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Canberra’s Gold Creek Village: A family-friendly guide

Canberra’s Gold Creek Village is home three of the city’s top family attractions – miniature park Cockington Green Gardens, the Canberra Reptile Park and the National Dinosaur Museum.

Add weekend markets, art galleries, accommodation and cafes, and this may just be the ACT’s most kid-friendly destination. And the best part? Gold Creek Village is just a 15-minute drive from Canberra’s city centre. 

In this family-friendly guide, we unpack Gold Creek’s best activities for all ages, with reviews from Nina Henderson and her eight-year-old twins. 

visit cockington green gardens. image visitcanberra
Visit Cockington Green Gardens. Image: VisitCanberra

Cockington Green Gardens: A journey of miniatures and fairy gardens

This meticulously manicured miniature world, located in Canberra’s Gold Creek tourist precinct, is an absolute nirvana for kids and their parents. Cockington Green Gardens will fascinate the whole family with its miniature world of quaint villages, railways, castles and gardens. 

Within 20 steps of the entry gate, you’ll pass a miniature country mansion, watch a barge boat plying a canal, stroll past a game of village cricket, and try to resist the urge to hide behind the turrets of a Scottish castle. And that’s just on one side of the path.

Cockington Green Gardens. Image VisitCanberra
Cockington Green Gardens. Image: VisitCanberra

There’s also a turf maze (best viewed by clambering up the stairs to a special observation platform), and a number of mechanised exhibits just waiting for a kid’s touch to set them hurtling into action. Pushing a button sends a model Express Train to London on its way again; another button sends a series of windmills into a spinning frenzy.

However, the highlight is a ride on the garden’s very own miniature puffing billy train. For $3 (under fours are free) you’ll get two laps of the international section of the garden that features everything from Egyptian pyramids to Peru’s Machu Picchu.

Other features include a licensed Garden Café, free barbeques, and two gift shops. Cockington Green Gardens are open The park is open year-round from 9:30am to 5pm, excluding Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

ride the miniature steam train at cockington green gardens. image visitcanberra

Family review of Cockington Green Gardens

During our weekend in Canberra, I was told to make sure we went to Cockington Green, a miniature world perfect for kidsIt was about 25 minutes from where we were staying, so we decided to head out and grab some breakfast at Gold Creek and be there early to avoid the crowds of the long weekend. 

We found a few coffee shops open for breakfast and as most things are within walking distance, we grabbed a parking spot right at Cockington Green and walked to the village. Once back at the miniature village, we bought the family pass, which included entry for two adults and two children, some discount vouchers and a train ride.  

Here are the activities the kids loved most:

Cockington Green Village
Cockington Green Village

Fairy garden 

My daughter headed for the fairy garden and she loved it so much she wants one just like it in our yard! 

Miniature train ride 

Next we took the miniature steam train ride to get an idea of the layout. It’s only a short ride, but you go around twice and get an overview of where to go. Thankfully we did this first, as on returning to the little station we found about 50 people were now waiting in the queue!

Cockington Green Cricket Match
Cockington Green Cricket Match

Miniature garden 

As an avid cricket fan, Aaron found the miniature cricket pitch fascinating and made a big point of showing me the little person on the toilet reading the newspaper. There were plenty of these little funny scenes throughout, including a crocodile hidden in the lake (waiting for golfers!), a streaker in the soccer match and even Where’s Wally in the crowded stadium.

International displays 

Next we headed into the international displays – where to my daughter‘s delight, she found a hidden Easter bunny (it was Easter Saturday) with some eggs near one of the displays. It was a gift from Cockington Green and it made her visit! The kids had fun stopping to take photos of the displays for the Czech Republic and Oman to send to our ex-pat friends overseas, just so they could say they have been there.

Cockington Green Train
Cockington Green Train

The National Dinosaur Museum: A roaring good time

With the largest permanent display of dinosaur fossils in Australia, exhibits at the National Dinosaur Museum range from full-size replica skeletons to reconstructions of uniquely Australian dinosaurs including MuttaburrasaurusThere are more than 300 animal, mineral and vegetable fossil displays here with massive bones and skulls that will impress any dinosaur-mad kid! 

Whilst there’s a fascinating array of skeletons, skulls and murals on display, it’s the lifelike models and animatronic dinosaurs (complete with roars and blinks) that always leave the biggest impression.

The museum offers free guided tours in the school holidays. Kids can ask the experts any burning dinosaur question as they take a fun and educational journey back in time.

National Dinosaur Museum
The National Dinosaur Museum. Image: VisitCanberra

Family review of the National Dinosaur Museum, Canberra

By the time we left the car park was full (with plenty of cars waiting), so we decided to take the short walk across the road to the National Dinosaur Museum. We only had a short time before we were meeting friends for lunch, however in that spare 30 minutes all we managed to see was the museum’s Dinosaur Garden at the front! 

There were giant replicas of a T-Rex, stegosaurus and raptors, just to name a few. The kids recalled the dinosaur talk from the day before and did their best to name a couple of the breeds. It took all our energy to drag them away from these dinosaurs!

National Dinosaur Museum
National Dinosaur Museum

Canberra Reptile Zoo: Home to fascinating critters

This small zoo may have started as a pet shop, but it’s flourished into a fantastic educational experience (and one of Canberra’s best-loved animal attractions). Kids will love meeting Canberra Reptile Zoo‘s resident turtles, frogs, lizards, snakes and even a saltwater crocodile. Many critters have have been rescued and rehabilitated, and to add to the feel-good factor, the gift shop here is very affordable. 

Family review of the Canberra Reptile Zoo

When I asked the kids what they enjoyed most about our day at Gold Creek, they both agreed the last stop for the day was their highlight – Canberra Reptile Zoo. Upon entering, the twins were given an Easter hunt – they had to search through the reptile tanks for coloured plastic eggs and correctly name the colour of the egg to the display.

They were delighted with their Easter egg prize and it was a great way to ensure they looked at all the displays. The zoo seemed to be family-run and while small in comparison to most zoos, it was a great hands-on experience. The kids enjoyed patting the skinks and searching for them in the sawdust, touching a python and studying a bearded dragon.

Oliver was fascinated by the frogs at Canberra Reptile Zoo
Fascinating frogs at Canberra Reptile Zoo. Image: Angela Saurine

Family accommodation near Cockington Green Gardens & Gold Creek Village

Canberra’s East Hotel is amazing for kids! Located just a 20-minute drive from Gold Creek Village, the hotel’s two-bedroom family apartments have cubbies with bunk beds, Xbox One consoles, games, reading nooks and dress-up clothes. The apartment includes a gourmet kitchen equipped with a two-burner hotplate and microwave so you can prepare your own meals.

Get 10% off your stay at East Hotel Canberra here 

Kids love the rooms at East Hotel Canberra
Kids love the rooms at East Hotel Canberra

More information

Nina Henderson is mum to twins Aaron and Jessica and spends her working day in the travel industry. Read more about her weekend in Canberra here

Produced with contributions from Elisa Elwin and Tim the Yowie Man

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