Australia with children – Our east-coast road trip!
To put it simply, we loved Sydney. You’ll find much culture and entertainment, colonial history, a fantastic variety of cuisine and of course some of the best city beaches! What a great time we had with Niko at Bronti, Tamarama and Bondi beach! We were amazed by the beauty of this Coastal Walk. If it wasn’t for the weather we would have visited the famous Manly beach as well.
Of course we coudn’t miss a visit to the iconic Sydney Harbour, home to the equaly famous Harbour Bridge and the architectural masterpiece, the Opera House. If you think of Australia, I bet the image of the Opera House is in the top 3 images you will think of. In fact, The Opera house earned itself status of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. We also took a stroll in the 30 acre Botanical Gardens. It’s a must!
While the climb over the Harbour Bridge is rather expensive ($200pp) you can still enjoy amazing city views while crossing the bridge on foot or car, which we did.
Sydney on foot
We love to discover cities on foot, so we walked everywhere. We spent some time by The Rocks, a destinct central area of narrow cobblestoned laneways full of galleries, restaurants, and boutiques.
We also walked through the grand Centennial Park, and discovered Oxford street in Paddington referred to by locals as “Paddo”. It is one of the most historically rich, culturally vibrant spots in Sydney with many shops, cafés, bars and a popular open-air market held every Saturday.
Friends are essential
While in Sydney, we stayed at a homey residential area, Alexandria close to the bohemian King street, home to many students, artists and the gay community. Here you can expect to see much colour and greenery, small yet quirky businesses as well as affordable and eclectic cuisine.
If you’re traveling to Australia with children, finding affordable accommodations is challenging, so do your research well in advance. We were lucky to be staying with Austin and Amie, our friends, who opened up their home and hearts to us with home cooked, gourmet meals, great wine and an invaluable perspective on Australia. They also helped us tremendously in preparing our road trip which made it so much more memorable!
Amie and Austin – Thank you so much! If you’re ever in Canada, we hope you’ll look us up!
Our road trip highlights … of the 2000 kilometer stretch from Sydney to Airlie Beach.
New South Wales
Out here, you can expect calm and safe beaches, plenty of water activities such as snorkelling and diving and lots of sun and surf. Niko really enjoyed the Nelson Head Heritage Lighthouse and Reserve.
Although we stopped at this location only for a few hours, we enjoyed the view of the stunning coastline. Many tourists relax by the river or take a boat tour and shop for arts and crafts in this charming little town. If you have time, do visit the Billabong Koala and Wildlife Park as well as the Sea Acres National Park and Rainforest Centre. Your kids will have an unforgettable time!
Byron Bay and Ballina
If you’re a backpacker or a surfer, then you can call this paradise! You’ll find many twenty-somethings heading out here to surf, socialize and simply have a good time. We enjoyed celebrating Australia Day along with the locals and tourists who seemed to love the laid back atmosphere of the seaside. It is here we celebrated Australia Day with the locals and I have the shirt to prove it!
Up at the lighthouse, on the most eastern parts of Australia’s mainland, we enjoyed the breathtaking views of the coast. It really is a worthy destination! To relax, you can either hang out by the beach or visit the local watering holes for a drink. Accommodations can be expensive, that is why we stayed at Ballina, a more cost-effective option just 30 minutes away.
Although it poured nonstop while we were there, this laid-back and welcoming city has quite a bit to offer. This cosmopolitan city (and the third largest in Australia) has world-class art galleries, a growing live music scene and a great café culture.
This charming, low-rise, relaxed and leafy town is another top destination, especially if you’re in Australia with kids. Noosa Heads not only has amazing beaches but it also hosts a population of koalas, which are spotted in and around the National Park. We stopped over for 3 days during our eastern discovery trip and enjoyed every minute of it!
Rockhampton lies on the Tropic of Capricorn, officially marking the geographic border of 23 degrees
south where the sun always shines approximately the same length of time all year-long. The town is also the capital of cattle and sheep growers, quite similar to Calgary, Canada or Texas in the USA. It is an interesting rest stop.
Airlie Beach and Whitsunday Islands
This is a breathtaking, must-see place if you’re in Australia with children!
This was our last destination on the East coast before moving on to New Zealand.
Airlie Beach Lagoon
just perfect for kids. Airlie Beach doesn’t really have a beach per se and the fear of the stingers is quite great for most of the Summer season. These natural-looking pools offer a perfect spot for sunbathing and amazing area for kids to play in the shallows.
The Whitsunday Island beaches have powder white sands (98 percent pure silica) and sparkling, turquoise clear waters.
Not only has it been voted as one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches but also most eco-friendly. In fact, the sand is so pure that NASA used it to make glass for the optics of the Hubble Telescope. But don’t think of taking some sand away with you unless you’re willing to pay a fine of about 28K:), as shared with us by one of the tour guides. (read: unverified but a good story nonetheless)
You’ll love the experience of swimming among baby sharks in these warm and pristine waters. Get a stinger suit, so you won’t get stung by a box jellyfish or a stingray. Don’t forget your snorkelling gear!
Great Barrier Reef
While in Airlie Beach, you can easily book to sail the Whitsundays to the world’s largest coral reef; Great Barrier Reef (GBR) which is over 2,400km long.
No wonder, the GBR is one of the Natural Wonders of the World.
It’s so grand that it visible from the earth’s orbit unlike the popular myth of views of the Great Wall of China. I loved my day-long diving experience at the reef and came away with most amazing memories and new knowledge.
Our time here was relaxing yet exciting and we were pampered by excellent accommodations which offered the most delightful views of the great blue sea. We’re certainly looking forward to coming back to this vibrant country!
Australia with Children – Travel Tips
- Australia is expensive – it took a toll on our budget. It is as expensive as Switzerland or Japan so be mindful when you prepare your budget. We met a few people who had to shorten their trip due to budget constraints. Use services like http://www.lastminute.com.au/ or last minute booking.com flash deals to save!
- Activities for kids – Check out the local tourism website to find listing of latest events for kids or locations of kids attractions or just ask a parent at the local playground as there are plenty!
- Accommodations at hostels are not necessarily the best option – Parents take note. Hostels charge per person, usually 25-40 pp/night, so a stay for a family of 3 or 4 can cost more than a stay at a mediocre hotel. Some people opt for camping, others for camper vans but these are not as cheap as we would have hoped. If you find accommodations for a family for $100 you are doing well..
- Internet is slow and expensive – most hotels charge extra for internet and it is not very fast nor reliable. Get a sim card with data plan (we found a good plan at the Woolworth’s supermarket) and use it with your unlocked smart phone. A good bet is hooking up to a free wifi connection at Mc Donald’s. Some city centres also have free wi-fi spots.
- Australia is empty and huge – We flew three times to cover the largest distances in Australia from Perth – Darwin – Sydney and then from Airlie Beach and still managed to drive over 5000 km in 5 weeks. You can expect many stretches without seeing other cars especially in the North. So, be prepared. Get maps, lots of water, food, sunscreen, cell phone and GPS.
- Sun in Australia – On many summer days the UV index reaches the maximum levels of 12+ (normal is around 6) so, be sun-smart. Cover up and use appropriate sunscreen. You will notice many warning signs in Australia in regards to sun safety!
- Check out the Tourist Office – Australia has one of the best developed tourist infrastructures in the world. The information centres are very informative with excellent maps, guides, deals and helpful staff to assist you with planning your journey. It’s free too.
Robust cities, beautiful beach life and awesome surf and diving. What else can you ask for? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Here are some of our photos from this trip: