Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre
The Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre is the biggest environment centre in Brisbane and home to Brisbane’s first outdoor nature play space. It is purpose-built and designed to be engaging and educational for visitors of all ages and does a superb job at making families feel especially welcome in the space.
The surrounding Karawatha Forest Park is home to more than 320 plant species, as well as over 100 bird species and rare native species such as the squirrel glider, greater glider, koalas and the green-thighed frog. Other animals that can be found in the forest are wallabies and eastern grey kangaroos. The reserve forms part of the Flinders Karawatha fauna corridor and contains a variety of habitats including Eucalyptus forest, heathland, wetlands and freshwater lagoons.
Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre
Fresh, bright and jam-packed with interactive fun, the Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre at Karawatha provides kids with an abundance of information about the local flora and fauna. When you first enter through the wooden tree-framed walkway you can spot an array of facts and figures printed across the branches. Once you pass under these, you will come across an interactive floor projection which kids will delight in, as they chase the small tadpoles and frogs through the “water” they step on.
In the generously-spaced environment, children can see if they can jump as high as the local super jumper, the striped rocket frog, listen to a range of male frog mating calls, discover facts hidden within an impressive sculptural forest discovery area and learn how to help their garden grow.
There are plenty of places to sit, books to read, maps to explore and forest finds to observe. Hugely popular with kids is the night-time audiovisual experience room, mostly because it is a dimly-lit room where they have the opportunity to experience what living in the forest at night might be like. Kids can lay under the ever-changing projected night sky, as a clear starry night transforms into a powerful storm complete with thunder, lightning and rain. Animals hide within the nearby trees and gradually the night will turn to day as the new dawn breaks.
Other features of the Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre include a virtual reality experience that offers a bird’s-eye view of Karawatha Forest Park, as well as an arts and craft table with activities for the kids. Brisbane Kids are also welcome to relax into a set of bean bags as they search, Where’s Wally-style, for a range of creatures on a large, colourful map.
The centre also hosts special activities during school holidays and we recommend checking the Brisbane City Council website regularly in the lead-up to the holidays for any ticketed events, which, while free, often book out.
Activities at Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre
Not only home to an incredible natural bush setting and play space, Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre also offers visitors a range of environmentally-focused activities to immerse themselves in.
Activities vary depending on the season, with additional activities over the school holidays.
- Bush Kindy
- Interactive displays and hands-on exhibits
- Arts and crafts activity
- Native plant nursery
- Nocturnal experiences
- Honey tasting
- Animal experiences
- Guided walks
- Nature play playground, and
- Picnic friendly.
On most Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 10 – 11am, Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre plays host to Bush Kindy. Offering a variety of nature-based sensory play activities for children aged 0-5, this program is very popular so be sure to book your spot here.
With different themes and fun activities on each day, children and their accompanying adults will have a ball as they immerse themselves in nature, get messy and have fun while they learn all about the environment around them. Sit on a woven blanket on the grass as the hosts read a book, dig for treasures in the sandpit, jump like frogs and collect hidden toy insects in your bucket (and then work together to identify them), go on a guided bush walk and make a splash in the water play area.
All children must be accompanied and directly supervised by an adult. The hosts recommend bringing along a spare pair of clothes for kids (to change into after any messy play), fully enclosed walking shoes, insect repellent, sunscreen and a hat, as the kindy program takes part outside and the water section is mostly unshaded. Please also remember to bring drinking water and a snack or picnic lunch as there are no food outlets on site.
Bookings: All adults and children (including infants) must be booked in as a participant in this event. A maximum of 4 children will be allowed per session.
Housed inside the Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre is Basil the green tree frog and a family of five spiny stick insects just waiting to meet your acquaintance. Although they are easy to spot within their glass enclosures, if you prefer to keep your distance, staff are also more than happy to take them out so that you can get a closer look. The staff are also very happy to tell you anything you would like to know about them, their habitat, feeding and life cycle.
Note: Although you can only look at Basil (it isn’t good for him to have too many people touching him) if you are gentle you can touch the stick insects and give them a little pat on their back for their effort.
