Australasia

10 Great Family Holiday Destinations in Australia

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Heading out and exploring your own backyard is one of the best options for a memorable family holiday, whether you plan your adventures around the school holiday period, a long weekend, or another time of year. Thankfully Australia is teeming with great family holiday destinations – so many in fact, that it would be downright impossible to see every one! And with so many opportunities at your fingertips, that means that there is a destination for every troop type, no matter if your brood loves the beach and wants to spend days getting sandy and splashing in the sea, or if you and the kids want to head inland to camp and hike around national parks.

Take your pick between quaint coastal towns, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, cities steeped in convict history, epic mountain ranges, and desert outposts. All with an abundance of experiences to tick off while there. In short, there’s plenty to see and do with kids in Australia!

So to get you thinking about where you might like to go on your next holiday, here are some of the picks for 10 family holiday destinations in Australia.

Broome, Western Australia

Broome is one of the most spectacular destinations along Western Australia’s North West and Kimberley Coasts. Located about 2,000 km north of Perth in the Kimberley region, this oceanfront resort town is home to prehistoric dinosaur tracks, fascinating pearling heritage, and, most famously, the white sands of Cable Beach. Stretching for more than 22 kilometres, Cable Beach is an iconic sight of the area and is arguably best experienced at dusk, when the sinking sun casts an incredible glow of golds and reds across the water. Taking to camelback is one of the most popular ways to see the Cable Beach sunset, or you can set up on the sands with a packed picnic.

More family-friendly things to do in Broome:

  • Staircase to the Moon
  • Sun Pictures Outdoor Cinema
  • The dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point
  • Horizontal Falls
  • Malcolm Douglas Holiday Park
  • Broome Courthouse Markets

Other tips for travelling to Broome:

  • The best, but busiest, time of year to visit Broome is usually during the dry season, between April/May to September/October
  • Take care if swimming in the ocean between November to May, as this falls into jellyfish season and stingers are regularly sighted
  • If you’ve hired a car and are planning on exploring the area around Broome with multiple day trips, always be sure to let someone know where you’re going and what time you expect to return

Gold Coast, Queensland

Gold Coast, Queensland
Gold Coast, Queensland. Image Credit: Petra Bensted / CC by 2.0.

The Gold Coast is perhaps best known for its glitz, glamour and beautiful beaches; it is the show pony of Queensland cities. Home to fantastic family-friendly attractions, the Gold Coast is a favourite holiday spot for visitors of all ages. One of the biggest draws for families on the Gold Coast are the theme parks. Mingle with Tweety Bird and Batman at Warner Bros. Movie World, and race down waterslides or float on lagoons at Wet’n’Wild. There are wildlife sanctuaries for close encounters with furry and feathery critters, and national parks abound in the hinterland area, promising beautiful tracks, walks to waterfalls, and hidden swimming holes. Tee off at any of the mini golf courses around the city, sign up to learn how to hang 10 with a surf lesson, head out on the water on a whale-watching cruise, and spend weekend mornings exploring local markets for baked treats and arts and crafts. Of course, no family holiday to the Gold Coast is complete without at least one beach day; seek out the sandy stretches of Nobby, Burleigh, South Stradbroke and Rainbow Bay. Just always remember to swim between the flags.

More family-friendly things to do on the Gold Coast:

  • Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Mt Tamborine Glow Worm Caves
  • Holoverse
  • Currumbin Rock Pools
  • O’Reilly’s Treetop Walk
  • iFLY Gold Coast
  • Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre

Other tips for travelling to the Gold Coast:

  • There are more places to stay on the Gold Coast than Surfer’s Paradise, and some of the quieter areas that make for great family-friendly bases include Burleigh Heads, Coolangatta and Miami
  • Hiring a bike is a great way of getting around the Gold Coast on a budget, and there are a network of good and well-maintained bike paths around the city
  • Don’t ignore exploring the Gold Coast Hinterland! This area of the Gold Coast is often overlooked by those honing in on the beaches, and it is an opportunity missed to not explore the smaller towns and beautiful national parks
  • Avoid Surfer’s Paradise during Schoolies Week, which is usually the last weeks of November and early December. The Gold Coast is the most popular destination for Schoolies, and Surfer’s Paradise in particular receives an influx of revelry-seeking school-leavers
  • Prioritise swimming at lifeguard-patrolled beaches and always paddle between the red and yellow flags

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Anzac Parade, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Anzac Parade, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. Image Credit: Thennicke / CC by SA 4.0.

