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Australia family holidays

Road signsRoad signs© Tourism Australia
Bondi Beach, SydneyBondi Beach, Sydney© Tourism Australia
PerthPerth© Tourism Australia
Hot-air balloon, VictoriaHot-air balloon, Victoria
Northern TerritoryNorthern TerritoryJames Fisher© Tourism Australia
Capital City Canberra
Flying Time 20.5hrs
Carbon Footprint 22.44 CO2
Timezone GMT +10
Currency Australian Dollar

Today

Overview

From bustling city to stunning beach or tropical rainforest (and that’s just Sydney!), Australia is a magical world of its own and a great destination for family holidays. The only real drawback is the long flight, but these days airlines make the whole thing more painless and you can also turn the stopover into a mini-break en route.

On the whole, it's best to stay in one area and take your time to explore it properly. Even three weeks is not enough to get a proper taste of this vast, incredibly diverse country.

Things to do with kids in Australia

Experience in-your-face Sydney with its great food and beaches, blessed weather, big art and electric fashion, and also the state of which it is capital, New South Wales. The latter is a top spot for family holidays, with pristine beaches and funky seaside towns, and beyond it the Outback, rich in Australian colonial history. 

Venture to the vast north-eastern state of Queensland – more than seven times the size of the UK and covering more than a quarter of Australia’s total expanse. Both lush and tropical and desolate and harsh, garish and refined, it's another great place for a family holiday, with one of the world’s best conservation zoos, rainforest to explore, the natural wonder of the Great Barrier Reef, and spotlessly clean and child-friendly sub-tropical and tropical beaches with the softest sand imaginable. The Gold Coast here is Australia's favourite family holiday destination, with 300 days of sunshine a year, 70km of beaches and fantastic themeparks. 

Explore Victoria in the south-east corner, Australia’s smallest mainland state – sophisticated yet unspoiled, with a dramatic coastline, lush ski-fields, country towns rich in gold-mine history, a passion for great produce, and an arty capital, Melbourne.

Discover the dynamic cutting-edge city of Perth, one of the most cosmopolitan and interesting cities in the country, its low-key and bohemian sister-town, Fremantle, and the Margaret River region as a whole, with its top surfing, great wineries and gourmet food. They're on the very edge of Western Australia, the country's largest state and the real deal, with isolated mining towns, cattle stations, burnt orange skies, wildflowers and canyons, coral reefs and 12,500km of deserted beaches.

With older kids, venture into the vast central and northern-central Northern Territory to walk on the red soil of a vast camel-studded desert, guided through a timeless landscape by a living representative of the oldest continuing culture on Earth. A trip to Uluru (Ayers Rock) is a once-in-a-lifetime must-do.  

Eat

Australians eat out a lot and you'll have no difficulty in finding family-friendly places to eat here, generally at reasonable cost. Chinese, Thai and Italian restaurants are much in evidence, while Asian fusion cuisine is often served in trendy high-end restaurants.Native foods you may or may not want to sample include kangaroo, which tastes a lot like beef, crocodile and emu. Australia is famous for its barbecues, and many public parks provide free BBQs for public use. Parks, together with beaches, parks, rivers and lakes are also great places for picnics.For those self-catering, Australia's many farmer's markets are a delight.

When to go to Australia

Seasons in Australia are the opposite of those in the UK: summer runs Nov–March, winter is May–Aug. But there are huge variations in weather or temperature throughout this vast country, which you need to take into account when planning a family holiday.

New South Wales, the centre of Western Australia and Queensland have hot summers and mild winters, while Victoria and Tasmania can experience chilly winters, combined with short days. Sydney averages temperatures of 8-16°C in July and 18-26°C in January, although it has reached 46°C in summer! April, May and June are the wettest months in Sydney.

The dry interior is hot year-round during the day but come nightfall it can become very cold. In the north, as the country enters the tropics, there are just two seasons - the dry, from May to September, and the wet, from December to March.

How to get to Australia

There are reasonably priced flights from several UK airports to Australia's 10 main international airports, including Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Darwin, Cairns and Canberra. Direct flights from London take 21–25hrs. A host of low-cost airlines operate internally for those planning to explore more than one area (travelling from Perth to Sydney is like going from London to Cairo, while Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef are in the far north and Uluru/Ayers Rock is in the middle, so even covering the highlights requires a lot of moving around).

Take a look at our flying with kids tips page for advice on handling such a long flight and the inevitable jet-lag. Seat-back TVs with kid channels, fun packs, Sky Nannies and so on make life easier. You might also turn the stopover into a mini family holiday in itself by breaking the journery for a night or two in the Middle East, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore or even LA.  

See also our feature on exploring the Outback by motorhome. There also also some amazing – and child-friendly – great train journeys in Australia.

Cost

While Australia is expensive to get to, when you're there the wide range of accommodation options, including self-catering properties and motorhomes, means that you won't have to spend a fortune.

By Rhonda Carrier

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Classic South Africa
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