At 37-53 Crockford Street in Port Melbourne is a really nice play centre called Play Central. Entry is $15 for above 4s, $10 for 1-3, free for under 1s, and $2.50 for adults. There is also a membership option.
This is the main play area above. There is a ball pit, trampoline and air cannons on the ground level. Thankfully Miss A is now 3.5 and was pretty independent exploring this structure on her own. There were also dodgem cars which I forgot to take a photo of because Miss A was not tall enough to go on them yet. You have to be at least 100 cm tall to be a passenger, and even taller to be a driver.
There is also a very tall volcano tube slide which you get up either by rockclimbing holds or a knotted rope.
Miss A was a pro on the rockclimbing side but just couldn't quite reach the top for the rope (though she got really close) since that required a fair amount of upper body strength. Grippy socks would help!
There is also a toddler section with a small double slide and an automated roundabout ride. Being here made me realise my 3.5-year-old is a lot closer to being a preschooler than a toddler! Toddler sections are now too "baby" for her!
On the other side of the play centre is actually a section for imaginative play and role playing e.g. animal hospital and supermarket…We didn't explore this area though as Miss A was too busy going bananas on the slides and trampolines etc. I can imagine that if we did stay an entire day she would eventually get round to it. I also think she would've enjoyed that section when she was younger and not so game to run around on the play equipment on her own. There are also books and baby toys there.
Unlike the usual nuggets-and-chips-and-bad-coffee fare in other play centres, Play Central has a full cafe (with tables and chairs all around) which actually serves proper food and plenty of healthy options for the kids. The only downside is the wait as they do get a bit busy.
They use St Ali coffee beans here (it's South Melbourne after all) and it is wonderful.
Here below we have the burger and potato wedges for the hubs, a roasted vegetable focaccia for me (it was yum) and a ham and cheese sandwich for Miss A. Doesn't look like we're at a play centre, does it?
Overall, paying for entry + food (you can't bring your own) can get a little pricey, especially if you have more than one kid above 4 years of age, BUT the place is big and clean with lots of play equipment, and good coffee for the adults…so I think it's worth it every now and then. It's one of those places where you can actually kind of sit back and catch up with other adults (provided your kid doesn't keep yelling for you) over something nice to eat and drink.
This is my new favourite play centre for sure!