We’re going Down Under this episode to explore Australia Vacations for families. Mel Schinkel from Tourism Australia joins us to discuss why the country is an amazing family destination.
For more vacation inspiration, check out all the podcast episodes. Adventure Awaits!
Tell Us About Yourself & Tourism Australia
I’m Mel Schinkel, Destination Trainer for Tourism Australia. I look after Australia training for American and Canadian travel advisors. I’m originally from the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, but based in Los Angeles.
Tourism Australia is the Australian Government agency responsible for attracting international visitors to Australia for leisure and business purposes. The organization is active in 15 key markets, and its activities include advertising, PR and media programs, trade shows and industry programs, consumer promotions, online communications, and consumer research. So as a Tourism board, you can’t book travel through us, but our role is to educate, advocate and promote Australia as a leading travel destination.
Tell Us About Australia
Australia is the world’s smallest continent, the largest island, and one of the largest countries on Earth. Australia is in the southern hemisphere, between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. So, the seasons are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere.
It is a huge country – in fact, it is 95% the size of the United States but comprises only 6 states and 2 territories. The primary language spoken is English, but Australia’s population is very multicultural, so families can expect to meet Australians from varying cultures and backgrounds.
It really is a destination that has something for everyone. From the natural beauty of its contrasting landscapes, unique wildlife found nowhere else on the planet, an indigenous culture that spans over 60,000 years, not to mention its vibrant modern cities and deliciously diverse culinary delights.
Australia Vacations for First Timers
I highly recommend that you come for a 12 to 14-day period to see at least three parts of the country. And first-time travelers will normally do the reef, rock, and bridge itinerary.
First-time travelers to Australia often want to experience the icons, including climbing Sydney Harbor Bridge and seeing a performance at the Sydney Opera House in New South Wales, exploring the ancient Daintree Rainforest and diving at the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Queensland, learning about traditional rock art, dot painting and hearing stories from Indigenous Australians at Uluru in Northern Territory, and of course, getting up close and personal with our weird and wonderful wildlife in their natural habitat. Koalas, kangaroos, wombats, quokkas, wallabies, emus, Tasmanian devils, cockatoos, kookaburras, echidnas, and dingoes…the extraordinary wildlife to encounter is just endless.
After checking off the icons, visitors realize there is so much more to see and do, so they quickly book their next trip Down Under. 62% of leisure travelers return to Australia within 5 years of their first visit. So, if you visit once, I guarantee you will return at least 2 or 3 more times because you will be absolutely hooked!
How long is the flight from the U.S.?
You’re looking at around a 15-hour flight from LA, depending on which major city you go into, but most of the time, you can fly straight into Brisbane, Sydney, or Melbourne from LA. They have great connections with Qantas and United Airlines. There’s a load of options that you can fly with. It’s a little further from the east coast with connections, so it will probably be about 20 hours.
My top tip is to book a flight in the evening, like a 10 p.m. flight, because then you get settled in on your flight, have some dinner, watch a bit of a movie, and then you’re off to sleep. When you wake up, they’re starting breakfast service, and you only have a few hours until you land.
What makes it a great family destination?
Australia is just a playground for adventure – from the unique wildlife, epic outback escapes, plentiful activities, and picture-perfect beaches, family getaways just don’t get any better. Most importantly, Australia is fortunate to have excellent medical facilities and services and is a safe and secure nation to visit.
There is family-friendly transport, accommodation, and touring options to suit all budgets, too – imagine exploring the West Coast by campervan, teaching your kids to snorkel on coral reefs, and sharing family kayak adventures with an Aboriginal guide.
If you’re after luxury, then our Luxury Lodges of Australia collective features stylish accommodations – many welcome little ones with curated activities and fun for all included in the tariff.
Finally, but most importantly, Australians are very relaxed and friendly people. We enjoy sharing stories over a delicious meal, love to have a laugh, and welcome travelers to experience Australia like your one of our local mates. We’re also eager for an excuse to show off our amazing country, so visitors understand why we say there’s nothing like Australia, mate!
Australia Vacations for Families: Queensland
Every state and territory in Australia offers fantastic options for families, so no matter where you wish to explore, you can rest assured you will create wonderful life-changing memories together.
