From thrilling skiing in Jindabyne to theme parks on the Gold Coast, discover the best family holiday destinations in Australia.
Skiing in Jindabyne, NSW
The experience: Skiing
The location: Jindabyne, NSW
Why go: Overlooking Lake Jindabyne in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, Jindabyne is the gateway to some of Australia’s best ski fields. Thredbo, Perisher and Kosciuszko National Park are all within easy reach, with hectares of varied terrain suitable for all levels of experience and all activities, from downhill and cross-country skiing to snowboarding, tobogganing and snow-shoeing – children learning to ski can use the excellent ski school at Smiggin Holes, located within a protected snow bowl. But the temperature doesn’t have to be hovering around zero for this pocket of New South Wales to appeal. When the snow melts, the mountains become a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with horse riding, mountain biking and bushwalking popular ways to enjoy the region’s rugged alpine landscapes, its soaring gum trees, wildflowers, waterfalls and limestone gorges. On the lake, watersports are the main attraction – kayaking, jet skiing, wakeboarding, swimming and fishing. It’s a short drive to the Yarrangobilly Caves, a beautiful limestone karst system where there is a thermal pool heated to 27 degrees year-round, and Crackenback Cottage, site of the largest timber maze in the Southern Hemisphere.
Where to stay: The perfect base for families, NRMA Jindabyne Holiday Park overlooks the water and its grassy grounds feature a kids playground as well as basketball and tennis courts.
Getting there: There are flights from all major Australian cities to Sydney. Rent a Thrifty car at the airport and enjoy a scenic 450-kilometre drive to Jindabyne.
The best family theme parks in the Gold Coast, QLD
The experience: Theme parks
The location: Gold Coast, Qld
Why go: The Gold Coast’s long stretches of sand and kid-friendly entertainment are a year-round attraction. This part of Queensland is known for its expansive waterways and the creeks, estuaries, mangroves and islands are best explored by boat. The other great attraction is the surf, with a number of schools offering lessons for younger travellers looking to learn. Not far from the surf action is the coast’s newest reason to visit: the Spaceflight Academy, Australia’s only themed training centre for junior astronauts with everything from space simulators and one-hour tours to one-day space camps. Then there are the theme parks. A short drive away you’ll find Warner Bros. Movie World and Wet’n’Wild, among others.
Where to stay: In Biggera Waters, children can look forward to a raft of entertainment at the Treasure Island Holiday Park’s Kidz Korner, with facilities that range from a giant jumping pillow to a games room replete with pool table. Where this club stands out is in its roster of activities, both fun and educational. There’s arts and crafts and scavenger hunts as well as trivia nights, movies under the stars, karaoke and family discos.
Getting there: There are flights to Gold Coast Airport from a number of major Australian cities, including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Rent a Thrifty car at the airport so you can explore the city in comfort.
Photo credit: Destination NSW
Best family holiday spots on the Central Coast, NSW
The experience: Hiking, swimming, surfing
The location: Central Coast, NSW
Why go: The Central Coast of New South Wales is a union of sleepy waterside towns, long beaches and verdant hinterland – the perfect playground for nature-loving families. Just 85 kilometres north of Sydney and set on a peninsula, easy-to-reach Umina Beach offers a taste of the region’s outdoor assets. The long sandy beach is one of the coast’s most popular among travellers with children, with excellent swimming and surfing in equal measure. A great way to get some perspective of the area is a hike to the top of Mount Ettalong, with an easy 30-minute loop walk taking you to the top and back. Sydney red gums line the track and fenced lookouts have panoramic views over Umina Beach, Brisbane Water, Lion Island, Barrenjoey and Pittwater.
Where to stay: An ideal place to linger is Ocean Beach Holiday Park. When they’re not climbing mountains or tackling waves, kids can zip down the park’s waterslide, spring into the air on giant jumping pillows, have a hit of tennis or relax in the movie room. Activities in the Kids’ Club range from the creative – face painting, puppet shows and bead making – to educational reptile displays, dance lessons and talent shows.
Getting there: There are flights from all major Australian cities into Sydney. Rent a Thrifty car at the airport before driving north to the Central Coast.
The best family snorkelling and diving experience in Coffs Harbour, NSW
The experience: Snorkelling, diving
The location: Solitary Islands Marine Park
Why go: Young divers and snorkelling fanatics won’t want to get out of the water at this northern NSW marine park, extending 75 kilometres along Australia’s east coast and home to colourful tropical fish and coral, not to mention whales, sea turtles and grey nurse sharks. Arrawarra Headland overlooks the marine park, making it the perfect base for those looking to dive in – the beach is also known for its gentle waves, ideal for beginner surfers. This part of the world, with its World Heritage rainforest and old-growth trees, is home to rose-crowned fruit doves, figbirds, noisy pittas, brown cuckoo doves and white-headed pigeons. Winged creatures of a different kind are the star attraction at Butterfly House, a short drive south of Arrawarra in Coffs Harbour. This indoor habitat for more than 300 butterflies, plus a bug exhibit, is designed to shed light on the creatures that live in the surrounding forest.
Where to stay: A few steps from the Arrawarra sand, Darlington Beach Holiday Park is as eco-friendly as it is entertaining, set over 44.5 hectares of coastal forest with kangaroos and other native animals roaming the grounds. In addition to surfing lessons, the property offers guided bushwalks and bike rides for the kids.
Getting there: There are daily direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Coffs Harbour. From there, it’s a 25-minute drive to Arrawarra.
Hero image credit: Courtesy of Kempsey Shire Council