One of the best countries on the planet for kids is Australia.
It serves up a diverse range of experiences, with something to appeal to everyone from the youngest to the oldest member of your family.
From the northern tropics to the southern coastlines, this vast island is bursting with that rare double whammy: kid-tastic activities paired with a long pour of adult soul juice. Whichever way you spin in Australia, you’ll hit the family travel jackpot.
What makes Australia good for kids?
Many of the best experiences for families in Australia are free; sharing the beach with kangaroos, for example, costs nothing more than a sand shovel.
And Australians love kids, especially your kids. They’ll want to know where you come from, point you to the closest playground (even the smallest of country towns will have one) and there’s always a reasonably clean loo (bathroom) easily found at train stations, parks and restaurants.
Regarding those eateries, come hungry. Australia is ground-zero for kid-friendly smashed avocado on toast, which you can adult-elevate with some chili flakes. Even isolated areas aren’t chicken nugget-less for one-track eaters – but wait until your family discovers the crowd-pleasing sausage roll (meat mince in pastry). Wherever you are, there’s also always a pub; considered adults-only venues in many other countries, in Australia they welcome the family mealtime circus with open arms. Some even have dedicated playgrounds where little ones run barefoot and free, a reflection of Australia’s relaxed approach to parenting.
It’s a safe country, but dangers do exist – and we’re not just talking snakes and spiders. One is death by extreme boredom getting to Australia on what, for many visitors, will be a long flight or two (plan a stopover) or attempting long in-country distances in one hit. Australia is also not the cheap haven it once was; your foreign currency will likely go far, but budget for your must-do experiences.
Where are the best places to travel in Australia with kids?
Mini wildlife warriors will love Queensland’s lush Sunshine Coast, where they’ll find slithering, swooping and jaw-snapping animals at Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. Meanwhile, parents might froth over the most craft breweries per capita, some boasting on-site playgrounds (try Your Mates Brewing Co. in Warana) or even petting zoos with farm animals (like at Terella Brewing in North Arm).
Budding paleontologists will dig (literally) South Australia's Naracoorte Caves (rated by UNESCO as one of the world's 10 greatest fossil sites) and Outback Queensland's Australia’s Dinosaur Trail, where they'll learn about Gondwana species they may have never heard of before. Queensland’s Gold Coast is also a favorite with Aussie families. This is where you’ll find amusement and water parks, golden stretches of sand, and rainforest retreats a toe-tap from the coast.
The best things to do in Australia with kids
Imagine lying sundrenched on a pontoon boat, listening to your kids squeal through snorkels at underwater coral on the Great Barrier Reef; counting stars through the opening of an outback desert tent; splashing beneath a tropical waterfall or walking hand-in-hand amazed in world-class museums. This is just the start.
To discourage overwhelm, here are some of our top recommendations for all age groups.
Best things to do in Australia with babies and toddlers
Visit one of Australia’s 12,000 beaches
Beaches come with the inbuilt entertainment of water splashing and soft falls for little learning legs. The most popular stretches of sand have barbecues, water fountains, public restrooms and on-duty lifeguards. (Remember to only swim between the red and yellow flags.) Situated oceanside, surf clubs are also ubiquitous across the country. They typically have family-friendly cafes attached and bottles of sunscreen on-hand, in case you forgot your own.
Australia has over 12,000 beaches spread along roughly 60,000km (37,285 miles) of coastline, resulting in staggering diversity. Standouts include the red cliffs at Maslin Beach in South Australia (where you can pass nap time by strolling through the multiple McLaren Vale wineries close by) and the car-free Rottnest Island in Western Australia (where you can hire a child trailer and bike from beach-to-beach). Also not to be missed are the country’s unique ocean pools (there are 35 ocean pools in Sydney alone), all offering sanctuary from rip currents and surf.
In areas where the ocean is unsafe for swimming due to crocodiles or jellyfish, you’ll find resort-like public pools (called “lagoons”) with ocean views and splash parks. And on the Great Barrier Reef, tour operators will provide you with a stinger suit to keep your family safe.
Visit one (or more) of Australia’s quirky “Big Things”
Australia is home to over 150 toddler-impressing "Big Things" (there’s even a Big Things of Australia map) including the Sunshine Coast’s three-storey-high pineapple, a walk-through Big Banana in Coffs Harbour or Ballina’s 35-tonne Big Prawn. More than just a photo opp, many have adjoining fun parks geared to the under-five set.
