Australian Wetlands – Paradise for Adventurous Kids!
Climb through the ancient mangrove trees, surrounded by weird and wonderful wetland animals, discover crab holes and crayfish and swim in a real river… the Australian wetlands are the most overlooked day out for kids! This is a guest post by Robert Duhig from Sandgate, Brisbane, who loves to get out and about with kids on mangrove walk. Sandgate lies between two spectacular mangrove forests – Boondall Wetlands (extending from Deagon to the airport) and Tinchi Tamba wetlands, along the shores of the Pine River between Brighton and Bald Hills. For Brisbane parents, these two wetland sites offer boardwalks through beautiful and haunting forests, filled with things to see and do for kids.
You don’t have to be in Brisbane to enjoy a wetland walk, most coastal cities will have wetlands and may even have kid friendly boardwalks and bird watching platforms to use. If you’re in the north, of course, be aware that wetlands wildlife may include crocodiles… so stay well clear. Research your local wetlands and then plan a big day out!
Preparing for your mangrove trek!
Before heading out for a day at your local mangroves, pack a bag with:
- Water – while most of the wetland trails you follow will be covered, the delicate ecosystem usually means very little man made interference. So, there will not likely be water bubblers along the way.
- Insect spray: Besides the weird and wonderful species of birds and sea life you’ll encounter, your local wetlands ecosystem includes… mozzies. So many mozzies and other bitey insects.
- Sun Protection: If you’re going outside, got out covered!
- Crocs, thongs, reef shoes or other “wettable” shoes… you will get muddy!
- Nets and buckets: The wetlands are teaming with wildlife. You don’t need to be a professional mud crabber to catch a creature. Take nets and buckets so kids can catch, learn and release.
- Binoculars: If you’re mother to a birdwatching enthusiast, wetlands provide a feast of feathered features. Birds you’ll unlikely find anywhere else flock to mangrove forests.
- Swim gear, kayaks, canoes or floats: Just about all wetland adventures will features creeks, ponds and rivers. While they’re unlikely to be crystal clear, they still provide a perfect paddling opportunity! Note that your kids are going to get very muddy!
- Bikes or scooters: Find a wetland walk that features a boardwalk and spend a day on wheels!
The Wetland Biome
Mangrove forests are the shore’s last defence against erosion because their “pointy up” roots keep the mudflats stable. They also act as a water filtration system, keeping the coastal areas clean. They provide a safe haven for small fish (and are the “fish nursery” for vulnerable baby fish) and play host to dozens of species of crabs and other crustaceans. Mangroves also play an important role in sustaining the endangered Australian bee population. They also provide the perfect spot for sea birds to grab a spot of lunch, or even lay an egg. It’s vital of course, to treat the mangrove forest with respect – to take only photos and leave only footprints.
The best of nature play – things to do in Wetlands with kids
The Boondall Wetlands and Tinchi Tamba wetlands both offer long boardwalks, suitable for family walks, bike rides or scoots. Boardwalks tend to be flat (so easy on us “unfit” parents) and have regular spots to stop and take in a view. Wetland walks tend to be shaded but don’t forget your sunscreen as you’ll find “clearings” along the way. Remember to stick to the path to protect the delicate eco-system around you.
Wetland wildlife spotting
Spot waterbirds, look for crab holes and their occupants, spot snails, spot fish, prawns, frogs, lizards, and if you’re incredibly lucky, maybe even a platypus (in freshwater or brackish water only). Prepare kids for the day by showing them pictures of the wetlands animals and plants they’re likely to encounter – maybe even prepare a game of “nature bingo” to help them keep an eye out!
For the serious fisherman, it’s all about the crab pots but wetlands offer the perfect “catch and release” fishing experience, especially for younger kids. Toadfish and other small, slow fish inhabit the waterways of mangrove forests, so kids can easily catch themselves a little fish to examine, before releasing it back into the water. As someone who takes kids to the wetlands regularly, little ones can spend a WHOLE day doing this joyfully!
Conservation and Visitor Centres
Australians have only recently recognised the ecological importance of mangrove forests. Now that we do, there are eco-centres popping up in wetlands all over Australia. If you’re lucky enough to be close to wetlands with significance in Aboriginal culture, you may find a treasure-trove of historical landmarks on your walk. If you’ve got a conservation centre at your local wetlands, it’s well worth visiting.
Yes, it’s going to be muddy. So muddy. But there’s nothing like a good muddy play for little people. Mud play is an exploration of the senses. There’s nothing better than the gooey feeling of mud between your toes and fingers. Let them enjoy it while they’re little! Bring a towel.
Swimming, canoeing and floating
Wetland waterways are the perfect place for a canoe or kayak. Meander your way through narrow creeks and mud banks, or simply float along with a cool drink in hand. Be sure to check with your local council on environmental policies in your wetlands before breaking out the swimmers!
Picnics and BBQs
Pack a lunch and spend a day! Your local wetland wonderland may feature a kid’s play area with barbecues and a playground, but if not, pack a picnic and eat on the banks of a river. If you’ve got adventurous kids, who love a bit of the great outdoors, you can spend a whole day in the wetlands without hearing a single “I’m bored”!
Where there’s a wetland, there’s probably a series of twisted hibiscus tiiceus trees or other “gnarly, nobly” climbers. There’s nothing like sandy soil and the high shore winds to produce the ultimate climbing tree for kids.
Best Wetland Walks in Australia
Can you give us any hot tips on great wetland experiences in your area? Crocodiles aside, we’d love to put together the biggest list of wetland walks and experiences for kids in Australia!
Brisbane Wetland Walks
- Tinchi Tamba Wetlands – Bald Hills
- Boondall Wetlands – Boondall
- Deagon Wetlands – Deagon
- Bayside Parklands – Wynnum North
- Berrinba Wetlands – Browns Plains
- Osprey House – Griffin
- Black Swamp Wetlands – Cleveland
- Sydney Park Wetlands – Erskineville
- Warriewood Wetlands – Warriwood
- Badu Mangroves – Sydney Olympic Park
- Towra Point Nature Reserve – Kurnell
- Waterbird Refuge, Sydney Olympic Park
- Landing Lights Wetlands – Arncliffe
- Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands
- Bushy Park Wetlands – Glen Waverly
- Cheetham Wetlands – Altona Meadows
- Edithvale Wetlands – Edithvale
- Trin Warren Tam-Boore Bellbird Waterhole – Parkville
- La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary – Bundoora
- Dandenong Wetlands – Dandenong North
- Oaklands Wetland and Reserve – Oaklands
- Urrbrae Wetland – Nertherby
- Karurna Park Wetlands – Burton
- Dry Creek Wetlands – Wakerley Heights
- Warriparinga Wetlands – Bedford Park
- Laratinga Wetlands – Mt Barker
- Solandra Wetlands – Modbury North
- Brixton Street Wetlands – Kenwick
- Secret Garden – Gwelup (note these are under review, might want to get there fast!)
- Beeliar Regional Park – Henderson
- Baigup Wetlands and Eric Singleton Bird Sacturary – Bayswater
- Garvey Park – Ascot
- Lightning Swamp Bushland – Noranda
- Mary Carroll Park – Gosnells
- Nicholson R0ad Wetlands – Canning Vale
- Lauderdale Wetlands Track – Lauderdale
Note there are no wetland walk recommendations for Darwin because… crocs! Do you have a recommendation for a great place to take kids to see wetland wildlife? We’d love to hear all about it. If you haven’t experienced a mangrove forest with kids… what are you even doing today?
GUEST POST ~ Robert Duhig