Starfish, Sharks and Fish Oh My! A Visit to AQWA : The Aquarium of Western Australia

Spending so much time near the water is certain to eventually lead to a bunch of questions from the kids.

Are there sharks in there?”

Where do the fish go to sleep?

Who rides the seahorses?

Of course I never have the answers to all their questions. I freely admit this when I don’t know, showing the kids how we can find out. Technology provides us with the ability to quickly discover lots of information, but actually seeing for ourselves with our own eyes is even more powerful.

Last summer we were fortunate enough to be travelling in Perth, Western Australia when questions about under the sea surfaced. Perfect timing to visit AQWA : The Aquarium of Western Australia at Hillarys.

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Opening in 1988 as the largest aquarium in Australia (which I assume has now been surpassed by the Sydney or Melbourne aquarium), AQWA holds 4 million litres of water and is home to approximately 400 species of marine life, including more than 4,000 fish. The purpose of the aquarium is to showcase the 12,000km of Western Australia’s coastline within its walls. 

The aquarium is broken up into a number of areas to explore: great southern; shipwreck coast; Perth coast; far north; DANGERzone; Marmion Marine Park and Coral Reef. Each are quite unique, providing a snapshot of different parts of the Western Australian coastline.

Shipwreck coast was one of our favourite exhibits. It takes you up and close with sharks and stingrays. Don’t worry – you remain dry, observing them in Australia’s largest single aquarium as you move through the underwater tunnel on an escalator (Master R declared that we were just like a Sushi-Train for the sharks!). It’s very relaxing – not at all scary.

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Marmion Marine Park was where we spent the majority of our time. It’s a large touch pool where the kids were encouraged to touch and hold a variety of different marine life. The site offers a wash sink and paper towels nearby so don’t worry too much about the water (it dries!).

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Initially we had some reluctance from both kidlets to hold the starfish, so I showed them first describing how it felt as the starfish moved its legs to a more comfy position on my hand. “Oh mummy! They’re not rocks, are they? They’re alive!” I then gentle dipped my hand deeper to stroke the rays and fish. I even held a sea cucumber! Watching me and observing that it was safe provided a confidence boost for both Master R and Miss N who were soon placing both hands in the pool and touching everything!

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The great thing about AQWA is that it is easy to work through whilst providing a fantastic exploration of the coastline. It’s a real tribute to the marine life found in the area. We could have easily sat and stared into each aquarium for hours just to see what each fish was up to.

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Once you’ve finished looking at everything at AQWA, head over to Hillarys Boat Harbour which has a lovely calm swimming area and a plethora of choices for lunch.

Thinking of heading to AQWA? Entry is $79.00 for a family (2 kids + 2 adults) or you can purchase an ocean pass if you think you will be visiting regularly. (Full details on entry fees can be found here).

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