The HOT List: Best cafe and playground combinations in Melbourne

The holy grail of parenting = a great cafe combined with a great park (also a kid who sleeps through the night, isn’t a fussy eater etc etc but that’s all for another time).

Of course it’s possible to BYO snacks to a playground or BYO toys to a cafe. But the perfect cafe and playground combo means there’s something for them and something for you, right?

Here’s a list of my Top 18 cafe and playground destinations, where (a) the cafe is within sight of the playground or no further than across the road and (b) the food is worth recommending and the playground is at least passable.

Note this list excludes cafes that provide their own indoor or outdoor play areas.


1. Go West Tuck Shop + Woodlea playground

A large, thrilling and interesting playground that’s worth a special trip. Combine it with Go West a fantastic, light-filled eatery that wouldn’t be out of place in the hip inner city and Woodlea’s got my vote.

Go West, 27 Woodlea Boulevard, Rockbank


2. Serotonin + Golden Square Bicentennial Park

serotonin burnley

Serotonin is a health-conscious cafe where everything on the menu is gluten, dairy and refined sugar free. Across the road is a park and small playground with train-spotting opportunities

Bonus points – you can collect a picnic basket and rug from Serotonin, order from the takeaway window and they’ll bring your food out to you in the park!

Serotonin, 52 Madden Grove, Burnley


3. Curator’s Collective + Queens Park playground

olivers garden

Curator’s Collective is a sweet lake-side cafe within sight of a popular playground in Queens Park. The playground could do with an update to be honest but it’ll still keep the kids amused while you sip your latte. Just beware of the pigeons – step away from your food and BAM it’ll be gone.

Curator’s Collective, 778 Mt Alexander Rd, Moonee Ponds


4. Cowderoy’s Dairy + Jacoby Reserve

cowderoys dairy

Cowderoy’s Dairy is an old-style milk bar cafe within sight of a small playground.

Cowderoy’s Dairy, 14 Cowderoy St, St Kilda West


5. Little Captain + Hewison Reserve

Little Captain St Kilda East

Little Captain is a sweet but slightly ramshackle cafe which wouldn’t be particularly remarkable on it’s own – but it has a back entrance that leads straight to the fenced playground at Hewison Reserve. 

Little Captain, 353 Inkerman St, St Kilda East


6. The Boathouse + Maribyrnong Park

maribyrnong park

Along the shores of the Maribyrnong River you’ll find a large marine-themed playground, a coffee kiosk and The Boathouse restaurant. Depending on how busy the kitchen is sometimes you can order from The Boathouse menu and get it take away from the coffee kiosk.

The Boathouse, 7 The Boulevard, Maribyrnong Park, Moonee Ponds


7. Farm cafe + Collingwood Children’s Farm

The Farm Cafe, Collingwood Children’s Farm, 18 St Heliers St, Abbotsford

The Farm Cafe is a brilliant little cafe focusing on local and seasonal produce (with one of Melbourne’s best milkshakes) on the site of Collingwood Children’s Farm. On the second Saturday of every month there’s a popular Farmer’s Market too and you can enter the farm for only $2 adult and kids free.

The Farm Cafe, 18 St Heliers St, Abbotsford


8. Green Park Dining + playground

Green Park, 815 Nicholson Street, Carlton North

Green Park Dining offers sophisticated brunch fare in North Carlton with a back area that spills out into bike racks and a small playground.

Green Park, 815 Nicholson Street, Carlton North


9. Federation Square and riverside eateries + Artplay playground

Artplay playground melbourne

Federation Square and Birrarung Marr offers many places where you can get a feed (including ACMI Bar & Cafe, Pilgrim and Riverland). Then enjoy the sprawling Artplay playground at Birrarung Marr. Bonus points for excellent ice cream at Popstic by the river.

Federation Square and Birrarung Marr, Melbourne


10. Saluministi + Buluk Park

Saluministi Melbourne

Saluministi serves rustic Italian-style panini, coffee and sweets. The unusual playground at Buluk Park and the beautiful Library at the Dock makes this playground + cafe combo one of our favourite stops in Docklands.

Saluministi, 892 Bourke St, Docklands


11. Hanhdorf Fine Chocolates + Montrose Community Playground

montrose playground

Possibly the only playground in Melbourne with an adjoining chocolate shop!

Hahndorf’s Fine Chocolates, 960-962 Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd, Montrose


12. The Foodrinkery + playground

The Foodrinkery, 22 Banksia Street, Burwood

The Foodrinkery is a small cafe that not only provides its own play area but opens its back gate into a large local reserve with playground.

