While almost every corner of Australia is suited to kids of all ages, doing a bit of research will help you find the places with attractions and experiences that align to your child’s age and interests. Whether you want to explore our cities, learn to surf on an iconic beach or have an outback adventure, you’ll find family-friendly destinations where you can do any (or all!) of these things. Once you’ve got your must-see spots, you can start to put together an itinerary that will create lasting memories for the entire family.
Snapper Rocks, Gold Coast, Queensland © Destination Gold Coast
Guide to family holidays in Australia
With a little know-how and some insider tips, planning your family trip can be easy and fun!
By Allie Metz
Australia is a family-friendly destination, with everything from big city excitement to quiet beach getaways that appeal to all ages. It’s also a country with incredibly unique experiences that can help shape a child’s appreciation for history, culture, nature and adventure. With so much to see and do, it can be tricky creating the right itinerary for your family, but rest assured - you can’t really get it wrong. Here are some planning tips and details to help get you started.
Planning a family holiday in Australia
Australia is a very big country, so the ideal amount of time to spend here depends on how much you want to see. A good rule of thumb is to spend three to four nights in each destination. Be sure to account for travel time between destinations – especially if you plan to drive rather than fly – and any day trips to regional areas you may want to add to your itinerary.
When visiting Australia for a family holiday, you may find it easier to plan and book your trip if you travel outside of peak periods. Shoulder seasons, like spring and autumn, also tend to be less expensive. Australians often travel during school holidays, meaning you may find bigger crowds as well as higher prices in destinations that are popular with families. If you do decide to travel during this period, just be sure to book well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Seasonal weather may also play a factor in your choice. Visit in winter to discover our ski fields or explore the outback, come in summer to laze on our beaches or visit in spring and autumn to see exciting nature events like turtle hatching, whale shark migration and colourful wildflowers.
Whether you’re raising a wildlife warrior, citizen scientist, culture vulture or adventure-seeker, Australia is filled with extraordinary experiences for young people. Start by exploring our cities and introducing your child to the history and culture of Australia through its museums, galleries and historic landmarks. Little animal lovers will enjoy meeting our native fauna at a wildlife sanctuary, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef or hand-feeding wild dolphins from the shore. If your child loves adventure, try a surfing lesson, kayaking or even rock-climbing. Finally, in every place you visit, consider booking an Aboriginal experience to introduce your family to the world’s oldest continuing culture. Children will love listening to Dreamtime stories, tasting bush tucker and learning how to throw spears and boomerangs. Find even more life-changing childhood experiences.
Australia offers a fantastic range of family-friendly accommodation to suit all types of travellers.
Hotels and resorts are available at every price point, and offer families incredible convenience in the form of central locations, great amenities and concierge services. Some have special rooms designed with kids in mind (like East Hotel in Canberra), kids’ clubs and babysitting services. Many also offer deals for kids to stay or eat free. Australia is home to many recognisable international hotel brands, like Hilton and Marriott, but there’s also a great range of Aussie hotel brands worth experiencing. Design-led Art Series hotels are great for families (most properties provide bicycles and Bugaboo prams for hire), while QT Hotels combines five-star service with quirky décor loved by kids big and small.
For families planning longer stays or travelling in a larger group, a serviced apartment brand, such as Quest and Adina, may be the preferred choice. Australia also has thousands of holiday homes and apartments available, many bookable via reputable third-party providers such as Airbnb or Stayz.
Finally, though you’ll need a vehicle, and maybe some equipment, there are fantastic campgrounds, caravan parks and even farm stays in stunning locations that are perfect for nature-loving families.
Most hotels and resorts can provide cots and linens for use (sometimes for a small fee), and all car hire companies offer options to rent infant and toddler seats that are fitted into your hire car. You may find it more convenient to bring your own pram so you can use it in the airport as well as after you arrive. Foldaway prams that fit into the overhead luggage compartment can be taken directly on the plane with you, while larger prams can be gate-checked (used in the airport until you reach the boarding gate) and stowed with the checked baggage. Most airlines offer this at no cost and in addition to checked baggage allowances, but always check with your individual airline for specific guidelines.
Cost and budgeting for a trip to Australia
The total cost of your trip to Australia will depend on a number of factors, including when you travel, the length of your stay, the type of accommodation you choose and the number and types of tours and experiences you book. Here you’ll find some guidelines on how much to budget as well as cost savings tips.
Working out your accommodation budget can be tricky, but consider these basic guidelines to help you understand how much you may wish to set aside for your stay.
- Budget options: While more prolific in regional areas, caravan parks are a great budget option for families. In addition to powered RV sites and camping options, many offer cabins (both one and two-bedroom) with kitchens to self-cater. Prices start from about AUD $100 per night at BIG4 and Discovery Parks, which have parks in various locations across the country. Many caravan parks also have kids' clubs, playgrounds and even waterparks on site.
