The HOT List: 8 tips for seeing the Docklands Fireworks in Winter

Docklands Fireworks

During winter, Docklands bursts alight with a free Friday night fireworks in July and August. It’s a popular family event and here are my tips to make the most of your nighttime adventure.

  1. Pick a vantage point

The best, and thus most popular, vantage point is at the end of Newquay. Most of the street performers congregate there, kids will love climbing all over Monument Park and it has the largest selection of eateries.

You are still able to see the fireworks if you’re on the other two sides of the harbour – along Harbour Esplanade and Victoria Harbour Promenade/Library at the Dock. Library at the Dock is open until 7pm on Fridays if you need to hide indoors for a bit and there is a small but very cool playground outside at Buluk Park.

A little bit further afield is the south bank of Docklands where you’ll find Point Park at Yarra’s Edge. There are no eateries there but Point Park has the advantage of having an amazing playground Harmony Gardens. Note no public toilets!

2. Pick your parking option

There is not much free parking around Docklands. Harbour Town has parking $10 and the Care Park has two outdoor carparks around Caravel Lane. Just be careful with paid, timed parking – we got a parking ticket when we were late!

  • Etihad Stadium – Gates 5 and 6 via La Trobe Street, or Gates 1, 2 and 3 via Bourke Street
  • NewQuay – Docklands Drive
  • Watergate – corner Batman’s Hill Drive and Bourke Street
  • Docklands parking
    • Bourke Street
    • Collins Street
    • Digital Harbour
    • Southern Cross Station
    • Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

The biggest gripe people seem to have about the Docklands fireworks is the wait to exit the carpark afterwards. We parked at Care Park and while there was a small wait it wasn’t the hour that other people experienced.

To avoid the crowds you have two options – leave just before the last boom (or right on it) or enjoy the atmosphere and entertainment until 8:30pm.

3. Or take public transport

Avoid parking hassles by taking public transport. Catch the free City Circle Tram or take one of the following:

  • NewQuay and Waterfront City – tram 30 via La Trobe Street, tram 70 via Flinders Street or tram 86 via Bourke Street.
  • Victoria Harbour – tram 48 or 11 via Collins Street.

4. Arrive early

It’s a good idea to get there by 5:30pm as parking starts to fill up by then. The timing’s also perfect for an early family-friendly dinner.

5. Eateries

There are lots of restaurants all around the harbour and in Harbour Town Shopping Centre. If you’re with a large group then make a reservation as the fireworks are popular.

We cheated and got UberEATS delivered to Docklands as we had relatives staying in the area. (Use my referral code eats-cnoub and get $20 off your first order.)

6. Get your camera ready

The fireworks start at 7:30pm and go for approximately 15 minutes. It’s really a spectacular performance so you’ll want to have your camera prepared and set up and to take a couple of practice shots if you can. Turn off your flash! How to photograph fireworks.

7. Rug up

Naturally it’s cold outside so be comfortable and have your hat, scarf and gloves ready. Kids may find the noise too loud so ear muffs/beanie that covers the ears are a good option.

8. Wet/bad weather option

Before heading out check social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for info on any last minute cancellations due to weather. If you’re not keen on wind or cold then you can always watch the fireworks from the Melbourne Star!

If you’re already on site and the fireworks are cancelled you can always try the free snow play dome at Harbour Town, open 4-8pm on Fridays until 26 August.

Docklands Fireworks

Friday 1 July 2016- Friday 26 August 2016, every Friday night except de to inclement weather.

Free entertainment starts 6:30pm with the fireworks display from 7:30pm.


HOT: Sovereign Hill Winter Wonderlights Christmas in July, Sovereign Hill, 3 Bradshaw Street, Ballarat

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill Ballarat

Make your winter memorable this year with a visit to Sovereign Hill’s Winter Wonderlights Christmas in July. The annual event is from Saturday 24 June until Sunday 24 July in 2016.

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill Ballarat

Sovereign Hill is an outdoor museum with replica Victorian-era buildings and structures evoking gold-rush 1850s Ballarat. There is lots to do there – must-dos include panning for gold, the underground mine tour and the lolly shop! (Full review).

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill Ballarat

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill Ballarat

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill Ballarat

During Winter Wonderlights the whole site is adorned with Christmas decorations, with wreaths at every shop front and lots of Christmas trees. 

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill Ballarat

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill Ballarat

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill Ballarat 2016 - 5

In addition to regular attractions and programming there are regular snow falls, Christmas goodies to buy, Christmas carolling and a Christmas-themed theatrical program.

