ellaslist Reviews: Wonderwater at the Australian National Maritime Museum

As a general rule, my family and I love a museum. My 4.5-year-old girl in particular adores herself some museum action, and we’re always on the lookout for new places to visit in and around Sydney.

The Australian National Maritime Museum has been on our radar for quite some time, so after hearing about the Wonderwater exhibition that’s taken over the museum for the school holidays, we decided to take the plunge with Mr 2 in tow, pack a tonne of snacks and hop on a ferry bound for Darling Harbour.

The entire museum precinct comes alive with Wonderwater, featuring six captivating exhibitions, interactive activity areas, powerful live performances, and more. Here's what we made of it. 

Wonderwater at the Australian National Maritime Museum 

An Immersive Experience from the Start

Before we dive in, can we just acknowledge what a sprawling and epic sight the Australian National Maritime Museum is? The historic ships in the harbour make for a seriously awesome sight, and while we didn’t go on any this time round owing to the height restrictions for little ones, my two were in awe of the museum before we’d even gone inside.

The Wonderwater exhibits are woven throughout the museum, which makes for a captivating experience that keeps things fresh and interesting—broken up by walks between the activities and switching between both indoor and outdoor play; something that definitely helps my kids to stay engaged with where we are.

Engaging Fun for Kids

The Great Southern LEGO®️ Reef at Wonderwater

We started our Wonderwater adventure with the Great Southern LEGO®️ Reef, and while Ms 4 tried her hand at replicating a cuttlefish out of LEGO bricks, Mr 2 had a browse of the model display and played with some of the big tubs of bricks that were readily available throughout the space.

Perhaps the main event for us, and where we spent the majority of our visit, was at the seriously cool Kids on Deck play space. Here, we lurched between underwater-themed soft play and building with giant bricks. After working up a bit of a sweat, Ms 4 settled into some craft while her brother continued his caper in the soft play—lobbing himself about left, right, and centre with a giant smile on his dial.

Wonderwater Review

The diverse range of engaging craft activities available meant that there were tables full of kids happily and calmly going about their tasks, fully immersed in their experiences. After tossing up between making an octopus hat or painting some sea animals, my girl opted for some painting—and was pretty thrilled with her results.

Wonderwater Review

A visit or three to the Waterplay Terrace (accessed through the Kids on Deck play space) made for a great opportunity for the kids to blow off some steam. They played on the equipment, engaged in a tonne of boat racing water play, and took their turns blasting the glass screen with the giant water canon. 

The outdoor water play area was a real bonus!

What more could we have asked for?

Interactive for All Ages

Our trip to the Octopus Garden was something I think my kids will be talking about for a while—a large-screen interactive show and immersive space that showcases Octopi’s remarkable camouflage skills and awe-inspiring shapeshifting abilities. Octopus Garden invites you to interact with the various ways they excel in thriving and surviving in their underwater world, and it’s safe to say my two were completely enthralled.

Mermaid Mondays for the Win

Wonderwater Mermaid Mondays
Because what 4-year-old doesn't dream of a mermaid costume accented with goldfish headpiece? 
Mermaid Mondays at Wonderwater
The face painting element of Mermaid Mondays at Wonderwater was a true highlight for Ms 4! 

The highlight for Ms 4.5 was, inevitably, Mermaid Mondays. By a stroke of luck, our Monday visit coincided with face painting for all, and she was utterly enamoured with the intricate mermaid design that was drawn onto her face at Rainbow, Mermaid, and Fireworks.

Wonderwater Review

As well as the face painting, this tucked-away area of the museum was a kaleidoscope of colour and a magical mermaid’s garden created in tribute to Bondi’s ‘Mermaid Rock’.

A play here was the perfect finisher to our museum expedition, and we re-boarded the ferry with a pep in our step from such an incredible morning spent together playing, interacting, and learning. 

Run, Don't Walk 

Now we've sold you the dream, we've got to let you know that Wonderwater is only on for two—count 'em, two!—more weeks, until 5 February 2024. Don't miss the last chance opportunity to experience this iconic museum complete with the ultimate roster of family fun inspired by the wonderful underwater world that lies beneath. Race ya! 

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