Out & About with Kids quest to uncover the absolute best family holiday experiences in Australia, which is no small endeavour given the abundance of fantastic tourism operators and destinations in our great big backyard, has come to its exciting conclusion.
Our readers have spoken! The votes have been tallied and …
…drum roll please…
…THE WINNERS ARE…
The Best DESTINATION
Gold Coast, Queensland
Enjoying an ideal year-round climate, 70 kilometres of unspoiled coastline and 100,000 hectares of World Heritage-listed rainforest, it’s no wonder more than 10.5 million visitors head to the Gold Coast every year. Home to the famed Surfers Paradise and ‘The Worlds’, this top destination is a Mecca for theme-park loving kids. But whether you’re looking for rest and relaxation, a hinterland escape or family thrills and spills, paradise is waiting in this diverse destination.
A visit to Queensland’s idyllic Sunshine Coast ticks all the boxes for mum, dad and the kids. Renowned for its spectacular beaches, from excellent surfing beaches to safer patrolled family beaches, it’s the perfect spot for a sand and surf-filled summer holiday with the tribe. With a choice of accommodation, from luxury resorts to holiday parks, it’s the ideal base to explore family attractions including Australia Zoo and the huge oceanarium at Underwaterworld in Malooloobah.
With the Pacific Ocean, golden beaches, lush rainforests and abundant wildlife, Port Macquarie has proved a winner with our readers. An idyllic holiday haven the region offers everything you need for year-round family action from high-speed boats and four-wheel drive tours to scenic river cruises, rainforest picnics or close encounters with migrating whales, the area also boasts a rich history with impressive convict built buildings and ancient Aboriginal heritage.
Broome and The Kimberley
Spectacular gorges, amazing beaches and coastline plus magnificent Aboriginal rock art and culture are all on offer in WA’s Kimberley. In the East, Kununurra is the gateway to iconic destinations including the Bungle Bungles, El Questro, the Ord River and Lake Argyle. The coastal town of Broome boasts one of the world’s most popular beaches; Cable Beach. From sunset camel rides to searching for dinosaur footprints in Roebuck Bay, kids will have a blast.
The Best RESORT
Sea World, Gold Coast
With Australia’s only water park resort accommodation, an awesome new Jet Stunt Extreme Show featuring some of the world’s best jet ski stunt performers and the world’s first Spongebob Squarepants parade, Sea World never fails to impress with jaw-dropping rides, amazing animal attractions (from penguins to polar bears) and close-encounter experiences with sharks and seals. Castaway Bay offers adventure for every age while older kids will love the thrills of the Sea Viper.
Paradise Resort, Gold Coast
Set on a five acre oasis close to beaches, attractions, and the heart of Surfers Paradise this truly is Paradise for families – with the brand new giant Z4K Aquaplay waterpark and supervised Z4K kids club for babies and toddlers through to 12-year-olds and with seven themed play spaces. The fun doesnt’ stop there – there’s a nine-metre climbing wall and an ever-changing programme of activities, plus great rooms, pools, restaurants and a bar.
Club Med Lindeman Island
If you want sun, sand and heaps of fun then Club Med Lindeman Island is for you. With a kids club famed throughout the world, Club Med takes kids from two right through to troublesome teenagers and turns them into circus stars at the Flying Trapeze Academy while mum and dad can relax in the stunning surroundings of this tropical island. Don’t miss a family excursion on the Great Barrier Reef.
The Best HOLIDAY PARK
Big4 Ashmore Palms, Gold Coast
There’s a reason families keep returning to this popular Queensland holiday park, a five-minute drive inland from the Main Beach – the same reason it’s been voted top holiday park by our readers! With great free kids’ activities, family-friendly facilities, extensive landscaped grounds and a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets it’s a true winner. Plus the Paradise Lagoon and helpful staff make every stay enjoyable.
NRMA Darlington Beach Holiday Park, Coffs Harbour
This 4.5-star eco-friendly family holiday park and resort, on the pristine Arrawarra Beach just north of NSW’s Coffs Harbour, spans over 110 acres of coastal forest and has accommodation options for everyone. With an abundance of native animals, archery, a worm farm, a BMX track and a sensational holiday activity programme including nature bushwalks, soccer training and recycling workshops this park is a hit with adventure and nature-loving children.
Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort, Cairns
The new water park is certainly making a splash in this perennially-popular Queensland holiday institution. Set in lush grounds with palms, rainforest areas and tropical gardens kids also love the jumping pillows, outdoor movies, giant chess, day/night tennis, kids’ playground, beach volleyball and bingo. There’s a huge range of accommodation options, from camping and ensuite sites to holiday units, villas (and recently renovated spa villas) and larger condos.
The Best ATTRACTION
Australia Zoo, Beerwah
With over 1000 native and exotic animals, a line-up of interactive animal encounters, an action-packed 24-hour wildlife hospital, oh – and the chance of hanging out with teen-wildlife warrior and TV star Bindi – there’s never a dull moment at this world-famous zoo on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Catch a show at the Crocoseum, head to the Tiger Temple or Elephantasia or book in to one of the zoo’s fantastic tours for a top day out.
Wet ‘n’ Wild Water World, Gold Coast
We love this splashtacular theme park with fast-flowing thrill rides and plenty for little ones. Conquer AquaLoop, the brand new attraction with four full looping slides. And not for the fainthearted, the new Skycoaster ride catapults riders on a suspended cable up to 100 kilometres per hour. Kamikaze, Terror Canyon, River Rapids, Twister and Mammoth Falls and the Tornado ensure adrenaline levels are topped up all day.
Taronga Zoo, Sydney
Who can resist heading along to this ever-popular Sydney attraction, which recently celebrated its 95th birthday, to see the three new Sumatran tiger cubs (to mention all the other critters). And with around 20 keeper talks and shows a day, behind-the-scenes tours, meet-the-animals experiences and even the chance to sleep over, this is a firm family favourite. Plus where else can you make such a cool entrance by hopping on the ferry across Sydney Harbour?
The Best TOUR
This tour company has more than 30 years’ experience offering guided and sight-seeing tours across Australia and New Zealand from Camping and Explorer tours to Premium tours. From traditional Indigenous experiences like the Kakadu Culture Camp to day tours in the city and beyond, this award-winning tour company has a great range of tours that enable the whole family to get out and explore the amazing sights and experiences on our doorstep. www.aatkings.com.au
Daintree Northern Delights
It’s no wonder that touring the stunning Daintree has proved popular with our readers. Tropical Horizons “Northern Delights” tour takes visitors along one of the world’s most beautiful coastal routes, where the rainforest meets the reef. Offering up the best of the Daintree, stops include Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge, Daintree Village and Timber Museum and kids favourite, Hartley’s Creek Crocodile Adventures, where they’ll enjoy the Crocodile Attack show and a croc spotting cruise.
With 29 Years experience and the largest vessels in the Hunter, complete with boom nets and waterslides, it’s no wonder Port Stephen’s Moonshadow Cruises is so popular with families. Get up close and personal with whales from May to November, Nelson Bay’s resident dolphins year round or visit Broughton Island for snorkelling and fish feeding. Awesome adventure packages also combine 4WD sand dune touring on Stockton Beach with cruising for a fantastic family day out.
The Best ECO-HOLIDAY
Australia Zoo, Beerwah
Keen to learn more about life at this award-winning zoo? Then book into one of the zoo’s many tours, from the Kiddies tour designed for little ones to the Hire a Caddy tour where you get chauffeured in your own private buggy for total VIP treatment. Whether ripper reptiles, furry friends or creepy critters are your thing, a visit to Australia Zoo is an education, as well as entertaining experience.
Fraser Island, Queensland
World-Heritage-listed Fraser Island – the largest sand island in the world- is a place of spectacular and unique natural beauty. A selection of one and two-day and customised eco-tours with experienced and friendly guides, depart either from the mainland or island resorts. The Junior Eco Rangers programme (ages five to 14) at Kingfisher Bay Resort, with nature-oriented activities such as stargazing, spotlighting and campfire songs is a sure fire hit with kids.
