Global events have meant that we are exploring our own backyard now more than ever. While a family trip to the Gold Coast or Whitsundays was always a popular choice, with fewer destinations a possibility it seems like every man and his family have booked out every hotel and holiday park in the country. There's no denying availability is a challenge. Aside from hoping for a last minute cancellation (and then having to explain there wasn't one to those sad little faces) your best bet for a fantastic family holiday is to look a little bit further than the usual spots. Australia is an amazing country with a vast array of hidden gems if you just know where to look. Luckily, we do!
So we've put together our top 5 off the beaten track family friendly holidays.
Fancy taking a journey to the centre of the Earth? The Undara Lava Tubes are located in the Undara National Park in Tropical North Queensland's Gulf Savannah country, 275km inland from Cairns. Looking like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, these incredible natural attractions formed 190,000 years ago when an ancient active volcano erupted and sent 23 billion cubic metres of lava across the Atherton Tableland. Lava flowed through underground channels, and as the lava drained and became extinct, the incredible lava tubes were formed. These are some of the largest and longest lava tubes in the world and can be explored on foot, however they are only accessible by joining a guided tour.
This is adventure at it's finest and the kids will love the pre-historic nature of these amazing attractions. Best of all, they won't even notice that they're actually learning about environmental, geological and historical features. To complete the experience, stay at Undara Lava Lodge where you can choose to 'rough it' in a swag tent complete with power points for charging your electronics, step it up a notch in the air conditioned comfort of a cabin or for a truly unique experience, stay in one of their lovingly restored turn-of-the-twentieth century Queensland railway carriages.
Forget palm-fringed beaches and cocktails by the pool, Kangaroo Island is an island of a different sort. Far from stereotypes, this natural haven is just across the water from South Australia's Cape Jarvis but is a world away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. It's always exciting when the holiday begins with a trip on the ferry, particularly for those little ones who will be getting their sea legs for the first time. Whether making the journey on the passenger ferry or taking over your own vehicle, the experience of sailing the rolling Backstairs Passage to an island considered one of the last true wilderness sanctuaries in Australia is pretty special. Budding nature rangers will love this Noah's Ark of native wildlife, where the only bickering you'll hear is the sound of two koalas arguing over prime position on the branch.
With 509km of coastline to explore, you'll discover native bushland, pristine beaches and incredible sunsets on your doorstep. We recommend staying at the affordable, family friendly Aurora Ozone Hotel in spectacular Nepean Bay, just 45 minutes from Penneshaw Jetty. A shuttle service is available, however we highly recommend hiring a car as Kangaroo Island is best explored as a self-drive destination. This is the perfect place to base yourself for swimming, surfing, exploring the towering cliffs and spotting seals at Seal Bay Conservation Park or Admirals Arch in Flinders Chase National Park.
Kangaroo Island is all about foodies, the environment and nature and how they all intertwine. There's plenty of wonderful wineries for mum and dad, while the birds and bees also get their chance at Clifford's Honey Farm and Raptor Domain, a centre for orphaned or injured birds where visitors are introduced to cunning and stunning birds of prey including falcons. There's history to discover at Hope Cottage Museum and cave formations to explore at Kelly Hill Conservation Park and Caves. Whatever your brood is into, the breathtaking beauty of Kangaroo Island ticks all the boxes and will create lasting memories.
Just when you thought there was nothing cuter than your kids, you visit Rottnest Island and meet a Quokka. These native marsupials are perhaps some of the most famous residents of Rottnest and it is one of the only places in the world where you can see these cuties in the wild. These furry little creatures with their iconic happy faces are a quintessential part of any visit to Rottnest Island and are sure to delight kids of all ages. Of course it's not just the Quokkas that make Rottnest Island an ideal holiday for families. Located 30 minutes by ferry from Perth or Fremantle, this easily accessible island does not permit cars making it especially safe to explore either on foot or on bikes which are available for hire.