Think Canberra is all politics? Prepare to be surprised. The Australian capital city is brimming with great things to see and do with the family in tow. The galleries and museums are world-class, for starters. Be sure to visit the National Gallery of Australia, home to the largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in the world; admission is also free, which is an added bonus if you want to travel on a budget. Make a solemn stop at the Australian War Memorial, and wander through the displays and exhibits at the National Museum of Australia. A particular favourite with younger travellers is the National Science and Technology Centre (known as Questacon), for its interactive experiments and hands-on exhibits. Sport-loving families can go on a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), or make the walk up to One Tree Hill lookout. Families with older kids might even tackle the steeper track to summit Mount Ainslie. Rent a bike to pedal around the banks of Lake Burley Griffin, or head out onto the water in a hired kayak or canoe.

More family-friendly things to do in Canberra:

  • National Arboretum
  • National Zoo and Aquarium
  • Capital Region Farmers Market and Old Bus Depot Markets
  • Cockington Green Gardens
  • Mount Stromlo Observatory
  • Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

Other tips for travelling to Canberra:

  • Time your trip to Canberra to coincide with Enlighten Festival, which usually takes place from the end of February to mid-March every year. This annual event is a celebration of arts and culture, and sees outdoor light installations and projections go up all over the city. Another key Canberra festival is Floriade, happening every year some time in September or October
  • Visit Canberra in winter and you might even see snow. The Australian capital is one of the only major cities in the country where this happens!
  • Public transport connections aren’t great in Canberra, and the most convenient way to get around is with a car. Having a set of four wheels is especially useful if you want to visit any of the wineries located on the city fringe
  • The city becomes a ghost town in January, when local families and university students go on their own holidays. Many cafes and restaurants also close for the holiday break, so eating out options can become limited

Sydney, New South Wales

There is reason (and more than one, in fact) why Sydney is one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations. It is a magnet for holiday-goers, not just families. But because Sydney has such a bounty of family-friendly activities, it means there really is something for every brood. Have a day out to see the residents at Taronga Zoo, or get your thrills from the rollercoasters and rides at iconic Luna Park. Make a scenic ferry trip across the harbour to Manly, and join the sand-seeking crowds at the famous strip of Bondi Beach. Let kids splash about on warm afternoons at the Darling Quarter Playground, or take an indoor break from Sydney’s humidity at The Powerhouse Museum. Follow the Convict Trail on Cockatoo Island, or simply settle in with a picnic in the Royal Botanic Garden.

More family-friendly things to do in Sydney:

  • Chinese Gardens of Friendship
  • Sydney Tower
  • Bronte Bogey Hole
  • Shelly Beach Rock Pool
  • Sydney Park
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales
  • Sydney Observatory
  • Justice and Police Museum

Other tips for travelling to Sydney:

  • Bondi is a popular area for families to stay in Sydney, however it can also be quite expensive and busy. Some good, but still beachy, alternative places to stay are Manly, Coogee and Watsons Bay
  • Sydney has a good network of public transport and everyone will need an Opal card or a multi-day pass. Much of the CBD and inner-city suburbs are walkable though, and there are plenty of parks and places to rest when young feet become worn out
  • The minimum age of the Sydney Bridge Climb is 8 years, and children must be taller than 1.2 metres
  • Some of the best times to visit Sydney are between September to November and then March to May; the city’s shoulder seasons when the weather is still warm enough for getting around outside, but these months miss the peak of summer (and all the crowds that summer brings with it)

Darwin, Northern Territory

Move north to Australia’s Top End and to Darwin. The Northern Territory capital city boasts natural beauty, fascinating history, and experiences not found elsewhere in Australia. Coming face-to-face with some of NT’s most infamous scaly residents is a popular activity, and families can seek out encounters with both saltwater and freshwater crocs at Crocodylus Park (a 15-minute drive out of the city) or at Crocosaurus Cove. For another watery wildlife activity, head to Doctors Gully at high tide to hand-feed shoals of mullet, barramundi and moonfish – stingrays have even been known to take the proffered bread. Don’t venture to the Top End without experiencing its most iconic landscapes. From Darwin, it is only a 90-minute drive to Litchfield National Park, or slightly less than three hours by car to Kakadu National Park. Cruise along the Mary River to see its billabongs and wetlands, or take a sunset sail around Darwin Harbour.