- Mid-range accommodation: Rydges, Mantra and Oaks Hotels offer good quality stays at accessible price points, and are available in most of Australia’s cities. If you’re travelling in a larger family group, a serviced apartment brand, such as Quest or Adina, may be your preferred choice. Depending on location and room type, prices tend to be between AUD $200 and AUD $400 per night. Australia also has thousands of holiday homes and apartments available, many bookable via reputable third-party providers such as Airbnb or Stayz.
- Luxury accommodation: lf your family likes to travel in style, Australia has some of the world’s best hotels in stunning locations and at a range of price points. Enjoy direct beach access on an island in the Great Barrier Reef at resorts like Intercontinental Hayman Island for about AUD $500 per night, or experience an all-inclusive stay in the conservation-based One&Only Wolgan Valley resort for upwards of AUD $3000 per night. Not all Luxury Lodges in Australia permit children and some have age limits, so be sure to check in advance.
One of the most obvious ways to stretch your food budget is to self-cater. You’ll find well-stocked supermarkets across the country providing everything from locally grown fruit and vegetables to ready-made meals you can grab for a picnic or quick bite on the road. If you plan to do most of your eating out, Australian pubs are a great option (children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult). They often have a dedicated kids’ menu, with meals for around AUD $10, and some also offer play and entertainment areas for children.
Australia has an incredible food scene, and there are some quintessential foodie experiences that every kid must experience while here. The best thing is, they don’t cost much. Treat the family to a classic Aussie fish and chips meal on the beach for around AUD $15 (the scenery is free), or grab a takeaway meat pie from a local cafe or bakery for about AUD $6. Australians love to brunch, so you’ll find cafes everywhere you go serving up creative dishes and Aussie brekkie (breakfast) staples that kids will love. Treat the little ones to a babyccino (steamed milk with a dusting of cocoa powder) when you get your morning cup of coffee. Kids will also love an over-the-top Freakshake from Patissez Cafe in Canberra (AUD $9).
And no trip is complete here without one special Aussie pastime, the outdoor public barbecue (‘barbie’). These national treasures are found at many Australian beaches and parklands, and available for use by any family – including yours! Public barbecues are free to use, and usually provided with free seating, shelters and other facilities, such as public bathrooms, close by. Just bring some ‘snags’ (sausages) or burgers to grill as the kids play.
Similar to food and accommodation, tours and experiences span the spectrum in terms of pricing. Many museums, for example, offer free general admission and charge discounted admission fees for children to access special exhibitions or events. Walking tours in the city may cost as little as AUD $15 for kids or up to AUD $50, depending on the experience. There are even some walking tours that are “free” – they just ask that you pay what you think the tour was worth. Most experiences offer family packages that can save you even more money if you have multiple children.
When considering where to splurge, there are a few bucket list experiences that you may wish to set aside some budget for. If you’re visiting the Whitsundays or Cairns and Great Barrier Reef Region, a full day snorkelling tour to the reef will usually cost in the proximity of AUD $150 per child, or between AUD $600 and AUD $800 for a family of four. In Sydney, the Harbour BridgeClimb (for children over 8 years old) is another bucket list experience that can range in price from AUD $130 - AUD $190 for a child’s ticket, while adult tickets range from AUD $200 to AUD $400.
Getting around Australia as a Family
Australia may be a big country, but it’s easy to navigate and relatively inexpensive to get around. If you’re planning multiple stops on your holiday, consider the distance between destinations before deciding on your mode of transport. You may find that the time you save by flying between destinations is more valuable than the cost savings. For example, if you start your holiday in Sydney but want to visit the Great Barrier Reef as well, flying is highly recommended. While this is an incredible road trip, it would take you at least a couple of days. You can use our interactive map to explore the distance between Australia’s cities, towns and iconic landmarks.
Public transport in Australia’s cities is clean, efficient and widely used by everyone. Some routes, such as Melbourne’s City Circle Tram, are completely free. In Sydney, there are caps to weekly transport rates, so you will never pay more than the maximum weekly fare, regardless of how often you use the transport network. Children generally pay a concession fee across all public transport systems. Regional towns may have fewer public transport services, so hiring a car may be advisable. Most buses, metros, trains and trams can accommodate prams and other access requirements, making them a great option for getting around without the hassle of finding parking.
If you do decide to do a road trip, there are some incredible options (both short and long) that will allow you to discover some of the country’s lesser-known destinations. Planning a family road trip is easy thanks to Australia’s expansive road network and great facilities. Whether you caravan, camp or stay in hotels along the way, there are countless family adventures to be had. Be sure to plan your trip with frequent stops (every two hours is recommended) to avoid fatigue. Learn more about road safety in Australia.