Australia with children – The best New South Wales and Queensland have to offer family travellers Part 3/3

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.

Sydney is one of our favourite “big” cities on our around the world trip.  
Opera House in Sydney

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.

Austin and Martin in Sydney by Bronti beach

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

Nelson Bay

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.

Port Macquarie coast in NSW

Port Macquarie

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

This is yet another one of our preferred destinations on our RTW tour of eastern Australia.
Australia - New South Wales - Byron Bay

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!

Byron Bay - Australia

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.

Noosa Heads

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!

Noosa Heads Australia Queensland


Rockhampton lies on the Tropic of Capricorn, officially marking the geographic border of 23 degrees

Tropic of Capricorn - Australia

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.

Whitehaven Beach

The Whitsunday Island beaches have powder white sands (98 percent pure silica) and sparkling, turquoise clear waters.

Whitheaven Beach - Australia's Best Beach

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.

Diving in Great Barrier Reef Australia

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 or last minute 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:

Here are some of our photos from New South Wales and Queensland in Australia:

Trip Pulse: KoTao – Paradise and a must have on your round the world itinerary!

Ko Tao is a gem definitely worth visiting on your round the world trip or family getaway!

It is named Turtle Island in Thai even when most turtles have escaped elsewhere to make way to thousands of scuba diver wannabes.

The development of the island started just ten years ago and it manages to keep a ‘virgin feel’ to its larger cousins, Ko Samui and Phuket with just over 100,000 visitors a year. Getting there is not as much of a challenge as it is sickening, literary, to the stomach:)

We had to endure a high-speed, bumpy catamaran ride for over 2 hours from Ko Samui. Truthfully, we have never experienced such sea sickness in our life and judging by our neighbouring passengers, neither did they! Let’s just say, we should have listened to our friend, Justyna and bought ourselves some motion-sickness pills (for kids preferably, as they are non-drowsy). Needless to say, Niko was fine and slept like a baby throughout the entire trip while we suffered.

But once you get off the catamaran you realize it is worth the sacrifice!Beautiful beaches of Koh Tao

Ko Tao is a very beautiful, small and so far one of our favourite island beach destinations. It has amazing beaches, breathtaking views, phenomenal diving/snorkelling and fantastic food. It is still laid back with relatively few tourists but with all the necessary needs and wants fulfilled. We wish we could have stayed longer!


Koh Tao with kids

Nang Yuan Islands just of the main coast are just amazing for kids. Niko loved the 15 minute  long-tail boat ride, the shallow crystal clear waters and all the colourful tropical fish that just swam up without having to dive.

Niko loved the boat ride on longtail boat in Koh Tao

Off season is a great time to go if the weather cooperates…

Mostly cool kids, some young families and long-term travellers visit during off-season.

When looking for accommodations during the low season (Sep-Nov), we recommend to book a place just for a day or two in advance. When on site, spend half a day checking out most proper places along the beach and ask for a discount at the perfect place.

This is how we found ours, at Sairee Beach, which even though is further away from the serene Freedom Beach, offered kid friendly Ko Tao Freedom Beach Views from the top
accommodations all within walking distance. We opted out for a hotel with a kiddie pool, easy access to the beach, shops, restaurants and medical services, just in case. It was also the best value for our budget.

Mae Haad beach may be a good alternative as everything you may need as a family is also within a walkable distance.

Getting around on Koh Tao ain’t easy, if you are a family that is …

The Island is predominantly designed for mopeds and ATV’s, so a safe solution for families is not always available. We like walking, so we chose that as our form of transportation.

Diving or snorkelling in Ko Tao is just amazing

I completed my Open Water Diver Certification here. It was just 4 of us and the instructor. I dove on some of the most amazing sights and recommend Tropical Fish Ko Tao while snorkelling with kidsdiving here to anyone whether you’re a beginner or advanced. The conditions boast great visibility, vibrant tropical fish and a colourful coral.

