The HOT List: Top 10 Free School Holiday Events in Melbourne

Every school holidays I try to give myself a challenge – how many free events can I book?

Inevitably there are always cool events and activities that we decide to pay for – but you CAN entertain the kids on a tight budget during school holidays.

Here’s a list of my Top 10 free school holiday events for Autumn.

  1. Federation Square (Mon 3 Apr – Sun 23 Apr) – experiment in collective art-making with the LOL roll, free outdoor cinema, stargazing live.
  2. ACMI Family Sunday (Sun 2 Apr) – If you want to become the next YouTube sensation we’ve got the tools to get you started.
  3. ArtPlay Backyard (Sat 1 Apr – Wed 12 Apr) – Drop in creative play at Artplay.
  4. Wheeler Kids (Tue 4 Apr – Wed 12 Apr) – literary kid-friendly events. Also check out the book readings, launches and bookish activities at The Little Bookroom.
  5. Melbourne Library Service (Mon 3 Apr – Thu 13 Apr) – classes, workshops performances and stories. In addition don’t forget your local library service will often hold free school holidays events (they’re too numerous to note here).
  6. Queen Victoria Market (Sat 1 Apr – Sun 16 Apr) – Family Footy Zone and seasonal cooking, drawing and craft activities.
  7. Dandenong Market (Sat 1 Apr – Sun 16 Apr) – kids craft workshops.
  8. Sky High Dandenong (Mon 3 Apr – Sun 16 Apr) – Pony Rides; Face Painting; Games and Music with the rainbow fairy; Nine hole mini golf; Reptile display; creative magic; train rides; CFA Badge-making and Demonstrations, treasure hunts. Note all the activities are free of charge but the gate fee of $6 per car still applies.
  9. Mastermind Highpoint (Mon 3 Apr – Mon 17 Apr) – creative workshops for kids including Book Swap Bike.
  10. Easter Family Fun with Free Egg Hunt at Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie (Fri 14 Apr – Mon 17 Apr) – free chocolate tastings and Easter egg hunts. Also happening at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie.

Also check out the following lists for free inspiration:

Click here for school holiday events in Melbourne’s CBD.

Click here for school holiday events in Melbourne’s suburbs.

HOT: Small Ideas – Discount Voucher Book for Melbourne families

Small Ideas Discount Voucher Book

Small Ideas is a discount voucher book which includes 250+ vouchers for Melbourne families who are looking for places to go with kids while also saving money.

The book is divided by location and then categories: dining out, products & services, play, sports & arts and day/weekends away. Discounts include % off, offers, 2-for-1 deals and freebies. $1 from every book sold is also donated to The Good Friday Appeal.

Many HOT locations that I’ve previously reviewed appear in the 2017 edition. Visit a couple of these places and you’ll already make your money back!





Purchase your Small Ideas book  with the discount code TOT30 and receive $5 off, making it an even better deal at $30 rather than $34.95 (I also receive a small commission for every book sold at no further cost to you).

Community organisations can also sell Small Ideas books as a fundraising activity. For every book sold you receive $9.95 for your cause and part of the balance is donated to The Good Friday Appeal.

HOT: Hawthorn Common, Level 1, 302 Burwood Road, Hawthorn

Hawthorn Common

Hawthorn Common is a cafe which is all about living sustainably so everything is made from scratch on site and any food waste is processed to compost.

Hawthorn Common

The spacious dining area, particularly the sun-dappled and umbrella-shaded deck, is a popular place to take kids. There’s pram access from the street via a lift, plentiful high chairs and menu suitable for kids as well as two specific children’s options – egg on toast or single pancake (each $5).

Hawthorn Common

The deck provides enough space for toddlers to move around and investigate the greenery too.

Hawthorn Common

The menu is focused on local and seasonal ingredients. I try the spanner crab omelette ($20) a fluffy eggy plate studded with chunks of crab. It’s adorned by snow peas and wild, bitter sprouts picked straight from the garden which are a bit tough and weedy for my liking. 

Hawthorn Common

The two pavlova pancakes ($16) are wholemeal and thus denser than an American-style hotcake. It comes with passionfruit curd, fresh fruit and shards of meringue. It’s a gorgeous dish, both to look at and to eat.

At Hawthorn Common they make their own bread and roast their own coffee on site so you’re able to take them home.

The early morning weekend crowd at Hawthorn Common is full of youthful healthy people in active wear and yummy mummies/parents. Obviously they’re drawn to the cafe’s health conscious, sustainable ethos and the stylish and relaxed environment – and you should be too!

