Play School Exhibition | Maritime Museum, Port Adelaide | Review

Happy Birthday Play School Exhibition at the SA Maritime Museum, Port Adelaide – Review

by Carla Caruso

Do names like Jemima, Big Ted and Bananas in Pyjamas take you back in time? Then you won’t want to miss this birthday exhibition while it’s in town.

Editors note: the exhibition has been extended until 31 January 2021.

I’ll be honest, when I first read about the Play School Exhibition at the Maritime Museum, I was more excited for myself than the kids.

I grew up watching presenters like Noni Hazlehurst and John Waters, and such famous toys as Jemima, Humpty, Big Ted – and Little Ted – onscreen. (It’s a stark reminder, as parents, how different our childhoods were. My boys are more up with YouTube stars and shows on TV streaming services!)

And yet, my two still had a bundle of fun at the Happy Birthday Play School Exhibition, which has sailed into Port Adelaide’s Maritime Museum. Developed by the National Museum of Australia, in collaboration with the ABC, the travelling exhibition marks the program’s milestone 50th birthday and is exclusive to the South Australian Maritime Museum locally.


I loved learning ‘behind the scenes’ facts about the show, like that it was originally adapted from a British program, but the Aussie version long outlived the BBC one (and became distinctly our own), and that the show’s entirely scripted and the presenters must learn their lines.

It was also interesting to see how ahead of its time Play School has been, from featuring racially diverse toys to recycling rubbish into playthings and dressing up the Jemima doll as everything from a rocket scientist to a test pilot. Go, girl power!

It was also fab taking a stroll down memory lane and seeing icons like the rocket clock and window shapes up-close.


The exhibition’s interactive too, with areas for the kids to do art and craft, read a story, play with touchscreens and table games, and more.

Once you’re in the building, you’re also welcome to check out the rest of the museum, over three levels, and climb up the Port Adelaide Lighthouse nearby (included in the ticket price).


If you grew up watching Play School, indulge your inner child and take your kids along to this exhibition while you can.

What we like about it

• The nostalgia! So many famous faces have appeared on the show over the years, including Eddie Perfect, Georgie Parker, Deborah Mailman, Miranda Tapsell, Alex Papps and Justine Clarke. Play School’s an Aussie icon.

• The kid-friendly nature of the exhibition. Children are free to make noise, touch the displays, and explore; you won’t feel on edge here.

• There’s oodles to do, with the chance to also check out the rest of the museum and the nearby lighthouse.

• Port Adelaide itself and its historic buildings! The postcode is like Adelaide’s answer to Fremantle. It can’t be long until the real estate prices really explode …

Things to consider

• The lighthouse is a pretty narrow, steep climb and the top view can be daunting for those who aren’t fans of heights.

• We saw several parents with prams at the museum. Some areas are a bit squeezier to navigate though, so just keep that in mind.

• Take careful note of the parking signs around the museum. 

Coffee and food options nearby

We lunched at the revamped Lighthouse Wharf Hotel, taking advantage of its $10.90 lunch specials – Monday to Friday. There are also plenty of other options along Port Adelaide’s Commercial Road and on Lipson Street itself (where the museum’s based).  Or check out the Folklore Cafe by the water.


Review by Carla Caruso

Click here for all the Best Playgrounds for Toddlers

See our Top Parks & Playgrounds Around Adelaide here.

For more information on the exhibition, including ticket prices, click here.

What:   Happy Birthday Play School: Celebrating 50 Years Exhibition

When:  7 December 2019 – extended until 31 January 2021

Where:  South Australian Maritime Museum | 126 Lipson Street, Port Adelaide

Who:   Kids (all ages), plus nostalgic parents and caregivers

All photos by Carla Caruso for Play & Go Adelaide 

At Play & Go Adelaide we make every effort to provide accurate information to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. We recommend confirming times, dates and details directly before making any plans as details may be subject to change.


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