Rottnest Island, Western Australia © Rottnest Island Authority
Top family destinations in Australia
With its natural beauty and laidback lifestyle, Australia is the perfect playground for families.
By Allie Metz & Sue White
Australia’s diverse cities and natural landscapes have something for everyone – from young adventurers and teen beach-seekers to culture-craving grown-ups and foodies of all ages. Here are some of the top places to make special family holiday memories in Australia.
The Grampians: for the adventure-loving family
Just three hours west of Melbourne, the sandstone ridges of the Grampians offer family-friendly adventure alongside a very sophisticated food and wine scene. Kangaroos, emus and even deer roam the quaint historic towns in the area while adrenaline-enducing activities will turn the mountain range into your personal playground.
Get the wiggles out on one of the incredible hikes on offer. Trails will take you past cascading waterfalls up to panoramic lookouts with sweeping views across the region's peaks and valleys. Be immersed in Aboriginal culture at Brambuk, paddle canoes on Lake Bellfield or test your strength on a rock climbing session. Your adventurous days can be wound down with incredible local dining options and a smattering of cellar doors to visit in this celebrated wine region.
Sydney: explore Australia’s harbour city
Pretty Shelly Beach, near Manly, has been voted one of Australia’s best. Find two electric barbecues at the grassy reserve adjacent to the sand. They’re free to use, and perfect for a family picnic.
For the best Australian beaches and culture, you can’t go past Sydney. With beautiful coastal walks, fantastic museums, Aboriginal tours and wildlife experiences available right in the heart of the city, it's the perfect spot to balance coastal adventures with cultural immersion.
From Manly Beach in the north to Bondi in the east, kids and teens alike will love surfing, snorkelling and soaking up the vibes on any of Sydney's beautiful beaches. Take a scenic ferry ride from Circular Quay to spot the harbour's famous landmarks, stroll through the historic district of The Rocks with an Aboriginal guide or climb to the top of the Harbour Bridge for the best views of the city. Sydney is the perfect city escape for families with children of all ages.
Canberra: Australia’s kid-friendly capital
With its world-class museums and galleries (many of which have experiences just for kids) and an inclusive, buzzy dining scene, Australia’s capital city of Canberra is an ideal getaway for culture-lovers of all ages.
The city’s compact size and bushland location make it very possible for families to hop between award-winning cultural institutions and thrilling outdoor adventures in the same day. Go hot air ballooning, cycle one of many beautiful bike trails, or spend the day doing any number of activities on Lake Burley Griffin. Canberra is also a fantastic base from which to take one of several great day trips. It’s the ultimate getaway for those wanting a taste of Australia made easy for families – all in one compact place.
Cairns: natural wonders at your doorstep
Fact: There’s nowhere on Earth like Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef region. It’s where two World Heritage icons stand together, where the Great Barrier Reef is backed by the Daintree Rainforest, the most ancient of its kind in the world. The best way to learn about the planet’s largest coral system is to dive right in, on a family-friendly snorkelling trip to the outer reef.
Kids will love all the action and adventure of Cairns, while parents will adore the natural wonders on full display; seeing first-hand the importance of preserving and maintaining these icons for their children and future generations.
Start your adventure at the Esplanade and splash around in the Cairns Lagoon before heading out to explore the area. There's plenty to do between Cairns, Kuranda and Port Douglas, so having a car and a flexible itinerary is ideal. Spot crocodiles and cassuaries in the Daintree Rainforest one day and head out to the snorkel the Great Barrier Reef the next.
Gold Coast: for modern beach explorers
Queensland’s Gold Coast is sometimes referred to as the family beach holiday capital of Australia – and for good reason! You’ll find a beguiling mix of dining, culture, adventure and nature here, alongside 57 dazzling kilometres (35 miles) of white, sandy beaches.
Visit Australia’s biggest selection of theme parks, meet native animals at a wildlife sanctuary and explore World Heritage-listed rainforests in the Gold Coast hinterland. Surfers Paradise is the area’s most famous precinct, but there are a dozen other charismatic beach villages to explore. On weekends, don’t miss the region’s much-loved markets. If it’s a buzzing beach culture you’re looking for, the Gold Coast is packed full of unique opportunities to be together in a whole menu of different ways that will excite, relax and bring together parents and kids.
Rottnest Island: a spectacular, beach-fringed escape
Rottnest Island might be easy to reach from Perth – it’s only a 25-minute ferry ride from the city’s Victoria Quay – but its sense of seclusion, dazzling white sands, and range of lovely, laidback accommodation have seen it become one of Western Australia’s most beloved family escapes.
On arrival, do as locals do and hire bicycles. A car-free zone, ‘Rotto’ is a wonderfully safe place for little ones to roam on two wheels, while older kids will appreciate having the freedom to explore the island’s 63 beaches. The island is also home to one of Australia’s cutest animals, the quokka. These adorable marsupials make for great holiday photos. Spot them all over the island, best seen during mid-to-late afternoon.
Tasmania: a little island of big adventures
Dramatic wilderness, a fabulous food scene and hip, happening cities: Tasmania has a lot to offer but, for families, it’s the island’s compact size that makes it an outstanding holiday option. You can explore Hobart with the family, or take off in campervan to discover the wilds that await in western Tasmania.
Your journey will take you to Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage area, where time seems to stand still as you explore hiking trails, spot wildlife and admire a sky full of stars. Once you've had enough walking, swap your boots for a dune buggy ATV adventure or take in the scenery from a historic train, a boat cruise or on a rafting adventure.
Kangaroo Island: nature at every turn
Off the coast of South Australia, Kangaroo Island is a natural playground combining fresh local food, stunning scenery and easy access to nature. You're likely to see more kangaroos than cars here, making it perfect for families.
Adventurous animal lovers will feel right at home on KI. Stroll the beaches where sea lions snooze or join a tour to swim with wild dolphins. Kids can scramble over unique rock formations shaped by wind and sea or glide down the sand dunes of Little Sahara on a toboggan or sandboard. For something a bit more calming, visit a lavender or honey farm to taste some of the foodie delights the island has to offer.
Kakadu: adventure and culture in one
At roughly half the size of Switzerland, World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is both vast and spectacular, but a well-developed suite of facilities, accommodation and experiences make it easy for families to explore this gem of the Northern Territory.
From Darwin it's just three hours to Kakadu where you can spot wildlife, explore natural pools and learn about Aboriginal culture from the land's traditional custodians, the Bininj/Mungguy people. Admire rock art galleries up to 20,000 years old, learn about bush food and try your hand at throwing a spear. Don't miss the chance for a Yellow Water sunset cruise to spot birds, buffalo and crocodiles. Exploring such a wild, remote place has an impact on everyone who visits; expect to leave with a renewed appreciation for nature, an understanding of the area’s rich cultural history, and sense of connection with each other.