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill Ballarat

If you’re in Sovereign Hill for just the day the it’s a good idea to plan your schedule so you don’t miss out on any of the special activities. My tip is to give the Shadow Puppets a miss (only goes for about 5 minutes, not particularly engaging, though you do get a skinny Santa at the end) and grab a seat early for the Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime. It is a popular show because it is getting cold by then and it’s the last event to happen before the light projections.

The kids would have been quite happy with just the Christmas cheer – but the best comes when the sky darkens! At approximately 5:45pm every night Sovereign Hill’s Main Street is lit up by large-scale moving light projections under a flurry of fake snowfall.

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill Ballarat

On Speedwell Street the cottages and gardens overlooking Main Street sparkle with fairy lights.

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill Ballarat

Lady AB exclaims ‘Wow it’s so beautiful’ and the light projections, combined with the rainbow snow confetti, really is a dazzling sight.

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill Ballarat

We stroll up and down main street admiring the animation work of Electric Canvas, the team behind some of the stunning projections at White Night Melbourne. We stay until 6:15pm once it gets too cold and wet from the rain and the fake snow.

Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill Ballarat

Winter Wonderlights is a magical experience for young and old and well worth a road trip to Ballarat. We were there from 2:30pm-6:15pm but you can easily stay for longer. Winter Wonderlights is included in the standard Sovereign Hill entry fee (ie you can’t pay a separate fee just to see the Winter Wonderlights). As museum entry allows visitors to enter on two consecutive days, you can stay overnight and spread out your visit to Sovereign Hill or just make one big a day of it.

Sovereign Hill’s ‘Winter Wonderlights’ Christmas in July is part of Ballarat’s Winterlude Festival which runs from 25 June to 24 July. The festival includes ice skating, music, cinema and pie contest!

HOT Tips:

  • Peak times are school holidays and weekends;
  • Parking is free on site;
  • Bring lots of snacks as eateries can get crowded, especially from 5pm when the last show finishes (Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime) and the projections start at 5:45pm;
  • Book a sit-down dinner in advance at Charlie Napier Hotel for 5:15pm;
  • We ate at the Sovereign Hill cafe which is pretty run-of-the-mill but is dry and warm.
  • We also bought food from Hope Bakery, which does not have a real seating area. Their sausage rolls are apparently award-winning but I like their pies more;
  • Most of Sovereign Hill’s attractions are outdoors so wear lots of warm gear (waterproof coat, layers, gloves, scarf, hat). Ballarat experiences harsh winters and once the sun goes down it is really cold;
  • Gumboots are a good idea as the pathways can get muddy;
  • Bring a torch/glow sticks for added fun;
  • Projections start at 5:45pm though the fairy lights switch on a bit earlier;
  • All the shops take EFTPOS (even for small amounts). There is an ATM at the entrance, Sovereign Hill cafe and the post office;
  • Sovereign Hill is a comfortable 90-minute drive from Melbourne along the Western Highway;
  • train and tour coach services which operate daily from Melbourne; and
  • If you buy an Entertainment Book you can get 25% off entry for 4 people, which almost makes up the cost of the book at $65 ($13 of which goes to charity incidentally).

Sovereign Hill’s Winter Wonderlights Christmas in July, Sovereign Hill, 3 Bradshaw Street, Ballarat  (03) 5337 1199 o

Saturday 25  June – Sunday 24 July

Open daily from 10am. The ‘Winter Wonderlights’ show starts each evening approx 5.45pm.

Adults $54

Children (5-15) $24.50

HOT: Bicentennial Park, Scotch Parade, Chelsea

Bicentennial Park Chelsea

Bicentennial Park Chelsea contains a huge fenced playground and it is one of Australia’s best playgrounds. It’s so big that it’s well worth a special trip if you’re not local.

Bicentennial Park Chelsea

When you first enter the gate what will catch your eye is ‘Mt Chelsea’ a huge soft fall mound with two long and high slides, climbing ropes and nodules. Baby 2.0 could have just gone up and down, up and down, all afternoon.

Bicentennial Park Chelsea

Behind the mound is the majority of the play equipment, with stepping stones, wave rider boat, monkey bars, flying fox, wooden climbing fort, climbing ropes and slides. In front of the mound are springers, spinners and hammocks, while further afield is a large basket swing and a fenced Liberty swing which requires a key.