The Foodrinkery, 22 Banksia St, Burwood


13. Cubbyhouse Canteen + playground

cubbyhouse canteen

Cute child-friendly cafe next to a local park and playground. A more ‘grown up’ and upmarket option is nearby Gardiner and Field who also offer takeaway lunch packs (sandwich, salad and treat) that you can take to the playground. 

Cubbyhouse Canteen, 43A Union St, Armadale


14. Square and Compass + Fitzroy Gardens

square and compass cafe

Square and Compass boasts a light-filled interior with courtyard just a stone’s throw from the small dragon playground inside picturesque Fitzroy Gardens. At the bottom end of Fitzroy Gardens (near Wellington Parade) there’s also child-friendly Kere Kere cafe.

Square and Compass, 222 Clarendon St, East Melbourne


15. Leroys +Paine Reserve

Leroys Newport

If you STILL need entertainment after the cubbyhouse and toys at Leroys then there’s a small playground in front the Newport Community Hub at Paine Reserve. Another alternative cafe for the same playground is The Backyard.


16. Hank Marvin Market + Alma Park East

Alma Park East playground, Alma Rd, St Kilda East

If you visit Alma Park East on a Saturday morning then the food trucks and produce stalls are there for the Hank Marvin Market.

17. Yarraville Gardens food trucks + Yarraville Gardens playground

Yarraville Gardens

Every Friday night and weekend lunch/dinner a rotation of food trucks line Yarraville Gardens. The playground within the park is large and suits all ages.


18. Coburg Farmers Market + Harmony Park

Harmony Park, 187-195 Gaffney St, Coburg North

Every Saturday Coburg North Primary School holds a farmer’s market and the school grounds are just behind the awesome Harmony Park.

Where are your favourite cafe + park combos in Melbourne?

AFL Sunday Funday – Giveaway!

AFL Sunday Funday is an AFL initiative that provides free general admission tickets to kids under 15 every Sunday, along with various other family-friendly activities at the grounds.

The free tickets can be purchased in advance (and will be subject to the ticket agent transaction fee), or are available on match day at the box office where no additional fees will be incurred (excluding Adelaide Oval).

Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media

Game day entertainment includes the Woolworth’s AFL Playground, with activities including the Woolworths Specky, Climb and Slide, prizes, free apple sampling and new AFL Evolution game (MCG only).  

Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media

The Woolworth’s AFL Playground is located:

  • MCG – Outside Gate 6
  • Etihad – Gate 7
  • Metricon – Gate 7
  • Spotless – Giants Scoreboard

Other free kids activities include making a backdrop for your stop motion replays and designing your ultimate footy fan (you can download here).

To purchase AFL Sunday Funday tickets in advance, click here for the MCG, Adelaide Oval, SCG, Metricon Stadium & Manuka Oval. Click here for Etihad Stadium, the Gabba, Simonds Stadium & Spotless Stadium.


Thanks to the AFL I have 1 x Footy Fan Prize Pack to giveaway to celebrate AFL Sunday Funday. The pack includes 1 x Sherrin Football (valued at $190), 1 x team jersey of choice and 1 x team scarf of choice.

To win just following the instructions below. The competition ends midnight Monday 5 June and the random winner contacted via email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

HOT: Urban Projuice, 315 Montague St, Albert Park

Urban Projuice

Hidden in a gorgeous Victorian terrace house in Albert Park you’ll find a wholefoods vegetarian cafe and juice bar called Urban Projuice.

While the elevated front entrance may not shout ‘kid-friendly’ once you get up the stairs you’ll discover a few features which make this one of my favourite pit stops in Albert Park.

Urban Projuice

Sit outside on the shaded front terrace or wind you way to the leafy orchard courtyard (there’s also an upstairs front balcony).

Urban Projuice

There are a few high chairs and a small kids menu featuring banana strawberry pikelets ($12) and soldiers with two eggs ($8).

Most importantly, the staff are smiling and friendly towards kids, the kind of happy-shiny-people who make a great advertisement for healthy living.

Urban Projuice

Baby 2.0 decides he wants a ‘chocolate milkshake’ so I order a Cacao Kapow smoothie ($10) with cacao, dates, banana and almond mylk. Yum, he declares, not knowing about the superfoods he’s drinking!

For a light meal I highly recommend the flavoursome tumeric and chilli tofu scramble atop organic sourdough ($8.50).

