When you think of life in the country you probably think of cows and sheep, mud and hay, lakes and wildflowers. But do you think of ball pits and merry-go-rounds, dodgem cars and enormous bouncy castles?
You will now - because when they designed Country Life Farm in Dunsborough, they must have got a bunch of kids together and asked 'what would make the BEST. DAY. EVER?' and then they made it.
When your kids see what is available inside, there's no turning back
There is one big negative which I will get out of the way early: the price of admission. I understand that people need to make a living, and that they must struggle to draw people in during the cold winter months, but I feel $16 for an adult and $14 for a child over two is a bit steep. Maybe not for the kids, because this place is geared for the littlies and there is more than enough to keep them happy for at least half a day. But considering adults are basically there to keep their kids happy and aren't allowed on most of the rides, I think it is too expensive.
The prices are pretty expensive but there IS a lot to do
Okay, so you cough up your cash – what do you get for your money? The answer is – a lot, and if you come prepared you will get value for money.
Feed the Animals Kids receive a bucket of carrot sticks to feed the animals, and we're talking bunnies and guinea pigs, birds, kangaroos, sheep, goats, guinea pigs, donkeys, alpacas, cows, Shetland ponies and even more guinea pigs. Did I mention the guinea pigs? Apparently they breed like rabbits. It's a pity the rabbits don't breed like rabbits.
If you are lucky you will be able to feed one of these little guys...
The bunnies and guinea pigs are located in a medium sized open shed at the back of the property. The shed is also home to an assortment of fancy chickens and Australian native birds such as parrots and lorikeets which are able to fly freely. The four legged animals are enclosed but there are enough gaps in the fence to allow the braver ones to venture out into the path of enthusiastic kids bearing buckets of carrots.
Beautiful Australian native birds and LOTS of guinea pigs
You are allowed to hold the animals (not the pregnant ones)… if you can catch them. That's the catch. The guinea pigs are too fast, the rabbits too timid and the chickens a bit too scary. We were lucky enough that when we arrived, a little bunny had already been captured and was being cuddled. We were handed custody of the little guy, and then we passed him to the next family who came along.
There is also a huge paddock of sheep, goats and alpacas and another of ponies and enormous cows. Remind your kids not to 'spend' all their carrots on the bunnies because there are some hungry sheet and goats who just love to be fed and certainly deserve some attention.
Row Row Row Your Boat
In the middle of Country Life Farm is a beautiful lake with a wooden bridge and island, ringed by flowers, and home to geese and ducks. It's a pretty as a picture and you can grab a row boat and do a few laps, and having your kids as a captive audience you can use the opportunity to bend their ear about life in the old days, or why it's important we don't pick our noses in public. There are plenty of life vests for kids and adults, and you may as well take advantage of this, because it's one of the few activities adults can actually participate in.
Jump It Out Two of the largest bouncy castles and inflatable slides I have ever seen take pride of place on the Farm. The rather gruesome looking skull slide is as tall as a house and kids come down with 'that' look on their faces: the combination of terror and thrill that is unique to children. The bouncy castle is more suited for the younger kids who shouldn't venture onto the skull, although it is big enough for any size kid. Unfortunately, adults are not allowed on the bouncy castles, which is a real pity, because they look totally awesome.
This isn't photoshopped... the bouncy castle is enormous
Bump It Out For an extra $3.50 per person, you can get some of your excess energy (if you have any left) out on some dodgem cars. Adults are allowed to ride these, and they have room on the front for a younger child if you feel like sharing.
All around the edge of the lake are little kid play equipment, cubby houses and forts, basketball hoops and other plastic fantastic places for the littlies. But once they catch sight of this, they won't be interested in a plastic cubby.
The indoor playground must be seen to be believed. Located in an enormous shed, it has three sections to cater for different age groups. A large, enclosed area is full of baby toys for the 0-18 month crowd. Kids under four years have a separate section with ball pits, slides, tubes, steering wheels and things to climb and jump on. Older kids have an even bigger version of this, with some of the towers stretching easily six or more metres high. With plenty of cushioned mats and soft walls it's pretty safe (parent supervision essential) and very cool.
Big word of advice – bring socks, lots of socks for everyone [adults and kids]. You cannot enter the indoor playground unless your feet are socked and bare feet just won't cut it. If you forget them, you are able to purchase new (and quite nice) socks for $2 a pair.
Merry Go Round
Every hour the old carousel cranks into life. It's a bit of a sight to be honest, as there is no music, and the kids seemed a bit unsure of themselves. It's up to you to remember to get there before the hour, and there is no loud music to warn you, although the owners do try and let you know when it's time.
If it's a wet day, or you have littlies you want to keep indoors, there is another large shed with plenty of tables and chairs for mum and dad while the little ones can play at the train tables, cars and a rocking horse.
The games shed has free tea and coffee, a place to hide from the sun and rain and games for the littlies
What About Me? It Isn't Fair
County Life Farm does try to keep parents happy, and provides free tea and coffee in both the games shed and the indoor play room. It's just instant coffee but they offer at least three varieties including Moccona Gold, plus milk in the fridge. There are also BBQs and plenty of tables and chairs around the grounds, perfect for picnicking. The only food available for sale are lollies and ice-creams, so I recommend you bring along a full picnic lunch, and that way you can stay all day.
My top recommendations:
- Decide whether you want to spend the money before you arrive. It's hard to turn kids away once they've laid eyes on the place, and the large colourful sign by the front gate spills all the secrets so there's no chance of changing your mind without incurring a tantrum or two. But our party of two parents, two grandparents, two kids and a baby cost almost $100 making it a rather pricey morning.
- Bring socks for the indoor play area.
- Bring some hand sanitiser or baby wipes for after feeding the animals. Also helpful after you have fed the bunnies and sheep.
- Bring lunch and make a day of it. It will end up being good value for money.