School holidays loom and we wonder, what can we do to entertain the children? I am a single mum, so I like to do activities that are within my budget. Free activities are even better! My review is aimed at parents with children from toddler age to middle primary school age - 8 to 10 year olds. Older children may find some of these activities are not entertaining enough for them. Just drop them at the skate park and pick them up later ( I am joking, please don't leave your minors alone and unattended anywhere.).
Doing a shop, then packing a picnic lunch of meat and salad for a barbecue is a great way to save money. You don't have to go and buy meals out, paying a fortune for cold drinks, and spending outside your budget. I cringe when I buy a cold bottle of water and get charged $3.50 for a chilled bottle of water. Multiply that by 5 or 6 people if you have a family of four children and two adults, and it soon adds up.
Some time saving tips / some money saving tips:
Shop the night before your outing. Freeze a few bottles of water the night before. Chill some small bottles of water and cordial. Pack the esky with your food, in individual containers, or wrapped in glad wrap or sandwich bags. Place cold drinks in and around the food to keep the food cool. Pack the sunscreen, insect repellent, first aid kit, and hats for the children and yourself.
If you're going to the beach pack buckets, shovels, cricket bat, stumps, cricket ball or tennis ball, and towels. Picnic blankets are useful too.
If you live in Geelong, or even if you're heading down to Geelong from Melbourne or elsewhere, welcome! Geelong is a picturesque city with a lot to offer.
There are pristine views of the Corio Bay from anywhere along the Geelong Waterfront. Try walks along the waterfront, around the Eastern Park, through the Brisbane Ranges, in the You Yangs, walks along the Barwon River, and many more walking tracks throughout our lovely City.
Keep watching for more articles about things to see and do in Geelong. My upcoming articles will feature the walking tracks, the parks and the bush, the waterfalls, the wineries, the beaches, and so much more to share with you.
If you are driving from Melbourne, before you get to Geelong Waterfront you will drive past Rippleside Park. The park is visible from Melbourne Road. There is a left turn off for Rippleside Park at Bell Parade.
This huge timber playground was built by members of the community. It has swings, slides, cubby spaces, sand pits, balance beams and climbing equipment.
There are lots of parking spaces, a toilet block (very important for mums and small children), a barbecue ( I can't remember if there are one or two barbecues) pergolas, tables and chairs, plenty of lawn for picnic blankets, games of cricket or footy, and a small beach to swim or paddle in.
The Beautiful Waterfront, Geelong
For me, the Waterfront starts at St Helen's beach or at Rippleside Beach. It's like a circular train ride really. You can get off or on where ever you like, start and end your journey where ever you like.
My mate and I walked along the Waterfront, taking a leisurely stroll, and it took us three hours or more to walk from the Esplanade, Western Beach to Eastern Park and back. You can do the walk in a shorter time if you're not strolling and chatting like we were.
If you have a tribe of children, or little ones with you, you may like to park closer to amenities and just do a small walk. There is parking along Western Beach Road and also down near Cunningham Pier. Park the car, have a stroll, find one of the many playgrounds, let the children play and then go back to your car and find a nice spot for a picnic or barbecue.
From Western Beach to Eastern Beach there are numerous tables and chairs, barbecues, playgrounds and toilets. If the children are really keen you may be able to walk all the way along the Eastern Beach part of the path and have a dip in the pool.
The Waterfront trail takes you past playgrounds, a skate park, The Carousel (not free), The Wharf Shed restaurant, Cunningham Pier, and all the while the historical bollards will keep you company.
There is usually a craft market held at Steampacket Gardens or Transvaal Square, during the summertime weekends. Markets are generally held on Sundays.
The walk and the bollards and the waterfront view are all free, as are the playgrounds and the barbecues.
The Geelong Bollards Trail has been covered by a few other writers so I will give it a small sub heading here. The bollards are big wooden poles, originally bollards out in Corio Bay, which were painted by a Geelong artist.