Urban Projuice

For dessert we share the berry coconut waffles ($17.50). They are filled with berries and have a satisfying crunch on the outside while fluffy on the inside and are gluten-free. The combination of vegan vanilla ice cream, salted maple coconut flakes and date cacao sauce makes it a decadent treat.

Urban Projuice

Urban Projuice offers healthy plant-based eats for you and the kids that are tasty, nutritious and perfect for Instagram. They also hold adults cooking classes on various health food topics occasionally and free meditation classes.

HOT Tips:

  • Pram access though you’ll need help going up the front stairs;
  • Back courtyard;
  • High chairs;
  • Standard menu suitable for kids;
  • Kids menu; and
  • Free parking in nearby streets.

Urban Projuice, 315 Montague St, Albert Park 03 9696 0048

Monday – Friday 7am – 4pm

Saturday & Sunday 8am – 4pm
Urban Projuice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What’s On – Friday 19 May to Thursday 25 May 2017

Cold weather has definitely set into Melbourne as we start counting down to the start of the winter months. If you need some indoor inspiration bookmark the Top 10 Indoor Places to Go with Kids.

This Sunday 21 May I’ll be getting my craft on in Docklands for a FREE construction play activity co-produced by Small Scapes and CoDesign Studio. From 10-12pm we’re going to be turning cardboard boxes into Melbourne’s first Free [Play] Tram Zone and taking our trams for a ride! There will also be other free family-friendly activities around Good Cycles/Cow in a Tree Sculpture along Harbour Esplanade.

Two more events for your diary – Wednesday 24 May is National Simultaneous Storytime so check your local library for events. Thursday 25 May is Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea! Donate and help the Cancer Council’s major fundraising event.


  • Docklands Harvest Festival (Fri 19 May – Sat 20 May) – Get stuck into a range of hands-on activities, including lantern-making, as well as pickling and preserving.
  • MSO Meet the Orchestra (Sat 20 May) – Take the whole family on a journey through jazz with renowned trumpeter James Morrison and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
  • Free [Play] Tram Zone (Sun 21 May) – free construction play activity to build cardboard trams along Harbour Esplanade, Docklands.
  • Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival (Sat 20 May – Sun 21 May) – Enjoy a vegetarian feast from the many regions of Asia, Dharma talks, meditation, tea ceremony, multi-faith concerts, traditional arts and crafts, Tai Chi and more.
  • Kids Flicks ACMI (Sat 20 May – Sun 21 May) – smart films for smart kids. 
  • Animal Extravaganza Harbour Town (Sat 20 May – Sun 21 May) – free family activities every weekend until 12 June.
  • Queen Street Plaza (Sat 20 May – Sun 21 May) – A place to sit, eat, have a drink and enjoy free family entertainment right in the heart of the city.
  • Sunday Family Funday Munich Brauhaus (Sun 21 May) – mobile farm experience, face painter, kids’ entertainer and yummy food at Munich Brauhaus.
  • Law Week Festival Hub (Fri 19 May – Sun 21 May) – Kids can learn about the history of fingerprinting to solve crime and make their very own fingerprint badges.
  • Aladdin the Musical (Fri 19 May – Sun 22 Oct) – Disney film turned into lavish musical. Read the review.
  • Play Pod State Library of Victoria (Fri 19 May – Wed 31 May) – Play Pod is the SLV’s program for children aged under 8 years with activities to read, create and play. There’s a new theme every season for Autumn 2017 it’s inspired by Where is the Green SheepREAD THE REVIEW
  • Fiona Hall: Uneasy Seasons NGV (Fri 19 May – Sun 6 Jun) – new interactive and immersive exhibition for children at NGV International. Full review.




  • Dance X Lilydale (Fri 20 May – 30 July) – Chose your own dance adventure in this enthralling exhibition. Travel to unique places within the shire through captivating virtual play spaces.
  • Box Hill Miniature Railway (Sun 21 May) – Every 3rd Sunday the ride this wonderful Miniature Railway, the track winds through the picturesque surrounds of Elgar Park. READ THE REVIEW.
  • Yarra Valley Railway (Sun 21 May) – take a trip on the historic Walker RM22 Railmotor from Healesville to Tunnel Hill. Full review.
  • Rocky Road Festival (Fri 19 May – Wed 31 May) – 31 different flavours, a host of Rocky Road infused temptations plus a world record beating block that every visitor can try for free!

