the various Queensland locomotives."
It's going to be a great show and tell when a certain six year old gets back to school.
Entry for the Workshops Rail Museum is $17.50/$10/free/$50 adult/child/under three/family including two adults and four children. Details: visit: http://www.theworkshops.qm.qld.gov.au
CANOE ADVENTURES, Bellingen, NSW
There is simply nothing quite like messing around in boats, especially when it is in a location as scenic as the Bellinger River, high on the Dorrigo Plateau.
Sign up with Bellingen Canoe Adventures and take a guided tour through calm waters with children of all ages, or head for the rapids to notch it up a gear.
On our guided tour the children loved the spectacle of cows swimming home on their daily river crossing pilgrimage. They kept their eyes open as they might even spot a dolphin!
Daniel Freuden, the brains behind this fantastic family fun day out, is himself a former piano teacher as well as keen environmental watchdog.
He keeps a close eye on water levels as parts of the river are now becoming shallow.
"Sometimes you can scrape your paddle on the bottom with a wayward stroke due to the silting up," said David. "The river was at least 10 metres deep when I started."
But the water situation is not affecting the tours, and the tranquil and cool waters make swimming as pleasant as the journey.
And the whole experience is topped off by a delicious afternoon tea. Make sure you are quick for this part, as four-year-olds can devour a surprisingly large amount of food after an afternoon of paddling.
Prices for a half-day guided tour on flat-water are $44/$22 adult/child; rapids ride $55/$27.50 adult/child.
Details: visit http://www.canoeadventures.com.au.
SURF SCHOOL, BYRON BAY, NSW
Mum had already developed a crush on the surf instructor before any of us had managed to stand up on a board, but that was all part of our day at Byron Bay Surf School.
A great location to teach kids and grown ups the basics of wave riding, Byron offers a stylish backdrop for would-be Kelly Slaters.
Connor, our tantalising (to mum at least) trainer spent time showing us all some skills on the beach. Pop ups on the sand can make you fell a bit silly but all the practise comes in handy when you hit the water.
It is also a great way to build up an appetite for some of Byron's restaurants: two hours of walking through thrashing waves only to spectacularly nose-dive can really burn up the calories.
But nothing can beat the sheer exhilaration of standing for the first time, riding for at least 10 seconds and then spectacularly nose-diving.
This all added much to the enjoyment of Mum who had volunteered to take the pictures, I can't think why.
A one-day coaching course with Byron Bay Surf School costs $65. Details: Visit: http://www.byronbaysurfschool.com.
GOLD COAST THEME PARKS
It's always a good day out if you get to witness Dad turning green while trying to keep down the three hot dogs he ate shortly before jumping on board the Superman Escape rollercoaster.
And that's exactly what's on offer if you make a trip down to Warner Bros Movie World on the Gold Coast.
Willing victims are hurtled from 0-100 km in two seconds in this thrilling ride which will leave you gasping at the giant G-force turns.
Slightly tamer activities will keep the little ones enthralled at Sea World's newest attraction; Sesame Street Beach. This sandy version of Sesame Street includes newly themed rides such as Bert and Ernie's Big Dive; Oscar's Sweep the Beach; Elmo's Sea Safari and the Big Bird Bouncer.
Chief Executive Officer for Warner Village Theme Parks, Mr John Menzies said that Sesame Street was chosen because it complemented Sea World's aim to educate through entertainment.
"Sea World is the number one theme park for Australian pre-school aged children, so it was important for us to choose a brand that would fit with our philosophies but would also appeal to that age group."
There are many different passes to choose from to gain all access to the various parks. Details: visit: http://myfun.com.au.
A Fun Pass gives you one single day entry to each park - Warner Bros Movie World, Sea World and Wet'n'Wild Water World over five days adult/child/pensioner $142/$89/$89.