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Australian National Maritime Museum

3 January, 2014

I’m hoping to run a series of posts about places we love in the Sydney metro area, but for now I will start with the Australian National Maritime Museum.

We are members ($130 for a family for a year) and the membership price is less than the price of two visits. Membership gets you access to the museum, most special exhibitions (and any others are at a discount), kids activities, access to their boats, lighthouse and submarine and their members lounge. It also gets you discounts on parking as well as shop and cafe purchases.

The members lounge is done up in a nautical theme and has toys and books for children as well as books for adults. It is always staffed by volunteers and tea, coffee, cordial and biscuits are served. There are plenty of comfy lounges to sit on and it has a relaxing atmosphere so it’s great for a post-lunch rest. The only downside is that you cannot eat your own food in the members lounge, only what is provided in the lounge itself.

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Even if you don’t decide to go for membership, the Big Ticket is the way to go. A Big Ticket gives you access to the ships and lighthouse, which is the main feature advertised, but it also gives you access to some extra exhibitions (at times), the Kids on Deck program and WetWorld (when available). For a family, these little extras are worth the additional cost.

WetWorld runs throughout the December-January school holidays and on weekends in February. At present, it is Viking themed to tie in with the Vikings exhibition. For the big kids (over 109cm tall and under 14 years) there is a super soaker room/tent with water guns and water cannons. Parental supervision in the actual tent is a must, and there is a parent observation area where you won’t really get wet.

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Outside there’s a play area for all ages, but more focused on the little ones. It has an area with small fountains in the floor which each spurt at intervals, an archway that sprays water down, a water play “table” area with watering cans, boats, buckets etc and a long divided trough that looked like it was designed for racing boats that could be made with pieces of foam that fitted together in puzzle like fashion so you could design your own.

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WetWorld wasn’t too busy while we were there, although there were plenty of children there (hence the difficulty getting decent photos without photos of other people’s children). There is a change room and baby change facilities inside the tent to change into or out of swimming gear. Hats and sunscreen are recommended although there is plenty of shade for the kids, most of the dry seats for adults were in the

The Kids on Deck program is also included in membership and the Big Ticket. The Kids on Deck area was a large (noisy) room with a huge variety of activities for children to participate in, in a Viking theme. There was helmet making, jewellery making (simple stamping on a piece of metal that feels like a thick version of aluminium foil), boat making with “junk”, making a rubbing of a Viking themed picture and stamping with Rune stamps.

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However, craft is not the only option in the Kids on Deck program. There are books to read and construction options with Lego for the older children and wooden blocks for the younger ones. The most impressive feature was the longhouse cubby house with a large box filled with Viking dress ups. We could have easily spent a few hours here, although the hammering from the jewellery making table (which we were right next to) got a bit much for the adults.

Of course, the Big Ticket entitles you to board many of the vessels at the Heritage Wharf. This includes the warship the HMAS Vampire, the Submarine HMAS Onslow, the full scale replica of the HMB Endeavour and (currently) a replica Viking longboat the Jorge Jorgenson. Most of these boats (all except the Vampire) are not accessible to children under 90cm. Babies cannot be carried on board in arms or in a carrier. As such, I haven’t actually boarded these vessels (not within the last ten years or so anyway) but the rest of the family have, while I sat with Ariadne.

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All that I have listed is what you get extra with either Membership or the Big Ticket. I haven’t even begun to describe the temporary and permanent gallery exhibitions. The museum is across two levels and we haven’t even been on the bottom floor, except to go to the Member’s Lounge (and we’ve been twice so far on our membership). Our last visit we were at the museum nearly six hours and all we managed to do was Viking themed – the exhibition itself then lunch, watching the funny and clever circus style show The Truth About Vikings, Kids on Deck activities and WetWorld.

The Museum has a cafe (Yots) and a kiosk open at peak periods (weekends and holidays) there’s also plenty of outdoor space to eat your own packed lunch, although there is little shade. The cafe and kiosk seem to have a nice variety of options but apart from the kids buying themselves an ice block at the kiosk, we haven’t eaten from either.

Overall I think The Australian National Maritime Museum is good value for money – a full day’s activities – and membership especially good value.

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