Last Updated 26/01/2023.
Australia with kids. What does it have to offer? Is it worth the mammoth flight to take your kids to Australia from the US, UK, or Europe for a family holiday? If you’re already in Australia, where are the best places to take kids? What should you see in Australia and what are the practicalities of visiting Australia with kids? We talk about some of the epic, unique, and awesome things your kids can experience in Australia. Australian fun things, educational things, and, are there any negatives other than drop bears?
Travelling Australia with kids is incredibly popular, plenty of families are on the road at any given time with camping set-ups doing a “big lap”. If time is limited, what does Australia offer in terms of vacation or holiday travel and things to do with kids that are fun and uniquely Australian? Most overseas visitors stay in hotels and resorts, so where are the best child-friendly places to stay in Australia?
A lot of your choices in organising an Australia itinerary for your family will be based on your flights. More flights arrive in Sydney, The Gold Coast and Melbourne than in places like Cairns (Far North Queensland). There simply aren’t as many direct flights into the more out-of-the-way places and internal flights in Australia are long and expensive. So where you can fly to, will be a big consideration in planning your family vacation.
It’s common to fly to Australia via Singapore. This is a good route and if you can, have a few days stop over to see Singapore, it’s small and doesn’t take long to see. We have a guide to Singapore with kids too.
The other big consideration is what do you want to see? Do you need to see The Great Barrier Reef? In which case you’ll likely need to fly to Cairns. Do you want to see Uluru? That’s an expensive flight into the heart of Australia. For Kakadu, you’ll need to get to Darwin. Australia is a very big country, don’t underestimate the distances involved.
Our history of travel in Australia is as follows, just so you can be sure I know my topic. In 2001 I toured The Great Southern Land as a young (ish) backpacker on my first RTW.
It was an awesome experience, camping at Uluru, taking The Ghan, diving on The Great Barrier Reef, and patting my first kangaroo.
I made 2 more trips to Australia from the UK over the next few years, after I married the Aussie Chef.
When my first child, now a teenager, was born in London he had to go and see his relatives, so I made the trip to Australia with an 11-month-old baby.
Three years later we moved to Port Douglas, Australia with our second 11 month baby plus a toddler and spent 6 glorious years living in Oz with the kids. We later took off to travel the world for 6 years, before returning and buying 5 acres of tropical paradise in Far North Queensland. My husband works as crew on a Great Barrier Reef snorkelling boat, so reef visits and marine conservation are a major area of expertise for us.
Australia is a great place for kids and for families, so here are some reasons to visit Australia with kids. Maybe even reasons to consider moving to Australia with young kids.
Australia with Kids
Australia is a great place to take kids with plenty for them to see, do, and enjoy. However, Australia is expensive, there’s no real way to make it a budget destination, but we’ll try to help.
Australia is very child-friendly but you may find long distance drives between cities difficult with kids. Also, for overseas visitors, the flight is a long one, be prepared.
The Flight to Australia with Kids
I know everybody thinks flying for 24 hours plus is tough, but honestly, it’s not so bad flying with kids.
The flight is normally broken up into manageable chunks with a change in between.
We flew to Dubai on Emirates, that’s just under 7 hours, then carried on into Sydney that first time with baby D.
These international flights are really quite comfortable for me, they feed you well and the in-flight entertainment is fantastic. I would not be happy to take a budget airline on these routes, we’ve done it, many times, on Air Asia. Air Asia are great for short flight but these longer flight are hard with no comfort.
If your child is old enough to watch movies or read, you’re good, nothing to fear on long flights.
Hotels and Accommodation in Australia With Kids
Australia has a lot of resort-style hotels, near beaches, which are great for kids. Kids clubs aren’t as common as in Asia or Europe but you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding family rooms and family-friendly hotels. What might be difficult is finding cheap family hotels or accommodation. Even Airbnb can be very expensive in Australia. We found you a few kid-friendly options below.
- Sydney. At the budget end the Sydney Central YHA has affordable family rooms and a superb location. Look here. Novotel (this chain is usually superb for families) also have a very well located Sydney property right on Darling Harbour with family rooms (the price isn’t bad!), check it out here. For a two-bedroom luxury family suite, this one fits the bill.
- Brisbane. For a family apartment, with kitchen and laundry, right in the heart of Brisbane, don’t go past this one, Macarthur Chambers. This building has a very interesting history too. The other side of the river, closer to the very kid friendly pools and playgrounds, there is Rydges South Bank, with American style family rooms. For Brisbane on a budget, there is also a YHA with family rooms. That’s pretty much as cheap as you’ll get and they have private quad rooms.
Australian Wildlife and Nature Parks Kids Will Love
You really can see kangaroos, cockatoos, galahs, possums, crocodiles and wallabies wild.