There are 63 fine white sand beaches on Rottnest along with 20 beautiful bays. Crystal clear water makes the protected coral reefs the ideal snorkelling spot. You can learn about the original Aboriginal inhabitants, how the island was separated from the mainland by rising sea levels 7000 years ago as well as its European settlement and use as an army base in WWII. If the kids have been climbing the walls at home, then why not let them loose on a climbing wall of a different kind. Expend some energy climbing the spiral staircase of Wadjemup Lighthouse for the ultimate reward - panoramic views of the whole island and the sparkling waters of the Indian Ocean. This is the perfect family photo op!
Although you can visit Rottnest Island on a day trip, to truly experience everything the island has to offer we recommend staying for a few days to soak it all in. Situated behind the sand dunes of Pinky's Beach, the 'glamping' experience of Discovery Rottnest Island is a fantastic way to enjoy the great outdoors atmosphere of camping, while keeping those creature comforts that keep everyone happy and everything running smoothly. Depending on how long you stay, there's plenty to keep you busy including organised tours and activities, as well as simply exploring the spectacular natural environment at your own pace.
The kids will get a kick out of seeing a Looney Tunes character come to life in Tasmania! Located in the Tasmanian Central Highlands, Cradle Mountain is situated 1,545m above sea level in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Tasmania's sixth highest mountain, Cradle Mountain is a 1.5 hour drive from Devonport and 2.5 hours from Launceston. Synonymous with wilderness, nature and everything pristine, Cradle Mountain is at the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and for good reason - it is a place of exceptional natural beauty. Wildlife is also in abundance at iconic Cradle Mountain, offering the opportunity to encounter everything from echidna, platypus, wombats and quolls to the famous Tasmanian devil - although young ones may be disappointed to discover that they do not in fact spin around like a vortex.
Devils@Cradle is another great place to spot these Aussie icons and this sanctuary for endangered species is situated at the entrance of the national park. There's also plenty of great walks for all abilities including a 6km trek around Dove Lake Circuit. Little legs may prefer the Enchanted Walk, an easier 20 minute stroll. Don't forget to stop and enjoy the spectacular scenery, spot wildlife and try your hand at stone skimming on the lake. There are plenty of quaint towns to explore and there's nothing like leaving the electronics at home and breathing in the fresh mountain air. We recommend staying at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge. Suited to smaller families, their pine cabins are dotted amongst the wilderness and really complete the experience with their rustic timber interiors, hand-made Tasmanian wood furnishings, wood fire look gas heaters and lake or bushland views.
Located 250km north of Brisbane, the Fraser Coast is a picturesque region comprised of Hervey Bay, Maryborough and Fraser Island. A much-loved part of Queensland, the region is ideal for families and is renowned for its cultural and natural heritage. The crowning jewel of this region, Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island - that's right, the island is ENTIRELY composed of sand. It's basically one big giant sand pit to play in! Famous for its unique natural landscapes, breathtaking scenery and adventure experiences, Fraser Island isn't too far off the beaten track, but just far enough to really get the essence of being undiscovered. It is for this reason that we recommend you base yourself here while exploring everything else the region has to offer. Fraser Island is a popular 4WD spot and although these are available for hire, you don't need a 4WD to enjoy Fraser. If you're looking for convenience, Kingfisher Bay Resort is the ideal place to stay to tick off all the major things on your list.
Nestled amongst lush vegetation and sand dunes on the western side of Fraser Island, the resort overlooks the calm waters of the Great Sandy Strait and is just a 50 minute transfer from Hervey Bay via passenger and vehicle ferry. We recommend the self-catering villas for larger families or those who just want to save a few bucks and not eat out for every meal. From here you can discover the diversity and beauty of Fraser, swim in crystal clear freshwater lakes and immerse yourself in the beauty of the ancient rainforests. Take a drive along 75 Mile Beach to see the amazing coloured sand cliffs and the iconic Maheno Wreck. Those without a 4WD can join the Island Beauty Spot tour to get up close and personal with some of the more difficult to access areas of the island. If you visit from late July to early November, you can't miss Hervey Bay's whale watching opportunities - this is hands down the best whale-watching experience anywhere in Australia.