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Sydney Opera House illuminated during Vivid festival

The kids are alright, mate

Australia must be one of the best places to take your children on an adventure. Full of weird and wonderful wildlife, awe-inspiring landscapes, and ancient aboriginal culture, there’s plenty to see and do in all four corners of the continent.

  

Travelling around is easy, with empty roads, affordable family-friendly accommodation and a wealth of activities to keep the young ’uns occupied. Wherever you choose to travel, you’ll find a feast of fun. Here are a few ideas to get you started.


Sydney

The capital of New South Wales is packed with interest. Shops, restaurants and museums abound – and, of course, there’s the iconic Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House to gawp at.

  

If you can, try to time your visit to coincide with the city’s Vivid festival which usually takes place at the end of May/beginning of June. During the festival, the buildings of the city – including the Opera House – become canvases for a spectacular nightly sound and light show, with moving images projected onto roofs and walls.

  

The Royal Botanical Gardens is a wonderful place for a relaxing stroll – look out for colourful parrots in the trees. When small legs have had enough walking, there are plenty of public transport options, including the excellent monorail, to whisk you around the city.

  

Ferries leave from Circular Quay and are a great way to see the harbour from the water. Try a ferry trip out to one of Sydney’s beaches – Manly is a family-friendly choice with plenty of places to buy fish and chips or ice cream.


Play: The star attractions of the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium are Pig and Wuru, the only dugongs on display in Australia. There’s also a shark tunnel and colourful Great Barrier Reef exhibit.


Stay: The Holiday Inn Old Sydney offers rooms with two queen beds and views of Harbour Bridge. There’s a stunning rooftop pool, with spa, where you can swim or soak while enjoying fabulous views of the city.

Things to do with kids in Australia

Milk a cow on Phillip Island; experience colourful fish and corals at Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

Phillip Island

Most people visit Phillip Island for the Penguin Parade. At dusk, hundreds of tiny Little Penguins –  also known as Fairy Penguins – come out of the sea and swarm across the beach to find their burrows.

  

Visitors are seated on special viewing platforms, and the whole spectacle takes around an hour. After the penguins have emerged from the sea, you can wander around boardwalks to watch their antics as they waddle towards their homes. It can get very cold waiting for the penguins, so be sure to take plenty of warm clothing.

  

You can glimpse the penguins by day too, at the Nobbies, the rocky, southern tip of the island. Here, more boardwalks lead past penguin burrows – see if you can spot the penguins nesting in their homes. If you’re lucky, you may also spot humpback whales out to sea – during June they are often seen migrating north to spend the winter in the warmer waters of Queensland.

  

When you’ve had your fill of the sea, there’s an excellent koala sanctuary on the island, with a large group of koalas living in a protected area of eucalyptus trees. A raised walkway gets you up close to the sleeping bundles of fur, and rangers are on hand to tell you all about them.


Play: At the historical Churchill Island Heritage Farm you can milk a cow, take a wagon ride and watch working dogs in action. The Three Parks Pass gets you discounted entry to the farm, koala sanctuary and Penguin Parade.


Stay: The wonderful Waves Apartments, in Cowes, offers beachfront suites with sea-views, a kitchenette, and bunk beds for the kids. There’s a kid’s playground and beach just across the road, too.


Things to do with kids in Australia

Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s (if not the world’s) iconic road trips – and there’s plenty along the way that will keep the children entertained.

  

Running for over 200km along the southern Victoria coast from Torquay to Port Fairy, the route takes in spectacular coastal scenery, fabulous beaches, attractive seaside towns – and a sizeable dose of rainforest, too.

  

This is one of the best places in Australia to spot koalas in the wild, with two prime koala-spotting locations at Kennett River and along the side road to the Cape Otway lighthouse – we spotted dozens of koalas along this route. The lighthouse itself is a great attraction too – climb up the spiral staircase inside for vertigo-inducing views of the coastline.

  

The beach at Warrnambool has a viewing platform for whale watching – you may catch a glimpse of southern right whales, which are frequently sighted here in winter. The town is also a prime surfing location, so you can enjoy the acrobatic antics of the surfers while you look out for whales.

  

The Twelve Apostles rock formations are also along the Great Ocean Road – a great opportunity for a geology lesson! Fairy penguins nest nearby, so if you visit at dusk you may get to see them (and you’ll certainly hear them!) while you enjoy the sun setting over the Apostles.


Play: At Maits Rest there are waymarked walks through the rainforest through dense vegetation, tree ferns – and some incredibly tall mountain ash trees. To experience the rainforest from a totally different perspective, visit the Otway Fly. Here you can ascend dizzying heights to the tops of the trees, and follow specially constructed walkways through the rainforest canopy.


Stay: The Great Ocean View Motel in Apollo Bay offers family rooms with a separate twin bedroom for the kids – and great ocean views.

Climb to dizzying heights at the Otway Fly; walk through the rainforest at Maits Rest

Things to do with kids in Australia

Top row: Victoria has some incredible wildlife; ride the world’s steepest railway at Katoomba

Bottom row: The Three Sisters rock formation; native wildlife at Healesville Sanctuary

More ideas:


Healesville Sanctuary. Learn all about native Australian animals, including platypus, dingoes and wombats. Don’t miss the spectacular Spirits of the Sky birds of prey demonstrations. www.zoo.org.au/healesville


Victoria’s High Country. Stay in a cosy family-friendly cottage with stunning mountain views and wake to a chorus of carolling magpie larks. Go skiing on the slopes of Mount Buller, stand behind a waterfall at Paradise Falls and take a bush walk around scenic Lake Eildon. www.buttercup.com.au


Katoomba Scenic Railway, Blue Mountains. Ride the world’s steepest railway, take a cable car across a valley, marvel at the sight of the Three Sisters rock formation and follow boardwalk trails through the rainforest. www.scenicworld.com.au


Dolphin spotting at Jervis Bay. Dolphin Watch Cruises runs a range of trips, and from May to November you may also spot humpback whales. www.dolphinwatch.com.au Stay at the nearby Bay of Plenty Lodges, in the Booderee National Park, and get close to wild wallabies and kangaroos as they roam the grounds at dusk. www.bayofplentylodges.com.au

Next issue: Part 2 - Red Centre and Northern Territory

Green Adventures March 2015

Travel with kids in Sydney and Victoria