Posted 4/2/2012 by
I know that in medieval times, there were kids. But you don’t see them much in the history books, do you? The words fun and medieval aren’t often in the same sentence. It doesn’t appear a time when kids were allowed to be kids and could run amok. Kids were more likely to have to duck when the swords and pikes of war were being thrust about. Or get ready to get married off at around 8 years of age. All very adult. Sunshine Castle redresses this historic imbalance. It’s medieval and it’s fun. Who’d have thought it? Up on the hill at Bli Bli, Sunshine Castle is a Sunshine Coast icon. It’s been here since the mid-1970’s and while some of its age – as opposed to its history, which part of the deal – shows in parts, it’s still got appeal for even this generation of twitchy-thum’d, instant-information, world-at-your-fingertips kids. It was a gloomy sort of Saturday when we lobbed up to the ramparts seeking permission to enter. We were greeted by young lasses resplendent in period outfits, who directed us to the central activity of the castle: the treasure hunt. It’s basically a sheet of paper to record answers to questions which are dotted throughout the castle. This is the best way to get about as it gives you an agenda and rather than aimlessly wander the building, you have a project. Kids love a project.
What's in here?...
We started in the dress up box, where a range of silly medieval hats are waiting to be plonked on your head and get you into character. The Great Hall is a feature of the castle and is pretty much the first stop. A huge, high ceiling, a massive u-shaped table, walls bedecked with heraldry and weaponry. It’s a great space and real highlight. Down a narrow staircase, there’s a dungeon with various forms of torture and a waxwork character all bloodied and chained to the wall, looking pretty gruesome, as you might expect. It’s here the first clue for the treasure hunt and, question answered, we launch off down the hallway for the next medieval scene. The sound of kids’ voices and footsteps underlines the incredible acoustics here. In fact, Sunshine Castle hosted a number of sell-out operas last year. Another is booked in for mid-May, an event which I have made a mental note to record. The castle is like a giant display cabinet, linked by long halls, where historic artifacts and living embodiments of the period take you back in time. There’s a doll and toy museum, miniature city, fairytale dioramas and a model train set-up. Not exactly medieval, but targets for the kids to aim at as they race about the halls and rooms. We keep heading upwards. The air is getting thicker as the warm air gathers, higher and higher. Spiral staircases where small castle windows offer ever more elevated views across the hinterland. The treasure hunt drives us on.
Princesses on both sides of the glass
At the top and fresh air. The view through the parapets is spectacular. The lookout tower is at 24m, and given the castle is already on a high hill, you can imagine the space. Standing up there, with the wind whistling through your hair, you could almost take yourself back numerous centuries. An odd plastic, novelty hat on your head becomes heavier and more real. “Ah, my kingdom....” Yes, its Olde Worlde. Yes, its basic. Yes, it’s a little cheesy. But Sunshine Castle still works. After a couple of hours, my two eight year-old companions were not keen to leave.