There has always been plenty to see and do at AQWA, but until recently, there has been nowhere to ‘play’.
For many of the thousands of visitors to Western Australia’s only underwater themed attraction this isn’t an issue, but for anyone with a small child who needs to swing and bounce and shout, it can be a tantrum waiting to happen.
Opening during the recent summer school holidays is a brand new toddler playground, located in the outdoor Stingray Bay. While some of the new area is still to be completed, there is now a shaded play area with views of the multi-million dollar yachts moored in the Hillarys marina.
Under the cover of shade sails, and with an appropriately nautical theme, the small playground includes rockers, a low climbing frame that has a telescope to look out at the boats, slidey things, swivelling things, a ships wheel and best of all, a pirate ship (or what my three year old interpreted to be a pirate ship).
Looking out at the boats in the harbour
To be clear – this is a small playground for Toddlers only (up to five years old) but it is a welcome addition to a brilliant Perth destination that has always been family friendly. Now there is somewhere for our smallest family members to let off some energy.
Elsewhere in Stingray Bay – a large outdoor lagoon home to a number of Rays and Stingrays – are some ‘shaded’ picnic tables, and what will eventually be a lift for wheelchairs and prams.
This toddler friendly area adds to other great activities that children love, such as the Mettams Touch Pool with its resident star fish, sea cucumbers, sting rays and fish. New viewing masks mean that kids can now see clearly underwater, and as usual, a helpful guide is on hand to help youngsters pick up a star fish, or tell them the best way to handle a sting ray.
Although AQWA is designed as a one-way journey through the 40 exhibits that make up our beautiful West Australian coast, you’d be hard-pressed to find a family who doesn’t go back ‘one more time’ to Shipwreck Coast: the incredible underwater tunnel that allows you to be under the sea with 3,000,000 litres of sea water plus enormous sting rays, 4 metre sharks, huge loggerhead turtles and thousands of fish.
In the underwater gallery
While you are welcome to bring your own food, and there are some tables located outside for picnickers, the café does offer reasonable kids meals for $9.95 – a choice of fish and chips, or nuggets and chips.
Kids meals come in a treasure chest and include a AQWA temporary tattoo
Adults have a number of options to choose from including lasagne and salad, gourmet pies, grilled or battered fish and chips or freshly prepared sandwiches and rolls. Prices vary between $11.90 for a BLT to $19.90 for a seafood platter.
The only downside to AQWA is the entry price: at $30 for adults and $18 for kids 4 years and older, it can be very expensive for families. The AQWA Ocean Pass is a somewhat cheaper option, and allows progressively cheaper admission prices if you visit four times in a year, saving you 30%.
Essential Information AQWA located at: 91 Southside Drive, Hillarys