Yarra Vally Railway


HOT: St Kilda Adventure Playground, Neptune St, St Kilda

st kilda adventure playground

Adventure playgrounds started in postwar Denmark after public officials noticed that children were playing in bombed and excavated sites.

st kilda adventure playground

From there the idea of ‘adventure playgrounds’ proliferated in Europe, with over 100 ever-changing, junkyard play areas full of creative inspiration.

st kilda adventure playground

St Kilda Adventure playground is one of only five staffed adventure playgrounds in Melbourne (the others are in South Melbourne, Fitzroy, Prahran and Kensington).

st kilda adventure playground

It serves as a communal play area for children experiencing disadvantage who may not necessary have access to a backyard.

st kilda adventure playground

St Kilda Adventure playground is open to public most of the time and it’s a fantastic destination for 5+ years, though adventurous younger kids will still get a lot out of it.

st kilda adventure playground


The play space features an aircraft cockpit…

st kilda adventure playground

…pirate ship…

st kilda adventure playground

st kilda adventure playground

st kilda adventure playground

a sandpit for an Israeli ball game…

st kilda adventure playground

…mini skate ramp…

st kilda adventure playground

…and even Luna Park!

st kilda adventure playground

Plus there are tree houses, cubbies, a flying fox, huge fairy-tale themed fort, rope climb and trampoline.

st kilda adventure playground

There’s a smart system where kids sit in line on a particular number, waiting for their turn to jump.

st kilda adventure playground

There’s lots of things to climb into, hide under, jump on and slide down!

st kilda adventure playground

Note that St Kilda Adventure playground is open only during certain hours as it is staffed. It may be closed to the general public when council programs are operating. However, they do take party bookings (Max 30 children) for selected Saturdays and Sundays for a fee.

st kilda adventure playground

HOT Tips:

  • Suitable for toddlers (but need to be actively supervised);
  • Suitable for older kids;
  • staffed;
  • Toilets;
  • Water taps;
  • Mostly fenced except for entrance;
  • Some shade;
  • Seating;
  • party area can be booked for selected Saturdays and Sundays;
  • BBQ & kitchen facilities for party bookings;
  • Free street parking;
  • occasionally closed to the general public during regular playground hours due to events and outings with local families; and
  • playground will close when the weather exceeds 35 degrees, or during heavy rain and/or strong winds.

St Kilda Adventure Playground, Neptune St, St Kilda 03 9209 6348

Monday – Friday         3.30 pm – 5.30 pm  
Saturday – Sunday12 noon – 4.30 pm  
School holidays12 noon – 4.30 pm
Public Holidays  12 noon – 4 pm


The HOT List: Top 10 Tips for Cruising with Kids

         cruising with kids

Cruising with kids is becoming an increasingly popular form of family holiday. A resort-style boat can be good value when you include the endless food, onboard entertainment and babysitting services.

We recently went on our first family cruise – a short 5 night trip aboard the Golden Princess from Melbourne to Port Arthur and Hobart and back.

Here are my Top 10 tips for cruising with kids, especially for first-timers.

  1. Are your kids the right age to start cruising?

golden princess cruise

I think the best things about cruising with kids are the kids club and the pools – you’ll get a break and the kids will have fun too. If you can’t use those facilities then you’ll just spend your leisure time parenting on a boat!

The kids club on the Golden Princess is only open to toilet-trained children 3+ years. Some boats allow kids from 2+ years.

For public safety reasons, children in nappies (including swim nappies) and children who are not toilet trained are not permitted in the public swimming pools and spas. Some cruise ships offer splash areas for non-toilet-trained tots.

Note cruise ships will not have baby food or baby formula. You’ll need to BYO and ask them to store it for you. Cots are generally available, plus booster and high chairs. Baby baths, prams, nappies and baby wipes are not available onboard and not all cruise ships or cabins will have standard baths.


  1. Pick a cruise that caters for families

golden princess cruise

As with hotels and restaurants there are levels of exclusivity with cruise ships and not all ships are suitable for kids. Cruise Critic is a good resource to start your research.

What you’re looking for is a kids club, numerous pools, possibly a kids play area, meal options (children’s menus or buffet). Also consider size and layout of staterooms.

The kids club on the Golden Princess operates 9-12pm, 2-5pm and 7-10pm when at sea and 8-5pm, 7-10pm when at port. You can also book group babysitting 10pm-1am for an extra fee. You need to pre-register for kids club before boarding.