Bicentennial Park Chelsea

Another favourite area for Baby 2.0 is the Mt Chelsea train, complete with ticket office, swinging benches and a tunnel in the engine.

Bicentennial Park Chelsea

If the weather’s a bit hot then head to the two shaded sand pits or sculptural gardens.

Bicentennial Park Chelsea

A particularly whimsical addition is the Smurf village with different cubbies for music stories and play.

Bicentennial Park Chelsea - 2

There is a jolly looking cow in the middle of the village which is supposed to emit mooing and farting noises, but it didn’t’ seem to be working on our visit.

Bicentennial Park Chelsea

There’s some adult exercise equipment in another fenced area of the park but it’s not really close to the play area. Older kids will enjoy the skate park or simply the large green space for kicking a ball.

Finally, the playground has drink fountains, numerous picnic and BBQ shelters (which cannot be booked), public toilets with change facilities and plenty of parking. The council often hold community events at the park.

The council is currently undertaking major makeover at Bicentennial Park to provide improved skate park facilities, a new youth precinct and extra park facilities. The works are expected to complete in July 2016.

Read more about Australia’s best 40 playgrounds.

HOT Tips:

  • suitable for toddlers;
  • suitable for older children;
  • Skate park and adult gym equipment;
  • sand play;
  • Fully fenced;
  • partially shaded;
  • picnic shelters and BBQ;
  • water tap;
  • public toilets;
  • free parking very close by;
  • on the Carrum to Mordialloc bike track; and
  • 5-10 minute walk from Chelsea train Station on the Frankston line.

Bicentennial Park, Scotch Parade, Chelsea


HOT: Winter Wonderland Circus under the Melbourne Star, 101 Waterfront Way, Docklands

Winter Wonderland Circus under the Melbourne Star, 101 Waterfront Way, Docklands

Winter Wonderland Circus Under the Melbourne Star is a small amusement park and spiegeltent set up to celebrate the winter school holidays and combined with a trip to Harbour Town Docklands it makes a relaxed and easy half-day adventure, particularly for younger children. 

We were invited to visit the two main attractions –  the Winter Wonderland Circus Spectacular and a snow play attraction, “It’s Snow Time!”.

Winter Wonderland Circus under the Melbourne Star, 101 Waterfront Way, Docklands

Every hour there are snow play sessions inside “It’s Snow Time!”, a marquee with snowman building activities and a tiny ice ramp for tube sliding.

Winter Wonderland Circus under the Melbourne Star, 101 Waterfront Way, DocklandsBaby 2.0 spends about 30 minutes inside making a snow man and practising snowball throwing at a target before declaring he’s had enough. Older kids may like to spend more time inside. 

Winter Wonderland Circus under the Melbourne Star, 101 Waterfront Way, Docklands


Outside the snow play tent there are three small and gentle rides. The rides are $6 each except the mini carousel which is $3.

Winter Wonderland Circus under the Melbourne Star, 101 Waterfront Way, Docklands

At 11:30am and 2:30pm each day inside the heated Wonderland Spiegeltent young circus performers juggle, do acrobatics and clown around.

Winter Wonderland Circus under the Melbourne Star, 101 Waterfront Way, Docklands

The intimate setting enables everyone to be very close to the stage and the booths surrounding the outer edge means you can  set up your snacks and drinks while watching the action. At 60 minutes it is just the right length of time for Baby 2.0 and Lady AB and the acts are not scary or loud while still being impressive. And there’s snowfall at the end!

Winter Wonderland Circus under the Melbourne Star, 101 Waterfront Way, Docklands

Elsewhere in Harbour Town you can find a play area, free snow play (a smaller and crowded version of the paid arena) and of course lots of shops and cafes.

Harbour Town Docklands

Harbour Town Docklands

HOT Tips:

  • bring gloves, beanie, scarf for snow play and waterproof pants and gumboots if you have them;
  • rides are extra, tokens are $3 and some rides require two tokens;
  • best position for circus is the booths at the back. Little kids can stand on the benches and you can still see the action that’s up high;
  • BYO drinks and snacks for the circus, photos and videos for personal use allowed;
  • long queues for free snow play, go as soon as it opens or end of the day;
  • free outdoor play area at Harbour Town;
  • all day parking at Harbour Town $10, limited street parking available; and
  • City Circle and #86 tram stop close to Harbour Town.

Winter Wonderland Under The Melbourne Star, 101 Waterfront Way,  Docklands

Entry to Wonderland is free with tickets for rides and attractions available for purchase.

