10 holiday ideas to get the family back to nature
Round up the gang, switch off and explore the wonders of the great outdoors.
Australia is an adventurer’s playground. Be it jungle surfing through the world’s oldest rainforest, coming face-to-face with a colony of sea lions or exploring a chamber of ancient fossils, there are plenty of thrills for young (and young at heart) travellers.
SNORKEL WITH TURTLES IN BYRON BAY
It's just a five-minute boat ride from Byron Bay, at Julian Rocks, and it is one of Australia's premier diving locations. This northern NSW sanctuary for tropical species – many of which are also found on the Great Barrier Reef – allows kids to lock eyes with manta rays, three different species of sea turtles, friendly wobbegong sharks and more than 400 species of fish. The Byron Bay Dive Centre caters for all levels of diving and snorkelling experience (minimum age is five years), and daily trips include the boat ride, wetsuit and snorkel gear.
SWIM IN THE CURRUMBIN ROCK POOLS
The secluded swimming hole is a 15 minute drive from the Gold Coast's Currumbin Beach within the lush Currumbin Valley. Smooth sloping rocks create natural slides and miniature rapids, and the water levels vary in depth with plenty of space for toddlers to splash around. After a dip, roll out the picnic blanket on wide grassy banks – there are barbecue facilities as well as a café with snacks and ice cream across the road.
SOAR ABOVE THE RAINFOREST AT CAPE TRIBULATION
There are countless ways to explore the Daintree Rainforest in far north Queensland. But for brave kids, the most exhilarating way to see it is zooming through the canopy on a guided zip-lining tour with Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours at Cape Tribulation. Nothing can beat seeing the world’s oldest rainforest this way – flying between six rainforest canopy platforms, 20 metres above the ground. Tours last two hours and are suitable for all ages from three years old.
MEET THE LOCALS ON KANGAROO ISLAND
Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia, is one of the best places in Australia to get up close with native wildlife, which is why it is often referred to as a zoo without fences. Spend a full day exploring Seal Bay – one of the only places in the world where you can walk among endangered Australian sea lions. Follow the 900-metre wooden boardwalk or join a two-hour Twilight Beach Tour. On the island’s south-west coast you’ll find the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can spot koalas in the wild. Explore the island on a quad bike, or take a boat to spot dolphins, seals and whales.
SET UP CAMP AT THE BAY OF FIRES
There plenty of family fun to be had in this compact state. For an off-the-beaten-path experience head to the Bay of Fires – named for its spectacular orange boulders – one of the most scenic places in Tasmania. Turquoise sea, fine white sand and an abundance of sea life including whales, seals and sea eagles are guaranteed to keep children wide-eyed. At the southern end of the Bay of Fires is the laid-back town of Binalong Bay, where you can set up camp on the beach or among the acacia trees fringing the shore.
BREATHE DEEP IN THE OTWAYS
Soak up some of Australia’s best rainforest scenery in the Otway Ranges – a short drive from the family-friendly town of Apollo Bay on Victoria's Great Ocean Road. Walk among giant ferns at Maits Rest, go mountain biking over 60 kilometres of formed tracks, and experience the forest's full beauty on the Otway Tree Top Walk. At the southernmost point of the park, visit the oldest lighthouse on mainland Australia, and spend the night in the historic keeper's cottage.
CRAWL THROUGH THE NARACOORTE CAVES
Delve into the subterranean wonders of the Naracoorte Caves in South Australia. Of the 28 World Heritage-listed caves, four are open to the public and there are a number of tours available to explore the chamber of fossils or go adventure caving. During the summer months, visitors can watch the bat exit flight from Blanche Cave at dusk, a sight guaranteed to thrill little Batman fans. There is budget accommodation and camping available on site, too.
SWIM BENEATH WATERFALLS IN THE ROYAL NATIONAL PARK
Pack the swimmers (and the kids) and head south to Sydney’s Royal National Park. An easy one-hour drive from the city, the national park is a natural oasis of bush walks, rock pools and hidden away beaches. Start your day at Wattamolla, where a wide, sandy beach and freshwater lagoon are connected via a sandbar, and kids can get a kick out of swimming beneath cascading waterfalls. After lunch follow the track to Eagle Rock lookout along the dramatic coastline.
CLIMB AUSTRALIA’S HIGHEST PEAK
What adventure-loving kid wouldn’t fancy tackling Australia’s highest peak? Experience the stunning alpine wilderness of Kosciuszko National Park on a number of self-guided walks, which range from one or two hours to the epic six-hour trail to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko. The scenic route to the summit takes in attractions such as the Snowy River, Seaman’s Hut and Rawson Pass – with plenty of photo opportunities along the way.
WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE GIANTS
Walk among the tree tops in the Valley of the Giants, a 30-minute drive from Denmark in Western Australia. The walkway runs 40 metres above the ground in the canopy of the majestic tingle trees – eucalyptus species which occur nowhere else in the world. The 600-metre walk is suitable for children of all ages, and strollers. Descend to the boardwalks below to explore the Ancient Empire walk, an interpretive trail that meanders through the forest floor detailing the story of the lost era of Gondwana.