Are you looking for somewhere new to take your kids these school holidays? Somewhere that’s fun but also a little bit different to where you’ve been before? Read on for a guide to some of Australia’s lesser known family holiday destinations. Choice Hotels has fabulous and affordable accommodation options in each.
1. Do a South West roadie in Western Australia
Road trips make great family getaways as your travel costs are minimised, but hitting the road for long distances with the kids on board can be a daunting prospect. That’s why a road trip from Perth through WA’s majestic South West region is such a great option. The distances between key attractions are relatively short and you can time it so that you’re in the car for no more than 1.5 to 2 hours at a time. Just remember to rug up!
Start by dropping in at the brand-new Dolphin Discovery Centre in Bunbury. This state-of-the-art facility opened in late 2018 and has a whole range of interesting activities on offer. Volunteers ring the bell when resident bottlenose dolphins are spotted in the bay close to the shoreline. You could spend the best part of a day here, so consider stopping overnight.
Other must-sees and dos around the South West include the Busselton Jetty and Underwater Observatory. Kids will love the train ride out to the end of the jetty, and an overnight stop in this bustling coastal town will offer plenty of affordable dining options.
Pop a coastal walk along a section of the Cape to Cape Track in Margaret River on your to-do list, and check out the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk in the tingle forest at Tingledale. Make the heritage city of Albany your final destination, where you can check out the awesome viewing platform that overlooks The Gap in Torndirrup National Park.
A visit to the town of Kojonup will break up the journey from Albany back Perth. Here you can navigate the garden maze and enjoy a bite to eat at the popular Black Cockatoo Café.
Need a place to stay?
For great value accommodation in Bunbury, you can’t go past the Quality Hotel Lighthouse, which is situated right on the oceanfront. It’s also an easy walk into the town centre to cafes and restaurants. Comfort Inn Busselton River Resort offers one and two-bedroom family rooms and is just a short drive from the Jetty precinct. Conveniently located on the approach into Albany, the Quality Apartments Banksia Gardens offers contemporary accommodation just a stone’s throw from the magnificent Mount Melville Parklands. Kids will love the climb to the lookout for sweeping views of the city and coastline. One, two and three-bedroom apartments make family travel a breeze.
2. Meet the maremma sheepdogs in Warrnambool, Victoria
Did your kids see the Australian film about the dog that guards the penguins? The movie was called Oddball and it was based on real events that took place in Warrnambool in regional Victoria. The town’s Little Penguin colony was being attacked by foxes until a local family sent their Maremma sheep dog to guard them. Today, you can see both the penguins and the Maremma guard dogs when you visit Warrnambool. This Great Ocean Road seaside town is also a top spot to enjoy fresh fish and chips, go whale watching, and learn about the region’s colourful maritime (and shipwreck-littered!) history.
Need a place to stay?
3. Step back in time in Ballarat, Victoria
Home to Sovereign Hill – a gold rush-themed open-air museum – Ballarat is a charming historical town with plenty to keep the kids entertained. A day at Sovereign Hill involves gold panning in the creek bed (with a kindly fossicker to show you the moves), dressing up in 18th century costumes for an old time-y photo shoot, heading down a mine shaft, and learning all about gold extraction with live demonstrations in the gold museum. Winter brings the mesmerising Winter Wonderlights, which light up the entire town!
If you prefer your costumes medieval, take your clan to Kryal Castle for a day of jousting, maze wandering, magic lessons with wizards, and just scaring the heck out of your kids in the torture museum! Ballarat has a goldmine of affordable accommodation options.
4. Visit a fairy tale-style village in Adelaide, South Australia
Adelaide is an ideal base for a family adventure. Head for the hills and spend a few happy hours exploring Hahndorf. It’s stunning in winter. Settled by Germans, Hahndorf has a European fairy tale village feel. Pop into Udder Delights for a cheese tasting and wander through the colourful craft shops.
Back in town, explore the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, go to a football game or cricket match at Adelaide Oval, or join a delicious food tour at the Adelaide Central Market.
Need a place to stay?
Choice Hotels has amazing accommodation options across Adelaide, but for easy access to the many attractions at family-friendly Glenelg, you can’t go past the Comfort Inn Anzac Highway. The kids will love the tram ride into the city.
5. Smile at a crocodile in Darwin, Northern Territory
Feel like getting up close and personal with a crocodile? Darwin is one of the few places you can – safely! From visiting Crocosaurus Cove – where you can swim with a crocodile – to doing a wetland cruise, visiting a croc farm, or heading out to Crocodylus Park (a wildlife park devoted to these toothy creatures), your family will get a good gander at these ancient animals.
Did you know that Darwin was bombed 64 times by Japanese aircraft in WWII? Learn more about this historical chapter at Darwin Military Museum, grab dinner at the Mindil Beach Sunset Market, admire and buy Indigenous arts and crafts at not-for-profit Aboriginal Bush Traders, or head out of town to Litchfield or Kakadu National Park to see some of this region’s extraordinary flora and fauna.
Need a place to stay?
Quality Hotel Darwin Airport makes a great base for families wanting to explore everything the Northern Territory capital has to offer. The hotel has cots, cribs and extra fold-out beds available. Return to the hotel after a day of sightseeing and cool off in the tropical-style pool. You can do that in winter – it’s Darwin!
About the writer
Emma Castle has been writing about travel, in one way or another, for over 15 years. After the birth of her son, she moved into a freelance role and now contributes to various publications. She is also baby and toddler editor at Holidays with Kids magazine and blogs at SheGoes.