Travel With Children
With its manageable distances, abundant wildlife, child-centric attractions and activities, and a tradition of family-friendly holidays, Victoria is an ideal destination for families. Melbourne is a fine place to spend time with kids, thanks to its interactive museums, sweeping parklands and innovative playgrounds.
Best Regions for Kids
- Mornington Peninsula & Phillip Island
Smooth bay swimming and strawberry-picking in summer, mazes, wildlife parks, a puzzle world, a chocolate factory and those mighty cute penguins.
- Great Ocean Road
Warrnambool has childhood covered with its annual winter kids festival, Fun4Kids, and there are few better spots to view whales. Stop by the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie en route to Anglesea or the Otway Fly treetop walk.
- The Murray
Echuca has paddle steamers chugging up the Murray and kids will enjoy watching waterskiers carving up the river; book them in for a lesson.
- High Country
Head here during the ski season; Mt Baw Baw and Mt Buffalo are particularly well suited for families.
Plenty on offer for kids in the city from Scienceworks, the aquarium and the Melbourne Museum to the Royal Melbourne Zoo and Luna Park. Add to that loads of parks, gardens and playgrounds.
- Geelong & the Bellarine Peninsula
Geelong's waterfront is a great spot for families with a kids' pool, Play Zone and a merry-go-round, while a short drive away is Victoria's biggest theme park, Adventure Park.
Families dining out together are a pretty common sight these days in Victoria, especially in Melbourne. Cafes not serving ‘babycinos’ (small cup of steamed milk) are few and far between, and a number of restaurants provide papers and pencils for colouring in. Many restaurants have a children's menu, and even upscale restaurants can often provide an option for children, if asked.
- Puffing Billy Steam train that chugs along the Belgrave–Gembrook line in the Dandenongs, and has long been a family favourite.
- Bellarine Peninsula Railway The Queenscliff–Drysdale line regularly sees special visits by Thomas the Tank Engine (and friends).
- Mornington Railway Steam train runs most Sundays.
- Wahalla Goldfields Railway Passing over scenic gorges and a number of bridges on its 20-minute journey.
- Pioneer Settlement, Swan Hill Has everything from horse-and-carriage rides to a sound-and-light show.
- Flagstaff Hill, Warrnambool A maritime delight with shipwrecks and lighthouses, and its sound-and-light show is fun for older kids.
- Sovereign Hill, Ballarat Has an exhilarating evening light show and, by day, sports an authentic gold-rush feel.
- Cape Otway Koalas are bountiful in this region of the Great Ocean Road, and also at Kennett River and at Tower Hill near Warrnambool.
- Anglesea Golf Club Kangaroos can be easily spotted.
- Phillip Island Penguins are plentiful here; St Kilda’s colony shouldn't be missed either.
- Healesville Sanctuary A host of native animals that the kids might have missed seeing in the wild can be found here.
- Warrnambool Southern right whales play offshore from May to September.
- Ballarat Wildlife Park The Tassie devils, komodo dragons and native animals will thrill and delight kids.
- Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Melbourne Has age-appropriate video games and movies ‘on demand’.
- Melbourne Museum and Scienceworks, Melbourne Both have fantastic zones for younger kids and great exhibits for older ones.
- State Library of Victoria, Melbourne Has a terrific Play Pod, and you can also show the kids Ned Kelly’s armour.
- City Circle tram, Melbourne Free tram, or you can circle Melbourne on the Visitor Shuttle.
- Fisherman's Beach, Torquay Well protected and a family favourite.
- Point Roadknight, Anglesea A lovely, somewhat hidden beach perfect for kids.
- Point Lonsdale front beach While the back beach can get a bit wild, Point Lonsdale's front beach is a popular place for the family to splash around.
- Lorne Not only offers a great stretch of beach but plenty of activities on the beachfront, too.
When to Go
Victoria’s beach towns are hot, packed and brimful of other families during the summer school holidays. Provided you're OK with cooler and unpredictable weather, travelling in low season (out of school-holiday periods) means life is calmer, accommodation providers and restaurant staff are happy to see you and prices are rock bottom.
If you're travelling with infants, port-a-cots are often available at an additional cost of $20 to $30. Most hotels, however, only have a limited supply, so get in early to reserve one.
In summer, caravan parks are often filled with other families, which is great for kids to socialise.
If you're on a tight budget, YHA hostels have family rooms that sleep three to four, though motels with a double and single bed are usually cheaper. Whatever your budget, 'family room' usually means that you'll all be in the same room – if you'd prefer more space (which may be a mutual feeling if your kids are older), you can often find well-priced apartments with two bedrooms.
Although it's rare, a few regional boutique hotels have a strict no-children policy, which is usually made clear at the time of booking. When booking rooms through discount websites, make sure you check the ‘maximum occupancy’; often the cheapest rooms are for two adults only.
What to Pack
- Pretty much everything is available on the road in Victoria, although pharmacies may close early, so pack basic medications.
- Basic bedding (sheets and a pillow slip) can be useful if you need to turn the couch into a bed.
Before You Go
- Check accommodation is child-friendly.
- Book an early meal (6pm is probably the earliest you’ll get) in advance for popular restaurants and enquire about children’s portions. Even more upmarket restaurants can often provide a cheaper option for children if asked.