You can’t go wrong while on this island as a family…So, what do you think of Koh Tao? Please share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

Here are some of our photos from our Ko Tao (Thailand) visit:

Trip Pulse: Ko Samui – Tourist Trap or good value for families? Improve you round the world trip success…

Ko Samui can be a great destination for families on their round the world trip, but not all choices are good ones.

Ko Samui is one of the most touristy places in Thailand only bowing down to Bangkok. This once backpackers’ heaven on the Gulf of Thailand is now the most developed island with over a million and a half visitors per year. Beside white sand beaches, coral reefs and rain forest, it also offers good local Thai cuisine and some truly unique buddhist temples. But is it authentic? Is it worth to add to your round the world itinerary?

More developed towns like Chewang beach are tourist traps with prices double of what you can get elsewhere including neighbouring much friendlier and quieter Lawai beach.

We came during the monsoon season (usually from September to November) so the high winds brought in cloud cover and wavy seas making it tough to enjoy the islands’ famous beaches.

We were however able to explore the more spiritual side of the island by visiting most of the temples and taking day trips to some of the hidden and less travelled corners of the island.

Here are some of the Ko Samui’s attractions that make Ko Samui a place still worth visiting.

Ko Samui Temples

Wat Plai Laem and Big Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Yai)

This holy place with three grand Buddhas is set in a man-made lake. You not only can buy your fortune from an automated fortune-teller machine but also leave a permanent mark by signing your name on tiles which will become part of the temple (we did it too).

Mummified Monk in Wat Khunaram

This monk allegedly predicted his own death and requested that if his body would not decompose after his death, for it to be put on display as a symbol of his faith and path to nirvana. He got his wish, 30 years after his death the monk’s body shows little sign of decay except for his eyes covered by Ray Ban sunglasses.

Laem Sor Pagoda

Located on the southern tip of the island, this holy place is truly unique. Rarely seen on tourist maps, this gem is a must-see. 

Laem Sor Pagoda, Ko Samui - Round the world with kids

Beautifully situated by the coast this temple is beautiful. We also drove up the hill next to the pagoda, that is home to a large Buddha statue, that apparently holds Buddha’s actual bone under its foundations. In 1903, a monk buried a fragment of the Buddha’s bone that he brought back from his pilgrimage to Sri Lanka. The statute was constantly hit by lightening and hence susceptible to fires. To cut the risk of damage, Buddha’s bone was relocated elsewhere. Not sure, how much truth is in this story (printed in badly translated English on a sign next to the statute), but it definitely helped to make this place feel extra special.

Natural and made-made wonders

Hin Ta – Hin Yai – natural coastal grandma and grandpa rock formations with a tale behind it, that surprisingly closely resemble human male and female genitals:)

The grandfather rock, Ko Samui, Thailand - Round the world with kids

Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village

A charming village that retains the original Thai-Chinese atmosphere even if already packed with many new hotels and guesthouses.

Just drive around

Many tourists rent mopeds or jeeps and we decided to get us a 4WD beast ourselves, the famous Suzuki Jimni. The drives through palm tree plantations and up to the rainforest hills are worth it! From there we enjoyed the views of  Hin Lat Falls, places like the Secret Buddha Garden and a breathtaking panorama of the island.

Ko Samui for kids and families

There are a few attractions deemed kids friendly that we decided to explore including Namuang Safari Park known for its elephant trekking and shows as well as Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo. We can not recommend either! We were appalled by the elephant show’s MC who appeared intoxicated, sniffing what appeared to be drugs in front of the audience. We decided to leave the place mid show. Both the safari park and the zoo appeared to us of  poor upkeep conditions and questionable animal treatment.

Thail Elephants Ko Samui - Round the world with kids


We did however read good reviews about the Angthong Marine National Park, a marine park that is a major draw for families. We felt Niko was still too little for this attraction, but it maybe suitable for older kids.