There are 104 bollards along the Bollard Trail which starts near St Helens and goes all the way to Eastern Park. The bollards all represent historical facts and events in and around Geelong and almost every bollard has a rabbit painted on it. You can pick up a guide to the bollard walk from the tourist information centre in Moorabool Street, and there is a Tourist Information van on the Waterfront, just near The Carousel, which may also have a copy of the Bollard Trail walk for you.
In Brougham Street, Geelong, you can browse through the Brougham Street Market. This old warehouse is packed full of stalls displaying home wares, furniture, retro and vintage clothing, home wares, toys, dolls, books and more.
It might not be too entertaining for the children, and their interest may quickly wane, but you could spend at least an hour there with the children. There really is a lot to see. The hardest part for the children is not touching. I used to tell my children "look with your eyes not your fingers".
If you want to relax and browse the stalls in the Brougham Street Market, wear the little ones out at Eastern Beach or at one of the playgrounds first, then they may be quiet while you get some time to browse - or they may be super grumpy and tired so you won't be able to browse, and you'll have to pack them in the car and take them home.
20-26 Brougham Street (03) 5221 2490
Eastern Beach has become integrated into the spectacular Geelong Waterfront. However Eastern Beach has always been its own entity. From a young age, my parents would take us to Eastern Beach and we'd spend a day there, swimming, eating and enjoying a family day out.
There are grassy areas for picnics or barbecues. Geelong City Council provides free gas barbecues - no need to go looking for coins to run your barbecue. The grassy areas are well maintained and there is plenty of room to spread out, relax and make a day of it.
If you come to Eastern Beach during the school holidays or weekends you will see lots of families enjoying the beach or the lawns, having a picnic, throwing balls around, playing footy, or having a game of cricket.
At Eastern Beach there is a pool for toddlers, fenced for safety. Adults do need to supervise their toddlers at all times. There are plenty of seats around the toddlers pool or you can go sit in the water with them.
There is a promenade around the main pool. This pool has a shark proof fence around the outside of it. The water is quite deep out near the arc of the promenade. There are diving boards, floating boards that are popular with the teenagers - for sitting on or sunbaking on. There is a big building in the middle of this pool that used to have slides built on it, so you could slide down into the pool. I'm not sure if the slides are there anymore.
The big pool also has a lap swimming area, barrels that you can roll off, into the water, and lots of space for swimming.
There is a large toilet block with showers, and an outside shower if you just want to wash off the sand and salt water. There is also a playground with slides and swings and other fun playgroundy things.
The Geelong Botanical Gardens are lovely at any time of the year. In October there were lots of rhododendrons in flower, as well as azaleas, camelias, pelargioniums and geraniums. I'm not sure what will be out in December.
Head to the Eastern Park. There is free parking. And plentiful parking areas. Take the children for a walk around the Botanical Gardens then head to the playground close to the gardens. Let the children have a play in the playground.
Then enjoy a picnic or barbecue in the park. There are plenty of tables and chairs, rotundas, covered areas, barbecues. And there is a toilet block close to the play ground. The Playground is called Geelong Playspace, and it's just off the Eastern Park Circuit, Geelong, near the Botanic Gardens.
Briefly, Johnstone Park is a small oasis in the middle of Geelong, If you come by train, the first scenic view as you walk out of Geelong Railway Station is the bowl of Johnstone Park.
Originally a boggy hole filled with muddy water, the park has been renovated and made into a lovely space for many different activities that are held here throughout the year.
NIghtjar Market is held at Johnstone Park. Carols by Candlelight are held here on Christmas Eve. Other markets and events are held here at other times.
If you just want to sit quietly, have a bite to eat or a drink with the children, or let them off the leash and run around for a bit, then you will appreciate Johnstone Park for a place to rest, for mum to recharge her batteries, and for the children to burn off some energy, especially if they just sat on a train for an hour, coming from Melbourne.