More family-friendly things to do in Darwin:

  • The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
  • Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
  • Deckchair Cinema
  • Darwin Military Museum
  • Tiwi Islands
  • George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens
  • Wave Lagoon

Other tips for travelling to Darwin:

  • Darwin has a wet and a dry season, and the latter is the best time to visit. It starts in April/May and ends in September/October. These months see lower humidity and minimal rainfall, but are also the most popular – and expensive – times to visit Darwin. A holiday during the dry season is also best if you want to visit the national parks, as there is risk of flash-flooding in the wet season
  • As with any excursion into rugged landscapes, always be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return if you are planning on making any day trips out to more remote locations
  • Always be respectful of Indigenous Australian culture, sites, traditions and landmarks when visiting

Melbourne, Victoria

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Victoria
Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Victoria. Image Credit: Adam J.W.C. / CC by SA 2.5.

Melbourne isn’t just known as Australia’s culture capital; it’s also be listed as one of the world’s most liveable cities – on multiple occasions. It is thanks, in large part, to the near-overwhelming line-up of excellent restaurants and cafes, entertainment precincts, festivals and events. Snap up cheap last-minute tickets to a show at one of Melbourne’s great theatres, or wander through the exhibits at the National Gallery of Victoria or Melbourne Museum. Amble through the city’s maze of alleys and laneways, see the penguins at St Kilda Beach, or take a day trip to the Great Ocean Road, the Yarra Valley, or the Victorian Goldfields. If your little ones love sports, check to see what is on at the legendary Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), or time your family holiday to Melbourne to coincide with the Australian Open, F1 Grand Prix, or Melbourne Cup Carnival.

More family-friendly things to do in Melbourne:

  • Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
  • The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)
  • Werribee Open Range Zoo
  • Polly Woodside
  • Scienceworks
  • Luna Park
  • Puffing Billy
  • Ian Potter Children’s Garden

Other tips for travelling to Melbourne:

  • Come prepared for all weather conditions. Melburnians love saying that their city experiences all four seasons in one day, and the weather can turn from brilliant sunshine before lunch to dark and stormy in the afternoon
  • Take advantage of the City Circle Tram and the Free Tram Zone in the Melbourne CBD to get around
  • One of Melbourne’s best family-friendly events is Moomba, usually happening in early March. Moomba is Australia’s biggest free community festival and takes over the city for a weekend, with parades, carnival rides, fireworks, kids’ activities and more

Cairns, Queensland

Cairns is only a stone’s throw from the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef. The city is one of the gateways into Far North Queensland and to the ancient Daintree Rainforest. Soar over the lush tree canopy with a ride on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, or stay closer to terra firma with a trip on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Feel the sand beneath your toes with a barefoot stroll along the beach at Palm Cove, or make the drive slightly north to the laidback town of Port Douglas. Of course, one of the major drawcards of Cairns, no matter who you are travelling with, is the Great Barrier Reef. A handful of operators depart out of Cairns, offering everything from snorkelling and diving trips, to excursions in glass-bottom boats and even seaplane journeys.

More family-friendly things to do in Cairns:

  • Babinda Boulders
  • Mossman Gorge
  • Cape Tribulation
  • Rainforestation Nature Park
  • Cairns Lagoon
  • Cairns Botanical Gardens
  • Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park

Other tips for travelling to Cairns:

  • The best time to visit Cairns is between April to September, which is the warm, dry season. Another good time to visit Cairns is just after the end of the wet season, in February and March
  • Take care if swimming in the waters off Cairns between November and May as there is an increased risk of stingers
  • Having a car is the best way to reach places like Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation and Palm Cove from Cairns, as public transport options are limited
  • Cairns has a great night scene, with many shops and restaurants staying open later than other cities along the east coast

Adelaide, South Australia

Adelaide may have a reputation as an in-the-shadows capital city when compared to some of its interstate counterparts, but South Australia’s City of Churches is teeming with attractions and activities for families to take advantage of. Sweet tooths young and old will delight in a trip to the Haigh’s Chocolate Factory for a tour of this confectionary heaven. Fill a picnic hamper with favourite treats from vendors at Central Market and then thrown down a blanket on a patch of lawn at Adelaide Botanic Garden. The gardens are also home to the Little Sprouts Kitchen Garden, which aims to educate kids about where their food comes from. Have an afternoon in Glenelg, soaking up the sunshine with a barefoot walk along the beach, or hopping between the waterslides and rides of The Beachouse, an amusement park on the foreshore. Pop in to say hello to the pandas that call Adelaide Zoo home, or test your head for heights by navigating one of the courses at TreeClimb in Kurrangga Park. Take the thrills to the next level at Mega Adventure, or plan a night out to the Observatory to learn about the constellations.