There are over 250 resorts on the island, so make sure to pick those that are kids friendly, with playgrounds, kids pools and even babysitting services.

Perhaps, it’s good that it wasn’t beach weather during our stay as it forced us to explore the very unique and perhaps the more authentic part of the island. Some parts of the island like Chewang lost its original Thai nature and succumbed to pressures of the demanding tourist, but there is still a part of the island worth exploring!

So, what’s your take on Thailand’s Ko Samui island? Please share your view in the comments section below. Thanks!

Here are some of our photos from our Ko Samui (Thailand) visit:

Final thoughts: Canary Islands and Barcelona

As one of the Canary Islands ( El Hierro) shakes and a volcanic alert is in effect, we are reminded of our unforgettable adventure on this volcanic archipelago The turbulent archipelago is as beautiful as it is unique with the perfect weather of eternal spring. The islands bear the name Insula Canaria, meaning “Island of the Dogs” and not, as I erroneously believed, from the bird Canary. In fact, the bird is named after these islands, where they are native.

We had an opportunity to explore only three out of its thirteen islands. Every island delivers breathtaking views and its own unique character. Tenerife is the largest and most developed. It provides the mix of luxury, topographical variety, dark-sand beaches and great infrastructure, yet it’s still full of small hidden gems. Fuerteventura however, is all about beach life, adventure and R&R. Lanzarote is breathtakingly cute with its uniformly coloured houses (green and white) against the dark volcanic backdrop and charming little towns and villages.

We also had a 2-day stopover in Barcelona, the Catalan capital. It has been a while since our last visit, but we loved the city even more this time around with its welcoming and relaxed atmosphere, Gaudi’s architectural influences and amazing tapas. So far, it’s our favourite small city, with a big attitude.

1. What we enjoyed the most or the least:


The sky was often covered with dark clouds suggesting an approaching storm, but the rain never came. The island of Eternal Spring is truly a sub tropical paradise with temperate weather. Volcanic beaches followed by pine trees, fed by clouds a few hundred meters up the mountain and mars-like dry and orange panorama around el Teide, are all examples of its geological richness. We liked the variety of activities you can enjoy on the island from adventuresome drives on “forgotten” roads, discovery of its ancestral (Guanches) and colonial past, unbelievable views from tiny villages or its rich infrastructure.

Here are some highlights:

Parque Nacional Las Canadas del Teide is centred around 3718m Mount Teide, the highest mountain in Spain and the islands of the Atlantic (it is the third largest volcano in the world from its base) and was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007.

E Teide Volcano

Masca is a small mountain village in Buenavista del Norte on a small mountain road (accessible only since the 70’s). The village is home to circa 150 inhabitants. The views are spectacular and reminded us of Machu Picchu in Peru.

Garachico is a little unspoiled gem in the northern part of the island with a very Spanish character and natural volcanic rock pools made into swimming pools.

Fuerteventura (strong winds and strong adventures)

This island is every surfer’s paradise with its waves, open waters and perfect winds. The island is home to over 150 white sand beaches compliments of the Sahara desert, just 100 km east of the island. During sand storms that originate in the African desert you can expect visibility to drop to just a few meters and temperature to rise by 10 degrees Celsius.

I particularly loved one hour of glory as a body-board surfer on the largest waves I have ever met. I also loved spending time with Niko and Natasza on the widest beaches we have ever seen with naturally formed lakes or lagoons. The Island is more laid back than its siblings to the west with its surfer community and sun worshippers. That makes it the perfect place to catch some much-needed R&R.

Here are some highlights:

Jandia and Sotavento – you can expect only the largest and most beautiful beaches of the island. At high tide, enormous “lakes” form on these grand beaches providing warm and shallow pools perfect for kids.  It is also home to windsurfers and kite boarders practising their sport here. Sotavento Beach in FuerteventuraAs it’s so large (20km), you can run naked without being seen by another human … and yes, I did run around nude with Niko. What a feeling of freedom! Highly recommended:)

El Cotillo – is a small fishermen village at the northern end of Fuerteventura, surrounded by amazing beaches and naturally formed lagoons. El Cotillo surfer's beachYou will also find some charming restaurants here. We kept returning to this part of the island because of the variety it delivered.

