Last year we asked our readers to name their favourite regional destinations in our Best of Family Travel Awards. And now we’re doing it again. In 2019 you could win a trip to Club Med Bali for two adults and two kids just by voting.
To get you in the mood to choose – these were the top 11 holiday spots in Australia in 2018. Any one of these towns makes for an easy weekend away with the kids.
Put Bendigo into Google search and you are likely to come up with loads of results about banking. But this little Victorian town really is a gem.
Bendigo is smack bang in the centre of Victoria, two hours from Melbourne. Bendigo is full of grand old buildings, a legacy of the 1850s Gold Rush that brought wealth to the region. Explore the many art galleries, workshops and theatres, tour a winery or simply stroll the gorgeous tree-lined streets.
Bendigo is one of those lovely regional towns where you can slow down and relax.
10) Margaret River
Gourmet food, unspoilt beaches and friendly locals – it’s no wonder you voted for Margaret River on this list.
The Margaret River is Western Australia’s premier wine growing region. Here you will find plenty of family-friendly wineries and breweries. Ever had a lovely bottle of wine that says “Yallingup” on the label? That’s the Margaret River.
This region is also home to plenty of spectacular surf breaks. Every year it hosts the Margaret River classic. You can surf in the morning and tour the wineries in the afternoon.
9) Hunter Valley
About two hours from Sydney (in OK traffic) the Hunter Valley offers great wineries, delicious food and loads of wildlife. Choose from popular towns such as Polkobin or more secluded retreats such as Wollombi.
The region has loads of family-friendly wineries and most have food included. The Hunter Valley is also famous for cheese, chocolate and ice-cream. Most people don’t do much other than eat when you come here. But you can get up early and float in a balloon over the vineyards or work off some calories mountain bike riding.
The region is also home to loads of wombats so keep an eye out for them at dusk.
8) Blue Mountains
The Three Sisters at Katoomba, Leura Falls and Christmas in July – we love the Blue Mountains and so do you. Just one hour west of Sydney’s CBD this gorgeous region is perfect for a weekend escape.
In winter the Blue Mountains feels distinctly European, which makes it a great place for a Christmas in July party. Families will find plenty of quaint bed and breakfasts and rental homes to stay here.
In summer, the mountains are a great place to go bushwalking. You can cool down in hundreds of waterholes such as the Jellybean waterhole at Glenbrook or take a paddle in a canoe around Wentworth Falls Lake.
Families who love horseriding should head to the Megalong Valley. For a touch of luxury – try Wolgan Valley.
We also recommend checking out Penrith at the foot of the Blue Mountains where you can try indoor skydiving, wakeboarding and cruise on the Nepean Belle.
7) Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour is about halfway between Sydney and Brisbane. This New South Wales regional town has great surf beaches, whale watching and a huge selection of hotels and resorts.
The Big Banana is the big attraction in town. It has an ice-skating rink, a great lollie shop and a toboggan ride. Head south to Sawtell and you will discover a chilled out village with a fig-tree lined main street and great local food. Little kids will love Sawtell’s butterfly house. Wear something colourful if you go, the beautiful creatures love to land on colourful hats and shirts.
Go west to the towns of Bellingen and Dorrigo and you can walk through the rainforest.
Coffs Harbour has loads of great estuaries that come in from the beaches. These are brilliant places for little ones to swim. Try Moonee, Boambee or Bonville creeks. Hire a canoe or kayak at Jetty Beach and paddle up Coffs Creek for the morning, you can wind through mangroves, spotting crabs and small fish. Take a yabbie pump if you love fishing. These estuaries are packed with yabbies and they make great bait.
Note: our editor is a little biased on this one as this is her hometown.
Cairns is warm sunshine, tropical rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Add to that, the fact you can get cheap flights here on budget airlines and it is no wonder this was on the list.
From Cairns, it’s easy to take a day tour out to the Great Barrier Reef. Spend a full-day sailing around the islands or try a snorkelling tour of some of the best spots for coral and marine life.
The best part about staying in Cairns is that you can be on the reef one day, and in the rainforest the next. Head to the Daintree, Mossman Gorge or Cape Tribulation. Families will love the Skyrail Rainforest cableway experience. Jump into a six-person gondola and cruise above the rainforest canopy. Once at the top, you can take a walk through the rainforest and learn about the plants and animals that call this unique environment home.
Head to Victoria’s central highlands for a taste of gold-mining, great mountain bike trails and burgeoning paddock-to-plate food culture. In spring Ballarat has a free market every Sunday with food stalls and gifts galore.
Kids always love panning for gold at Sovereign Hill. Real gold can still be found and it’s finders keepers.
Older kids will love the indoor go-carts and laser tag. While adults can take turns escaping to the Elysium day spa.
4) Sunshine Coast
Whether you love the luxury of Noosa or sandy beaches at Fraser Island, your kids will love the Sunshine Coast.
Maroochydore is the cultural capital of the region. Eumundi is it’s lush hinterland hard. And Coolum is the capital of surf. Whether you are camping or staying at Kingfisher – you will want to explore the Great Sandy National Park and World Heritage-listed Fraser Island. This place just has to be seen to be believed.
This is one of those regional centres where you will spend half your time here looking up houses to buy.
3) Gold Coast
The Gold Coast has so much to do for families. You can spend days trying out the theme parks. Wet & Wild, SeaWorld and Movie World are our top picks.
Play put-put golf, try bowling, climb Q1, learn how to surf.
If you love a bargain – head to Harbour Town for discount shopping. Or try Pacific Fair for a massive shopping hit – this place is huge.
One thing kids really love on the Gold Coast is the dessert bars. At Cowch in Pacific Fair you can eat your way through Waffles, ice cream pancakes and just about every sweet treat you can imagine. Plan an activity to work off the sugar rush.
Family Travel preferred destination – Phillip Island
Phillip Island is a day trip from Melbourne – but once you get here, you will want to stay longer.
Every evening thousands of people line up to watch the islands resident penguins waddle from the sea to the dunes. Up to 20,000 Little Penguins call this island home.
Phillip Island also boasts Australia’s largest breeding colony of Australian fur seals, around 12,000 of them. You will see these wonderful creatures lounging about on the rocks all over the island. For a really great view, head out on a Seal Watching Cruise. From the ocean, you can watch the seals dip and dive and play.
For great surf breaks head to Woolamai, Smiths and Summerland – although these beaches are best suited to strong swimmers and surfers. Younger families can enjoy a paddle at the more tranquil Smiths Beach, Shelley Beach and Kitty Miller Bay.
Visitors can also discover a world of illusions at A Maze’ N Things, farmyard fun at Churchill Island Heritage Farm, Phillip Island’s own chocolate factory and The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, which is sure to fire up young racers.
1) And the winner is… Dubbo
The zoo! Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo will be one of the best holidays you ever have. You can stay at Zoofari Lodge for an incredible wilderness glamping experience. The night-time safari is a must-do for any kid. You get to feed the animals their dinner and see them up close an personal. Expect to hear the lions roar as you drift off to sleep in your tent.
Dubbo township also has a great waterpark for kids and you can explore Old Dubbo Gaol.
Take your time driving to Dubbo and explore some of the other wonderful towns along the way with a good old roadtrip.
Travel allows you to get outside your bubble. It makes you realise there are other ways to do things, and that’s OK. Plus, I am a huge fan of skiing and for the best powder – you need to head overseas.