by Rebecca Lee
Over the long weekend, we visited the Early Start Discovery Space in Wollongong; a hands on, creative learning venue, and the only one of its kind in Australia. It was one of the most incredible places we have been with our daughter. We spent a good 3 hours there and it would have been longer if they weren’t closing.
Located on the campus of the University of Wollongong, it’s around 90 minute drive from Ryde.
The space is made up of about 12 “experiences” where children interact with the exhibit, get their hands on it, get dirty, run around, make noise and get excited. It is truly a play space and can be enjoyed by adults just as much as children.
Boys and girls will equally enjoy digging for bones in the sandpit, crawling through the inflatable digestive tract and playing shop in the marketplace. Throughout the space are quieter activities to develop fine motor skills such as puzzles, storytelling stations, craft and sensory set ups. Toddlers are also looked after with a space just for them.
Just when you have spent hours going from zone to zone, you reach the outdoor space and cafe. The outdoor space is beautiful and lush. Parents can relax at one of the tables whilst the kids explore the natural bush like setting. Of course you exit through the gift shop, but we didn’t mind so much as all the items were educational but play based and fun.
The facilities were fantastic with parents’ room, pram storage and free lockers all readily available. A dedicated children’s toilet block had child-sized toilets and sinks.
For more info check out the website here.
Whilst the Space could be a day trip, we turned it into a mini break and stayed at Novotel Northbeach. The Novotel has recently been refurbished and is modern, clean and fresh. The room was spacious and had a safe balcony overlooking the beach. Staff were very friendly and accommodating. My one criticism of the Novotel would be that the giant bathroom didn’t contain a bath, which is usually preferential for families. We only have a shower at home so our daughter was a bit disappointed. There is a bar on site which was quite noisy (as you can imagine, especially as it was Friday night), however it was curbed around 11pm. The hotel also had a play room on the ground floor.
Underneath the Novotel are a number of cafes to enjoy a seaside breakfast. We had an incredible (but not cheap) breakfast at Diggie’s, just across from the hotel, on the beach. The food is fresh and so so tasty. Coffee was good too. Harbour St is a modern Lebanese restaurant about 5 minutes’ drive from the Novotel. Seriously good Lebanese-in a part of town I would never expect to find it!
Other things to see and do
For more info of things to do and see around Wollongong, check out this link: http://www.familydaysout.com/kids-things-to-do-australia/wollongong/nsw