More family-friendly things to do in Adelaide:

  • Farm Barn
  • Strawberry picking at Beerenberg Farm
  • Rent a BBQ Buoy
  • Cleland Wildlife Park
  • Woodhouse Activity Centre

Other tips for travelling to Adelaide:

  • The centre of Adelaide is great for walking and most places can be reached by foot, however if you’d like to day trip to other nearby parts of South Australia – Victor Harbor, the Barossa – then renting a car is definitely the way to go
  • Adelaide has a Mediterranean climate, so the summers can be scorchers. October and November are two of the best times to visit Adelaide on a family holiday, especially if you want to avoid the peak summer heat. Be sure to pack plenty of SPF!
  • There are some free bike rental services operating throughout the city if you and your troop want to use pedal power to get around

Hobart, Tasmania

Salamanca Market, Hobart, Tasmania
Salamanca Market, Hobart, Tasmania. Image Credit: JJ Harrison / CC by SA 3.0.

Hobart is remarkably abundant in both heritage and culture, and the Tasmanian capital should be on the radar of anyone visiting the Apple Isle. The beauty of Hobart is that it’s relatively compact, meaning it can be explored largely on foot – without wearing out the littlest of legs too much. A Hobart weekend institution is the iconic Salamanca Market. This outdoor sprawl has more than 300 stalls offering oven-fresh baked goods, crafts, jewellery and knick-knacks, plus there is a regular rotation of live music and activities. Pick up a serving of fresh-cooked fish and chips from one of the outlets along the Hobart harbourfront to savour a casual lunch or dinner by the water, or get creative with a visit to The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) – just be sure to look up some exhibits ahead of time, as not all displays are suitable for younger kids. Hobart also makes a great launchpad for some day trips out of the city, including to Port Arthur, one of Australia’s best-preserved convict sites; Bruny Island, a haven for all things gourmet and food; and the Hastings Cave Reserve, which also has hot springs and a café offering picnic hampers and barbecue packs.

More things to do in Hobart:

  • Fruit or berry picking
  • Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
  • Mawsons Hut Replica Museum
  • Mt Field National Park

Other tips for travelling to Hobart:

  • While it is easy enough to get around Hobart on foot, heading out on day trips and to neighbouring regions really requires four wheels
  • One of the best times to visit Hobart is in the autumn, when summer crowds are beginning to dwindle yet you can still experience temperatures warm enough for outdoor excursions and sightseeing

Perth, Western Australia

Perth may be one of the most remote state capitals in the world (it is closer to Bali than some parts of the Australian east coast), but making the trip out west brings with it an abundance of rewards: the chance to take selfies with quokkas, days spent hanging out on clean white-sand beaches, and sprawling parks made for lawn games and lazy afternoon picnics. Perhaps start with one of popular destinations in Western Australia that, geographically speaking, isn’t even in the city itself. Travel to Rottnest Island thanks to one of the local ferry operators and take the day to paddle in secluded bays, putt your way around a mini golf course, and snap that all-important selfie with a smiling quokka. Enjoy more time by the water by casting a line from a point around Hillarys Boat Harbour, or gaze up overhead as you walk through the underwater Shipwreck Coast tunnel at the Aquarium of Western Australian to see turtles, stingrays and sharks. Kings Park is another great family day out. There are playgrounds for kids to scramble over, bike paths to cycle along, a treetop walk, and the DNA tower to climb. Get interactive with the displays at Scitech, or learn about the state’s gold history at The Perth Mint. Cast a line from one of the points around Hillarys Boat Harbour, or choose to look in at the habitats at AQWA. Travel down to Fremantle to see the historic Fremantle Prison or browse through Fremantle Markets. Then embrace nostalgia with by catching a film at the Galaxy Drive-In in Kingsley.

More family-friendly things to do in Perth:

  • Bibra Lake Regional Playground
  • Perth Zoo
  • Gwelup Secret Garden
  • Western Australian Maritime Museum
  • Art Gallery of Western Australia

Other tips for travelling to Perth:

  • Perth’s beaches are definitely one of the city’s top attractions and no matter which sandy stretch you visit, always be sure to check to see if it is patrolled and then swim between the red and yellow flags.
  • The distance between Perth and other major Australian cities can slightly increase the cost of visiting the WA capital. Eating out can become expensive, so families planning on an extended visit may want to book accommodation with cooking facilities
  • Make use of the free bus (the CAT service) to get around the centre of Perth and Fremantle
  • Plan a visit to Perth during the springtime if you want to be in the city to see the local wildflowers in bloom

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