Broad, bronzed and open-skied, Australia is built for family travel – a dazzlingly diverse country strewn with tropical reefs, surf beaches and snowy heights. The vast distances between A and B can test parental patience, but with some savvy planning you can focus on the delights of exploring with people much closer to ground level than you are.
Australia’s biggest city would be just another sprawling metropolis without Sydney Harbour, the endlessly photogenic waterway around which city life circulates. Pile the kids onto a bumbling old Sydney ferry and check it out. Eyeball the Sydney Opera House from the water; chug under the Sydney Harbour Bridge; have a picnic on Cockatoo Island or Fort Denison; take a high-speed catamaran to Manly
Tasmania’s compact size, engaging history and accessible wilderness make for a brilliant family driving holiday: hop into a campervan for a ‘lap of the map’. Highlights include camping in Freycinet National Park, sea-kayaking around Coles Bay, beachcombing along Ocean Beach on the wild west coast, scaling the treetops at the Tahune Forest AirWalk and careening down Mt Wellington on a mountain bike. After dark, meet Tasmania’s ghosts (there are a few) on spooky tours of Hobart, Launceston and Port Arthur. On rainy days (there are also a few), Hobart’s excellent museums come to the rescue: history, Antarctica, maritime – take your pick.
Far north Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef
Launch your Great Barrier Reef expedition from Cairns or Port Douglas, with a high-speed catamaran trip to an inner-reef atoll or an extended day trip to the pristine outer reef. Either way, snorkeling over this hyper-coloured world is mind-blowing. Scuba diving is an option for teens; a sedate sail in a glass-bottom boat will help the little ones to see into the sea. Back on dry land, far north Queensland resorts are geared for family function, with structured activities, pools, waterslides, wave skis, paddleboards and kids’ food options all standard issue.
Ditch your preconceptions: Canberra is much more than a political filing cabinet these days. The nation’s capital is a really good city for kids, with easy parking, myriad picnic spots and plenty of space to run around. Get earnest at the Australian War Memorial, then go silly at the National Arboretum Playground, with the ‘beauty of trees’ at the fore. For older kids, Questacon (aka the National Science and Technology Centre) is laced with stimulating exhibits. Equally invigorating are a few joyous somersaults atop the grassy dome of Parliament House, while more complex ideologies collide in the chambers below.
Gold Coast theme parks
With an ego the size of Queensland, the Gold Coast is its own biggest fan. But don’t the kids love it! There are five humongous theme parks here: Dreamworld, Sea World, Movie World, Wet’n’Wild and WhiteWater World. Get wet on a muggy Queensland afternoon, meet some nautical critters or lose your lunch on a rollercoaster. The Gold Coast’s beach suburbs are kid-centric too, with surf lessons, jet-skiing, sea-kayaking, whale-watching… Alternatively, the much-hyped Australia Zoo is two hours north (and it actually lives up to the hype).