You’ll see them from your car, from the train, even in suburbia. I’ve been lucky enough to see wombats, echidnas, dingos and cassowaries on the road, too.
If time is short and the children want to get up close and personal with Australia’s fauna, there are wildlife parks and local zoos everywhere. My personal favourite is the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas, my children used to go every week and never got tired of hand feeding the wallabies and lorikeets (top picture). You will find wildlife parks like this all over Australia, plus there are several zoos that also have petting areas for native animals. Taronga Zoo in Sydney, New South Wales, is a good one, as is Australia Zoo near Brisbane, Queensland.
Swimming and Snorkelling in Australia With Kids
Australia is famous for beaches and surfing. and has miles and miles of glorious coastline. You will likely stay near a beach in Australia with your children. Sydney has Bondi, plus some less famous beaches, The Gold Coast has miles of sand and surf, but usable beaches stretch all the way up the East Coast to Port Douglas in FNQ. The west coast, around Perth and further north also has swimming beaches.
But is it safe to swim on the beaches in Australia? Big surf can be dangerous for anyone, particularly kids. There are sharks, jellyfish and various other marine creatures to worry about. In the north there are crocodiles. There are also lifeguards, netted swimming enclosures, shark protection devices and hundreds of other people swimming in the sea at any given time. I’m not going to guarantee safety but my kids survived just fine.
The Great Barrier Reef is a must-see for many people and fleets of boats take visitors out to the marine park pretty much daily. A big storm can cancel trips, but you can visit The Great Barrier Reef with kids year-round.
I’m not suggesting you take the kids scuba diving (my kids scuba dive, they had to wait until they were 12), but even young children can enjoy a day on the Great Barrier Reef marine park. They can snorkel and use flotation devices such as lifejackets and pool noodles, as can adults. You do not have to be a great swimmer to see the Great Barrier Reef for yourself.
My boys truly started snorkeling at 6 and 8 years old, but I know kids who started younger. Before that we still went, the big reef operators have mini-subs and underwater viewing areas that are great for kids. The boys would splash about on the sidelines and watch the huge maori wrasse coming for food. A day on the GBR really is a day like no other.
Aboriginal Culture and History For Kids in Australia
I really think children should find out about Australia’s history and the incredible culture of the Aboriginal people.
If you can’t make it out to Uluru , which would be my choice, there are plenty of places to meet Aboriginal people and learn about their world.
Everything from the didgeridoo players at Sydney’s Circular Quay to ancient cave paintings, guided cultural walks and Aboriginal Culture Parks.
We had a wonderful day at Tjapukai, a culture park just outside Cairns, learning about dance, music, weapons and medicines. This park has now closed sadly, but nearby there are opportunities to interact with Australia’s original inhabitants through Dreamtime Tours at Mossman Gorge, part of The Daintree Rainforest.
Australian Museums, Zoos and Aquariums for Kids
As part of your Sydney itinerary, don’t miss Taronga Zoo. Taking the ferry from Circular Quay across the harbour is an iconic trip. The water sparkles beneath the Harbour Bridge and you can see dolphins sometimes.
The zoo itself is excellent and has the best view of any zoo in the world, right across the harbour to the CBD. You’ll find Australian wildlife along with the usual zoo animals.
Canberra has Questacon, the National Science and Technology centre. It’s a full, hands-on day for curious little scientists.
Townsville, Perth, Sydney and now Cairns, have excellent aquariums, sorry if I missed out your favourite, these are the ones I know and highly recommend.
There are still plenty of unique tourist attractions, restaurants, and sites to see aside from the smaller museums of Melbourne. If Melbourne seems like a place that you want to check out, then by all means you should try to visit at least once in your life. And it’s a great place to take the family, too!
Just Google museums and attractions for whatever part of Australia you’re visiting, there are some fascinating places to visit.
Australian Beaches with Kids
There are 11,011 beaches, in total in Australia.
Seek out the quiet calm beaches for smaller children, Australia can have some pretty powerful sea conditions.
Port Douglas‘s Four Mile Beach is sandy, gently sloping and calm and has a stinger net for the summer months. You could check out iconic Bondi Beach in Sydney and see if you can spot the Bondi Rescue crew. Or head to The Gold Coast for Surfers Paradise. There is a beach for every age group and every activity.
Swimming Pools and Water Parks for Kids in Australia
Australia does water attractions really well. In Far North Queensland, where we have a few issues with stingers and crocodiles, there are plenty of places to take the kids for a swim or a splash around, best of all, they’re free.
Try The Lagoon or Muddies Playground in Cairns or the Esplanade in Townsville.
If you’re looking for big water parks, The Gold Coast has Whitewater World and Wet ‘n Wild. Perth has at least ten water parks, you’ll find them dotted all over the country.
