Family holiday destinations in Australia
These are the spots to take the kids this year for the perfect school holiday escape.
If your kids (or you) are likely to go stir-crazy staying at home the duration of the school holidays, or if you feel a family getaway is on the cards, these are the domestic locations that offer family-friendly activities to please all. Plus, our favourite sites to find a deal on your next holiday.
Our favourite family holiday spots in Australia (and why you should go)
1. The Great Barrier Reef and Far North Queensland
A visit to the Cairns and Tropical North Queensland is a fundamental part of any Aussie childhood. From snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef to a day trip through the Daintree, it's an eye-opening experience that offers endless fun. It's warm year-round, so is perfect for any of the school breaks.
- Best for: Families who like to enjoy sun, sand and surf
- Where to stay: Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort in Port Douglas, or Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort, which has a splash park for kids.
- What to do: Full day Great Barrier Reef cruise with snorkelling, Aboriginal culture tour and crocodile and wildlife tour.
2. The Gold Coast, QLD
It's not called paradise without good reason. The sun and surf at the Gold Coast's Surfers Paradise could be classified as "pristine". It has plenty of theme parks in one space, with Dreamworld, WhiteWater World, Sea World, Movie World and Wet'n'Wild available to keep kids entertained all holiday long.
- Best for for: Thrills, spills and general adventure
- Where to stay: Sea World Resort in Main Beach, Q1 Resort and Spa in Surfers Paradise or BIG4 Gold Coast Holiday Park in Helensvale.
- What to do: Whale watching cruise,the SkyPoint Observation Deck and high ropes course in the Gold Coast Hinterland.
3. Coffs Harbour, NSW
Coffs Harbour is right up there with other coastal holiday escapes for families from Sydney or Brisbane searching for a fun road trip. Naturally, you can fly into Coffs as well. The kids can encounter sea lions and dolphins at the marine park and spend their days playing along the beach.
- Best for: Relaxing beachside holidays
- Where to stay: BreakFree Aanuka Beach, Ambiance Holiday Apartments or Beach Haven Executive Apartments
- What to do: Stand-up paddle board Aboriginal culture tour, high ropes course with flying foxes
4. Kangaroo Island, SA
Note: Much of Kangaroo Island is inaccessible due to recent bushfires, but this information can apply for future adventures to the island.
Kangaroo Island is a short flight from Adelaide or a short and scenic ferry from Cape Jervis. You'll find everything paradise is expected to inhabit, from resplendent vistas, native wildlife and powder soft sands. Exploration by quad bike or boat is a must, as is marine-life watching.
- Best for: Younger families and wildlife encounters
- Where to stay: Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge,Aurora Ozone Hotel or Kangaroo Island Cabins
- What to do: Wildlife discovery tours or visit Flinders Chase National Park.
Tip: If travelling as a whole family, it may be cheaper to fly into Adelaide and transfer to Kangaroo Island by ferry.
5. Canberra, ACT
Canberra offers a laid back, quiet city break with more than a dash of culture and education attached. Visit the War Memorial, Parliament House, National Gallery and Questacon, and then take a foodie break at the Old Bus Depot markets while you wait for your Brodburgers to fry. Canberra is also a good gateway to get to ski resorts like Thredbo and Perisher during the winter months.
- Best for: Educational escapes
- Where to stay: Pinnacle Apartments, Novotel Canberra or Mercure Canberra
- What to do: Hot air balloon ride over the city and visit the city's many museums and galleries.
6. Rottnest Island, WA
If you're heading to Western Australia, or planning to explore your own backyard, a definite contender for family-friendly adventure is Rottnest Island. Teeming with marine life and water activities, kids can splash around at on one of 65 pristine beaches if the weather is warm enough, or hop in a kayak and paddle about from sun up to sun down.
- Best for: Water babies
- Where to stay: Karma Rottnest, Arundels Boutique Accommodation or Hotel Rottnest.
- What to do: Bike and snorkel gear hire which includes a ferry ticket.
7. Kakadu National Park, NT
Head inland for a historical and cultural adventure through Kakadu National Park. Start in Darwin and make your way down to explore the unique landscape. It's hot all year round in the Top End, so to cool down, make a well-deserved pit stop at Leanyer Water Park.
- Best for: Land lubbers, outback encounters
- Where to stay: Kakadu Lodge or Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel, both in Jabiru
- What to do: Yellow Water boat cruise and explore the park's waterfalls like Jim Jim, which has a 2-km return walk and a family-friendly pool (seaonal).
8. Sydney, NSW
Head to the big city over the school holidays and visit Australia's most popular icons. There are always child-friendly activities in Sydney throughout the school holiday periods, be it the Easter Show or Cool Yule during winter.