HOT Tips:

  • Pram access from street level via lift, easily access within dining area;
  • High chairs;
  • Standard menu suitable for kids;
  • Children’s menu; and
  • Limited street parking.

Hawthorn Common, Level 1, 302 Burwood Road, Hawthorn (03) 98192200

Monday — Friday 7am — 4pm

Saturday — Sunday 8am — 4pm

Hawthorn Common Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What’s On – Friday 24 March to Thursday 30 March

Last week of March and so many fun things to do!

This week you’ll find me at CycleStyle x Habitots pop up‘s final days, taking a free bike tour as part of WOW Women of the World Festival 2017 (spaces still available) and turning Barkly Street into a colourful play street as part of the West Footscray Festival of Colours!

CBD / Docklands

  • Korea Festival (Fri 24 Mar – Sun 26 Mar) – celebrate Korean culture with food, displays, demonstrations and Kpop.
  • Invisible Light Garden Artplay (Fri 24 Mar – Sun 26 Mar) – Discover the interaction between digital imagery and physical action in this interactive art installation. Last weekend Full review. 
  • Play Pod State Library of Victoria (Fri 24 Mar – 31 May) – free play space inspired by Where is the Green Sheep. Full review.
  • NGV Car Wash (Fri 24 Mar – April 2017) – enjoy a neon pink installation in the sculpture garden inspired by a car wash. FULL REVIEW.
  • Family Footy Fun Zone Queen Victoria Market (Sat 25 Mar – Sun 26 Mar) – Every Saturday and Sunday until Easter the Vic Market’s A Shed near Victoria Street will be transformed into a footy extravaganza with inflatable kicking goals, a specky-marking zone, handball challenges, footy arts and crafts and more.
  • Victoria’s Multicultural Festival (Sat 25 Mar) – fun-filled program of music, dance, film and activities throughout the day to entertain people of all ages.
  • Fed Square Book Market (Sat 25 Mar) – Anna Walker will be showing the developmental work for her latest picture book Florette, published by Penguin Books.
  • One Beat One Love African Community Festival (Sun 26 Mar) – celebrate African-Australian culture with live performances, art, food and more at Immigration Museum. 
  • Queen Victoria Night Market (Wed 29 Mar) – Eat and drink your way around the world one dish at a time with more than 50 street food traders cooking up a global feast plus specialty shopping and entertainment. Last week.
  • Cerita Anak Arts Centre Melbourne (Thu 30 Mar – Sun 2 Apr) – children’s interactive performance based on Java’s seafaring heritage and true story.





Diamond Valley Railway



HOT: Half Moon Bay, Beach Rd, Black Rock

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is a calm, gentle and shallow beach on Port Phillip Bay near Black Rock. As the name suggests, the little inlet is deeply curved into a half moon crescent shape and the surrounding Red Bluff cliffs make it a particularly sheltered beach for little kids.

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is small and very much a ‘local’s’ beach. There’s a couple of colourful beach huts, a surf life saving club (with public toilets) and the Black Rock Yachting Club, plus the restaurant Cerberus Beach House with gorgeous views of the bay, particularly at sunset.

Half Moon Bay

The downstairs beach kiosk of Cerberus Beach House is also a hangout  and the owners know regulars by name.

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay

We try their fish and chips, frequently named as one of Melbourne’s 10 top best fish and chips.

Half Moon Bay

The fish is fresh, the batter is crunchy and the chips are plentiful. The seagulls look on hungrily!

Half Moon Bay

Then it’s down to the beach for some sand play and a paddle. Half Moon Bay is also home to the shipwreck of HMVS Cerberus which acts as a breakwater, and older kids can swim out there. There’s also a small jetty where the locals go to fish and jetski.

Click here for more of Melbourne’s best beaches for kids.

HOT Tips:

  • Suitable for kids;
  • Half Moon Bay is also home to HMVS Cerberus, the last surviving monitor warship, and older kids can swim out there;
  • Little shade;
  • Paid parking at top of cliffs and at beach level. Stair access from top of cliffs. Parking was $5.30 an hour or $16.80 per day;
  • Enjoy fish and chips with a view at beach kiosk of Cerberus Beach House;
  • Upstairs of Cerberus Beach House is award-winning licensed restaurant with views.

Half Moon Bay, Beach Rd, Black Rock

The HOT List: Top 10 Places to Go with Kids in Mildura


Mildura is a terrific place to visit with kids at almost any time of year.

Its Mediterranean climate means hot summers and mild winters, with rain unlikely to trouble you for long. And it’s a city that’s easy to enjoy with children without breaking the budget – many of the best things to do are free or low-cost.

