Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, Wolgan Valley, New South Wales © Luxury Lodges of Australia
10 life-changing childhood experiences in Australia
Discover Australia’s most extraordinary experiences for a life-changing childhood holiday.
By Amy Fraser and Jac Taylor
Imagine meeting your favourite Disney Pixar characters in real life, watching the night sky illuminate with dancing colours, listening to ancient Aboriginal tales, and soaring down a snowy mountain. Epic childhood experiences aren’t hard to come by in Australia. Let the life-long memories begin.
1. Gaze into the Milky Way
Australia’s known for its bright sunshine and blue horizons, but come nightfall our skies transform into a sea of dazzling stars. In fact, Australia’s Southern Hemisphere location makes it one of the best places in the world to see the Milky Way, and when it comes to viewing the myriad of stars, there's nowhere better than Uluru. Located in the Red Centre, its desert sky is perfect for stargazing, not to mention the epic backdrop of Australia’s sacred monolith – that’s a memory that will never fade.
2. Wade with wild dolphins
In Australia, it’s not uncommon to be approached by the odd friendly parrot or, outside of cities, kangaroos. But in Monkey Mia, the friendliest residents are the bottlenose dolphins who swim up to the beach three times a day to see tourists, locals and marine biologists who have travelled across the world to see them. A clockwork routine since the 1960s, it really is a remarkable event and one of the only places in the world where you're almost guaranteed to see wild dolphins up close.
3. Stay at an outback station
Nothing screams Aussie adventure like a remote station stay in the outback. With miles of wide-open space to run around and explore, farm animals to ride, feed and look after, and epic encompassing landscapes, the outback is a wonderful place for kids to get away from technology and into the wild. Say goodbye to shoes and hello to newfound freedom.
How to experience it: Stations like Pimpara Lake Station in outback New South Wales offer the chance to stay in wool shearers' cottages, campsites, huts or lodges, and allow family visitors to interact with the station’s animals. For a coastal occasion Bullara Station, on the coastline of the World Heritage Ningaloo Reef, is one of the few places on earth where you can swim with whale sharks.
4. Meet Dory and Nemo, for real
The impossibly vibrant fish and marine life of the Great Barrier Reef, which stretches 2,300 kilometres (1,430 miles) along the coast of Queensland, are famous with little movie fans worldwide thanks to Hollywood’s Finding Nemo. The residents of this natural wonder of the world are just as colourful in real life as one would hope, with adorable clownfish (Nemo) and blue tang fish (Dory) commonly seen throughout these warm waters.
How to experience it: The smallest visitors might enjoy a glass-bottomed boat tour, available at many places along the Great Barrier Reef, including Green Island off Cairns. Older families can swim and snorkel from live-aboard boats such as Spirit of Freedom, which floats right over the reef on two, three and five-night tours.
5. Become a nature expert
Australia’s backyard is bursting with wonderful wildlife and spectacular landscapes made for adventure, and it’s often those childhood memories of outdoor escapes that stay with you for life. During Australian school holidays at Kingfisher Bay Resort, kids aged five to 12 can join the Junior Eco Rangers program to learn about the abundant creatures that call K'gari (formerly Fraser Island) home. From wandering the sand in search of tiny critters to seeking nocturnal animals after dark, little ones will leave with lasting memories and a love of Australia's incredible wildlife.
6. Walk into a winter wonderland
From outback to rainforest to glistening white mountains, Australia’s not short of diverse landscapes, with one of the most beguiling being the Australian Alps. During Australia’s winter, this vast mountain range transforms into a winter wonderland, and seeing this enchanting white landscape for the first time will take your breath away. Think learning how to ski, whizzing down the mountain on a snowmobile, or being pulled through the sparkling snow by Siberian Huskies – is this Australia or the North Pole?
How to experience it: Victoria’s Falls Creek is a family-friendly ski village, perfect for families to experience the magic of the mountains. Make the most of the thriving kids ski school with access to 92 named runs that wind through the snow-dusted forest.
7. Get to know Australia’s ocean culture
Experiencing Australia's beach culture of sand, surf and sunshine is a must, and surfers from all over the world are drawn to the particular beauty of Byron Bay. Known for its beginner-friendly waves, crystal clear waters and abundance of marine life (including frequently spotted dolphins and turtles), if there’s anywhere to experience ocean life, it’s here.
8. Witness the world’s best light show
The Aurora Australis, otherwise known as the Southern Lights, is one of nature’s most extraordinary spectacles. Although it can be seen all year round, the event is most commonly seen during winter (May to August) in Australia’s most southern state, Tasmania. Marvel at this flickering light show as it illuminates the night sky with ripples of green, purple, red and blue dancing over the horizon – it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Visit Bruny Island, Satellite Island, Bathurst Harbour and Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park for the best views.
How to experience it: In Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, you can meet Tasmanian devils and wombats by day and have a good chance of spotting the Southern Lights after dark. Clear winter nights will offer the best conditions.
9. Play with new underwater mates
If there’s one thing your kids won’t forget, it’s watching an excitable sea lion twirl around them in the ocean, before rewarding a lucky member of your family with a kiss. On South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, a large number of sea lions are often found frolicking in nearby waters, and various charters offer travellers the chance to swim with these rare and endangered creatures in the wild. Their curious and playful nature has dubbed them the “puppies of the sea”, and getting into the water with them makes for quite the life-changing encounter.
10. Immerse yourself in the world’s oldest living culture
Aboriginal experiences are as insightful as they are enjoyable, and immersing yourself in the world’s oldest living culture as a family is bound to create life-long memories. As well as being a brilliant opportunity for kids to learn about Australia’s history and heritage, Aboriginal experiences are great fun for all ages. Take a dot-painting workshop in Australia’s spiritual heart, learn ancient traditions from buck tucker to throwing a boomerang, and listen to enriching Dreamtime stories over 60,000 years old. Your kids will see the land in a whole new light.
How to experience it: One-hour from Australia’s cultural capital, Canberra, the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve offers kids the chance to explore the ancient land of the Ngunnawal people with a guided ranger. They’ll learn about history and cultural connections while developing a deep understanding of ecosystems and the Aboriginal way of life. It’s nature’s very own classroom.