- Best for: City escapes
- Where to stay: Swissotel Sydney, Adina Apartment Hotel Sydney Central or Holiday Inn Old Sydney
- What to do: Day trip to the Blue Mountains, Taronga Zoo with Sky Safari cable car and visit museums and galleries like the Powerhouse Museum and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
9. Hobart, TAS
Rent a car or campervan and drive around Tassie. Hobart is the ideal starting point, as the city offers a more vibrant atmosphere than Launceston and features the Salamanca Markets and spooky ghost tours. Venture further to see Port Arthur and hike through the lush bushland of Cradle Mountain, Freycinet National Park and Tahune Forest.
- Best for: Seeing a lot over a short period of time
- Where to stay: Quest Savoy, Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel or Grand Chancellor Hobart.
- What to do: RedBalloon, Tahune Adventures with Airwalk and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary feeding animal feeding tour
10. Mount Hotham, VIC
Family snow and ski holidays are best had at one of Australia's most popular ski resorts. On top of Jindabyne, Perisher and Thredbo, Mount Hotham is a child-friendly resort ideal for anyone coming in from Melbourne. Family activities occur all year round, with the DP Tube Park being a hot favourite with the kids during Easter.
- Best for: Snow bunnies
- Where to stay: Absolutt, Mountain Dreaming Apartments or Rundells Alpine Lodge.
- What to do: Go skiing, tobogganning or enjoy other snow sports, and check out our family snow and ski holidays in Australia section below.
Ski holiday destinations for families
You don't have to travel halfway across the world for a snow and ski holiday. Australia offers numerous ski resorts, the most popular being Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte Pass, Mount Buller, Mount Hotham and Falls Creek.
Snow season in Australia is fairly short, beginning around early June and closing off late September/early October. Book your holiday early and you can cash in on early bird ski lift and hire discounts. If you're looking for deals on packages and stays, check out our ski deals roundup.
Top six ski resorts
Beach holiday destinations for families
Sand is practically synonymous with summer, so you shouldn't overlook a family getaway to one of Australia's many enviable beaches.
The east coast of the country offers more than its fair share, with stretches of sand from the Gold Coast and Cairns in Queensland to the Central Coast and Bondi Beach in New South Wales.
Head to the other side of the country for Rottnest Island and Eighty Mile Beach in WA, or travel south for Glenelg in South Australia and the Bay of Fires in Tasmania.
As you can tell from our top holiday destinations list above, Australians are spoiled for choice when it comes to beach breaks. Now it's up to you to decide which one you'll visit during the school holidays.
Where to find a deal on family holidays online
1. Best for cheap local breaks: Groupon
A name that should be on every budget savvy parents' radar, Groupon is a daily deals website that sells it all - from household goods to holidays - and all at a bargain price.
Holiday packages come and go on the site - so keep your eyes peeled because big discounts for large parties are plentiful.
- New deals every day
- Local escapes from coastal beach breaks to snow trips available
- Instant online bookings for select holidays
2. Best all-rounder: Flight Centre
Practically a household name, Flight Centre is one of Australia's biggest travel agencies. What we love about it is that he has a special "family holidays" section online with discounted breaks during those peak school holiday periods.
- Packages are broken into September, December, April and June/July to cover all major school holiday dates
- Hotels are specially chosen with families in mind with many featuring connecting rooms and self-contained apartments
- Features cruise holiday breaks
3. Best for beach escapes: MyQueensland
100% Australian owned and based, TravelOnline understands Australians and their family's needs with holiday packages to suit every budget and family size. Many of its holiday packages include resort beach-blessed locations in or near Australia, such as Hamilton Island, Fiji, Bali and Vanuatu.
- Holidays often include "kids stay, play and eat for free" discounts in hotels as well as discounted child airfares
- Flights, accommodation and transfers are generally included in packages
- Family friendly accommodation often includes kids' clubs to keep little ones busy and amused all holiday long
Latest deals on family holidays
Up to 50% off Father's Day gift ideas
Available on select dates and activities including V8 off road race buggies, whale watching, skydiving, rally driving, helicopter scenic flight and much more. Destinations include Gold Coast, Sydney, Hunter Valley, Melbourne and more.
Father's Day sale: Up to $130 off domestic activities
Available on select dates and activities including skydiving, hot air balloon flight, driving experience, shark dive experience, jet ski and more. Destinations include Cairns, Gold Coast, Hunter Valley, Sydney, Melbourne and more.
Australia flights from $132 return
Available on select dates in December 2020 to Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Launceston and more. Sample fare is Ballina-Sydney with Jetstar.
Up to 34% off 3-night Gold Coast getaway with flights
Available for travel until 16 December 2021. Includes return flights, stay at Q1 Resort & Spa, and a one-time SkyPoint Observation Deck access with drink. Valid for 2 adults.
Up to 42% off 3-night Port Stephens getaway
Available for travel until 31 August 2021. Includes return airfare, stay at Maggie's Place Holiday House Port Stephens, two bottles of wine on arrival and dolphin cruise and sandboarding experience. Valid for 2 adults.
Up to 27% off Barossa Valley getaway with flights
Available for travel until 30 June 2021. Includes return airfare, stay at Le Mas Barossa, breakfast, bottle of local wine and charcuterie board and late check out. Valid for 2 persons.
