Long weekends and school holidays are precious family time, and more of us will be hitting the road this year than possibly ever before.
But many of those with young children will be looking to minimise travel time and maximise fun time. With that in mind, check out these fabulous family getaways within two hours’ drive of a capital city. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.
Sydney to Penrith (56 minutes)
OK, so it’s actually hard to get anywhere from Sydney in two hours. That’s a daily commute for some. But there’s an unsung family destination that’s less than an hour by car from the CBD. Penrith sits at the base of the Blue Mountains and offers a mind-boggling array of kid-friendly attractions. Splash down at Cables Aqua Park (or neighbouring Cables Wake Park if your brood has outgrown slides and jumping pillows), burn off that excess holiday excitement at Flip Out, Australia’s largest trampoline playground, or let them loose on the three levels of family fun at Go Bananas at the St Marys Rugby League Club. There’s a handy Hoyts in Penrith, famous Featherdale Wildlife Park is just a 30-minute drive, and of course, the magical Blue Mountains can be done as an easy day trip. And all this just an hour from Sydney? You better believe it!
Need a place to stay?
Check in to the Quality Inn Penrith, which offers standard rooms, deluxe suites, family rooms, and two-bedroom suites. The hotel is just a five-minute drive from the heart of Penrith City.
Melbourne to Traralgon (2 hours)
We’re stretching the elastic band as far as it will go on this one, but you’ll be in no hurry to snap back to the big smoke at the end of your trip to Traralgon, situated right on two hours’ drive east of the Victorian capital. Traralgon offers easy access to lots of family fun around the Latrobe Valley. Jump and Climb is home to one of the largest trampolines in the country, along with several climbing wall courses. And for more fun that you can have dangling from a series of rope swings and bridges high above the ground (in a harness of course), Park Lane Play has it covered (love their dinosaur-themed mini golf too!).
For those who want to step back in time with their tiny tots, an oldie but a goodie is the Old Gippstown heritage park, which is just 20 minutes by car from your holiday base. If you’re a family that loves to pedal together, you’ll have a fine time tackling the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail, which stretches from Traralgon all the way to Stratford (you can do shorter sections). Connect with Australian Cycling Holidays for bike hire and trail transfers.
Need a place to stay?
The centrally located Comfort Inn Traralgon offers a selection of standard, deluxe, twin and family rooms. Quality Inn and Suites Traralgon is situated just a short drive from the town centre and offers room service, late check out and free parking.
Adelaide to Victor Harbor (1 hour, 15 minutes)
We’re not going to fib and tell you Victor Harbor is your private holiday hidey-hole over the school holidays. This is one of South Australia’s premier seaside retreats, so expect big crowds. But it is just an hour from the capital and there are still good room rates available during the holidays (we did the research). So why not. And remember that Victor Harbor is totally geared towards family fun. Travel over to Granite Island on the iconic horse-drawn tram and enjoy the sweeping views of the coast, ride the famous Cockle Train between Victor Harbour and Goolwa, or hire bikes and pedal part, or all, of the Encounter Bikeway.
Victor is also all about simple seaside pleasures. Ride the Ferris wheel at the fair, catch a flick at the heritage Victa Cinemas, and munch on a stick of authentic Blackpool Rock from All Sweets and Treats. Could life possibly get any better?
Need a place to stay?
Comfort Inn Victor Harbor is located right in the Victor Harbor town centre and is an easy walk to most attractions.
Perth to Bunbury (2 hours)
This is another destination that’s in the outer stratosphere of our two-hour travel time limit, but it’s well worth it. Once upon a time, families would have driven straight past Bunbury in favour of Margs River down Highway 1, but times have changed. Bunbury’s transformation from industrial port to holiday haven is all but complete, and leading the charge is the revamped Koombana Bay Foreshore precinct and the state-of-the-art $12 million Dolphin Discovery Centre, which opened in late 2018. Pods of wild bottlenose dolphins call the bay home, and they regularly drop by the waters in front of the centre to say g’day to visitors. Inside, there’s an aquarium, activity centre, marine wildlife hospital and more.
Right next door is the well-equipped and totally free foreshore playground (which even has a small zipline). You could literally hang out here all day. There are shady spots to relax in, BBQ and picnic facilities, and of course Koombana Beach and the tranquil waters of the bay to enjoy at your leisure. And who knows, one of those bottlenose beauties might come right on up to say hi! Also check out the Bunbury Wildlife Park, Mangrove Boardwalk, and Bunbury Museum and Heritage Centre (free to enter).
Brisbane to Cleveland (45 minutes)
Here’s a holiday option you might not have thought of if you live in the Queensland capital. Why waste time crawling along the freeway to more distant coastal destinations, when a waterfront retreat like Cleveland is just a short, relaxed drive from the CBD? OK, it’s low key, but those looking for R&R without the crowds will love this laidback nook. Explore Cleveland Point with its historic lighthouse (the ideal spot for a picnic), go stand-up-paddle boarding off Raby Bay, spend a day splashing around in the adventure pool (with waterslides) at the Cleveland Aquatic Centre, or take the ferry from Cleveland across to stunning Stradbroke Island (you’ll often see dolphins coming right in to the shoreline at Amity Point!).
The wider Redlands region also offers a great range of kid-friendly activities. Hit the bush walking trails at IndigiScapes, check out the Capalaba Regional Park (an adventure playground suitable for all ages and abilities), or let everyone battle it out gladiator style at Inflatable World at Victoria Point.
Need a place to stay?
Comfort Hotel Pacific Cleveland is situated on Cleveland’s main street, and offers a good selection of roomy accommodation options. There are three-bedroom self-contained villas, and even a four-bedroom water-view penthouse.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.
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