The sun was shining and we were ready for a day’s adventure fit for a King!
We were off to visit a medieval castle – and as it came into view on the horizon we were excited to see tall turrets, battlements and towers standing to attention against the clear blue sky.
Now you may be thinking that to see such a sight we must have taken a detour from our lap of Australia to fly to the UK for a few days. You’ll probably also be as surprised as we were to find that this medieval delight is in fact in Queensland (appropriately!) – located in the small town of Bli Bli on the Sunshine Coast.
Growing up in the North of England, visiting castles was almost a rite of passage as a youngster. I have very fond memories of exploring gatehouses, watchtowers, turrets, dungeons, banquet halls and privies, and was more than delighted to be able to have a chance to share some of this medieval magic with our kids without having to fly half way across the world!
I knew that we were going to have a great time at the Castle when I was booking our trip and I met Nina via email – who signed herself off as the Castle’s Head Wench! When we arrived we were welcomed by Del (assistant wench) and we heard how she had given her 3 sons castle themed nicknames – we had a laugh over her choice of Sir Whingealot! Any tourism experience can be maked or breaked (that’s ye olde English by the way) by the customer service – and we were really impressed by not only the friendly manner of all the staff but also their knowledge and commitment to their roles.
We didn’t get to meet him on our visit, but the Castle also has a resident Knight – Sir Justyn – who runs different classes, workshops and activities including archery, armour and weapons displays. He is running loads of activities during the September school holidays (see timetable below) so it would be a great time to visit.
Guided tours are a horrible thing to endure with toddlers – so we were over the moon to find that everything at the Castle is self guided – meaning you can explore at your own pace and take as long as you need. You are given all the tools to make the most of your day – when you arrive you will be taken into the main courtyard and given a brief rundown of everything there is to explore – as well as a map and an awesome treasure hunt for the kids. There are footprints along the ground for the kids to follow too – as well as loads of informative posters on the walls to explain the rooms and exhibits. We spent about 3 hours in total in the Castle and could have stayed longer if it wasn’t for a grumpy 2 year old needing a nap (we briefly considered using the dungeon but thought better of it!)
When you enter the castle you are taken the grand banquet hall and can imagine yourself as King and Queen as you sit at the head of the table ready for a feast.
Make your way down to the dungeon (way too scary for
the kids me) then back up to daylight and some magnificent views from the top of the tower.
I have a massive thing for spiral staircases (I’ve asked more than once for hubby to either build or buy me a castle for this very reason but so far nada) so I was delighted that our day found us climbing and descending lots of them – each one taking us to a new corner of the Castle to explore.
We saw Knights in armour, swords, horses and Coats of Arms.
One of the most fun things was dressing up! There is a box at the entrance where you can choose your character for the day and best of all was a big table in the armoury where you can wear a piece of chain mail or try on a Knight’s helmet (how they ever went to battle in such heavy headgear is amazing!) The boys’ favourites were the gauntlets and they spent ages giggling and pretending to fight each other.
We also all had a go in the stocks – no rotten fruit lying around though thank goodness!
Another fab touch is all the games available in the courtyard – the toy shop on site sells a great range of toys and you can try a lot of them out here before you buy. We played pick up sticks, connect 4, Jenga, giant dominoes and a favourite of our 2 year old – knocking down tin cans with a hackey sack (you mean I’m actually allowed to destroy something?!)
Add to all this the authentic looking portcullis, giant door, moat, towers and Norman style features of the castle and it really is a unique and fun experience.
History of the Castle
Originally built in the early 1970s by a Scottish couple as a fairy castle to house their original fairtytale dioramas, the castle has gone through a lot of changes over the years. The original displays can still be viewed in one of the wings of the castle – but the focus is now on a real medieval experience – as well as holding weddings, functions and events. You can read more about the Castle’s history and current events calendar on the Sunshine Castle Website here.
There is an astounding collection of dolls, toys and fairytale scenes as well as a model railway and also lots of medieval memorabilia around to enjoy.
Things to Know
Sunshine Castle is located in Bli Bli on the Sunshine Coast – about an hour away from Brisbane or 30 minutes from Noosa.
Opening times vary depending on the time of year so check their website before visiting.
There is a cafe on site where you can enjoy such delights as dragon’s tail and Merlin’s treasure, and an incredible toy shop. Bring your credit card!