Family Fun at the International Antarctic Centre

Family Fun at the International Antarctic Centre pin

Located on  38 Orchard Rd, a hop away from the Christchurch Airport, the International Antarctic Centre is home to the several Antarctic Programmes.  For parents seeking to educate their kids about Antarctica in an entertaining environment, New Zealand’s International Centre is a sound choice. Visitors of all ages will get a taste of what the frozen continent is like; with a ride in a Hagglund, snowstorm and a movie depicting an ice voyage in the venue’s 4D theater!

Family Fun at the International Antarctic Centre snow

Four Seasons

In this section, guests can check out how all four seasons look in the Antarctic in a simulated experience. Also, visitors also learn about and be inspired by great explorers like Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton. Our kids loved the 24/7 show that takes visitors through the daily light and dark times and simulates snow falls every six minutes!

Snow and Ice Room

The snow and ice room is an indoor polar room with real snow cooled to -5 degrees Celsius!  In the room, guests can try the slide, explore the ice cave, brave the hourly Arctic storm or wind the chill machine. For those not ready to face the freezing temperatures; the center does provide jackets and overshoes.

Family Fun at the International Antarctic Centre flag

Husky Cuddle Zone

The Antarctic Center partners with the Husky Rescue NZ to bring fluffy huskies on-site. Visitors can play with the beautiful dogs and get selfies just outside the center. For those wishing to see the Huskies in action, there’s a Huskies in the Snow and Ice Experience show available.

Penguin Encounter

Families will not want to miss the penguin section, where up to twenty-six Little Blue Penguins live in an indoor/outdoor facility. The Penguins living there have been rescued and are unable to be released into the wild. Visitors interested in viewing the daily penguin feedings can check the schedule on the center’s website. As we discovered; the best places to see the feedings are the outdoor area or in the pool auditorium downstairs. Guests wishing to spend more time with the black and white birds can book an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the area.

Family Fun at the International Antarctic Centre penguin

Antarctic Gallery

In the Antarctic Gallery, visitors can learn about the wildlife and sea life in Antarctica as well as what life is like for the researchers at Scott Base. Furthermore, guests can experience a variety of interactive activities that showcase all aspects of living in Antarctica including the Extreme Cold Weather clothing that keeps scientists safe.

Hagglund Ride

Guests can ride an all-terrain amphibious vehicle, the Hagglund, and experience a simulation of the conditions in the Antarctic!
The Hagglund rides over ice, crevasses, and even through water. The ride lasts for ten minutes and is included in the General Admissions ticket. Children must be over two years old to ride the Hagglund, and children under eight years old must have an adult present.

Family Fun at the International Antarctic Centre barrel

Happy Feet 4D

Fans of the movie Happy Feet can watch it again and experience sensory cues matching what is happening on screen. Those who have experienced the Shrek 4D experience in California’s Universal Studios will likely know what to expect. Everything from scents to cold air is present to simulate the actual on-screen locations.

Beyond the Frozen Sunset

The center has a large HD Theater on which they play the film Beyond the Frozen Sunset. Filmed by Emmy Award winner Mike Single, the 17-minute movie Beyond the Frozen Sunset takes viewers on an emotional journey through the Aurora Australis.

Family Fun at the International Antarctic Centre exhibit

 Cost

The center is open daily from nine am to five-thirty pm. Admission is cheaper if purchased online, and there is a discount for children five to fifteen years.Visitors can also buy the family pack with tickets that include entry to the center, unlimited Hagglund rides, and access to 4D shows.    Moreover, families flying out of the nearby airport can take advantage of the free shuttle and coin operated lockers for the luggage.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • It is recommended, if possible, to wear closed-toe shoes because of the different terrains and temperatures in the venue.
  • Parents should prepare their kid for the different sensations and temperatures. Children who are temperature intolerant or can’t wear a jacket that isn’t their own may not be comfortable.
  • Certain areas might be dark, and kids might feel uncomfortable.
  • The admission ticket is good for the whole day, so families who need to take breaks can leave and come back.
  • Audio guides are available in a variety of languages for an additional fee.
  • The website recommends allowing at least two hours to experience all the attractions.
  • The center has a gift shop and a café on-site.

International Antarctic Centre outside

Family Fun at Tasmania’s Bonorong Sanctuary

Family Fun at Tasmania's Bonorong Sanctuary pin

The Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is small but well worth the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Australia and Tasmania’s most famous animals. Bonorong is the largest day long animal rescue service on the island, and are completely funded by the entry fees.

The goal is to get every animal back into the wild, but that’s not always possible. In that case, the animal has a safe forever home at the sanctuary. The Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is also a tourist attraction providing education about these animals and the importance of protecting them.