What to Pack for Australia With Kids
A wide brimmed sun hat is essential for your kids at any time of year. We have incredibly strong UV Downunder and you need to protect your children’s skin and stop them from getting heat stroke. Most kids in Australia wear long-sleeved, long leg swim gear in Australia, it protects them from the sun and any possible jellyfish.
My son recently had heat stroke while wearing a hat on a beach conservation project. Keep your kids in the shade as much as you can.
Waterproof shoes, Crocs, or Flip Flops (thongs) are a good idea because your feet are likely to get wet. Also, bring comfortable shoes that you can walk in.
In winter don’t underestimate how cold southern and central Australia can get (winter being northern hemisphere summer, of course). Australian homes have aircon, but good heating is rare. You’re very likely to be cold indoors down south. A good fleece should be all you need unless you are heading to the ski slopes.
Wet season in the tropical north can bring torrential downpours but it’s very rare that we wear a waterproof jacket, it’s too hot. Skin is waterproof. This is where waterproof footwear is essential.
Also don’t underestimate how hot Australia can get in summer. The heat may force you to take part in activities early of late, full afternoon sun can be too much.
Bring whatever clothes you and your kids feel comfortable in. I wear jeans and running tights, others prefer shorts and dresses. It’s really up to you. There’s no pressure to be “dressed up” in Australia but some establishments have dress rules, for instance, no baseball caps, no shirtless men, no singlets (vests) for men and no bare feet. Yes, Australians do go barefoot in the supermarket sometimes, and on the street.
Swim shorts are common for women, as are bikinis. A long-sleeved rashie (rash vest or swim shirt) to keep the sun off is a very good idea.
Bucket List of Things To Do in Australia With Kids
You won’t be able to fit all of these into your vacation, but here are some of the best things to do in Australia with kids and for families:
- Pat a kangaroo, cuddle a koala.
- Learn to surf.
- Snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef.
- See Uluru.
- See as many of Australia’s “Big Things” as possible.
- Go to Bondi Beach and see the guys from Bondi Rescue.
- Go camping in the bush and admire the Milky Way.
- Swim with wild dolphins
- Visit Australia’s Gold Coast theme parks.
- See wild crocodiles and visit a crocodile show.
- Visit Australia Zoo, Steve Irwin’s legacy to all kids.
- Visit Questacon Science Museum in Canberra.
- Visit a sheep station and see shearing.
- Attend one of Australia’s iconic local “shows”.
- Play the didgeridoo and throw a boomerang.
- Pan for gold.
- Walk in the world’s oldest rainforest. (The Daintree Rainforest)
There are many more things to do in Australia that kids would love, what would you add?
Australia With Kids – Practicalities
Australian English is spoken in Australia, it has similarities with both American English and British English. The currency in Australia is the Australian dollar. Australian money is waterproof, which is handy at the beach. The American dollar is not accepted in Australia although American visitors do tip in US dollars sometimes, these notes then have to be exchanged for Australian currency.
Tipping is not expected, as it is in the US, but it’s nice to reward good food and service where you receive it. Tips are normally split fairly between all staff at the restaurant, it’s not for the server. The chefs deserve praise too!
Don’t forget a power adaptor or two for Australia, electrical sockets are different. This is an international adapter for Australian sockets.
Food in Australia for Kids
Australian cuisine is very western, expect all the usual burgers, fries, pizzas, salads and ice creams. A few unique Australian dishes may include local wildlife like kangaroo, crocodile, camel and emu. You can dine in Australian pubs with kids, in restaurants, cafes and bakeries. Australia is famous for the Aussie meat pie, and these come in many flavours. It’s traditional to put a dollop of ketchup on the top. Australia is also very fond of barramundi (Asian sea bass) and reef fish like coral trout and snapper. Prawns (they’re not shrimp) are often served cooked (boiled or steamed) and cold, with mayo of some kind. My kids’ favourite foods in Australia are chicken parmie and fish and chips. Alcoholic beverages are only for big kids over 18 in Australia.
you can also find Indian food, Thai, Mexican, Vietnamese, and just about any country’s cuisine, represented in Australia.
More Reasons to Love Australia for Kids
How am I doing? Is that enough reasons?
Do I need to mention the climate, you’ll always find somewhere that’s just the right temperature for you. You can enjoy just about any sport or activity you like, including skiing, or sample the incredible food and wines Australia produces.
The children should enjoy Australia’s chocolate, tropical fruits and dairy products, some of them will enjoy the fantastic seafood.
Camping is immensely popular, in a tent or a mobile home, facilities are great. You can even find free camping and public gas barbecues are everywhere, often in the many kids’ playgrounds. I hope I’ve convinced you, go on, take your kids to Australia, click “like” if you want to go! Want more info on Australia with kids – head to our main Australia Travel Blog page and start planning your itinerary and figuring out the logistics. Also, ask me anything in the comments, I’m here to help you organise your dream family trip to Australia.