From holding a baby croc and skateboarding in a competition-grade park to riding a cable car and shopping in LEGO heaven, there is a wealth of things to do for families visiting Perth, Sydney, Darwin and Wellington. Each offers excellent family accommodation and year-round fun as well as seasonal pleasures.
Summer at Scarborough Beach, Perth
Scarborough Beach offers the best of both worlds for holidaymakers who can relax and play at one of Western Australia’s most popular beaches but still be close enough to visit downtown Perth, Fremantle or Rottnest Island in a day.
An upgrade of the Scarborough foreshore has turned it into an impressive destination without sacrificing any of its laidback vibe. Rendezvous Hotel Perth Scarborough provides the perfect base for surfing, cycling and enjoying state-of-the-art playground, skateboard, tennis, basketball and leisure facilities. The hotel's pool and tennis courts are family friendly whilst on the foreshore kids willl love the whale-themed playground with all manner of slides, rope nets and climbing features, much of it under shade. Weekly markets offer affordable food truck-style goodies and plenty of stalls to spend well-earned pocket money.
Even if you don’t want to skateboard at the Snake Pit, you’ll enjoy watching daring young skateboarders negotiate the park with skill. Pop into Cocolat, an artisan chocolatier, patisserie and gelateria, for family-rated indulgence.
Autumn at Bondi Beach, Sydney
Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy family walks, shopping, eating, and a surfing lesson at one of the world’s most famous beaches. Settle into family accommodation at Adina Apartment Hotel Bondi Beach Sydney, where you can self-cater or walk for just a few minutes to a zillion cafés and restaurants. The ever-popular Bills is literally on the doorstep.
For more dining options, visit Westfield Bondi Junction, which has a wide range of restaurants, cafés, supermarkets and speciality stores. There’s everything from Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Prada to a very cool LEGO store.
From dawn till dusk, Bondi’s promenade is busy with scooters, prams and people out walking, many doing the spectacular Bondi to Bronte clifftop route, an easy walk even with kids in tow. Remember to take swimmers as kids love the Bronte baths. Bondi has a fully fenced children’s playground with plenty of shade, water views and sand to play in.
Winter in Vibrant Darwin
Darwin is a small, happening city with great food, perfect winter weather and enough crocodile experiences to keep kids enthralled for days. Imagine the excitement as they hold a baby crocodile, something which can be done at either Crocodylus Park or Crocosaurus Cove. Don’t try picking one up in the wild! Plan to be at Crocodylus Park when the crocs are being fed.
Kids love splashing around in the Wave Lagoon at the Waterfront Precinct. Older kids can ride the swell on boogie boards and tubes, and there are shallow areas for toddlers. There’s also a free, patrolled, saltwater Recreation Lagoon with sandy beach.
A short walk from here, the Vibe Hotel Darwin Waterfront or the Adina Apartment Hotel Darwin Waterfront if you want extra space to spread out) has a relaxing feel and a lovely pool of its own. It is centrally located for visiting the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, where the star is a five-metre stuffed croc called Sweetheart. The museum tells of the devastation caused by Cyclone Tracy in 1974, and there’s a strangely fascinating cyclone simulator. Entry to the museum is by gold coin donation.
The education continues at World War 2 tunnels under the CBD, and the Military Museum at East Point, where multimedia presentations tell of the Japanese attack on the city in 1942.
Don’t miss the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets with pony rides, family entertainment and awesome food. Do check out the program for the Deckchair Cinema, where you sit outdoors in old-fashioned deckchairs and watch the sun set over the ocean before the movie.
Spring into Wellington, New Zealand
Ignore any groans about museum visits: Wellington’s Te Papa Museum is captivating for curious minds. Just wait till the kids see the 500-kilogram colossal squid with eyes the size of soccer balls. There’s also the thrill of a simulated earthquake and an introduction to Māori culture with weaving, dress-ups and games.
Te Papa is 15 minutes’ walk from the family-friendly Travelodge Hotel Wellington. Surrounded by shops, galleries and waterfront cafés, the hotel is close to the cable car that ascends steeply to the top of Mount Victoria. Here, there are panoramic views of the city, a planetarium and gardens that are lovely in spring. Grab some fish and chips and enjoy the sunset.
Revel in the movie magic at Weta Workshop, the props and special-effects company behind blockbusters such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong, The Chronicles of Narnia, Avatar, and The Hobbit. Studio creatives lead the tours. There are school holiday workshops but it’s best to book ahead.
Ten minutes’ drive from the city, it’s like stepping into another world at Zelandia, where 225 hectares of forest and freshwater ecosystems are being restored as closely as possible to their pre-human state. The sanctuary provides an important conservation message but it’s a lot of fun too, with night walks during school holidays so that you can search for kiwis and see glow-worms light up the forest.