Family Fun at Tasmania's Bonorong Sanctuary sign

What to See at the Bonorong Sanctuary

We went to visit the Wildlife Sanctuary during our cruise to Australia and New Zealand when we stopped for the day in Tasmania The main attraction at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is the animals of course! There are animals at Bonorong that are extinct everywhere else in the world, such as the Tasmanian devil, the Eastern quoll, the Tasmanian pademelon and the Tasmanian bettong.There are also plenty of stories of survival to tug on your heartstrings, like Thumper, the wombat whose mother was hit by a car but she somehow survived until she was found in the bushes a couple of days later.

Other animals include kangaroos, koalas, wombats, emus, lizards, penguins and more! During the public tour, guests will have the opportunity to pet a koala and a wombat, and the admission fee includes a bag of kangaroo food to feed the friendly roos! It’s not at every zoo in Australia where you can touch a kangaroo or koala, and they’re the perfect photo ops for you and your family.

A Family Day at the Bonorong Sanctuary chilling

Don’t Miss

If you have the time, definitely book a behind-the-scenes tour (if you book a behind-the-scenes tour, it includes complimentary free admission to the sanctuary)! These three special tours will get you up close and personal with the animals and you will see things that most guests do not. Kids might get a huge kick out of the Feeding Frenzy tour, which is two and a half hours and is customized like the Bonorong Night Tours.

It takes place during daylight hours and features the animal’s eating habits. To this day, our kids remember the crazy Tasmanian Devil that paced back and forth in its cage like some evil monster out of a sci-fi movie, as well as the kangaroo joey that was waving to the visitors out of his mom’s pouch.

Family Fun at Tasmania's Bonorong Sanctuary meet

If you can visit at night, the Bonorong Night Tour is a two and a half hour group feeding tour in which your group will get to help hand-feed some of the animals and learn more about the rehabilitation efforts of the sanctuary. This tour takes place after the zoo has closed, and a group of up to six people will have their own tour guide.

 

For a more customized experience, they have the Private Premium Night Tour, which is similar to the Bonorong Night Tour except that it is three hours long, exclusive to just the people you came with and included a glass of sparkling wine or juice.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Children who participate in the daily tour will have the opportunity to pet a koala and a wombat.
  • It is advisable to come before 11:30, firstly to get there before the crowds and secondly to get there while the animals are most active.
  • There is some food available in the gift shop, but there is not a fully stocked café on the site yet, which is important to remember if your kids are picky eaters or suffer from food allergies.
  • The ground is uneven and steep in some places, so wear comfortable shoes and prepare accordingly.
  • Because of the uneven ground, the zoo offers free admission for guests in a wheelchair plus one companion to facilitate the guest needing assistance.

Family Fun at Tasmania's Bonorong Sanctuary guide

  • For safety reasons, Seeing Eye dogs are not allowed in the sanctuary.
  • The kangaroos can be somewhat aggressive when you feed them and might scare your child. There are also free roaming kangaroos that can get aggressive if they think you have food, so it’s not advisable for little kids to feed the kangaroos unsupervised.
  • Bring hand wipes as you and your child might be touching wild animals.
  • Advise your child to ask staff before touching any animal.
  • The smells might be a problem in some areas for kids who are smell sensitive.
  • Teach your kids not to throw any foods or wraps into the animal cages, because this can hurt the animals.
  • Prepare your children for the many different sounds of the animals since some of them might be loud and frightening.
  • The average time to walk the entire zoo premises is about an hour, but allow an additional forty-five minutes if you decide to join one of the daily public tours.

A Family Day at the Bonorong Sanctuary koala

The sanctuary is a fun and education experience for the entire family. There’s a lot of interactivity unique to this zoo and you can get up close and personal to the animals and their habitats. Our kids got a huge kick out of petting and feeding all the animals, and it gave them a new perspective on the land down under.

Family Friendly Experiences in Sydney Australia

Family Friendly Aussie Experiences to Enjoy in Sydney pin

If you are looking for adventure, incredible scenery and an abundance of outdoor activities, I suggest you take a trip over to Sydney, Australia. What used to be a giant prison for Britain’s criminals has now become one of the hottest places to visit in the world. Full of animals, insects, and reptiles found in no other place, Sydney is a pleasant land that will engage you and your family. After visiting Sydney ourselves, these are the best autism-friendly places we discovered.

Sydney Opera House

The world famous Sydney Opera House is a sight that can never be forgotten. Sworn by hungry seagulls, you will take hundreds of pictures trying to get the right angle of the magnificent architectural wonder. There’s no way you can visit Sydney without seeing the Opera House. It’s a visually impressive sight from the outside. If you want to see the inside, there is a grand tour of the opera house that provides headphones so that each member of the tour can hear what the tour guide is saying.

