As you take your first steps back into the world of travel post COVID-19 bans, consider a family holiday to one of Australia’s remote destinations. From empty beaches and cool country towns to national parks that lift your spirit, here are some of our favourite Aussie escapes to shake away the stress.
Friendly Beaches, Freycinet National Park – Tasmania
With white sand, aqua water and fun surf, Friendly Beaches is easily one of Australia’s most picturesque stretches of coastline and a top Aussie escape for kids of all ages. Tassie locals will know about it but it’s still largely off the radar of tourists who head to nearby Wineglass Bay instead. Located down a dirt road in Freycinet National Park, my husband dashes off for a cold-water surf while my son and I splash about in the whitewash. There is a free campground behind the dunes, however we stay at a holiday house in Coles Bay, where you can dine out on delicious pizza at Geographe Restaurant & Espresso Bar and feel like a local.
Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park – Western Australia
Equally as appealing as Friendly Beaches, with water and sand to match, is Lucky Bay, in the south-western corner of WA. Chances are you’ve seen the Instagram snaps of the kangaroos on the beach, but are yet to venture there. Eight hours’ drive from Perth, or across the Nullarbor if you’re coming from the east, Lucky Bay rewards visitors with a family friendly place to swim, 4WD, surf and SUP. There is also a basic campground a stone’s throw from the sand, and plenty of hiking trails and other beaches in the park to explore.
Denham – Western Australia
The area is famous for Monkey Mia and the friendly wild dolphins who swim to shore for a feed, however the closest town, Denham, is a great Aussie escape that remains largely off travellers’ radars. For young families, it’s a fabulous destination to spend a couple of days resting and rejuvenating. You can easily cycle around town visiting old buildings made out of cockle shells (shell mining was once big here), you can go fishing and on boat tours, and you’ll find one of the best children’s playgrounds in the country. The timber park takes prime position on a revitalised foreshore and offers kids a nature-based play experience with plenty of safe obstacles. Enjoy a seafood meal at Shark Bay Hotel, Australia’s westernmost pub.
Kangaroo Island – South Australia
If it’s a rugged island experience you dream of, put Kangaroo Island on your later-this-year wish list. Devastated by the summer bushfires, locals need your support now more than ever and the vastness of the island means you can do this while still adhering to social distancing rules. There are tonnes of walks, weathered sculptures known as Remarkable Rocks, and Seal Bay Conservation Park, home to a sea lion colony. The island is larger than most people think, so pick the main attractions you’d like to see and base yourself nearby.
Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu National Park – Northern Territory
Jim Jim Falls is a tough spot to get to but worth visiting, especially if you have kids who love adventure. The trail to the falls is only 2km (return), but it’s long for our littlest (as well as oldest) family members. If your children are small, it’d be wise to use a hiking backpack as some of the walk involves boulder hopping. Much of the way is also riddled with tree roots, ensuring plenty of fun for active families. Take an inflatable pool ring to blow up once you arrive at the freshwater swimming holes, and be sure to carry plenty of water and a picnic lunch. To conquer Jim Jim, you’ll need to stay in Kakadu, and there are plenty of campgrounds, plus motel-style accommodation and glamping at Cooinda Lodge.
Bowen, The Whitsundays – Queensland
Quieter than Airlie and the islands, Bowen makes for a peaceful tropical Aussie escape without the tourist crowds. The grid-like town is easy to explore and features a handful of cafes and a lovely waterfront where you’ll find a small splash park for cooling down, as well as a skate park where kids can practise their tricks. Our priority, however, was checking out the beaches and there are plenty of gentle ones. The standouts are Horseshoe Bay, which is safe for toddlers thanks to granite outcrops at either end, and idyllic Grays Bay, around the corner, which is perfect for flatwater paddleboarding. When booking a holiday, be mindful of stinger season from October to May. Stay at Horseshoe Bay Resort, an old-fashioned, somewhat quirky campground with rainbow cabins.
Cape Otway Lightstation – Victoria
There aren’t many lighthouses in Australia that toddlers are allowed to venture up, but Cape Otway Lightstation is among the few exceptions, making it a special place for families with budding seafarers. Dating back to 1848, the lighthouse is the focal point of a large property that also features keepers’ cottages, a telegraph station, a World War II bunker and a quaint café. From the red-rimmed lighthouse balcony, you can soak up salt-sprayed views of the coastline and search for migrating whales between May and October. Sleeping up to 13 guests, extended families can enjoy reconnecting in the Lighthouse Lodge, while the cottage caters for eight.
Kangaroo Valley – New South Wales
Surrounded by thick bush and with a river running through it, Kangaroo Valley will re-energise weary souls after months in isolation. Wake to the call of native birds and breath in the chilled morning air before setting out for a kayak. Afterwards, pull up a table in the family bistro at The Friendly Inn Hotel or throw a rug on the grass out the back and enjoy a burger lunch. For the remainder of the day, meander between the cafes and boutiques, relishing the slow pace of this weekender destination two hours from Sydney. For families continuing social distancing, the valley has plenty of bed-and-breakfast-style accommodation.
With a passion for adventure, Australian journalist Jennifer Ennion always seeks out the “wild” when travelling. From swimming with belugas in sub-Arctic Canada to hiking in Nepal and camping around Australia, Jennifer loves telling stories that motivate people, especially families, to explore the outdoors.