Johnny’s licking the windows, Maddie’s lost her pony, and your personal hotspot just dropped off their iPad… Ah, the family road trip! Part folklore, and part fear for parents everywhere, piling your ankle biters into the Tarago and heading off on holiday can often feel like a travelling circus! It’s what fills photo albums and memory banks, and the stories of generations past and present.
Truth is, as fun as it can be, the difference between a tame toddler and a wild child can often be the pit-stops in between, and a great playground is worth its weight in gold. Here’s a few spots to help your little ones burn off some energy, while you restore your sanity!
Don Moseley Memorial Playground, Keith.
Like countless families before you, if you’re travelling down the Dukes Highway from Adelaide, Keith’s Don Moseley Memorial Playground is an absolute must for anyone with kiddos in the car.
After a couple of hours of flared tempers, backseat fisticuffs and split milk drinks, this place looms like a mirage on the parental horizon and will have your rug rats clambering out of the family wagon quicker than you can say ‘train coaster’.
With a ridiculously cool monorail taking centre stage, this place has been pulling a crown of excitable youngsters (and tired parents) for years, and if their delighted squeals aren’t a big enough endorsement, their beaming smiles will basically rubber stamp it.
Just a stone’s throw from the main street (where Mum and Dad can get their caffeine fix at Henry & Rose Café), this peachy pitstop is clean and green, with lush lawns and shaded areas to roll out a picnic rug for a cuppa as the kids run their sillies out, plus a handy rotunda and public toilets for good measure.
If you’ve packed the snags and tongs you’re also in luck, with onsite barbecues and tables rewarding those who linger longer, with plenty more undercover play equipment to keep the littlies entertained for hours. Just on that… don’t miss the Land Rover on a Pole when you’re driving through town!
Fossil Hunters Playground, Naracoorte Caves
As anyone who’s ever been here will tell you, the World Heritage-Listed Naracoorte Caves National Park is a prime prospect for little adventurers, with the Wonambi Fossil Centre and a menagerie of underground caverns to explore - with dropped jaws - for hours.
But beyond the age-old stalactites, stalagmites and ancient megafauna hanging out below, you’ll be glad to know that back up on the surface the Fossil Hunter’s Playground is also a guaranteed winner, especially with a junior archaeologist in-tow!
The brainchild of three local Mums, this (totally free) natural wonderland is as down to earth as its name suggests, with a swathe of stone and wood to navigate as the kids run wild through tunnel mazes, cubbies, balancing logs, net swings and climbing ropes, among other hits.
Surrounded by gums and wholly nature based, this space has been designed to be as inclusive as possible, with a ring path enabling access from any direction and wheelchair friendly equipment from fossil and sand play tables to the slippery dip - which is also wide enough for big kids (you!) to slide on.
In between digging for bones and boulder hopping, Mum and Dad will find a welcome spot to bust out the sandwiches (or maybe even some hot food and coffee from the Caves Café) on the wooden picnic tables, with barbecue facilities also handy nearby.
Railway Lands, Mount Gambier
This dynamic, multipurpose space that has breathed new life into the city’s old railway corridor, being a hot spot for events, markets and concerts whenever they swing through, with an Amphitheatre and plaza sitting pretty against a seemingly infinite backdrop of grassland (perfect for picnics and BBQs).
As well as being a popular spot for fitness freaks, this place is a genuine magnet for families, with a smooth and wide Rail Trail that’s basically made for bikes and scooters and the incredible Railway Lands Nature Play Area being the jewel in every young kid’s crown.
Watched over by limestone carvings of native animals (look for the frog and the wombat) and rail-themed sculptures, the play area is dissected by a creek (perfect for rock hopping and puddle jumping), with plenty to keep your tribe entertained.
With anything from balancing logs and climbing structures to sandpits and even a giant stumpy-tailed lizard to clamber on, it’s the perfect spot for a little old-fashioned adventure play as their imaginations carry them from one end to the other.