Family Friendly Aussie Experiences to Enjoy in Sydney opera

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Come early if you want to take multiple photographs with no crowds in the background and your kid relaxed.
  • There are lots of bars and restaurants outside the Opera House, so you can quickly grab a meal after taking pictures or going on the tour.
  • The tour is rather long, so unless your son or daughter are avid architecture or history buffs, try to book the shortest trip possible as your child might not be capable of participating in a two-hour guided tour.

Sydney Harbour and Botanical Gardens

One of the most scenic and iconic harbors in the world is Sydney Harbour. With its unique architecture, landscapes, streets, people, and food, the harbor encompasses all of our five senses and more. You can spend days exploring the Sydney Harbour and never get bored. To get an all-encompassing perspective of Sydney, take the ferry right from Manly Beach to Circular Quay and expect to be amazed. Although we’ve seen hundreds of harbors throughout the world, Sydney is still one of the most magnificent sights travelers can witness. Try to take a cruise through the harbor at night, as it provides a spectacular view filled with lights.

Family Friendly Aussie Experiences to Enjoy in Sydney water

While you’re in the harbor, you must see the Botanical Gardens. Charles Moore, a Scotsman trained at Trinity College, Dublin, founded the gardens in 1816. The gardens are the oldest scientific institution in Australia and one of the most important historical botanical institutions in the world. It started off with the zoo and herbs, expanding over time into what it is today. There is plenty of space for kids to run around as you sit in the shade of the many trees, laying out a picnic for you and your family to enjoy. The gardens are free of admission and near the Sydney Opera.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • This is THE place for your antsy kids to run around. There is plenty of shade, which is a huge advantage in the Australian summer. The gardens are a relaxing place for the entire family.
  • With a beautiful view over Farm Bay and Harbor, this is a great place to take selfies and snapshots.
  • There are crowds on the ferry, and you can end up standing. It’s not the best place to photograph the harbour from because chances are you’re going to lose control of your camera or balance.

Bridge Climb

The bridge climb is available to anyone ten and older who is in good health. You get strapped into a harness and then climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is a big tourist attraction and sort of a rite of passage when visiting Australia. There are three levels of intensity in the climbs from which you can choose. For newbies, the easiest is the Express Climb, which is a shortened version of the main Bridge Climb. The Bridge Climb is a three hour round trip through the entire bridge as is intended for more experienced climbers. Finally, there’s the Discovery Climb for those who are interested in the architecture and engineering of the bridge.

Family Friendly Aussie Experiences to Enjoy in Sydney leaf

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The climb is a physically intense experience. If you have a particularly active and adventurous child, this would be the perfect excursion.
  • Those who have a fear of heights or who can’t wear a harness should probably avoid this experience.
  • Once you start the climb, you can’t back out easily.
  • Before you go, watch videos of people who have done this posted on youtube, and explain to your child what this trip will entail.
  • You might want to take your kid to a rock climbing gym in your neck of the woods and practice before booking this trip.

Bondi Beach

This Beach is a popular Sydney beach near the suburbs of North Bondi and Bondi Junction. Bondi, an Aboriginal word meaning “water breaking over rocks,” was purchased by Edward Smith Hall and Francis O’Brien as “The Bondi Estate.”

Over time, Francis O’Brien took over the property, making the land available to the public. As the beach grew steadily more popular, O’Brien attempted to re-privatize the beach until the local government stepped in and made the area public in 1882. Since then it has been the site of many events, from Black Sunday to the 1907 Sydney bathing costume protests. It has been featured in many TV series and movies over the years.

Family Friendly Aussie Experiences to Enjoy in Sydney shark

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Bondi is a frequently crowded beach, so if your child has problems with crowds, it might be a good idea to visit a different beach.
  • If your child has a hard time with crowds, make sure you don’t come during a festival day. During festivals, the beach can become so crowded that you will not be able to find a place to sit.
  • There is lots graffiti on the walls. While this can be interesting to gawk at, there are no promises on what you or your child might see, which might include drawings and words that might not be appropriate. Take parental precautions in this area.
  • There are few transportation options into Bondi beach.
  • Just like in Manly and many Australian beaches, this beach has had some shark attacks. Keep your family as close as you can to the coastline.
  • If your child is not able to swim, be sure to bring them a life jacket for safety reasons.

