Our family visited Australia for the first time when our youngest was 3. We were there to attend a good friend’s wedding, so sightseeing was our second priority. That said, we still managed to see some amazing things (such as a koala, an echidna and a kangaroo in the yard of our vacation home rental). I had some hesitation at the time about trying to make that particular trip our Grand Tour of Australia. If one is going to embark on such a big family adventure, it is preferable if your children are actually old enough to have the capacity to remember it.
Fast forward 5 years, and my kids are now the perfect age to absorb all the wonderful things that Australia has to offer – and we’re not the only ones taking notice. Conde Nast recently named this southern continent as their Destination of the Year, and for Americans, the timing couldn’t be better. In the past 12 months the Yankie buck has appreciated over 17% against the Aussie dollar. Perhaps now is the perfect time for you and your family to set out on your own Grand Tour of Australia. For a little travel inspiration, here are 10 amazing experiences to enjoy with kids.
Australia with Kids – 10 Amazing Experiences
1. Sailing the Whitsundays
One of the best ways to experience this beautiful group of 74 tropical islands in the Great Barrier Reef is with a bareboat charter. New to sailing? Not to worry. Apparently navigating these calm waters is pretty straight forward and boat rental companies will happily provide you with a quick tutorial before heading out to sea. I can’t imagine a better bonding experience with my husband and two children than learning to sail together (or at least I’m sure we would look back upon it fondly later in life).
If you are short on time, you can also fly directly to Hamilton Island, the largest in the Whitsunday Island group. For families, there are numerous kid-friendly hotels options as well as almost every kind of water and beach activity imaginable. Want the list? Check out the 10 best things to do on Hamilton Island, Australia.
2. Swimming with Wild Dolphins and Whale Sharks
For over 40 years, a pod of bottlenose dolphins has been greeting visitors in the shallow waters of Monkey Mia (Shark Bay) in Western Australia. While naturally, their schedule is a little unpredictable, this World Heritage Site is also renowned for its vibrant sea life. Your family will love the colorful fish, sea turtles, dugongs, manta rays and more – even if the dolphins choose to remain elusive.
If you take one day’s drive north, you can discover the underwater wonders of the Ningaloo Reef. Snorkel right from the beach to see the beautiful coral and fish that are said to rival that of the Great Barrier Reef. While in the area, don’t miss out on a whale shark excursion. Swimmers as young as six are welcome to glide along with these magnificent creatures – an experience they will surely never forget.
3. Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Barossa Valley
Why take children to one of Australia’s wine regions? Because it is a great way to combine something most adults would enjoy (tasting some delicious Aussie wine) with something that kids would love too (sailing across the sky in a giant balloon) ! As it turns out, I am not the only one who is interested in family-friendly wine trips to the Barossa Valley and Mclaren Vale. When I did a Google search on Kid Friendly Wineries in South Australia, more than a dozen articles appeared in the results !
4. Wildlife Spotting on Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island in South Australia is one of the most amazing places on earth to see animals in their natural habitat. Although we only had a three day stopover on our previous trip, we managed to see koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, wallabies, pelicans, penguins, sea lions and more. Touring the island is made even more enjoyable if you make periodic stops to enjoy some of the locally produced goodies (honey, goat cheese, wine, spirits and more).
5. A Sunset Camel Trek at Uluru
What could be more incredible than embarking on a family sunset camel ride that takes you across the sweeping desert with the incredible Uluru as your backdrop? Upon return, retire to an amazing luxury tent camp such as Longitude 131° (minimum age 10 years).
6. Lord Howe Island
Tucked between New Zealand and Australia is the biologically unique Lord Howe Island, home to hundreds of species that can only be found there. This UNESCO world heritage site is not only incredibly beautiful but also very safe. It’s the kind of place where kids can roam about and make discoveries in relative safety (no snakes!)
7. Sydney Harbour
Kids will love riding the efficient ferry system to see many of the top sites of one of the world’s most spectacular harbours. Hop on to visit the Taronga Zoo, the Sydney Aquarium, or Manly Beach for a beginner’s surf lesson. All this can be enjoyed with stunning views of the city, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Speaking of the Harbour Bridge, did you know that kids as young as eight can do the Bridge Climb to the top?
8. The Blue Mountains
Although not technically “mountains”, these sandstone tablelands are certainly impressive, owing their blue mist hue to droplets of oil evaporating from the eucalyptus forests. Kids will love riding the Scenic Railway (the world’s steepest) to the bottom of the Jamison Valley for a little bush walk amongst the giant tree ferns, and then returning to the top via the Scenic Skyway Cable Car. With incredible views, excellent hiking trails, cool rock formations and beautiful waterfalls, the Blue Mountains make for a great family adventure.
9. Kakadu National Park
You can’t do a Grand Tour of Australia without having some kind of Australian Outback experience and learning about their Aboriginal history. Kakadu National Park is the perfect place to explore with its incredible wetlands, rivers, sandstone escarpments, prehistoric rock paintings, crocodiles, turtles and more !
10. Lizard Island – Great Barrier Reef
Lizard Island (and the luxurious resort of the same name) makes for an amazing base from which to explore the Great Barrier Reef. From the island you can enjoy both inner and outer reef experiences, or just chill out on one of 24 gorgeous white sand beaches.
Naturally, there are many other amazing adventures to have in Australia. For further travel inspiration, see the plentiful resources of the Australia.com.
What’s on your family’s bucket list for Australia? We’d love to hear about it. Please feel free to comment below.
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