Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays, Queensland © Tourism and Events Queensland
7 of Australia’s best active family holidays
Grab your crew and get outdoors: on land or sea, these active experiences will help you make unforgettable family memories.
By Sue White and Amy Fraser
If you’re looking for action, you’ve come to the right place: active families are spoilt for choice in Australia. Together, you can hike coastlines, surf beautiful beaches or wake up on a yacht next to an uninhabited island. Try sleeping under the stars in the Red Centre, or learning mud crabbing from members of the world’s oldest living culture. Whatever you choose, you're bound to make unforgettable memories along the way.
Hike the Great Ocean Road
Where: The Great Ocean Road
Adventurous souls of all ages will love the 243-kilometre (150-mile) Great Ocean Road near Melbourne: there are epic vistas to photograph, tracts of dense rainforest to explore and pristine beaches to discover. A road trip is a great way to see the sights with your family, but why not experience the area’s beauty from a different angle? Try it on two feet on a popular extended walking tour, giving your whole family time to soak up the sights, fresh air and nature.
How to experience it: Over three or four days, parents and kids (aged 12 and over) can cover stretches of the Great Ocean Walk on the guided 12 Apostles Lodge Walk. Young and old alike will thrill at the wildlife sightings along the way, while grown-ups will no doubt look forward to the gourmet meals each evening. The best part? You only have to carry your daypack.
Surf Australia’s east coast
Where: Australia's east coast
Learning to catch a wave is an unmissable Australian holiday experience. There are some ideal spots near Sydney for families to learn to surf together. Famous city beaches such as Bondi Beach and Manly have ample surf schools to enjoy, while at Surf Camp, based two hours south of the city in Gerroa, instructors can teach students of all ages how to ride a wave, with programmes that last a weekend, a week or longer. Your family will love the sense of playful competition that comes from hitting the waves together.
How to experience it: Once you’ve mastered the basics, the options for surfing adventures are limitless, and New South Wales’ east coast is the perfect area to put your skills to the test. A popular holiday choice is to road trip along the Legendary Pacific Coast, which is dotted with dozens of fantastic surf spots for all ages and ability levels – try Port Stephens, Sawtell, Boomerang Beach and Crescent Head. In Byron Bay be sure to check out The Pass, a calm, protected cove that produces long, slow waves perfect for new surfers.
Sail the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef
Where: The Whitsundays
Does your family dream of secret beaches, uninhabited islands and days filled with discovery? If so, you’ll love a guided sailing holiday in the Whitsunday Islands. A cruise along this spectacular archipelago, comprised of 74 islands in the heart of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, offers countless ways to experience the Coral Sea, with diving and snorkelling opportunities facilitated by your crew. On dry land, you’ll find forests and trails to explore at your leisure.
How to experience it: Set sail from either Hamilton Island, or the holiday town of Airlie Beach – both are accessible via direct flight from Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns. If you just can’t get enough of the islands, extending your family trip is easy at one of the region’s island resorts, such as Hayman Island or Daydream Island.
Connect with local culture
Where: Cape Leveque, Broome
A quick drive north of the outback beach town of Broome, in Western Australia, you’ll find an astonishing secret. Kooljaman at Cape Leveque, run by the local Aboriginal Bardi Jawi people, is an eco-wilderness camp set on the edge of dazzlingly white sands, where the entire family can bond while learning new practical skills and discovering Australia's ancient heritage.
How to experience it: Kooljaman’s menu of activities has something for everyone. Immerse yourselves in traditional foraging practices like mud crabbing or fish trapping, go ‘dune bashing’ in an adrenaline-charged 4WD adventure, or embark on snorkelling expeditions along the region’s spectacular coastline. Come evening, enjoy magnificent sunsets and chef-prepared meals in the open-air restaurant.
Get adventurous in the capital
Australia’s capital isn’t just a treat for foodies; the city’s beautiful surroundings offer a plethora of adventurous activities for families of all ages to enjoy. One of the most iconic spots is picturesque Lake Burley Griffin – the outdoor activity hub located in the heart of the city. Inquisitive minds will love the nearby museums, including Questacon, where science comes to life through fun, child-friendly exhibitions. For a nature fix, head just outside the city to explore vast and spectacular landscapes, including the winter wonderland Corin Forest – a snowy playground for the whole family during the winter months.
How to experience it: At Lake Burley Griffin, stretch your legs with a walk; get the adrenaline pumping on a segway tour; or cruise straight across the middle on your very own Go Boat. At Corin Forest, raise your energy levels tobogganing, skiing or even sliding down the mountain on an alpine slide. If your family is into wildlife walks, explore the easy 20-minute Koala Path Walking Trail in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve where koalas, platypuses, emus, birdlife and kangaroos are often spotted.
Enjoy nature's playground on Kangaroo Island
Where: Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Kangaroo Island is brimming with outdoor adventure; think magnificent animals, epic scenery and unique experiences for life-long family memories. From the inland sand dune, Little Sahara (created over 17,000 years ago), to oceans teeming with playful marine life and mesmerising natural attractions – active families won’t be short of things to do here.
How to experience it: If you thought surfing was just for the ocean, think again. At Little Sahara, race your family members down the dunes on a sandboard or, for little ones, equally exciting sit-down toboggans are available. A visit to the Remarkable Rocks is a must here; explore this phenomenal attraction on the walking trail, looking out for wildlife along the way. For a more intimate wildlife encounter, join Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari to swim and snorkel with playful dolphins and seals.
Ride, fly and walk through Tasmania's wilderness
Where: Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain
An adventurer's utopia, this mountainous landscape is brimming with wildlife wonders and family-friendly walking trails – with jaw-dropping vistas waiting at the top. Early risers will be happy to know they’re not the only family up at dawn; Cradle Mountain is home to an array of native wildlife, including wombats and Tassie Devils, typically found scuttling around at first light.
How to experience it: Start in Launceston before driving two hours to Cradle Mountain. At Hollybank Wilderness Adventures you can zipline, segway or swing through the forest, and at nearby Launceston Gorge, your sky-high escapades continue on the world’s longest chairlift. If a scenic hike sounds like your family's perfect bonding activity, you'll love the trail around scenic Dove Lake or exploring the alpine wilderness on horseback. But if there's one thing you don't want to miss here, it's meeting meet adorable Tasmanian Devils at Devils @ Cradle.