It’s been a hot minute since our little family switched off and headed away to explore somewhere new. And let’s face it, the thought of going anywhere far (or on a plane) just wasn’t on the cards right now. There was far too much going on at home for us – but that was also the reason why we needed to get away.
So, when I Googled the distance from Sydney to Canberra and realised it was only an hour more than our usual commute to my mums, we were on. I had heard so many great things about Questacon and the National Zoo, so the kids were pretty happy at the idea.
Meanwhile, my husband would just be happy to bunker down in a comfy hotel room, eating room service and just spending time together by switching off from the craziness of life back home.
Thankfully our recent trip let us do it all.
The trip to Canberra
Canberra is only 3.5 hrs south from where we live in Sydney and we soon discovered it was one of the most straightforward routes on the freeway. We left early in the afternoon on Friday and made it there in time for dinner. Next time we will definitely leave much earlier and aim to arrive for lunch so that we could spend more time exploring – there is just so much to do!
Our hit list based on recommendations from our friends at the Park Hyatt was as follows:
Things to do with little people in Canberra:
- The National Zoo & Aquarium @nationalzoo
- Questacon @questacon
- Pod Playground @ The National Arboretum @nationalarboretumcanberra
- Dinosaur Museum @nat_dino
- Cockington Green @cockingtongreen
- Yarralumla Play Station @yarralumlaplaystation
The hotel – Hyatt Hotel Canberra
Before kids we had some pretty epic holidays and loved staying in fancy hotels. But of course post-kids, we will happily stay wherever there is enough space for the kids to run around – while not annoying the other occupants. I’ve started to understand why people make the switch to caravan parks!
At first the thought of staying at a 5 star hotel with my wild bunch was a little nerve racking, but a good friend of mine reassured me that kids are in fact very welcome at the hotel and they love the buzz that comes with families. I trusted her word, especially when she said they had gorgeous green areas where the kids could run around and a suite which allowed us to have plenty of space when chilling back in the room!
The kids were so excited when we arrived and of course decided to do laps of the foyer. I was a little embarrassed at first but soon realised that everyone was super lovely there. No judgement – phew!
The selling point for me was getting to the room and being met with most impressive looking suite. Not only did it have two bedrooms, it had a separate lounge area where we could chill when the kids were asleep, or they could hang in the morning and watch tv, while we had a lie-in.
It can be hard finding the right space and sleeping arrangements, especially for a family of 5. But the set up allowed us to lock the main door so the kids could easily go between the three rooms. It was like luxury apartment living which the kids were pretty happy about! Just check out our video review (below) to see them jumping for joy on the bed – that’s core memory making right there!
Dinner with kids
We are going to sound a little boring here but stick with me. We failed to book anything in advance which ended up being a positive thing. The kids enjoyed the lounge bar so much on our first night that they requested their spaghetti bolognaise the next night too (demolished, mind you) and then managed to find room for the most amazing and fun kid’s dessert.
I’m so glad we opted to do this because we were all snuggled in as a family around the table on a lounge and the kids got to colour-in while we had a vino (or two). It was then only a short stroll back to the room which meant time for more cuddles – which was just what the doctor ordered.
Who doesn’t love a good breakfast buffet? The first thing we noticed was how convenient the timings were for breakfast. While some families have kids chomping at the bit to get out the door in the morning, we love to chill and hang in the room. So by the time we all managed to get out of our pjs and down to breakfast, there was still plenty of time to eat, which is unlike other places we’ve stayed where it’s a mad scramble to get down there in time.
Travelling with kids mid-season didn’t deter them from wanting to swim at the hotel, especially when they heard that there was an indoor heated pool. Winner! With only a short stroll across the grounds the kids were able to burn off some energy while having fun in the pool. Our eldest was keen to do some laps and show off her swimming-skills.
We didn’t have time for a swim ourselves while wrangling the kids but we would definitely go back and tag-team so that we could use the sauna and the spa too.
There is also a gym right beside the pool for those who like to keep their routine up while away.
The grounds are really pretty and were the perfect place to retreat to whenever needed. You can enjoy a drink and chat while the kids run around and burn off some steam. My kids are little leaf collectors and were so excited to see all of the beautiful autumn leaves lying on the ground. It was extremely scenic and relaxing (well as much as it can be with our wildings), so definitely a selling point for us!
The main attractions while venturing out
In an ideal world, we would have added on another day as there were just so many things we wanted to do, but we ended up spending a lot of time enjoying the hotel.
The top two on our list were Questacon and The National Zoo and we could have easily spent 4-5 hours at each one.
The National Zoo
The beauty of The National Zoo was just how easy it was to navigate. The kids really enjoyed being able to track a map with numbers to tick off all of their favourite animals. It felt like a really ‘up close and personal’ experience with the animals at a perfect distance – which made easy viewing for little people.
There were plenty of places to stop and eat, go to the toilet or just rest and we left feeling like we had a really fun day out. The cream on the top was an up close and personal encounter with a llama which the kids got to ‘feed.
We saved Questacon for the final day and kinda wished we had a few more hours up our sleeve. There were just so many things to see and do. They kids were absolutely mesmerised from the moment we went in – it’s no wonder this comes as one of the most recommended things to do with kids when in Canberra.
I really enjoyed the experience as a parent too because the staff were extremely good at what they did and really encouraged the kids to engage and ask questions. My kids sat through an entire show on colour and my daughter even stayed back to enthusiastically ask questions. Overall, we had such a fun experience and can see why it’s so popular! Our kids will jump at the chance to go back there again.
As we were driving back up the freeway heading home, we were reflecting on an earlier conversation we had with a guest at the hotel. She was walking past and smiling at us before coming over to comment how her (now) 25 year old daughter was back in the room and had requested to stay at the hotel because they had frequented there as a family when they were young. She said they had created so many memories there as a family and hoped we could do the same. I think it’s safe to say: mission accomplished.
Thanks Park Hyatt for getting the Samtani’s on the freeway to visit your hotel – we will definitely be coming back to make more memories as a family.