Best things to do in Australia with kids aged 4 to 11
Learn more about Australia’s Indigenous people
It’s never too early for a cultural deep-dive into Australia’s ancient and living Indigenous cultures. Dreamtime storytelling keeps kids enthralled, with a multitude of offerings in the Discover Aboriginal Experiences collection. Your family can learn to make traditional dot paintings near Uluru or dig for mud crabs on a Daintree Rainforest coastal walk. Or head to the Tiwi Islands, where your offspring will be doted on, as you meet local artists and partake in “billy” tea, prepared over a campfire.
Go wild with wildlife
Wildlife encounters at this age are forever tattooed on impressionable minds, so don’t be surprised if your critter-obsessed kid turns into a conservationist after visiting Australia.
Opportunities to learn more about the country’s endemic and sometimes unusual species are countless. At the Wildlife Retreat at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, koalas appear right at your room’s window, while night tours and harbor views come as part of the package. At Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, you’ll find manta rays and turtles, while the jumping crocodiles in the Northern Territory’s Adelaide River take the cake – or rather the bait – for show ‘n’ tell school reports.
But even just wandering at the local park or along a bush track will result in free wildlife sightings, especially at dawn and dusk. Even in densely urban areas, brush turkeys, kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets and cockatoos are a dime a dozen, while further out you’ll find brush-tailed possums, wallabies and kangaroos in the wild.
Take advantage of Australia’s top-notch museums and science centers
Your kids may be loath to “learn” on holidays, but they’ll change their tune as soon as they step into one of the country’s world-class museums. Case in point: Questacon, in the capital city of Canberra is an “edutainment” science-based extravaganza. Learn about energy, then unleash it by planting yourself at the National Arboretum Canberra’s POD Playground.
With the exception of charges for special exhibitions, admission is free for children at many museums, galleries and science centers, including Sydney’s dino-tastic Australian Museum and Melbourne’s Scienceworks.
Best things to do in Australia with tweens and teenagers
Catch waves in an Insta-friendly surf town
Celebrities aren’t the only ones won over by the lure of Australia's seaside escapes. A once-tiny surf town near the New South Wales–Queensland border, Byron Bay now has international cachet, drawing high-wattage residents like Chris Hemsworth. Your teen will say “it’s a vibe,” especially when you check into a retro-cool motel like The Sunseeker, with its complementary skateboards and nature-inspired playground for younger siblings. Sign them up for surf lessons and you’re set. Equally TikTok-worthy are Noosa’s buzzing beaches in Queensland, or the steamy sunset backdrops of Broome in Western Australia.
Take the family on a hike
Older kids may appreciate exploring one of Australia’s many multi-day trails, such as Tasmania’s Three Capes Track. Just as spectacular are the hikes that can be tackled in a day, like the walk to Kakadu National Park’s Jim Jim Falls through monsoon rainforest and over boulders to a plunge pool surrounded by dramatic 200m-high (656ft) cliffs. Before you head out, download the free Australian Bites and Stings app as a handy “bushwalking” (Aussie for hiking) prop.
Planning tips for traveling in Australia with kids
The nuclear-grade Aussie sun means you’ll want to lather on the sunscreen (reef-friendly brands if swimming or snorkeling), hats and long-sleeved rashguards or swimsuits. All can be easily purchased in Australia on arrival. For longer days spent oceanside, consider renting a beach shelter. Portable and offering 50+ SPF, CoolCabanas are the most popular brand, but you can also purchase knock-offs at retailers like Kmart Australia.
Like anywhere, formal dining and kids don’t mix, unless you’re eating at 5pm. Instead, look to RSLs (Returned & Services League of Australia) and surf lifesaving clubs, which are beloved by communities, and serve cost-effective meals in often spectacular locations, such as Sydney’s Bondi Icebergs or Melbourne’s St Kilda RSL.
Outside of major cities like Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, pharmacies (called "chemists") close by 5pm and may not be open on Sundays. Supermarkets also carry basic medication and baby supplies, but may not be open in the evenings in regional areas.
Public transportation and pathways in urban centers are usually pram (stroller) friendly. (Although sidewalks can be narrow in city's historic areas.) Some major beaches even have access mats that create a pathway across the sand, which make it possible to push a carriage or pull a wagon down to the water. However, a baby carrier for adventures further afield and to most beaches is a good idea.