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Travel with Children

If you can survive the long distances between cities, travelling around Australia with the kids can be a real delight. There's oodles of interesting stuff to see and do, both indoors and outdoors.

Lonely Planet's Travel with Children contains plenty of useful information.

Practicalities

Accommodation Many motels and the better-equipped caravan parks have playgrounds and swimming pools, and can supply cots and (sometimes) baby baths − motels may also have in-house children's videos and child-minding services. Top-end hotels and many (but not all) midrange hotels are well versed in the needs of guests with children. B&Bs, on the other hand, often market themselves as child-free.

Change rooms and breastfeeding All cities and most major towns have centrally located public rooms where parents can go to nurse their baby or change a nappy; check with the local tourist office or city council for details. Most Australians have a relaxed attitude about breastfeeding and nappy changing in public.

Child care Australia's numerous licensed child-care agencies offer babysitting services. Check under 'Baby Sitters' and 'Child Care Centres' in the Yellow Pages telephone directory, or phone the local council for a list. Licensed centres are subject to government regulations and usually adhere to high standards; avoid unlicensed operators.

Child safety seats Major hire-car companies will supply and fit child safety seats, charging a one-off fee of around $25 or a per-day rate. Call taxi companies in advance to organise child safety seats. The rules for travelling in taxis with kids vary from state to state: in most places safety seats aren't legally required, but must be used if available.

Concessions Child concessions (and family rates) often apply to accommodation, tours, admission fees and transport, with some discounts as high as 50% of the adult rate. However, the definition of 'child' varies from under 12 years to under 18 years. Accommodation concessions generally apply to children under 12 years sharing the same room as adults.

Eating out Many cafes and restaurants offer children's meals, or will provide small serves from the main menu. Some also supply high chairs.

Health care Australia has high-standard medical services and facilities, and items such as baby formula and disposable nappies are widely available.

Eating With Kids

Dining with children in Australia is relatively easy. At all but the flashiest places children are commonly seen. Kids are usually more than welcome at cafes, while bistros and clubs often see families dining early. Many fine-dining restaurants discourage small children (assuming that they’re all ill behaved).

Most places that do welcome children don’t have kids’ menus, and those that do usually offer everything straight from the deep fryer – crumbed chicken and chips etc. You might be best finding something on the normal menu (say a pasta or salad) and asking the kitchen to adapt it to your child’s needs.

The best news for travelling families is that there are plenty of free or coin-operated barbecues in parks. Note that these will be in high demand at weekends and on public holidays.

Sights & Activities

There’s no shortage of active, interesting or amusing things for children to focus on in Australia. Plenty of museums, zoos, aquariums, interactive technology centres and pioneer villages have historical, natural or science-based exhibits to get kids thinking. And of course outdoor destinations are always a winner.

In Victoria, Wilsons Promontory National Park is a favourite family haunt and keeps knee-biters occupied with bushwalks, swimming, surfing and wildlife spotting. The Penguin Parade of Philip Island is also a must for families.

In NSW, some surf schools in Byron Bay run camps specifically for kids during school holidays, and the Art Gallery of NSW runs the excellent GalleryKids program on Sundays.

In the Northern Territory you can take them wildlife spotting in the Territory Wildlife Park. Not quite as wild, but a family-must nevertheless, is the world-famous Australia Zoo in Queensland, the Alice Springs Desert Park in the Northern Territory and East Coast Natureworld in Tasmania.

For synthetic but scintillating fun spend a day at the Gold Coast theme parks in Queensland.