Guest blogger Erika Jonsson spent many of her own childhood holidays in and around Mildura and now loves going there with her own kids. Given the city is centred around the banks of the Murray River it’s not surprising that many of the best things to do involve water.<

Here Erika shares her list of the top 10 places to go with kids in Mildura. 


1. Mildura Water Play Park

mildura water park

Mildura’s water play park is paradise for kids. There are pumps, weirs, sensory stones, bridges, fountains… There’s shade and sun, plenty of space to set up for a picnic (or grab a coffee and a sweet treat at the vintage caravan) and, best of all, it’s free.

Its riverfront position is a lovely starting point for walks too.

Mildura Water Play Park, Hugh King Drive, Mildura 

10am–9pm daily during summer


2. Jaycee Park 

If the weather is cool or you forgot your bathers, Jaycee Park is a lovely alternative in the riverfront area. There’s lots of play equipment (though not a lot of shade) and Cafe de Caravan does a roaring trade in lattes and light food options.

Jaycee Park, Hugh King Drive, Mildura



3. Lock 11 and Mildura Weir


Children who like to know how things work will love Lock 11, where boats and paddlesteamers pass through different sections of the Murray River between gates controlling the water level.

You can walk across a bridge to a manmade island for a short walk to see the weir – you’ll hear the water roaring through the spillway long before you see it. Keep going and you can find sandy beaches to paddle your feet, but always be careful as the depth increases steeply and the current can be strong.

Lock 11 and Mildura Weir, Hugh King Drive, Mildura

4. Paddlesteamer rides


Three paddlesteamers operate on the Murray at Mildura, with two-hour cruises daily. The tours are informative and include passage through Lock 11. The grand old boats will enchant adults and children alike.

5. Orange World

Orange World is in NSW but it’s just eight minutes from Mildura. You can take a tour on the tractor-drawn “train” through the grove of oranges, mandarins and avocados to learn about the citrus industry in the region, finishing with a glass of freshly squeezed juice. Orange World is a really fun little local attraction – young kids in particular just love this place.

Orange World93 Link Road, Mourquong, NSW 03 5023 5197

9.30am – 4.00pm 7 days.<
February: 7 days. Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day 

6. Perry Sandhills 

Geologists believe the Perry Sandhills were formed about 40,000 years ago after an ice age – skeletons of megafauna have been found here and it isn’t hard to imagine more under the constantly shifting dunes. The sandhills are just outside Wentworth, about half an hour from Mildura. Take plenty of water if you’re going in warm weather.

7. Australian Inland Botanic Gardens

The botanic gardens were the first in the Southern Hemisphere to showcase semi-arid plants and the desert landscape. There is a children’s garden with cubbyhouse, sand pit and musical instruments, and a tractor/train offers rides on Saturdays. There is a coffee shop on site. Entry is free, with donations appreciated.

Australian Inland Botanic Gardens1183 River Road, Mourquong NSW

8. Woodsie’s Gem Shop

The decor at Woodsie’s Gem Shop hasn’t changed one bit since it opened, but that won’t worry children. This kitsch gem of a place (pun intended) features crystals and gems from around the world – but the real highlight is the maze, which you can enter for the laughably low sum of $1. There’s a cafe and souvenir shop featuring jewellery of varying quality and price as well as turned stones.

Woodsie’s Gem Shop516 Cureton Avenue, Nicholls Point

9. Big Lizzie 

The pride of Red Cliffs, Big Lizzie was the biggest tractor in Australia when she was built in 1915. In 1921 she began clearing Mallee scrub to create the soldier settlement blocks that were critical to the region’s development. Big Lizzie was designed to work in the area’s sandy conditions but she was eventually superseded by vehicles with caterpillar tracks. She’s hard to miss – 5.5 metres high and 10 metres long, Big Lizzie is the centrepiece of a lovely little park on the Calder Highway on the way to Mildura from Melbourne.


10. Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel Mildura

Stefano de Pieri opened his eponymous Stefano’s Restaurant in the cellars of the Grand Hotel in 1991. Since then the Grand has become a Mecca for good food, with restaurants and cafes catering for different budgets and experiences.

Pizza Cafe is ideal for families, offering wood-fired pizzas, pasta and salads at a reasonable price point. The pizzas are superb and the staff are friendly and helpful, providing paper and crayons even on a busy day. High chairs available.

Grand Hotel, Seventh Street, Mildura

Note there’s not a lot of kid-focused eating simply because children are welcome everywhere. Most cafes have high chairs and kids menus.

Where are your favourite places to go with kids in Mildura?

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