In Queensland, the Gold Coast is known to locals as Australia’s playground, with numerous theme parks to choose from, including Dreamworld, Movieworld, SeaWorld, Wet n Wild Water Park, and The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Also in Queensland, about an hour’s drive from the city of Brisbane, families can visit the famous Australia Zoo – founded by the late Steve Irwin’s family. The zoo offers koala cuddles, echidna encounters, and time with wombats and wallabies. Visitors can also spend time in the Zoo’s hospital, the busiest wildlife hospital in the country.
However, if I were to select a few locations that are really designed to entertain the entire family – I recommend Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island, which is a 75-minute ferry ride from the city of Brisbane in Queensland. The Beachfront Villas are perfect for large families. Alongside the iconic nightly wild dolphin feedings, guests can use the clear bottom kayaks, go sandboarding, ride ATV quadbikes, take a scenic helicopter flight, play beach volleyball, and even go whale-watching or snorkeling at the shipwrecks.
Australia Vacations for Families New South Wales
For families visiting Sydney in New South Wales, I recommend Taronga Zoo located on the shores of Sydney Harbor. You can sleep over at the zoo at the Wildlife Retreat, a boutique hotel surrounded by iconic wildlife including koalas, kangaroos, and echidnas! Wake up, and you will see koalas snoozing in the trees outside your window. It’s awesome!
The Roar and Snore option offers fascinating zookeeper talks, delicious food, and safari-style accommodation with spectacular views of Sydney Harbor. Conservation, science, and research are at the heart of all Taronga Zoo projects – something the entire family will also appreciate and benefit from understanding together.
Australia Vacations: South Australia
In South Australia, Kangaroo Island, is the ultimate Australian safari experience for the family, where native animals (including kangaroos, koalas, sea-lions, seals, cockatoos, and plenty more) roam freely in this “zoo without fences.” When the kids need a break from animal spotting, take them sand surfing on the natural sand dunes with Little Safari Adventure Center. The Mercure Kangaroo Island Lodge is a great place for families to stay between activities. A terrific restaurant, onsite laundry, and outdoor pool make it a favorite.
In Victoria, Sovereign Hill located in the city of Ballarat, is a living museum. The town allows visitors to step back in time to Australia’s 1850s gold rush era. The Night in the Museum experience includes accommodation and dinner with some of the goldfields’ most intriguing characters, dressing the part in traditional 1850s costume while exploring the township by lamplight.
Also in Victoria, about a two-hour drive from Melbourne, is Phillip Island. Here families can watch the Penguin Parade as little penguins waddle from the ocean to their burrows each night.
In the city of Darwin in the Northern Territory, Crocosaurus Cove allows up-close facetime with some of the oldest creatures on the planet. Boasting some of the largest saltwater crocodiles in Australia and the world’s largest display of Australian reptiles, this is a must-see for families visiting the Top End.
There are tons of offerings for every price point, including the chance to feed the “salties” (as Aussies lovingly call them), hold a baby croc, and even jump into the Cage of Death, where you experience swimming with a massive croc from inside a plexiglass cage (15 years or older for this one). Still, children of all ages are welcomed at Crocosaurus Cove, with ages 0-3 free of charge and 4-15 at a discounted price.
Finally, moving away from mainland Australia to the island state of Tasmania, families can spot wombats in the wild while hiking through UNESCO world heritage listed Cradle Mountain National Park.
Also, in Tasmania’s capital city, Hobart, I recommend the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, which offers behind-the-scenes wildlife encounters and the popular feeding frenzy tour.
Where can Listeners start planning their Vacation?
To find more information, you can visit Tourism Australia’s website, Australia.com.
Type “Family” in the search bar and loads of sample itineraries and stories will populate for you to explore. Here are a few great Family Vacation Itineraries.
Click on the Plan Your Trip drop-down menu for planning tools, budget guides, itinerary planners, deals, and packages.
Tourism Australia doesn’t book travel but click on the Find a Travel Agent tile, to search and select a travel advisor in your state, who specializes in Australia, to book your trip.
Tourism Australia also recently released an adorable animated short film, G’day, starring Ruby the Kangaroo and Louie the Unicorn. Your kids will love this animation and get excited about visiting Australia.
Be sure to follow Tourism Australia on Facebook and Instagram.