Mon- Thurs 11am-5pm / Fri – Sat 11am -8pm

Winter Wonderland Circus Spectacular shows daily at 11.30am & 2.30pm

Winter Wonderland Circus Spectacular $25.00 / Conc & Child $20 / Family Pass $80 (4 people)

It’s SNOW TIME! – Snow Play sessions every hour from 10am (50mins)

It’s Snow Time – $18.00 with one free accompanying adult, additional adults $10.

Bookings Essential. Phone (03) 9602 1311 or visit

Harbour Town Free snow play

Friday 8 July – Sunday 28 August 2016

Fridays 4-8pm

Saturday 11-4pm

Sunday 11-4pm

HOT: Dandenong Pavilion, 55-61 Princes Hwy, Dandenong

Dandenong Pavilion

Dandenong Pavilion is celebrating its 10th birthday this year as a stalwart of the dining scene in Melbourne’s outer south-east. It is the original home of some of Melbourne’s best burgers and owner Dani Zeini has taken them from Dandenong Pavilion menu to places such as Grand Trailer Park Taverna, Motorhome Majestic, Truck Stop Deluxe and Royal Stacks.

I’m invited to visit Dandenong Pavilion and I’m keen to actually NOT try the burgers for a change. My best description of the food is ‘a little bit retro’ with classic pub favourites chicken parma and steaks and dishes like Caesar salad and garlic prawns making an appearance. The servings are uniformly enormous.

Dandenong Pavilion

The kids menu is $13.90 and includes milk or juice, a choice of napoli spaghetti, burger and chips, chicken strips and cheese or mac and cheese and an ice cream to finish.

Dandenong Pavilion

All kids, regardless of whether they order a kids meal, are given an activity pack to keep them amused as a matter of course. It is a lifesaver!

Dandenong Pavilion

I spy a large rotisserie grill in the open kitchen so try the open souva with a skewer of beef and chicken each, pita bread, chips, tzatziki and Greek salad. I’m glad that I don’t bother ordering a separate meal for Baby 2.0 as it is more than ample for both of us.

 Dandenong Pavilion

In the interests of research I order a dessert, a chocolate pudding. It is not very inspiring to be honest. The pudding is not a moelleux with a molten centre, but rather a chocolate cake with an overly chewy crust served with a gloopy chocolate sauce and bland commercial vanilla ice cream.

Dandenong Pavilion

The service is super-friendly and solicitous. The waitresses are all very chatty about Baby 2.0 and ready to help with extra cutlery, plates, napkins. I’m asked about how my food is before I’ve had a chance to take a bite.  

If you need it there are high chairs, a disabled toilet with a change table and plenty of pram space.

Dandenong Pavilion

Finally, next to Dandenong Pavilion is Hemmings Park, with a great looking skate park and playground under shade sails. Unfortunately we visited on a very wet day so couldn’t have a go.

Dandenong Pavilion

Free parking is available at the restaurant as well as on the service road on Princes Highway.

After ten years Dandenong Pavilion is evidently still a popular destination for local families and workers. Its menu has broad appeal, with huge servings at reasonable prices, and the welcoming service as well child friendly facilities means that it’s an easy eat-and-play combo. As it’s open throughout the day you can drop in for a coffee, snack or meal.

HOT Tips:

  • Pram access;
  • High chairs;
  • Kids menu;
  • Standard menu suitable for kids;
  • free activity pack for kids;
  • Disabled toilet;
  • Change table;
  • Next to Scout Hall and Hemmings Park skate park and playground 100m walk; and
  • Free parking on site and on service road of Princes Highway.

Dandenong Pavilion, 55-61 Princes Hwy, Dandenong 03 9793 2133

Monday to Sunday

11:30 AM~10:30 PM.

Kitchen closes 9:30 PM

Dandenong Pavilion Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What’s On – Friday 8 July to Thursday 14 July

The Big Freeze, Cranbourne Racecourse, Grant St, Cranbourne

It’s the last weekend of the school holidays so make the most of the special events happening all over the city before the school bell rings!