Valley Lake Recreation Area, Mount Gambier
If the cool-factor of Mount Gambier’s Blue Lake (Warwar) isn’t enough already, nearby Valley Lake (Ketla Malpi) is a little less crowded and the perfect spot to let the kids run wild. With a large playground and wildlife park (full of kangaroos and wallabies), BBQ areas, grassy space for ball kicking and picnics, this low-key local hangout is primed for action at any time of year.
Designed to encourage fun and imaginative play, the area’s multi-themed playground (think of it as many playgrounds in one) will set your little ones’ minds to work as they take their pick of jumping, swinging, digging, playing farmers or even captaining a pirate ship.
With a liberty swing for wheelchairs and loads of inclusive equipment (just be mindful of the bark chips) this space is also fenced off for safety, with clean public toilets and picnic tables nearby. If you’ve got a little batter or bowler in-tow, the on-site cricket nets will also keep them busy for hours, and when those sweet treats and coffee cravings come knocking, ScRoll Queen is just a few short minutes down the road.
Mega Playground and Nature Play Hub, Millicent
Purpose built for your little wild child, Millicent Mega Playground and Nature Hub at The Domain sits right next to a ridiculously cool skate park, which has been making a name for itself by masquerading as a giant squid. So if you find yourself driving through town with an untamed tribe that’s jumping out of their car seats, it’s a safe bet you’ll offload them quite happily here.
A huge space that’s ripe for adventure, adults can whip themselves into shape on the outdoor exercise equipment (or more likely swill coffee from The Shearer’s Cook Café) as the kids whiz down the double slide or take to the flying fox, monkey bars, spinners, swings and climbing nets, among other hits.
Fully fenced and with enough elbow room for everyone, this local gem offers plenty of inclusive equipment, including a Liberty Swing for wheelchairs, and if the timber bridge and climbing mound don’t grab them immediately, the pebble creek and basket swing surely will.
Discovery Parks, Robe Nature Playground
From inland to ocean, the fresh sea air in Robe is an elixir for the family soul, and whether you’re staying at the super well-appointed Discovery Parks - Robe (or even just nearby) the kids will be chomping at the bit to dive into the region’s tallest Nature Playground in between beaches.
Smack beside the sparkling shores of Long Beach and contained within the park, this beauty stands six metres high with a double flying fox, nest swing, a slide and a good number of treehouses (but let’s just call them ‘forts’, okay?).
With picnic tables and a jumping pillow right next door, this amazing space inspires old-school outdoor play (for those of us that can remember it), making it a genuine hub for the whole family. Oh, and if you do happen to be staying right here in the park, it’s also worth keeping in mind there’s other sure-fire winners on hand - from the swimming pool, pedal carts and games room to an old boat just gagging for a captain!
Susan Wilson Memorial Playground, Beachport
Perched in a prime spot opposite the iconic Beachport Jetty the Susan Wilson Memorial Playground honours one of the town’s early legends, giving a nod to its seafaring past with an array of maritime-based equipment that’ll have little sailors running wild.
Fully fenced and bookended by the delicious coffees and treats of Bompas of Beachport and the Waterfront Cafe (located either side), this gem features a flying fox and a large wooden ship complete with mast, slide and climbing ropes, plus rope tower and swings - and plenty of sand down below.
With the ocean as your backdrop and seagulls on patrol, watching the boats roll in as the kids run, climb, jump, dig and giggle is one of life’s great pleasures, and if you’re keen to stick around the barbecues make for a pretty enticing lunch-on-the-spot!
If you’re taking your tribe to our neighbouring regions, it’s always worth checking out the Kids in Adelaide State-wide Playground Map for fresh ideas.
Our Limestone Coast Road Trip Guide for Young Families for Young Families is another must-read, while no family holiday is complete without a good bakery stop!
And of course, we all need a stellar cup of coffee, right? Be sure to check out our favourite Limestone Coast coffee spots whenever you’re in need.
If retail therapy is more your bag, you can also hit up our ultimate shopping guide right here!