Lady AB and Baby 2.0 both love the kids club – activities include craft, movies, Tshirt colouring, mini Olympics, giveaway toys and ice cream parties!


  1. Pick a short route

golden princess cruise

I think with kids it’s best to pick a short route where a ship is not at sea for more than two consecutive days. While there’s a lot to do on board it does get a bit repetitive after a while. Also you may experience unexpected motion sickness and if anyone get seasick there is nothing worse than knowing that you can’t get off the boat soon!

Five nights was about right for us – the kids got to try kids club for the majority of the 2 days at sea and explored on shore for the other 2 days. Our schedule was:

Day 1 – embarkation (in afternoon)

Day 2 – at sea

Day 3 – Port Arthur

Day 4 – Hobart

Day 5 – at sea

Day 6 – disembarkation (in morning)


  1. Pick the right cabin

golden princess cruise

If budget allows there’s an art to choosing the best cabin:

  • Don’t pick an internal cabin. You think you’ll not be spending too much time in your room but with young kids you’d be surprised, especially if you want to sleep or read while the kids are at kids club. It is very claustrophobic being in a cabin with no windows and disorientating not knowing if it’s night or day.
  • The most stable cabins are midship, closer to the interior and on a lower decks. The lower the level, the less rocking you’ll experience.
  • Be far from the laundromat. People hang around the corridors while waiting for their laundry to wash and it’s open 24 hours a day.
  • Don’t stay near the lift/stair wells or service entrances. If you’re noise sensitive you don’t want to sleep near a thoroughfare.  
  • Avoid the same level as pools/sports venue/entertainment/all-night eatery areas. Sometimes the expensive, exclusive suites are actually on the same level as the noisiest part of the boat.
  • Don’t stay near or below the galley. Bumping, rolling and talking all night.

Basically, the best passenger deck to choose is one between other passenger decks.

On the Golden Princess we stay in a ‘mini suite’ on the 9th level with a queen size bed, a fold out sofa, a bath and a balcony. It fits 3-4 people. 


  1. What to pack

golden princess cruise

  • Lanyards. Everyone is issued a cruise card on embarkation. It is your room key and is also used for ID, charging items to your account and checking in at kids club. It’s easiest to wear it around your neck and you’ll notice that everyone does it. Lanyards are not provided and are expensive on board so BYO.
  • Bathers. My kids will want to go into the pool in any weather, so bring bathers no matter what! There are generally no shops on board selling bathers for kids.
  • Motion Sickness medication. If you’re at any risk of experiencing motion sickness, discuss medication options with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Power pack. Cruise cabins do not have many power sockets so pack a power pack to charge electronic devices. Expect that mobile phone coverage may not be available or very expensive at sea.


  1. Eat at off peak hours

golden princess cruise

The Golden Princess can fit 2000 guests and while there are numerous eateries there is bound to be queues for everything if you go at peak hour.

We eat lunch at around 12pm in the buffet restaurant (where there’s more room) and 5:30pm in the a la carte dining room. Note upscale restaurants require an extra charge and a different standard of dress and behaviour is expected, so it might not be suitable for young kids.


  1. Be prepared for waits to get on/off the boat

golden princess cruise

With 2000 guests to manoeuvre every procedure for embarkation and disembarkation is a finely tuned operation.

Be prepared to wait up to 20-30 minutes to disembark in timed groups. If you are getting into a tender boat (smaller boat for onshore excursions) then the wait may be longer. A good strategy is to explore the pools and other facilities and get on a tender later.


  1. Stick to some sort of eating/exercise regime

golden princess cruise

With the amount of freely available food it’s easy to go overboard. Take a pair of runners so you can visit the gym or walk around the decks for the fresh sea air.

Kids are offered soft drinks, juice and sugary treats at every turn so set expectations about what they are/are not allowed to eat.


  1. Be mindful of the dress code

Most of the time there is no dress code on board, but most cruise lines will have one ‘formal night’. On the Golden Princess guests dining in the a la carte restaurant were turned away if they were not dressed in ‘formal wear’ ie jacket for men, no jeans, thongs, shorts.


  1. Arrive at least the day before the cruise departs

golden princess cruise

Cruise ships wait for no man (or woman). If your departure port is not your home town then try to arrive at least the day before in case of flight delays, lost luggage etc.

T missed the boat as he was delayed working interstate so he had to fly to Hobart (at his own cost) to board the ship.

Click here for further reading:

Have you been on a family cruise before? Share your experiences.


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