Phillip Island, Victoria
Home to more than 20,000 of the world’s smallest penguins – the Little Penguin – many tours around this ever-popular Victorian island include a visit to see these super cute birds parade from sea to dunes as the sun sets on the Phillip Island Nature Park. The Ultimate Penguin Experience is a fully accredited eco-tour that takes visitors, equipped with night vision technology, to a secluded beach to view the penguins.
The Best ADVENTURE
Daydream Island, Whitsundays
This beautiful island on the Great Barrier Reef is packed to bursting with adventurous activities that will make you want to come back for more! There’s adrenaline-pumping watersports including jet-ski safaris and parasailing, then stingray encounters at the Living Reef – one of the world’s largest man-made coral reef lagoons (where kids will love the Reef Ranger programme) – as well as a plethora of scuba diving and snorkelling opportunities.
Fraser Island, Queensland
Action packed Four-wheel-drive guided or self-drive tours are a great way to see this World-Heritage-listed island – the largest sand island in the world. There are a great selection of wet and wild one and two-day experiences departing either from the mainland or island resorts. There’s even something for the kids with Junior Eco Rangers (ages five to 14) at Kingfisher Bay Resort, and its programme of nature-oriented adventure.
Kangaroo Island, SA
If you and the family go wild for wilderness adventures, then book a trip to stunning Kangaroo Island, just 13 kilometres off the South Australian coast. Australia’s third largest island with a population of around 4000, has large tracts of pristine wilderness and rugged coastline, that make it a haven for bird, plant and animal life. Discover hidden beaches, dozing koalas, sea-lions basking on white beaches, plenty of other critters including, of course, kangaroos!
The Best SKI RESORT
Mount Buller, Victoria
Being able to ski straight from the slopes to your front door is one of Buller’s main attractions besides its vicinity to Melbourne (225 km) – making it ideal for weekend escapes to the snow. Mt Buller has three terrain parks for all levels, a half pipe, two toboggan parks and a snow tube park. There’s a crèche and special kids ski programmes including the Discover Program for first timers.
The largest ski resort in Australia, Perisher includes the four ski areas of Perisher Valley, Smiggin Holes, Guthega and Blue Cow. With a huge interconnected web of runs, lifts and on-snow activities Perisher has a super pipe, mini pipe, terrain parks, cross-country trails, night skiing, snow tube park and skating rink. The ski school has classes for children from three years old. Daycare is available for six week-olds to four years.
In the Kosciuszko National Park in the Snowy Mountains, 500kms from Sydney, lies this resort with Australia’s highest lifted summit and the longest runs as well as a charming village with great accommodation. There are trails for all standards including the gently sloping, beginners’ area of Friday Flat. Thredboland is a kids’ only area with entertainment and a terrain park and there are ski school classes for from three-years plus a crèche.
The Best CRUISE LINE
100,000 passengers a year can’t be wrong! P & O offers adventure, new discoveries and a choice of exotic destinations around Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the Pacific Islands. Departing from ports in Sydney, Brisbane, Fremantle and Auckland the fleet includes Pacific Dawn, Pacific Jewel and Pacific Pearl and perennial favourite Pacific Sun. Great food, a choice of activities, amazing destinations and the warm staff and crew make P&O a standout for family cruising.
Royal Caribbean International
Operating in Australia since only 2008, Royal Caribbean is expanding its Australian offerings in 2012 with the maiden season of Australia’s first megaliner, Voyager of the Seas which will boast a family friendly DreamWorks Experience as well as the return of Radiance of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas. Royal Caribbean’s three feature-packed cruise ships will sail from Sydney and make a total of 49 sailings, comprising 28 itineraries calling at 46 ports in 12 countries.
Captain Cook Cruises
Australian small ship cruise line Captain Cook offers more than 150 cruises weekly visiting a choice of ports from the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour to the Murray River basin and the islands of Fiji. A recently completed renovation of their Fijian cruise ship, MV Reef Endeavour, gives families the choice between spacious interconnecting family rooms which sleep two adults and two children or inside family cabins which sleep four people in bunks.