Holidays close to home
As a new parent with a baby or toddler, you can find long flights hard work. The good news is there are plenty of options in Australia and close to home that involve flights of less than five hours. And if you’re game to travel further the world is literally your oyster.
Australia has so much to offer for family experiences that it’s no wonder that many Australians never leave home at all. Cosmopolitan cities, awe-inspiring outback, tropical rainforests, untouched wilderness and pristine alpine environments. There’s something for every family.
It’s unlikely any Australian family travel bucket list would not include some or all of the following: the Daintree region in Far North Queensland where the rainforest meets the reef; the Great Barrier Reef marine park and the islands that are part of it; the iconic Red Centre, its expanses of bright red desert, Uluru, Kata Juta and interactions with the indigenous owners; the Top End, including Darwin and Kakadu; Sydney and its Harbour; cosmopolitan, cultured Melbourne; the Great Ocean Road in Victoria; the ancient rock formations in the Flinders Ranges; the vast expanses of Western Australia from the frontier Kimberley in the north to Albany in the south; Tasmania, with its intriguing history and diverse landscapes including Cradle Mountain, the south-west wilderness and pristine Bruny Island.
It should also include the unspoilt nature-lovers’ paradise of Lord Howe Island in the Pacific Ocean two hours’ flight from Sydney; Kangaroo Island off the South Australian mainland with its white-sand beaches, abundance of wildlife and seaside shacks (plus a growing number of luxury accommodations).
More Australians visit New Zealand than any other overseas destination. The flight across the ditch is only three hours which is closer for east coasters than travelling to Perth.
Once there, it’s a world apart, with spectacular natural environments and stunning landscapes. It’s a wonderful and easy place to explore with kids – campervanning is very popular – although it can get chilly in parts, especially in winter.
Walking and hiking are big for the Kiwis – they call it tramping – and very accessible, especially for older, more robust children. There are established long-distance trails including the Milford Track – dubbed “the finest walk in the world” – and the Routeburn Track among others (which are well-described and graded for difficulty on the NZ Department of Conservation website (see www.doc.govt.nz).
There are amazing beaches, in particular in the Bay of Islands region at the tip of the North Island, on Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf off Auckland, and the distinctive black-sand beaches on the North Island’s west coast. There is Maori history aplenty and terrific museums, including Te Papa in Wellington which has great interactive exhibits for kids’.
The bubbling mud pools and hot springs of Rotorua are a great family drawcard, as are the Lord of the Rings film locations dotted all over the country, especially Hobbiton near Matamata in the Waikato region.
South Island highlights include the Franz Joseph Glacier and cruises on the stunningly beautiful Milford and Doubtful Sounds.
Fiji & The South Pacific
Fiji is perennially popular with Australian holidaymakers. Roughly 340,000 of us travelled there in 2012-2013 with the number growing every year. Dazzling white beaches, crystal clear seas, friendly, welcoming locals and a host of water activities draw most visitors, and there are plenty of affordable flight and accommodation packages around (including many “kids stay and eat free” deals). It’s an easy fly-and-flop holiday; most resorts have all the baby equipment you’d ever need, child-care on tap and kids’ club options.
Less developed, more spread out, and a little further off the beaten track, the Cook Islands have a similar appeal. Vanuatu is another south Pacific alternative; beyond lovely beaches and great snorkelling and diving, its attractions include cascading waterfalls and the world’s most accessible active volcano on the island of Tanna.
More than 800,000 Australians visited Bali in 2013 and that number is increasing every year. It’s our single most popular destination, and excellent for families, as the Balinese adore children and there are many affordable resorts. Ideal locations for family holidays include Nusa Dua and Sanur where the seas are relatively calm and it’s quieter than the area around Kuta.