Up to 49% off Gold Coast getaway with flight
Available for travel until 30 June 2021. Includes return airfare, stay at Sky Broadwater Holiday Apartments, late check out and bottle of sparkling wine. Valid for 2 persons.
Up to 14% off Darwin getaway with flights
Available for travel until 31 December 2021. Includes return airfare, stay at Ramada Suites by Wyndham Zen Quarter Darwin, breakfast and bottle of wine. Valid for 2 persons.
Hamilton Island flights from $318 return
Available on select dates until December 2020. Sample fare departs from Sydney with Jetstar.
Newcastle flights from $120 return
Available on select flights until December 2020. Sample fare departs from Brisbane with Jetstar.
Perth flights from $405 return
Available on select dates until April 2021. Sample fare departs from Melbourne with Jetstar.
Melbourne flights from $101 return
Available on flights until December 2020. Sample fare departs from Sydney with Jetstar.
Brisbane flights from $142 return
Available on select dates until November 2020. Sample fare departs from Newcastle with Jetstar.
Sydney flights from $109 return
Available on select dates until December 2020. Sample fare departs from Ballina with Jetstar.
Up to 69% off Adelaide getaway
Available on select stay dates until 31 January 2021 at Mercure Grosvenor Hotel Adelaide.
Central Coast: Up to 60% off Mantra Ettalong Beach stay
Available on select stay dates until 30 September 2021 for 2 persons.
Up to 61% off Blue Mountains stay with breakfast and wine
Available on select stay dates until 31 December 2020 at Echo Point Motel, Katoomba.
8% off Australia activities
Available on select travel dates and activities like jet boat ride, sightseeing cruises, tours, wine tasting and more. Destinations include Gold Coast, Brisbane, Melbourne, Cairns and more.
Up to 10% off local deals
Available on select dates and activities including tours, skydiving, getaways, spas and more. Destinations include Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and more. T&Cs apply.
Up to 20% off Oaks Hotels and Resorts across Australia
Available from 17 August 2020 - 30 June 2021 when you stay for 2 nights. Destinations include Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Darwin, Townsville and more.
Melbourne Puffing Billy Railway ticket from $53
Available on select dates until March 2021.
Up to 20% off Sydney Tower Eye Observation Deck tickets
Available on select dates until March 2021.
Up to 20% off Sydney bus tours + kids go free
Available on select dates in 2020.
Domestic flights from $87 each way
Available on select flights until December 2020 to Sydney, Ballina, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Newcastle and more. Sample fare is Melbourne-Adelaide with Jetstar.
Up to 30% off flying experiences
Valid on select dates and for experiences like hot air ballooning, helicopter scenic flight, skydiving, flying lessons and more. Destinations include Sydney, Melbourne, Hunter Valley, Great Ocean Road, Perth and more. T&Cs apply.
Up to $180 off Australia activities
Available on select dates and activities like hot air balloon flight, tandem skydive, bungy jump and jungle swing, getaways, driving experience and more. Destinations include Sydney, Gold Coast, Cairns and more.
Up to 52% off Australia hotels
Available on select stay dates until December 2020 in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane and more.
Extra 10% off experiences with code
Valid on all dates, including over Christmas, on activities like skydiving, quad biking, bridge climbing, canyoning, hot air ballooning, helicopter scenic flights, abseiling, scuba diving, cruises, tours and more. Minimum spend of $100. T&Cs apply.
$1/day one-way car hire in Australia
Valid on select dates for select car hire in Australia. Destinations updated regularly.
Experiences for 2 from $40
Available on select dates for experiences like tours, zoo and wildlife experience, cruises, hot air balloon flights, skydiving and more. Destinations include Sydney, Hunter Valley, Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart and more.
Get 10% off when you buy 2 experiences
Available on select dates and experiences like sightseeing tours, zoo and wildlife experience, spas, sailings, hot air balloon flights, scenic flights and much more. Destinations include Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Perth and more.
Australia-wide flights from $59 each way
Available on select dates until December 2020 to Adelaide, Cairns, Brisbane, Melbourne and more. Sample fare is Sydney-Ballina with Jetstar.
Anniversary sale: Up to 56% off worldwide tours
Available on select tours in 2021 to Japan, Australia, Greece, New Zealand, Italy, USA and more.
Adina hotels: Stay 3 nights; Pay for 2
Available on select dates.
Gold Coast: Up to 14% stays at Q1 Resort and Spa
Available on select dates.
Up to 30% off Australia and New Zealand tours
Available on select dates until December 2021. Destinations include Sydney, Cairns, Adelaide, Darwin, Byron Bay, Christchurch, Auckland and more.
Up to 70% off Australia stays
Available on stays from August - November 2020 to Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Sunshine Coast and more. T&Cs apply.
Up to $40 off skydiving with code
Get $40 off per person when you book for 8 or more. Destinations include Sydney, Byron Bay, Newcastle, Cairns, Brisbane and more.
Up to 25% off worldwide hotels
Available on select dates in Las Vegas, London, Paris, Australia, New Zealand and more.
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