Sealife Sydney Aquarium

The Sealife Sydney Aquarium is a public attraction located in Sydney on the eastern side of Darling Harbor. Architects designed the building to resemble a long wave. It is one of the world’s largest aquariums. Here, you can find over 700 species of aquatic creatures, and there are 14 themed zones, including the world’s largest Great Barrier Reef exhibit. The aquarium is well organized and flows from section to section. Each of the tanks has detailed information about the animals they contain, and the staff is more than happy to answer any questions you and your family have about the exhibits. A must see part of the aquarium is the glass viewing tunnels where you can walk underwater viewing the aquatic life swimming around you.

Family Friendly Aussie Experiences to Enjoy in Sydney dory

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Like many popular destinations, the Aquarium can be crowded. Many of the exhibits are spaced out, and the aquarium is large but crowds can still be an issue on some days.
  • If your child is particularly interested in marine life, they will love the glass viewing tunnels. The hallways through the tunnels are tight and can be cramped, however. If your child deals with claustrophobia or any fears related to being underwater, this might be something you will need to skip.

Cook Park

Another fun park would be the Cook Park, named in honor of Captain James Cook who was the first explorer from Europe to map Australia. Cook Park was also one of the first places where the convicts from the UK landed back when Australia was a penal colony. Today you will find several playgrounds, cafes, and restaurants plus many bike and skateboard tracks for you to enjoy. Cook Park is large enough to wander around the trails and enjoy the beautiful Australian weather. If you become too hot, you can always take a dip at the Brighton Le Sand Beach. This particular beach has no waves, so it is perfect for small children to splash about and explore the life of the sea.

 

Family Friendly Aussie Experiences to Enjoy in Sydney green

 

Autism Travel Tips:

  • There is quite a bit of walking. Wear comfortable, non-slip soles shoes.
  • It can get sweltering and muggy, especially in the summer. Check the weather before you go, especially if you are not used to the hot weather of Australia.

Taronga Zoo

If you are going to come to Australia, then you have to come to one of its many zoos, especially if you want to see the many indigenous species. Taronga Zoo opened in 1916 and houses over 4,000 animals of 340 species. The Taronga Wild Life Zoo offers exclusive behind the scenes meetings with koalas and has scheduled feeds, talks, and shows. The zoo is very interactive with a wide variety of animals that you can see up close. You can also visit Featherdale Wildlife Park where you walk around and have an interactive experience in a unique bush setting and meet kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas.

Family Friendly Aussie Experiences to Enjoy in Sydney kangaroo

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Be sure to take a ride on the sky rail.
  • Food is reasonably budget friendly at the zoo.
  • You can pre-purchase tickets online to avoid some lines.

Blue Mountains

If you are looking for a more outdoorsy adventure, then you might want to book a tour of the Blue Mountains. The mountains are densely populated by Eucalyptus trees, so it’s going to feel as if you are walking through a cough drop, but it is a beautiful place to hike with amazing scenery. You can also visit the Treetop Adventure Park. The park, which opened in 1998, aims to maximize excitement in a natural setting while having minimal impact on the environment. It is a large treetop rope course that allows you to climb, perform activities and in general have a great time.

Family Friendly Aussie Experiences to Enjoy in Sydney bridge

Autism Travel Tips:

  • There are some tours of the Blue Mountains.
  • Exploring the Blue Mountains is an athletically intense experience, so plan accordingly. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and pack a lightweight coat in case of rain.
  • This excursion is probably not the best outing for smell sensitive kids.

Unique Foods

Along with the specific areas, Sydney has unique food offerings for you and your family to try.

Kangaroo Pizza

It might be surprising to some, but yes, Australia’s most iconic animal is also one of its most talked about delicacies. Kangaroo to us meant Kanga and Roo from the Winnie the Pooh books, so we were fairly apprehensive about trying the pizza. However, it is considered one of Australia’s most famous dishes, so we knew we had to try it.

The pizza was very chewy, and we would only recommend it for texture loving, adventurous kids. I remember it being a bit smelly as well, so smell-sensitive kids with autism should think twice about ordering this item. You can also find Kangaroo burgers if that’s something you or your child likes.

Family Friendly Experiences in Sydney Australia koala

Shrimp on the Barbie

You’ve likely heard the phrase “shrimp on the barbie” at some point in your life, especially if you’ve ever watched Paul Hogan’s Crocodile Dundee franchise. Shrimp on the Barbie is several shrimps on a skewer, covered in oils and juices and cooked on an outdoor grill. It’s a quick, easy and delicious meal that is associated with Australia, although interestingly enough native Australians are more likely to call shrimp “prawns.”