Native bee hive and honey tasting
A new addition to the Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre is a native beehive. Set up within the centre, but with an entrance and exit point for the local bees to come via the nearby window, this is a wonderful way for children to see the bees at work without disturbing them. A small door to the side of the station allows you to get a peek a the bee’s close up, but don’t worry – a protective plastic cover means that you can touch them and they can’t sting you!
Tip: Hidden in the back kitchen of the Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre is a very expensive jar of Sugarbag honey. This is similar to what is produced by the bees in the hive (although not theirs, as the centre allows them to do their own thing without being disturbed). If you ask the staff, they are more than happy to let you have a small taste of the honey so that you can enjoy the delights of fresh, local honey. This writer tried some and can confirm it is packed with flavour!
Native plant nursery / Pollinator Garden
Before you head on your Karawath Forest Park adventure, make sure you pack in your rates notice to bring along. Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre has its own native plant nursery and if you present your rates notice you are welcome to take home two free native plants to grow in your backyard! You can do this once a year.
Just outside of the nursery is a small pollinator garden too. This is a great example of how you can set up your own one at home and also houses some of the native plants that you can find in the nursery. Visitors can see how they will look as they grow and how best to plant them to attract the bees and wildlife they nurture.
Worm farm / Composting station
Set up inside the entrance of the Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre is a small worm farm. Easy to miss if you don’t know it is there, ask and the staff are once again more than happy to explain how you too can set up a worm farm at home. They will explain the best way to do this to keep them happy and thriving and are also more than happy to dig in and get a few out for you too!
Along with the worm farm, the park also has a composting station. Bring your compost in and even take some away if you need it!
Walking trails at Karawatha Forest Park
Child-friendly walks are a feature at Karawatha Forest Park, with 8 different walks ranging from 1km to 2.5km in length. There is a pram and wheelchair-friendly walk, called the Iron Bark trail, that is 1.2km long and we recommend it for anyone with kids of multiple ages. It is long enough to experience and enjoy the forest, without it being too long for little legs.
Nature play playground
Outside the Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre is a nature play playground that achieves all the goals of nature play. It is an invitation to play, but doesn’t crowd children with structured ideas on what they should do or achieve within the play space. Rather, there are opportunities to climb atop logs, fashion an impromptu obstacle course, enjoy the water pump experience and make their own fun. This is the first genuine nature play playground in Brisbane.
The nature play area at Karawatha Forest Park allows children to use their imaginations and create their own games. Whether it’s building dams and creating new streams in the water play area, climbing logs and rocks, or exploring the discovery trails, your children are sure to enjoy being outdoors.
Scavenger hunts are always a fun activity and you can make up your own or download one of ours here. Dotted around the play area are over 20 animal sculptures and artworks ranging from bronze animals to bugs and insects printed onto artificial rocks. Can you find all of them?
Visit the Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre to learn more about the biodiversity of the reserve and then take a walk along one of the trails to see if you can locate a koala, see a sacred kingfisher or spot one of the 26 frog species that live in Frog Hollow. The birdlife is the most visible in the forest, so be on the lookout. Copy birdcalls and songs while trying to identify which bird they belong to.
Wide paths and generous space inside the Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre ensure the space is wheelchair and pram-friendly. Three disabled car spaces sit up close to the centre and take visitors straight to the entry. All the paths surrounding the centre are wheelchair and pram-friendly and there are accessible toilets inside the Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre.
There are accessible barbeques and picnic tables on site, but make sure you pack sunscreen, hats and insect repellent if you plan to visit close to dawn or dusk.
Karawatha Forest Park features:
- The engaging Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre, open 9am-4pm every day but Monday when it is closed
- In terms and holiday activities
- Nature play playground
- Child-friendly walking trails
- Barbeques and picnic tables and shelters
- Bush Kindy
- Community nursery
- Accessible toilets
- Free off-street parking with 3 disabled car spaces
- Karawatha Forest Park is open for public access from 6am-6pm
Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre is located at 149 Acacia Road, Karawatha.
Phone: 07 3178 0330