Australia, Oz, the Land Down Under, the Great Southern Land; whatever you call it, it is fair to say that Australia is near the top of lots of travel wish lists. With its famous beaches, vibrant cities, unique animals and spectacular landscapes, there is plenty to keep you occupied. However, given that it is almost the same size as the 48 contiguous states of the US, you may have to be selective about where you plan to visit. Use our destination guide to help you create the best itinerary for you.
We currently live within easy reach of the state capital of New South Wales, Sydney. Sydney is one of the world’s most famous cities and is home to the iconic Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach. But there is lots more to Sydney than just these well-known attractions. Although Sydney is renowned as an expensive destination, there are plenty of things you can do which cost very little or are completely free.
A day trip outside of Sydney are the majestic Blue Mountains. At Scenic World, families will love riding the Scenic Railway, the world’s steepest incline railway, into the rainforest below. You can ride a cableway out of the valley before soaring over it on the skyway, with its glass floor! Don’t forget your camera. The views in the Blue Mountains are unforgettable.
New South Wales
If you plan on taking a road trip up the Pacific Highway to Brisbane, then you will pass many great resort towns and local attractions that are definitely worth a stop to break up the almost 900km journey. An hour north of Sydney you will cross the spectacular Hawkesbury River. Travelling through the Central Coast and on to Newcastle takes another hour. Newcastle is our home and the last major city you pass through before reaching Queensland. Take a break and enjoy NSW’s second largest city. You might also want to detour up to the famous Hunter Valley wine region (there are a number of family friendly cellar doors, restaurants and hotels) or spend some time in Nelson Bay. Here you can spot dolphins year round and whales in winter with one of the many cruise providers.
Continuing northwards you pass the Myall Lakes National Park, where you will find some fantastic beaches off the beaten track. Time it right and you may just have one all to yourself. The next major resort you will encounter is Port Macquarie, a pretty coastal town about 400km north of Sydney. Coffs Harbour, home of the famous Big Banana, is another 150km further on. Heading further north you reach stylish Byron Bay, which is only a 50 minute drive from the Queensland border.
Just beyond the border with New South Wales, is Queensland’s answer to Orlando. The Gold Coast is the theme park capital of Australia, with Sea World, Warner Brothers Movie World, Wet & Wild and Dreamworld, among others. While they are not on the scale of the major American theme parks, your kids will love them and you may have to schedule a few days here for them to get their rollercoaster fix!
Capital of Queensland, Brisbane is another cosmopolitan Australian city. There are a number of attractions which will appeal to families, including the Queensland Museum with its science centre, Southbank Parklands and the Queensland Maritime Museum, all of which are connected by a pleasant 1.5km walk along the banks of the Brisbane River. Or you might like to see if there is a cricket match on at the ‘Gabba’ for a real Aussie experience!
A fun daytrip from Brisbane is the Australia Zoo, established by the Crocodile Hunter (the late Steve Irwin). The zoo is located on the Sunshine Coast an hour north of Brisbane, and you could easily spend the whole day here. Make sure you don’t miss the famous wildlife warrior show in the Crocoseum. You will be on the edge of your seat as the zookeepers get up close and personal with some huge crocodiles!
If you have room in your itinerary you should try to explore Queensland beyond Brisbane, especially the world famous Great Barrier Reef.
With the luxury of time, the Whitsunday Islands should be your next port of call. They make an excellent base for exploring the Reef. Either stay at Airlie Beach and day trip out to see the coral or find an idyllic island to call home for the duration of you stay. Another option is to head to Cairns, which has many tour operators which will take you out onto the Reef. Cairns is also close to the Daintree Rainforest, a World Heritage listed tropical jungle. Beyond Cairns, the remote Cape York peninsula is for real adventurers only. If you’re not up for the challenge, it’s time to head south again.
Melbourne is the capital of the state of Victoria and is a great city for families. With its Victorian architecture and street grid pattern, it is reminiscent of a European city especially with its changeable weather! It’s easy to make your way around the CBD’s free tram zone. Kids will particularly love hopping on one of the free heritage City Circle trams for a guided tour before visiting the Melbourne Museum, SEA LIFE Melbourne or the Melbourne Cricket Ground.