Family Friendly Aussie Experiences to Enjoy in Sydney fish

Vegemite

Vegemite is scrumptious if you are stripped of your sense of taste and smell. According to Wikipedia, it is comparable to beef bouillion. Our son with autism, who is a little more direct, described it as a cross-section between morning breath and vomit, so it’s clearly not for everyone. It is made from leftover brewer’s yeast that is flavored with spice additives and is typically spread on bread, biscuits, and pastries. Cyril P. Callister developed the paste in 1919. when he was hired by Fred Walker’s company to develop a spread from the leftover brewer’s yeast. After its initial launch, vegemite got its name from a randomized local competition.

Sydney is a diverse and exciting place to explore for families. Whether it’s for the day trip on a cruise, or for an entire week, it is worth the time because it has so much to offer for all ages.

Wai-O-Tapu Park ,New Zealand With Kids

 

Wai-O-Tapu Park ,New Zealand With Kids BRIDGE
We got a chance to visit Wai-O-Tapu Park on our cruise around Australia and New Zealand on board the Sapphire Princess.
The New Zealand thermal park with the Maori name meaning “Sacred Water,” is 27 km from the city of Rotorua and is in New Zealand’s volcanic zone centrally located on the North Island.
The park is known for tourism as well as education, so there are booklets, pamphlets and maps are available in a few languages.

Wai-O-Tapu Park ,New Zealand With Kids FIRE

This geographical marvel of a park is famous for its colorful volcanic activity and even has the Lady Knox Geyser that draws crowds every morning. There are champagne colored water and bubbling mud pools that you reach mostly by foot over bridges and platforms.With thousands of years in the making, the place is truly a thermal wonderland and a global sensation.

The park’s unique features are its diverse natural landscapes, the geyser as mentioned earlier that erupts daily at 10:15 am, and the vast mud pool that is the site of a mud volcano that was destroyed by erosion almost a century ago. The pools of thick bubbling mud are quite mesmerizing to watch.

Wai-O-Tapu Park ,New Zealand With Kids ASH
Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit this park is from spring to fall when the days are longer, and you can extend your stay and make the most of the day.
The park is open every day in spring through fall 8:30 am to 5:30 pm and in winter 8:30 am to 6:00 pm.

The visitor center is where you can purchase the tickets and get information on the different hikes through the park. There are also souvenirs and gifts available at the gift shop, which make lovely keepsakes of this fascinating place and New Zealand.
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You don’t need to buy anything in advance though it might get somewhat crowded when the large cruise ships are in town and bring hundreds of visitors in buses.Prices for adults are NZ$32 and for children NZ$11 which covers ages 5 to 15. Children under five get to go in free so a family can get in for NZ$80.Conditions

Wai-O-Tapu Park Conditions

The vast outdoor park has small boarded and mesh-reinforced walkways that are relatively comfortable to traverse by foot, but not very easy to navigate by wheelchair because not all of them are smooth. Also, you should be aware that it’s very slippery after a rainfall because of the muddy environment.
The park has secure lockers for storing belonging, and there are toilet facilities for people a with disabilities as well as picnic areas.
Wai-O-Tapu Park ,New Zealand With Kids GREEN

Autism Travel Tips

  • There is a self-serve café where one can purchase hot and cold beverages and food.  If your child has specific dietary needs, you will need to take this into account as the facilities do not provide a vast selection of allergy or food sensitivity options on the menu. There are facilities for picnics, so if your child enjoys that, it is an option.
  • The weather can be unpredictable so bring a jacket in case it gets cold all of a sudden.
  • As the park is outdoors and large, travelers need to come with appropriate shoes. Closed, walking shoes are ideal and not flip-flops or sandals.Wai-O-Tapu Park ,New Zealand With Kids FOREST
  • If your child has tactile sensitivities, you should pack a poncho because in some areas they may experience some sprinkling or misting which settles on the skin and can leave them feeling damp and uncomfortable.
  • If your child is sensitive to smell, be aware that the area has an unyielding sulfur smell because of the volcanic activity. It is advisable to bring a mask to mitigate the strong odors.
  • Some children may find the bright colored waters somewhat scary so make sure you explain ahead of time what they’re going to see. Furthermore, prepare them for the fact that they cannot touch anything since many of the fluids in the lakes are toxic.

Wai-O-Tapu Park ,New Zealand With Kids BOYS

  • There are no toilet facilities out in the park, only at the Visitor’s Center so make sure to let your child know the importance of this before you embark on the tour.
  • During the summer months, it might be wise to wear insect repellent to make sure you’re not bitten by mosquitos and other biting bugs.
  • There are no shelters from the sun, so there is no resting place with shade. Carry extra drinking water and wear sunscreen and hats to prevent sunburn.

 

Wai-O-Tapu Park ,New Zealand With Kids YELLOW

 

 

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