  • The Light in Winter Federation Square (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 17 Jul) – enjoy beautiful music, dance, storytelling and visual spectacle including campfire program by Footscray Community Arts Centre.
  • Circus Oz Birrarung Marr (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – high-voltage acrobatics and explosive aerial antics.
  • River Rink Federation Square (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 17 Jul) – During the day views of the city and Yarra River form a dramatic backdrop for skaters and as nightfall arrives River Rink in Fed Square transforms into a fairyland of light and colour. Suitable for all ages.
  • Variety Ice Slide (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 17 Jul) – a thrilling 40-metre long, four-metre high ice slide will be set up alongside Southbank’s waterfront. FULL REVIEW.
  • ACMI (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – drop in workshop to create your own flip book, make a movie and minecraft workshop.
  • Artplay (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – variety of paid creative workshops for all ages up to 12 years.
  • Immigration Museum (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – Explore some of the ways that museums copy objects in hands-on activities.
  • Kids Flicks at ACMI (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – ACMI’s curated program of children’s films.
  • Nutcracker Winter Experience O’Brien Group Arena (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – four immersive experiences including the Nutcracker on ice show, meet the characters, a craft zone, face-painting, a chill out movie zone, on-ice games and giveaways, plus free skating lessons daily.
  • Winter Wonderland Circus (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – Winter Wonderland Circus and ‘It’s Snowtime’, an undercover snow pit.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles High Tea (Fri 8 Jul – Thu 14 Jul) – With a menu inspired by the lovable ninjas Leo, Donnie, Raph and Mikey your little ones will be saying Cowabunga! FULL REVIEW.
  • ArtPlay Backyard (Fri 8 Jul, Sun 10 Jul) – Draw in the sand, build sculptures with recycled and natural materials or muck about with water. FULL REVIEW
  • The Snail and the Whale Arts Centre Melbourne (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 July) – Storytelling, live music and lots of laughs come together in this charming production. For 4+ years.
  • Little Big Shots ACMI (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – Australia’s premier film festival for kids, about kids and by kids.
  • South Wharf Promenade (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – nightly cascading artificial snow, coloured lighting effects and special winter meals and discount deals for the whole family to enjoy.
  • Docklands Winter Fireworks (Fri 8 Jul – Fri 26 Aug) – Fireworks every Friday night at 7:30pm during July and August with other FREE entertainment happening along the promenade from 6:30-8:30pm.
  • Scooby Doo Live (Sat 9 Jul) – interactive new live show featuring big musical numbers, stunning multi-media content and kooky characters that pay homage to classic video games.
  • Greek Kids Cooking Class (Sat 9 Jul) – The lesson will delivered in Greek and English, and students will be making a Greek dish.



  • Christmas in July Luna Park (Fri 1 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – Luna Park is decking the halls with Christmas jolly these winter school holidays – and everyone is invited!
  • Dandenong Market (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – free kids craft workshops.
  • Alice in Wonderland Malvern East (Fri 8 Jul – Sat 9 Jul) – Panto, traditional lemon drink and fairy bread!
  • The Big Freeze Cranbourne (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – indoor family winter festival with activity zones and snow play. FULL REVIEW
  • Malvern Central (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 17 Jul) – Peanuts activity centre and Thomas the Tank Engine trackless train.
  • Hippo Hippo Frankston (Fri 8 Jul – Sat 9 Jul) – musical based on the phenomenally successful children’s classic, “There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake”.


  • Silvers Circus Burnley (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – line up of stunning international artists, Las Vegas style illusions and captivating production techniques.
  • Koala Forest Healesville Sanctuary (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 16 Sep) – Journey along the boardwalk through the Manna Gums of the new Koala Forest exhibit.
  • Melbourne Tram Museum (Sat 9 Jul) – Visit a Melbourne icon at this quirky museum. FULL REVIEW.
  • Belgrave Big Dreams Market (Sun 10 Jul) – discover original and bespoke design pieces, some of the yummiest and freshest produce the area has to offer, live music, bouncy castle and facepainting  for the kids.


  • Wild Things Melton (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 17 Jul) – life size animatronic Zoo animals, educational Zoology Tours, live shows with real endangered animals.
  • Wild Nights at Werribee Open Range Zoo (Fri 8 Jun – Sat 9 Jul) – Bring your torch and a sense of adventure to the Zoo! These winter school holidays, explore the Zoo as it comes to life after dark with thrilling fire shows, animal encounters, marshmallow toasting, the shadow puppet theatre and a secret garden to explore. FULL REVIEW.
  • Scienceworks (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – Bring out your inner inventor at Scienceworks these winter holidays!
  • Winter Wonderlights Sovereign Hill (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 24 Jul) – Christmas in July with snow falls, carols and projections.
  • Watergardens Town Centre (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – Angry Birds school holidays program.
  • Pacific Werribee (Fri 8 Jul – Sun 10 Jul) – Angry Birds school holidays program.
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