Brisbane's cultural heart proves to be one big children's playground, writes Daniel Scott.
Crab fossil. Tick.
Sometimes, a treasure hunt is all it takes to keep the small people smiling. Spending our morning identifying the dinosaur relics in the Lost Creatures exhibition at the Queensland Museum is working well.
Never underestimate the power of competition, either. While our six-year-old, Mila, powers around the Dinosaur Trail, our youngest, Freya, aged four, slyly inveigles Dad to help her complete her hunt before her sister.
For parents with small children, visiting a city can be like tackling an obstacle course, one that leaves you fraught, dishevelled and nursing a bruised wallet.
But this family visit to Brisbane is going like clockwork.
This is mainly because we've taken up residence on the city's South Bank, within walking distance of several attractions and with access to the city's beetling ferry network.
On day one, having arrived early at South Bank using the Airtrain, on which children aged from 5-14 travel free when accompanied by an adult, we spent much of the day travelling on the free CityHopper ferries around the central city. In the morning we chugged downstream to Sydney Street at New Farm, brunched at the Cobblestone Tea House, and let the kids loose in the park playground.
In the early afternoon, we returned to Eagle Street Pier in the city centre, where we grazed on shared plates outside on the balcony at Pony. Finally, we recrossed the river to South Bank to cool off at Brisbane's man-made beach and lagoon, recently given a million-dollar upgrade to make it more kid-friendly.
Go full circle
Day two is all about maximum return for minimum effort, about not straying far from the South Bank's cultural precinct. After hunting for dinosaurs and discovering the undersea wonders of the Coral Coast at the free Queensland Museum, we walk a few hundred metres further on to the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), and visit the Children's Art Centre.
I've had a tip-off from Brisbane friend and artist Ellie Anderson that GOMA's kids' space might just be better than the adult one, and end up having as much fun as my offspring. The centre works with artists to create interactive installations and activities that all the family can enjoy. At present, there's Art on the Wild Side, featuring interactive works from a range of contemporary artists, with animals as the focus, as well as Australian artist Robert MacPherson's Swags and Swamp Rats exhibition, which delves into Australian history and culture through a series of fun and engaging works.
I've never been a fan of observation wheels, finding them overpriced and laborious. However, a whirl on the Wheel of Brisbane is a child-pleaser, as we slowly ascend to 60 metres in one of 42 glass-encased capsules and scan the Brisbane River below for one of the many bull sharks said to frequent it.
There's something for everybody at Cowch cocktail and dessert bar, just behind South Bank, on Grey Street. The girls and I hoe into Naked Pops: ice-creams dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with our choice of toppings. It's enough to keep us going until a walkabout dinner at the Asian-style Eat Street markets, located at Brisbane's Old Port, on the river's north shore.
On our final morning, we find our way to another market, in the trendy West End inner-city area, for a breakfast of cheese kranskys and bratwurst rolls from the German Hut, and to test our carry-on limits on the flight home with bags full of honey, home-made jams, condiments and spices.
It's nearly time to fly home, but thanks to local knowledge, we're able to check in early and enjoy an unhurried lunch with Brisbane chums at the airport's Golf Central.
With screens showing flight departures and arrivals, decent grub, a bar and mini-golf course with 18 holes, each displaying the flag of a popular destination such as the US or France, it's an inspired last stop on our Brisbane break.
Hole in one for Dad. Tick.
Busy, happy children. Tick.
Brisbane with kids, done and dusted.
The air train to the city costs $28 an adult (two travelling together) and accompanied kids travel free, airtrain.com.au.
Free CityHopper ferries run every half-hour. brisbane.qld.gov.au/traffic-transport/public-transport/citycat-ferry-services/cityhopper
Mantra South Bank, within walking distance of attractions and ferries, has two-bedroom apartments, from $399 a night, mantra.com.au.
For kids and chocoholics, Cowch dessert cocktail bar at South Bank, cowch.com.au. For adults, Pony, at Eagle Street Pier, ponydining.com.au. And for everybody, Eat Street markets at Northshore, eatstreetmarkets.com.
Queensland Museum, South Bank, free entry, qm.qld.gov.au.
GOMA, South Bank, free except for visiting exhibitions. Swags and Swamp Rats runs until October 5; Art on the Wild Side finishes October 12. qagoma.qld.gov.au.
Family tickets on the Wheel of Brisbane cost $50, thewheelofbrisbane.com.au
Family mini golf passes cost $40 from Golf Central, Brisbane Airport, golfcentralbne.com.au.
The writer was a guest of Visit Brisbane.