The Beach, the Outback and the City… Our Best Ever Family Holidays
The dream for many parents is to drop the little ones off with caring grandparents and escape for a blissful few days away (preferably somewhere fancy) to relax, recharge, and reconnect. However, for most families this option is exactly that – a lovely dream – and the reality is, any holiday they take will need to include the whole family, with all of their diverse interests and conflicting needs.
The trouble is, how do you plan a joyful holiday which has enough kid-friendly activities to keep the little ones sweet, and enough of what parents like (whether that’s fine dining, enjoying nature or simply stretching out on a deckchair with a good book) to ensure you have fun too?
As a Mum of two boys who grew up on the South Coast, I’ve travelled up and down the Australian coastline for years. Chasing summer, learning (sometimes the hard way) the best way to holiday with my family while staying sane, and avoiding the well-trodden path. It’s only in recent years that we’ve headed inland, discovering the incredible natural beauty and character-filled towns which fill the interior of our vast, sunburnt land.
To inspire your own ‘best ever’ family holidays, I’ve rounded up my favourite destinations to help you plan an experience with something for everyone.
Where should I go on a family holiday in Australia?
A city break might not spring to mind when you think of family holidays, but when you think about it, they’re a perfect intro to holidaying with little ones. Cities contain all of the infrastructure, supplies and comfort you’re used to, which makes travelling with children a lot easier. They’re also full of cultural attractions which are both (sneakily) educational and entertaining.
Our picks for Sydneysiders are Canberra – sooo many child-friendly museums, including the wonderful Questacon for hands-on science, as well as a great flat bicycle path to cycle around the lake and a beautiful Botanic Garden with children’s area – and Brisbane, which has the brilliant South Bank ‘beach’, the amazing Spark Lab at the Queensland Museum and many natural attractions just outside the city including Stradbroke Island.
Being a beach person and member of the OZoola Beachlife team I’ve holidayed in almost every coastal town from Eden to Noosa at some point in my life. My favourite beach towns to visit for family holidays aren’t necessarily those with the best surf break or chicest sea-view bars, they’re the beaches which offer the most to families, and they’re great value for money.
On the South Coast, it’s hard to beat Mollymook, a tiny hamlet near Ulladulla. This part of the coast has SO much to do. There are beautiful beaches galore with few people on them, there’s the glorious Bannisters Hotel with its deluxe spa, (perfect for Mum to escape to for a few hours!) and there’s Ulladulla, home of the much-loved Rowan’s Funland indoor amusement park. Ideal for wet days! Historic village Milton has great cafes and shopping for the grown-ups, and nearby Burrill Lake offers a calm place to swim or paddle board.
Heading north from Sydney, the Port Stephens area is a no-brainer with children. Stay in an on-site cabin at one of the lovely, child-friendly holiday parks (we recommend One Mile Beach by Ingenia, which has a bouncy pillow, two pools including one with a slide, and a lovely playground and BBQ area!) There are several kid-friendly bushwalks in the area, as well as the Port Stephen’s Koala Sanctuary and a wealth of stunning beaches, including the calm, gentle Shoal Bay and the famous Fingal Bay. For a relaxing dinner out, head to Soldier’s Point RSL, which has a covered playground for the kids, visible from the bistro where you’ll be relaxing with a cold drink!
By far the best family holiday we’ve enjoyed in recent years has been a mind-blowing, transformative trip by campervan from Darwin to Uluru. Nothing prepared us for the extremes we would experience on this trip, nor how much we would all fall in love with the red sand, cool waterholes, and precious glimpses of First Nation’s culture which we experienced in the Northern Territory. My kids still mention it at least once a week, and it was 18 months ago! Just don’t go in summer – stick to winter or early spring.
If you haven’t been, start planning your trip to the NT today. And if you’re travelling with kids, make sure the following highlights make it onto your list alongside the obvious ‘must see’ places like Uluru…
* Cahill Crossing to see real, huge saltwater crocs in the wild, doing their thing as they have since dinosaur times.
* The West MacDonnell Ranges between Alice and Uluru is heaven for those who love a dip (which is almost every kid I’ve ever met!) The bright red desert hides a series of deep, deliciously cool waterholes fringed with stark white ghost gums, and you’re almost guaranteed to see some wildlife.
* The Yellow Water Sunrise Cruise, Kakadu. It was hard to get our little ones moving to catch this early-morning boat ride in time, but the rewards were well worth it. An incredible variety of birds and animals in vast numbers greet you as the sun rises in all its technicolour glory over the gently rippling waters on the Yellow Water billabong. It’s pricey, but a memory you’ll all treasure forever.
I hope I’ve inspired you to plan your own incredible Australian holiday soon, with my round-up of my favourite places to holiday as a family. And as for general tips? Always take colouring in stuff and a pack of cards, download a LOT of podcasts and audiobooks for kids whenever you’re in Wi-Fi range, and always, ALWAYS take snacks!
By Lauren Hamilton, writer for OZoola / owner of Digital Narrative, mother of two and resident of Sydney’s inner west.