Top 10 Things to Do in the Spring School Holidays

 

Top Ten: Spring School Holidays

Keep the kids happy this spring

How lucky are we in Western Australia, being able to send our kids to school and have a holiday – so many Aussie families are still home schooling and staying home.

The best spring holiday adventures are outdoors, so Lizzy Pepper has curated some of her favourite family activities with a good dose of environmental education. Important note: be sure to book ahead for any bookable experiences to ensure you don’t miss out. Enjoy!

School holiday fun for the whole family at Jesters Flat

Saddle Up for a Horse Ride through the Bush

Age 6+

The next best thing to owning a pony is to take one on a bush ride, right? My daughter, aged eight, dreams of converting her bedroom into a stable, so a ride through wildflowers, marri trees and wattle at Jesters Flat is a special treat.

Named after Australian poets and arts figures, handsome Australian stock horses are bred and raised by the Jesters Flat team. We rode brother and sister horses, Clancy [of the Overflow] and Paterson, on a Beginners Bushwalk, led by competent and caring trainers who love the wildflowers and native flora too. This particular tour is taken at walking pace, perfect for young children or first-time riders.

They also offer Saddle Club, and a range of horse rides including through Boranup Forest, a beach ride in Busselton and multi-day riding retreats. Book ahead as tours are filling up quickly.

Walk Softly on Country

Age 10+

My only regret about school – I wish we’d learnt more about the traditional owners of this beautiful land. Jump aboard a Ngilgi Cave Cultural Tour with Koomal Dreaming for an incredible new perspective on the Aussie bush. Josh Whiteland is a Wadandi cultural custodian and an incredible storyteller, sharing knowledge of his saltwater ancestors and his love for his home, Cape Naturaliste.

The whole family will be mesmerised by Josh’s firelighting demo – especially if you too spent hours as a kid unsuccessfully rubbing sticks together, as well as a didgeridoo performance in Ngilgi Cave’s amphitheatre with its awesome acoustics. The tour takes you through native Aussie bushland where Josh points out food and bush medicine, then into the ancient Ngilgi Cave. Essential stuff for Australians of any age.

Kids Fun at Ngilgi Cave School Holidays

Kids will love exploring the crawl tunnel at Ngilgi Cave these school holidays

Discover a Subterranean Crystal Palace

Age: 0+

Did you know that over 100 limestone caves lie beneath the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge? That’s why it’s called Caves Road! Four of these highly decorated caves are open to the public to enjoy, and Ngilgi Cave and Mammoth Cave are both particularly good for younger kids. I recommend a baby carrier on your front for babies, leaving both your hands free to hold the handrail as these caves have some serious stairs.

Ngilgi Cave in Yallingup has the famous Tunnel of Doom and a semi-guided format, so after a 15-minute intro, you’re free to explore at your own pace. The Tunnel of Doom is optional, and your kids might opt to do it dozens of times if you’re lucky. Perfect for burning off energy.

Mammoth Cave in Boranup Forest, south of Margaret River, is awesome for younger kids too. You’re given an audio guide on arrival, and you can walk straight in – no waiting for a tour at a set time. It’s an important megafauna fossil site, with bones on display in the cave and sculptures of the extinct creatures at the entrance.

Lake Cave and Jewel Cave are mind-blowingly good too, especially once your kids are a tiny bit older, maybe 5 years plus. Check out Which Cave is Best For Me to find out more.

Don’t miss the Megafauna Nightstalk sessions at Mammoth Cave during the school holidays (September 29th , October 1st, October 6th, October 8th) from 6pm-7.30pm. These are a fascinating private cave guides at night to discover the long-extinct megafauna. Suitable for children over 7 years.

Explore the Whale-derness

Age 0+

September-October is peak hour on the Whale Super Highway – this is the time to check out some cetaceans and teach your kids about beautiful whales. Southern right, blue and humpback whales migrate through the region, and you can see them on a whale watching charter or from select land lookouts.

Whale watching cruises depart Dunsborough and Busselton in spring, as 35,000+ whales swim through Geographe Bay. Naturaliste Charters, All Sea Charters and Legend Charters have beautiful big boats or catamarans with toilets and tea or coffee making facilities, and they’re great for sighting whales. For something totally different, Jet Adventures’ sleek red jet boat often has whales and dolphins swimming around it, and the smaller boat means you’re eye-ball close.

For land-based whale watching take a tour of Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse where the eagle-eyed guides are always on the lookout, recording thousands of whales each season. There’s a series of walking trails from the lighthouse; take the whale lookout walk which is about 2 kilometres each way – take an off-road pram for younger kids, and watch out for snakes. Point Piquet on the Eagle Bay-Meelup Road is also fabulous for whale watching, with its 270-degree bay views.

The whales come out to play at Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, spot them over spring school holidays

See Coral and Fish – Without Getting Wet!

Age 0+

Kids love a miniature train ride, and the Busselton Jetty Train offers superb bay views as you chug 1.8 kilometres along the historic jetty – the longest in the southern hemisphere. At the end of the jetty, the adventure begins. The Underwater Observatory was built in Fremantle and floated down to Busselton, and there’s so much more to learn thanks to brand new interpretive signage installed during the COVID-19 shutdown.

