8 ideas for a more educational day trip
Though Australia is a relatively young country, it’s rich in history and rife with educational and informative opportunities – and destinations. Whether you’re passionate about a particular aspect of our history or just eager to learn something new, these excursions are both enlightening and entertaining.
Adelaide – Martindale Hall, Mintaro
Movie lovers and history buffs alike will enjoy Martindale Hall in Mintaro. Australia’s answer to Downton Abbey, it’s no surprise that this Georgian-styled sandstone mansion made a screen appearance of its own, as the setting for iconic Aussie film Picnic at Hanging Rock. And though it may take you two hours to get there from the city, once you arrive you’ll be whisked back in time to the late 1800s at this living museum. The mansion was built between 1879 and 1880 as a private residence and features 32 ornate rooms, most of which you can visit on your self-guided tour unimpeded by ropes or other barriers. The grounds make for a lovely stroll too. The mansion is a prime example of upper-class – and lower-class – living during the late 1880s and early 1900s. Admission costs $12 for adults and $8 for children.
Canberra – National Archives
Get hands on with history with a visit to the head office of Australia’s National Archives in Parkes – just steps away from Parliament House. Here you’ll find a massive collection on Australia’s heritage, including thousands of photographs, maps, audio-visual materials and documents on our national leaders; government activities; military service records; immigration records; copyrights, patents and trademarks; and more. It’s a great way to learn about and appreciate our country’s social history and achievements. If you’re into your family history, you can do a bit of research in the reading room. (Note, though, that if there are specific documents you want to research, you have to order them in advance of your visit, as it’s likely they’re stored off site.) There’s even free Wi-Fi.
Brisbane – The Workshops Rail Museum, North Ipswich
The Workshops Rail Museum in North Ipswich is a fun half-day for train enthusiasts and those who like a bit of interactive history. Queensland’s rail workshops, the oldest in the country, are still operational and are home to the museum, which offers hands-on exhibits, multimedia experiences and historic train equipment, including steam locomotives. The museum is open daily 9:30am to 4pm; ticket prices are $21 for adults, $12 for kids aged three to 15 and free for children under three.
Darwin – Australian Aviation Heritage Centre
Australian history buffs and aviation aficionados will be flying high after a visit to the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre. Learn about the significant role both civil and military aviation has played in the Northern Territory’s history, through displays, videos and rare footage like the first air raid in Darwin. The heritage centre is home to 19 aircraft, including an impressive B-52 bomber (on permanent loan from the US Air Force), and a number of other remarkable displays.
Hobart – Shot Tower, Taroona
Get a bit of exercise along with your history lesson on a walk up the 259 steps of the sandstone tower, which was built in 1870 to produce lead shot for sports guns. From the top, enjoy stunning vistas of the Derwent River. Complete your excursion with a visit to the museum and tea rooms. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children and $20 for a family.
Melbourne – Edendale Community Environment Farm
Learn about how the community is going green – and you can too – at this excellent sustainability educational centre for the community. Just 27 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD, Edendale Community Environment Farm has so much to see and do: see composting and worm farms at work, check out sustainably grown gardens, watch sheep, cows and goats grazing in the paddock, tour the indigenous plant nursery and the spiral vegetable garden, and more.
Perth – Woodbridge House
For another return to the past, visit Woodbridge House on the banks of the Swan River, 30 minutes north-east of Perth. The house, built circa 1883 by well-do-to statesman Charles Harper for his wife, 10 children and servants, offers guided tours as well as educational programs. It’s open Thursdays to Sundays from 1 to 4pm (and is closed in July). Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children and concessions.
Sydney – Barrenjoey Lighthouse
You might recognise it more as the lighthouse from Home and Away, but this iconic sandstone beacon is steeped in history. Located at the northern-most point of Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Barrenjoey Lighthouse has been a fixture since 1881, when the first lighthouse keeper was installed. (You can also visit his grave while you’re there.) Enjoy the spectacular views and keep your eyes peeled for whales, too. For a small charge ($5 for adults and $2 for children), you can go on a 30-minute guided tour on Sundays.