During the daytime there is not much to do at Johnstone Park. It is close to Central Geelong, there are toilets, the entrance to the art gallery is just around the corner at Little Malop Street, and the children are quite safe in the park with you watching over them while you sit and relax.
Does that count as one of my ten free activities? I think it does!
Geelong Art Gallery
The Geelong Art Gallery is housed within Johnstone Parks precinct. Access to the Art Gallery is from Little Malop Street. The Geelong Art Gallery houses a collection of Australian and International art and usually an interesting touring collection as well.
The Geelong Art Gallery is a nice way to spend a morning or afternoon with the children. It could be a bit boring if they aren't old enough to appreciate it, so gauge your stay on the attention span of the children.
You could always spend a few hours in the art gallery. There are many different rooms with different art on display. Usually the Geelong Art Gallery has different artists work on show, or exhibitions - their web page is available here. Entry to the art gallery is free.
Once you've been to the art gallery you could always head to Eastern Park or Eastern Beach and finish off the afternoon with a picnic, barbecue, swim or play.
Now I am a person who likes to call my children "children". I gave birth to children, not kids. Having said that, most places promoting activities for our children - call the activities "Fun for Kids" so I apologise in advance for any activities promoting baby goats.
In Geelong, during the school holidays, there are plenty of free activities held in Central Geelong.
There are lots of activities your children can join in, and they're free. At time of publishing this article, the "Summer Central Geelong Kids Fun Guide" wasn't available.
I have added a link here so you can register your details and automatically receive a copy of the Guide.
Free activities during the September school holidays included YMCA craft day, Fitness fun - gymnastics, face painting, Muffin Break cookie workshop, funky dance workshop, kites and cookies and more. The September activities had a footy theme as the footy finals were looming just after the school holidays.
There are plenty of free activities. Also for the parents (and the children) there are special offers and discounts from Central Geelong businesses.
The Central Geelong Summer Fun school holiday program begins on Saturday 27th December until Wednesday 27th January 2016. When you download your own guide you'll be able to see the activites, dates and times.
Go to the Central Geelong web site to register for the guide to what's on during the December school holidays.
Central Geelong, Westfield Shopping Centre, Market Square
The Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre is well worth a visit. It is free to enter. There is a restaurant (not free), a shop, and some beautiful walking tracks behind the restaurant (free).
There are also activities - not sure if any activities happen during the December school holidays. It might be nice to pop in on your way to the beach, to walk around this little oasis on Torquay Road, not far out of Grovedale. It is really pretty and peaceful.
At Narana Aboriginal cultural centre you can watch didgerido performances or try and play the didgeridoo yourself. There is a boomerang throwing gallery and a native garden.
As long as there are no car sick people, big or little, in the car, a drive around the Great Ocean Road is a great time filler. There are awesome views of the ocean, scenic lookouts along the way, and plenty of beaches to stop at.
The Great Ocean Road starts at Torquay and follows the coastline as far as Allansford. It is a remarkable road, built into the cliffs. It was built by early convicts. It is a safe, easy trip, as long as you take it easy on the curves.
Great Ocean Road will take you to lovely little coastal towns like Anglesea and Lorne. There are some lovely scenic spots, photographic opportunities, and if you drive far enough, you'll be able to see the Twelve Apostles (actually only seven) - an amazing rock formation.
Start the Great Ocean Road trip as you leave the outskirts of Torquay.
Well I made my 10 Free Activities List. Other things to do that are free include a visit to the library, especially on a wet day. On a nice summer day, there are a few markets in and around Geelong that you can take the children to.
Sunday Markets are held at Belmont Common and The Geelong Showgrounds every Sunday. Every Saturday there is a market held at Beckley Park, Corio. During summer there is a market on nearly every Sunday at coastal towns around Geelong.
Welcome to Geelong. May your stay be safe and happy. Please come back because we love to see you! The models in these photos are my granddaughters and my daughter.