Fun, free winter school holiday ideas

With the State Government directing Victorians to stay home these school holidays, parents have one thing on their minds – how to keep kids entertained over the two week winter break?

Here are some suggestions to keep the whole family busy that are free and within easy reach of Kaduna Park.

1. Emerald Lake Park

This iconic park reopened to visitors on 13 May after shutting during COVID restrictions.

Emerald Lake Park has a number of tracks and trails, from shorter trails for a relaxing stroll to longer more challenging hikes. There are 2 playgrounds, both located near the poolside shelter and outdoor exercise equipment with 8 work stations. The newest playground has activities suitable for young teenagers such as climbing structures, a double ‘hang n glide’, orbital spinner and pyramid net.

The Emerald Lake Park Cafe serves hot and cold meals and snacks as well as tea, coffee and ice creams. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the cafe’s school holiday opening hours are 9.30am to 3.30pm.

The Emerald Lake Model Railway is the largest model railway in the Southern Hemisphere. The lake also offers paddle boats, murals and, of course, a Puffing Billy station.

2. Arena Frog Sanctuary

Right near Kaduna Park on Lagoon Row, Officer, is the Arena Frog Sanctuary.

Take the kids out to spot birds, ducks and frogs along the 1.2 kilometre walking or bike loop which is suitable for prams, wheelchairs, bikes and dogs.

3. Mt Cannibal Flora and Fauna Reserve

The reserve reopened for visitors on 16 May as a one way track to allow for physical distancing.

The 2.3 km loop takes 30 to 40 minutes taking in scenic views, native flora and fauna. Make a day of it and make use of the barbecue facilities. There are also public toilets, seating, playground and picnic area. Find the reserve at Garfield Road North Road, Garfield North.

4. Cardinia Aqueduct Trail

Pull on your walking shoes or cycle the 5 kilometre trail which starts in Thewlis Road, Pakenham. The trail is a rough gravel track that takes approximately 50 to 70 minutes one way. There is one hill but the trail is mainly flat.

Enjoy spotting birds and take in the scenic views. Dogs, bikes and horses are allowed

5. Bowman’s Track

Bowman’s Track offers a fantastic place to cycle and learn about local history.

The 44km (one way) track to Basan’s Corner starts at O’Neil Road and Janet Bowman Boulevard in Beaconsfield.

The track was constructed in 1862 at the instigation of publican Janet Bowman to provide access for travellers from Beaconsfield to the Jordan Goldfields in the Yarra Valley. Janet Bowman and her husband David came from Scotland to Beaconsfield in the early 1850s. In 1855, David was granted a licence for the Gippsland Hotel, also known as Bowman’s Inn, on the Cardinia Creek site now occupied by Central Hotel, in Beaconsfield.

Mrs Bowman funded the building of the track which brought gold miners right past her hotel

6. Skate parks

Cardinia Shire has lots of great skate parks for teenagers who love their scooters and skateboards.

Find them at Beaconsfield’s Holm Park Reserve, at Alma Treloar Reserve in Cockatoo, at the Garfield Recreation Reserve, at the Gembrook Regional Playground, at Cochrane Park Koo Wee Rup, Dick Jones Reserve Lang Lang and PB Ronald Reserve Pakenham.

7. Library Fun

While libraries remain closed because of Covid-19, the team at the Casey Cardinia Library Corporation has put together a fabulous free program of online school holiday activities.

Kids can take online writing, drawing, coding and sewing classes. Tune in for story time, a disco and puppetry workshop.

All activities can be booked through Eventbrite. See the Casey Cardinia Library Corporation website for more details.

8. Teenage School Holiday Program

The Shire of Cardinia is running a school holiday program for 12 to 17 year olds. All activities are free and will be held at the My Place Youth Centre in Pakenham or online via Zoom.

Activities include a Tik Tok Party, a tie dye and badge making workshop and a survival scavenger hunt.

Books are essential. Phone 1800 496 884.

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