Family Day Out In Queens Park
In a city known for an abundance of recreational facilities and playgrounds, you’d be forgiven for thinking that if you’ve seen one park, you’ve seen them all. But few can hold a candle to Ipswich’s heritage-listed Queens Park, a sprawling inner city green space that dates back to the 1800’s, making it one of the oldest and grandest in the State, and certainly a great day out for families.
With a mix of modern facilities, historic buildings and impressive gardens, it is no wonder this park has been a go-to entertainment staple for generations. As our family of four recently found out, it’s overflowing with kid-friendly things to do. The park houses a collective of facilities split into distinct areas, and you could easily spend an entire day exploring with the kids and still miss sections.
While we didn’t get a chance to venture into all the park’s facilities (sorry cute little Croquet Club!) here’s an itinerary for exploring the main spots sure to rock your kid’s socks.
I don’t know about your family, but our outings go way smoother if two conditions are met; we give the kids a chance to run off some energy, and Mum and Dad get our morning coffees. This multi-level playground offers opportunities for both – the play facilities offer a myriad of ways for kids to ‘shake the sillies out’ and it has its own café. Winning!
The playground cascades in tiers down the hillside and caters to a range of ages; a rubber-floored play area aimed at smaller children sits at the top, swings and slides in the middle, and bigger explorers are catered for with large slides and flying foxes down below. Being the monkeys that they are, our boys went straight for the flying fox and spent the bulk of their time here airborne.
There’s some shadecloth areas and the playground is framed by giant fig trees, so plenty of cover for those long summer days. There’s also a Liberty swing, and despite the playground running down a slope, the park is fairly accessible for prams too.
The playground opens onto a big expanse of lawn perfect for kicking balls or throwing frisbees, and there’s toilets, BBQ facilities and picnic benches. Highlights for parents? Grab a coffee or snacks from the aforementioned conveniently-positioned café, or bring a picnic blanket to laze in the shade while the kids play in view.
Ipswich Nature Centre
From bilby warrens to walk-through bird aviaries, wombat burrows to emu enclosures, the Nature Centre offers a chance to get up close with an array of native wildlife and farm animals all for just a gold coin donation. With pram-friendly wooden pathways winding a circuit around the animal enclosures and nocturnal houses, and the clever use of lots of big shady trees, ponds and greenery, the centre gives the impression of being as close to natural habitat as you’re likely to see many of these creatures in.
Our boys loved racing ahead to each exhibit to read signage explaining facts about the animals they were viewing – immersive learning at its best.
Overall it’s an amazing public facility; while not massive it’s equal in standard to wildlife parks you’d expect to pay big prices to enter elsewhere. If your youngsters love animals as much as ours do, set aside a couple of hours to fully explore this ‘mini zoo’.
Even if gardens usually aren’t your child’s ‘thing’, a wander through the manicured plants and trees in this Japanese-inspired garden is a must do when in Queen’s Park. It’s much bigger than it looks from outside its gated walls, and there’s lots of features that will appeal to kids; gorgeous little bridges, walkways, bamboo groves and water features to transport (and hopefully calm) little minds.
Built as part of a Sister City arrangement with Nerima in Japan, the garden has the aesthetics of a traditional Japanese garden yet uses native plants and design elements intended to reflect Ipswich’s topography.
Our boys loved every minute of exploring Nerima Gardens – from the moment they entered its big wooden gates they were off on adventures, gazing into the ponds filled with blossoming water lilies or peering through the windows of the traditional teahouse. Better still, it’s also free entry. You’ll find it just across from the Nature Centre.
American architect and landscape designer Walter Burley-Griffin sure got around. Apart from designing Canberra and a host of notable buildings, he also designed Ipswich’s unique church-like refuse incinerator built in 1936. Converted into a theatre in 1969, the heritage-listed building is now a hotbed (excuse the pun) for the arts.
Ipswich Little Theatre’s daytime children’s pantomimes and junior theatre take place in the adjacent Jean Pratt Building, while the main theatre is usually only accessible when hosting various productions.These plays are more geared for adults and show later at night. Still if the gates are open, public are welcome to wander into the theatre grounds and take a look around.
While there weren’t any children’s pantomimes happening the day we visited, we were fortunate to have long-time theatre member Robyn Flashman show our little performers inside this unique building, which was slated for demolition before the theatre group came up with a plan to completely repurpose the facility. To this day the theatre is maintained by a combination of public funding, ticket sales and community love.
The theatre can be accessed from the carpark adjacent to Nerima Gardens. If you’re curious to explore inside the main theatre too, it takes a little forward planning; ask about Heritage Tours of the theatre at the Ipswich Visitor’s Centre, or look into ‘Tourific Troupers Luncheon Packages’ for groups of twenty or more.
We chose to end our epic park day watching the sun go down at one of the city’s best vantage points. Lions Lookout’s classic gazebo structure is based on the original Band Rotunda that once stood there to host performances at the turn of the 1900’s. It’s the perfect spot to gain views over the Ipswich CBD and the nearby ranges – especially if you happen to visit at sunset or sundown as we did.
It’s at the top of a steep slope and there’s stairs on the park-side entry, so those with prams, wheelchairs or weary legs may prefer to drive to the top (via the Brisbane Road side of the park) to gain access.
It also overlooks an open field where kids can play. After a big day of park adventures you’d think our kids would have lost enthusiasm (that’s code for throwing epic meltdowns), however taking in the sunset skyline seemed to pacify them and they played well into the fading light. If you find yourself still exploring the park until dusk, a quick salute to the sun at Lions Lookout is a relaxing (and photo-worthy) way to see out a fun-filled day.