With good weather, beaches and big open spaces, Western Australia is a wonderful place to travel with the kids. Australians are famously laid-back and their generally tolerant, 'no worries' attitude extends to children having a good time and perhaps being a little bit raucous.
Best Regions for Kids
- Broome & the Kimberley
While there's wildlife interaction like camel rides and crocodile-park tours, it's the camping, gorge swimming and Indigenous culture that kids will remember, particularly on the Dampier Peninsula and along the Gibb River Road.
- Ningaloo Coast & the Pilbara
Coral Bay has plenty of safe-water options...and there are whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef!
- Margaret River & the Southwest
Geographe Bay features broad beaches, Yallingup has a surf school, and plenty of 'Margs' craft-beer breweries and wineries are kitted-out for kids. You might also spy some whales off the coast.
- Monkey Mia & the Central West
Visit the world-famous dolphins of Monkey Mia, feed the pelicans at Kalbarri or learn about Indigenous culture on a guided tour.
- Perth & Fremantle
Parks, beaches, museums, bike paths, playgrounds and festivals. Many big-ticket attractions – the Aquarium of Western Australia, Perth Zoo, the the Maritime Museum, the Art Gallery – have hands-on exhibits.
West Coast Australia for Kids
Getting to know Australia's native fauna, either in the wild or in wildlife parks, will create lifelong memories for your kids. Australia's wildlife can be dangerous, but in reality you're extremely unlikely to strike any problems if you keep your distance.
The WA sun is more of a concern. Don't underestimate how quickly you and the kids can get sunburnt, even on overcast days. The standard routine for locals is 'slip, slop, slap': slip on a shirt, slop on some high-protection sunscreen (SPF 30-plus) and slap on a broad-rim hat. Avoid the beach in the middle of the day: head out in the morning or late afternoon instead. Keep the kids hydrated, too – they can get a little crispy around the edges if you leave them outside for too long.
Many motels and larger caravan parks have playgrounds and swimming pools, and can supply cots, highchairs and baby baths. Motels and hotels in touristy areas may also have child-minding services. Top-end and midrange hotels usually welcome families with children, but some B&Bs market themselves as child-free havens.
Eating Out with Children
Dining with kids in WA rarely causes any hassles. If you sidestep the flashier restaurants, children are generally welcomed. Cafes are kid friendly and you’ll see families getting in early for dinner in pub dining rooms. Most places can supply highchairs.
Dedicated kids menus are common, but selections are usually uninspiring (ham-and-pineapple pizza, fish fingers, chicken nuggets etc). If a restaurant doesn't have a kids menu, find something on the regular menu and ask the kitchen to adapt it. It’s usually fine to bring toddler food in with you.
If the sun is shining, there are plenty of picnic spots around the state, many with free barbecues.
Babies & Toddlers
Perth and most major towns have public rooms where parents can change nappies; check with the local visitor centre. Most Western Australians are relaxed about public breastfeeding or nappy changing: a parent using the open boot of a car as a nappy-changing platform is a common sight!
Little kids and babies do require car seats in WA (as elsewhere in Australia). All the big car-hire agencies can supply these (for a fee), but you generally have to install them yourselves (not difficult – just a bit fiddly). Alternatively you can bring your own: the major airlines let you carry them for free.
Medical services and facilities are of a high standard, and baby food, formula and disposable nappies are widely available. Major car-hire companies will supply booster seats for a fee.
The biggest challenge is a sudden attack of the 'are-we-there-yets?'. Adults – let alone kids – can find long WA drives tedious. Books, computer games, iPads, CDs...all of the above can help. Consider hiring a car with a back-seat screen for playing DVDs. Snacks are also essential for journeys where shops might be 200km or further apart.
Have a word to the kids about insects, snakes and spiders, stressing the need to keep their distance (kids do tend to prod things with sticks). While bushwalking, make sure they wear socks with decent shoes or boots.
Surfing & Swimming
- Scarborough Beach Surf School Lessons in Perth for kids aged 11 and over.
- Yallingup Surf School 'Microgrom' lessons for the under-10s.
- Scarborough Beach Pool Perth's best swimming pool, if it's too windy to surf.
- Sorrento Beach Enclosure Safe swimming in the sea in Perth's northern reaches.
- Midwest Surf School Teach the kids to carve it up on Geraldton's back beaches.
Wildlife Parks & Zoos
- Perth Zoo Such a well-planned zoo; you'll want to stay all day.
- Bunbury Wildlife Park Marsupial and avian encounters, with a swamp to explore across the road.
- Caversham Wildlife Park Excellent wildlife meet-and-greet in the Swan Valley on Perth's northeastern fringe.
- Malcolm Douglas Wilderness Park Tropical crocs and jabirus populate this park near Broome.
- Barna Mia Nocturnal Animal Sanctuary Torchlight tours to see rare marsupial bilbies, quendas, dalgytes, boodies, woylies, wurrups; south of Perth in the Peel Region.
We’re Hungry, Mum
- Green's & Co There are kids' games out the back in this hip Leederville cafe.
- Ocean & Paddock Kid-focussed seafood in Albany (the best fish and chips in WA?).
- Parkerville Tavern Kids hit the sandpit at this cheery historic pub in the Perth Hills.
- Jetty Seafood Shack Fab and fast fish and chips in Kalbarri, with outdoor tables for messy consumption.
- Town Beach Cafe Kid-conducive cafe fare in Broome, with fabulous bay views to boot.
Amusement Parks, Water Parks & Rides
- Adventure World White-knuckle rides including the 'Black Widow' and the 'Kraken', plus pools and water rides at this Perth amusement park.
- Perth Royal Show Funfair rides, show bags and farm animals.
- Elizabeth Quay Water Hyperactive spraying jets and fountains at Perth's redeveloped riverfront precinct.
- Hyde Park Playground Fabulous fun times (a lake, a water park and lots of lawns) in Highgate (Perth).
- If you're on the right part of the coast at the right time of year, you'll definitely see whales from the shore: see www.whalewatchwesternaustralia.com for info.
- Organised whale-watching boat trips depart from Perth, Fremantle, Dunsborough, Augusta, Albany, Bremer Bay, Coral Bay, Broome, Kalbarri, Exmouth and the Dampier Peninsula.
- If you are heading out in a boat, make an informed choice that allows you to keep your distance: research suggests that human interaction with sea mammals potentially alters their behavioural and breeding patterns.
- When booking accommodation and hire cars in advance, specify whether you need equipment such as cots, highchairs and car booster seats.
- If you're travelling with an infant, bring a mosquito net to drape over the cot.
- Bring 'rashie' shirts for the beach and warm clothes if you're travelling south in winter.
- Anything else you forget can be easily purchased when you arrive.
- For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
- Child concessions (and family rates) often apply for accommodation, tours, admission fees, and air, bus and train transport, with discounts as high as 50% of the adult rate.
- Babies and kids under four or five will often get into sights for free. Note that the definition of 'child' can vary from under 12 to under 18 years.
- Accommodation concessions generally apply to children under 12 years sharing the same room as adults.
- On the major airlines kids aged two and under travel for free, provided they don't occupy a seat (they sit on an adult's lap, with a special seat belt). Child fares usually apply between three and 11 years.