The Leeuwin current brings warm water into Geographe Bay, helping create a unique maritime ecosystem for coral, sponges, octopus, starfish and fish. They even spy the odd seal, whale and mermaid through the huge Perspex windows, 9 metres below the surface.

We visited in late winter when the visibility wasn’t quite as good as usual, so a virtual reality experience with 3D goggles added to the fun. There’s time to take photos and admire the life-size whale murals at the end of the jetty before the return train ride to the foreshore, and excellent Sea Play by the Bay playground.

Meet the Woylies

Suggested age 6+

What an inspiration to learn that the kind people from Yelverton Brook Eco Retreat have built a massive – and massively expensive – electric predator proof fence to protect the native wildlife, including the endangered nocturnal marsupial Woylies.

You can meet these gorgeous little critters – known fondly as the ‘kung fu roo’ thanks to their distinct hopping style – on a Meet the Woylies tour with South West Eco Discoveries. Brothers Mick and Ryan run the twilight tours, picking you up from your accommodation and driving you to the eco sanctuary. You take a short walk through the bush as they point out ancient balga (grass trees) and seasonal wildflowers, arriving at a clearing where you’re served billy tea and cookies. Guides Ryan and Michael call the woylies by shaking their food tin, and within minutes we had seven greedy quendas and three shy woylies grazing by our feet.

Anyone who loves native animals should do this tour. Also on offer: eco tours around Cape Naturaliste.

Delectable treats to be found these school holidays

Eat all the Chocolate and Candy

You can’t come to the Margaret River Region and not visit the chocolate factory, right? With three scrumptious chocolatiers to choose from, you’ll be on a happy sugar high for days.

Gabriel Chocolate, The Margaret River Chocolate Company and Temper Temper all offer fabulous chocolate tasting experiences, exquisite handmade chocolate and great coffee, too. Personally, I love Gabriel’s hot chocolate and fresh cookies, The Margaret River Chocolate Company’s choccy bilbies (a fundraiser) and Temper Temper’s design-your-own bar.

Also check out Candy Cow in Cowaramup for locally made sweet treats including addictive honeycomb.

Find Yourself in a Forest Maze

Ages 0+

Take your pick from one of three awesome maze adventures: Yallingup Maze, A Maze’n Margaret River and Boranup Forest Maze. All unique, all wonderful.

Yallingup Maze is crafted in wood, and the owners change it regularly lest local kids get to know the way out by heart. They also have great coffee and homemade food, and a nature style playground.

A Maze’n Margaret River is popular with young couples – and it’s an absolute credit to its garden-loving creators. A true hedge maze, and quite challenging, there’s also beautiful gardens to explore, mini golf, and a BBQ picnic area as well as a full café.

Boranup Forest Maze is another great place to stretch your legs and get lost amongst the maze’s hedges. Just off Caves Road the kids will add some Fitbit steps running and exploring.

Fly through the forest these school holidays with Forest Adventures South West

Fly through the forest

Age 4+ and 7+

Budding Tarzans, there are two fabulous zip line and high ropes courses in the region.

Just outside Dunsborough next to Clancy’s Fish Pub is the excellent Next Level Monkey Business which welcomes cheeky chimps aged 4 years and older. They have low-to-the-ground obstacles and zip lines for younger kids, right up to The Mega Zip which has you flying over the lake. Awesome for families with children aged 4 and older.

Outside Busselton in the world’s last remaining tuart forest, you’ll find Forest Adventures South West. Hailed as “the adult’s zip lining course that kids can do too”, dial up the adrenaline and get ready for some serious tree top challenges. Perfect for families with slightly older kids, you have to be 7+ years to tackle the ‘family friendly’ courses. As a guide, my brave eight-year-old blitzed course 4 (of six), which has a suspended totem swaying ladder, climbing 18 metres up into the trees before enjoying nine consecutive zip lines. Awesome!

Get crafty in a glorious garden

The Quill Collective sits on the outskirts of Busselton, and it’s a dreamy café-garden-creative space. They’re running a series of children’s art and craft workshops, as well as morning yoga – designed to spark the imagination and get some zen. Bookings are essential as spots are limited, and with such a glorious garden and inviting café, you’ll easily entertain yourself while the kids are busy making. There’s also a retail shop with a range of locally made gifts.

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Lizzy Pepper

Author Lizzy Pepper

After living in Melbourne and London, Lizzy meant to have a summer in Yallingup before getting a “serious” job in Perth. Nine years on, and she loves Dunsborough too much to return to city life. Lizzy works as a marketing consultant in the tourism industry. She’s taken helicopter rides along the coast, distilled her own batch of gin and put in the hard yards tasting wines to help tell her clients' stories. Whether she’s paddling her wave ski on Geographe Bay, swimming at Castle Rock Beach, brunching at a favourite café or drinking local wine on the deck, Lizzy is always on the lookout for new tastes and experiences to share with visitors. Instagram: @lizzy.pepper.marketing / Web: www.lizzypepper.com

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