Australian families love Thailand. And while the resort-lined beaches of Phuket and its buzzy, busy capital Bangkok are the most glittering and popular ports of call, don’t let their dazzle divert you from Thailand’s other incredible treasures. For a holiday that’s enjoyable, educational, wildly adventurous, cultural and incredibly fun, we suggest heading further afield to these holiday hotspots.
The world heritage listed ruins of the capital of the Ancient Kingdom Ayutthaya are only 90 minutes from Bangkok in Central Thailand. The concentration of ancient ruins, temples and colossal Buddhist monuments in and around the city is sure to unleash your inner Indiana Jones.
Around two hours from Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, famous for the River Khwae, and the notorious bridge that crossed it, is a pretty spot for families who enjoy getting back to nature. While you can visit the reconstructed bridge, and learn more of its somber history at the war museum, activities more likely to appeal to the kids include rafting, canoeing, mountain biking and jungle trekking. For an especially awesome adventure, you can even stay in a floating raft hotel on the river.
Phuket may be packed with kid-friendly resorts and attractions for the kids, but there are many other beachside beauties with just as much to offer families, minus the crowds.
A favourite getaway for Bangkok residents, Hua Hin is a pretty beachside town that is home to the Thai Royal family’s summer palace. Family friendly and relaxed, it also caters to non-regal visitors with great guesthouses and kid-friendly resorts.
Located around 300-kilometres east of Bangkok in the Gulf of Thailand is Koh Chang, an island of pristine beaches and forest which is paradise for families who prefer to spend their holidays soaking up nature, snorkeling, camping, wildlife spotting and hiking.
Krabi is surrounded by stunning scenery, dotted with secluded beaches and bursting with islands that rise dramatically from turquoise water. Not only is it snorkeling heaven with a stunning underwater world and clear calm water, above the ground there’s excellent hiking, the famous Tiger Cave Temple mountain shrine, and the Klong Thom hot springs.
Around 45-minutes by speedboat from Krabi or Phuket are the ridiculously pretty islands of Ko Phi-Phi Don and Ko Phi-Phi Leh, perfect for an ultimate tropical getaway. With amazing beaches, stunning rock formations and the bluest of blue water, they also home to the famous Maya Bay, where The Beach (starring Leonardo Di Caprio) was filmed.
Koh Samui is yet another island paradise that beckons families seeking sand, sea, sun and fun. Stunning white sand beaches with crystal clear waters are on the doorstep of most resorts and are ideal for safe snorkeling and swimming.
Mountains of fun
Beyond the beaches, you’ll find some amazing landscapes to explore. Surrounded by mystical mountains, colourful Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city. The pretty moated city offers a rich history, culture and tradition, but it is also home to some of Thailand’s most luxurious and modern resorts, expansive shopping malls and great restaurants. It is also a fantastic base for exploring mountains, forests, rice fields and national parks. Adventurous souls will love the trekking and rafting.
Animals lovers will get excited about the elephants, but should tread cautiously. Any ‘sanctuaries’ offering elephant rides or animal performances should be avoided. The Elephant Nature Park, home to around 75 rescued elephants, is one of the few that doesn’t, and a visit can be an educational and life-changing experience for kids.
Neighbouring Chiang Rai, with its minority hill tribes, is a fantastic place to introduce your own tribe to Ancient Thai traditions. For the ultimate immersive and educational experience, you can even try a homestay with a hill-tribe family.