Betancuria (and the drive via PAJARA, a real green oasis at the foot of the mountains) – bears the name of its founder Jean de Béthencourt and was founded in 1404.




We took a day trip from Corralejo with a ferry to explore this little gem. Lanzarote is a UNESCO protected biosphere that almost lost its status. The status is well-earned however with such geological world wonders as …

Timanfaya National Park is entirely made up of volcanic rock and sand-like soil giving the viewer unreal visuals. This national park makes up the core area of the biosphere reserve on the island.

Timanfaya National Park - Vulcanic Scenery

El Golfo and Los Hervideros– Imagine the Volcano vs. the Atlantic. The orange, dark brown, black, green colours of the coast mix perfectly with the coastline carved by the waves … truly amazing!

La Geria region is drawn up with mini craters of volcanic stone called Zocos, built to protect each vine from harsh winds of the island. The dark volcanic soil mixed with the green vineyards and the Zacos deliver a wicked panorama.

Papagayo Beach is a protected national park accessible only by a dirt road. It is made up of tiny beaches seperated by high cliffs. I’m glad such a gem still exists, considering the pressures to develop this natural land into hotel-land. I hope it stays this way.

What we didn’t enjoy?:


As Tenerife is highly developed and modern and you can expect many tourists here. You can expect many  signs in English, German and Russian as well as the multitude of British pubs which make up much of the landscape in touristy areas including Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos. Considering the many Europeans who moved here permanently, I’m not surprised they wanted to bring a piece of home here.


The weakened economy is felt in some parts of Fuerteventura with many unoccupied buildings. The unemployment rate there is one of the highest in the EU standing at 20%+. It’s too bad but not too surprising considering the island’s reliance on tourism as the main contributor to its economy.

2. Activities our toddler Niko enjoyed the most:

Running around the Sand Dunes of Corralejo. Every beach was a treat for Niko, he especially loved the lagoons by El Costillo with warmer waters full of fish for him to feed.

Laro Park is a zoo located on the outskirts of Puerto de la Cruz on Tenerife. It is a must see place when you visit with your children. Loro Park Orcas - at the zooSome say the park has Europe’s largest dolphin show pool, the world’s largest indoor penguin show, the longest shark tunnel, the largest Thai village outside Thailand, and second largest place in Europe to house orcas:)

Sand Dunes. As you arrive by car from the airport towards Corralejo you will experience an amazing landscape change. All of a sudden you will migrate from volcanic rock into the Sahara. I’m not kidding, as the enormous sand dunes you see ,are in fact blown in from Africa. This is an amazing sight and loads of fun.

3. Our average expenses: The Canary Islands are affordable (in Europe)


  • Accommodations: This was an amazing treat from our friends Justyna and Arkadiusz … once again thank you!
  • Restaurants: 30 – 50 euro/visit for 3 of us
  • Food, transportation (car rental) and entertainment: 40 euro/day ($60)

4. Our first impressions of the locals, their culture and customs:

People were friendly and helpful. The relaxed atmosphere and the mañana approach is felt at times … and the siesta is still a daily routine (expect closed doors between 2 and 5 PM sometimes longer).

As much as we loved the local cuisine featuring its fresh seafood and the Canary potatoes with mojo sauces, we still preferred the seafood more on the Greek Isles. Our search for the greatest seafood dish goes on:).

We can’t wait to discover other islands in the future as we will return for sure. We truly recommend these islands to anyone, even with the looming dangers of volcanic eruptions in the Canaries!

Volcanos vs beaches? Do you still think it’s worth a visit? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Here are some of our photos from this trip: