Don’t go into hibernation this winter – 4 wonderful winter escapes for families close to Sydney

In winter it’s tempting to hide away inside the warmth of our own home but getting out in the fresh air can really awaken the senses. Some of the best holidays happen in the colder months when the crowds of summer and the high-season prices disappear. Keeping the kids outside and active in winter also helps them to build immunity to fight off the nasty bugs that seem to go around at this time of the year.

Here are four great trips to consider for the winter holidays, perfect for families and within easy reach of Sydney.

Jenolan Caves

Jenolan Caves

Blue Mountains

Don’t run away from the cold, embrace it. The cool climate of the Blue Mountains is perfect for adventure with many children’s activities on offer that you can enjoy too.

Jenolan Caves showcases some of the most spectacular caves in Australia. Dramatically lit and expertly guided daily tours will have the kids feeling like they’ve entered another world. For older kids, check out Trees Adventure at Grose River Park. Climbing, swinging and leaping through the trees will release their inner Tarzan or Jane and burn off loads of energy.

On cool sunny days, there are number of amazing bush tracks to explore but make sure you take some extra water, warm clothes and let someone know where you are going. Or rest your legs and view the mountains from a different angle as you ride the scenic railway, the steepest passenger railway in the world. Get up close and personal with the native animals at Featherdale Wildlife Park.  In rainy weather, the Leuralla Toy and Railway Museum can be educational and fun at the same time.

Hunter Valley Wildlife

Hunter Valley Wildlife

Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley Gardens are stroller friendly and the little ones will love finding their favourite fairy-tale characters in the Storybook Garden. There is also horse riding, Hunter Valley Zoo, Richmond Vale Railway Museum and even hot air ballooning to try. Get back to nature at the Hunter Wetlands Centre with trail walking, canoeing and a children’s discovery playground. You can even warm up on a cold day with a tour of the chocolate factory.

Choose an accommodation option that is close to all the attractions and offers family friendly accommodation facilities and packages such as Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley Resort.

Pacific Coast Drive

If you have a bit of time up your sleeve why not take a few days, the car and the kids, and experience the legendary Pacific Coast Drive from Sydney to Brisbane.

Make your first stop off at Australian Reptile Park in Gosford where the kids can make new friends, of the scaly and furry variety. By Port Stephens you will all be in the holiday mood. During the cooler months of June and July you can spot the annual whale migration and pods of bottlenose dolphins here.

Port Stephens

Port Stephens

Then you’ve got a continuous line of surf beaches, national parks and rolling green hills to explore up the coast. Highlights here include a visit to Ellenborough Falls near Taree and of course The Big Banana on your way through Coffs Harbour. Byron Bay has a chilled out beach vibe and in winter there are less backpackers and more families. Be sure to take the kids on a walk to the lighthouse.

Queensland – Gold Coast

Add on an extra week after your Pacific Coast Drive and take some time to relax and explore the Gold Coast. Or fast track your trip, skip the drive and pick up some cheap airfares to the winter warmth of Queensland.

With the fun of the theme parks and myriad coastal activities, the Gold Coast is the ultimate family destination. Even in winter it’s warm enough for the kids to run wild on the coast and play in the sea. Be sure to check out Drax for Kids, if they are old enough to visit this gothic park without having nightmares. Glow Worm Caves are amazing and instructive too. Then experience dinner with a unique show the whole family will love at The Outback Spectacular. For a better deal on your family theme park packages visit themeparks.com.au

Instead of moping about the place waiting for summer to show its face make the most of the cooler months and your next holiday. Keep a lookout for the special deals advertised to pull in tourists at this, off peak, time of year and make the most of them. Winter is the time for serious family fun; so pack your bags, strap on some boots, pull on your hats and coats and get out there.

This post was provided by Anna Johnson, a busy mum of 2 boys, a freelance travel writer who still enjoys spending her time-off travelling with her family and loves sharing her experiences with others. Follow Anna on G+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AnnaJohnsonOToole

Best educational holiday destinations for kids on the Gold Coast

Koala’s at Currumbin Wildlife

The Gold Coast is famous for its golden beaches and fun theme parks.  The Gold Coast also offers plenty of interesting and educational attractions to entertain and captivate your children on holidays.  Even in winter time, the Gold Coast has plenty to offer and there are fewer crowds to battle with.  Days are beautifully warm without being sweltering hot so it’s the perfect time to visit.

Here are a few of the activities you might want to explore during your next Gold Coast getaway.

Sea World is more than just a theme park.  It is a marine animal sanctuary.  Children can get up close with king penguins while learning about ecosystems and conservation.  Don’t miss the sharks, manta rays and of course, cheeky and intelligent dolphins.

In the hinterland behind the Gold Coast is a rock feature carved into the side of a rockpool known as Natural Bridge.  Located in Springbrook National Park, the rock has been worn into a natural arch that has become home to thousands of glow worms.  Hike down there in the early evening for a close encounter.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a perennial family favourite on the Gold Coast.  Kids can visit the wildlife hospital, learn about endangered species and cuddle a koala.  The highlight of any trip to Currumbin is feeding the wild lorikeets by hand.  These friendly birds will nestle on your hands, arms, even your hair.

Brisbane is a only a 1 hour drive from the Gold Coast, making a day trip to the Queensland Maritime Museum in the heart of South Bank a perfect family day out.  Kids can take a voyage through Australia’s seafaring history, learning about shipwrecks, mutiny and diving for pearls and explore the Diamantia, a Royal Australian Naval frigate used in the Second World War.

Build-A-Bear

Ripley’s Believe It or Not in the heart of Surfer’s Paradise is a great way to spend a wet afternoon.  Brain teasers and mind benders will entertain adults as well as kids.  The science of levitating frogs and the surprising amount of static electricity in your t-shirt will all be revealed.

Keep an eye out for one the Build a Bear Workshops taking place on the Gold Coast. Children of all ages can learn how to create their own plush toy and enjoy the interactive experience of designing and dressing it themselves.

In the heart of the hinterland is a skywalk high above the rainforest.  The Tamborine Rainforest Walk is an eco-adventure exploring rainforest habitat and breathtaking scenery.  It includes the Rainforest Eco Gallery containing fun and educational displays of local flora and fauna for the budding conservationist.

Tamborine Rainforest Walk

Connect kids to the source of their food at Tropical Fruit World.  This is Australia’s largest plantation orchard farm and research park, just 10 minutes south of the Gold Coast in northern New South Wales.  There are daily Magic Garden shows letting children touch, taste and learn about a kaleidoscope of tropical fruits and take a Plantation Tour to see how avocados grow and learn to crack open a macadamia.

Conclusions
As you can see, there are so many wonderful and interesting attractions you will never be short of fun and educational ways to entertain the whole family.  It is worth planning ahead to make the most of your time on the Gold Coast. There are also many accommodation options to help you enjoy your stay so it is worth looking for a holiday house deal on the Gold Coast for you and your family.  The money you save will leave you more to enjoy these great family attractions!

Been to the Gold Coast? What was your favourite family activity? I’d love to find out.

Carla C. Burton is a self-employed Travel and Hospitality writer with a BBA in Business Administration from Bond University.  Although a Gold Coast native, Carla moved to Melbourne in 2008 to further her writing career in the Travel industry.  Carla has become a top contributor to many Travel blogs world-wide and thoroughly enjoys the freedom that self-employment has provided her.  To find out more about Carla or to follow her other posts, follow her on Twitter @CarlaCBurton.

Tangalooma Island Resort Review – beyond the beauty

Amazing sunset at Tangalooma Island

I have to say when I first booked Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island, 40 kilometres off the coast of Brisbane, I had some reservations.

Sure the website looks fantastic, with a plethora of activities and breathtaking scenery, but some of the feedback online wasn’t so flattering.

After travelling twice a year with our two children since my eldest was born eight years ago, and visiting all manner of family resorts only to often leave feeling disheartened – I had some trepidation; but within a matter of hours Tangalooma had won us over.

From three years old to 15 years old, there is simply so much for children to do – they will be begging you to take them back to the roomy villa for a break.

Tangalooma Island Beach

Most people are aware that you can feed the dolphins, but oh Tangalooma, you are so much more.

Whale watching (we saw 26 whales), sand surfing (kids can ride on mum or dad’s back), Quad bike tours, helicopter rides, kayaking, boat hire and fish feeding .. are just a few of the paid activities.

As for free activities – there’s a tennis court, swimming pools, eco walks, pelican and kookaburra feeding and movie nights – to name but a few. See the full list  of free activities here.

While at many resorts you’re limited to one restaurant, Tangalooma has a beach café, with just a narrow pathway separating you and the beach, so you can order all manner of things – including restaurant quality specials of Mexican, Italian or Indian, and the classics – fish and chips.  There are also two other restaurants and a coffee shop.

There are lots of accommodation options, but we choose the beachfront villa, which are two bedroom, two level townhouses with incredible views – and back a little bit from the hustle and bustle of the main dining and shopping area of the resort.

Quad Biking

They also have a full kitchen, and being so close to Brisbane, you can just fill up an esky and bring it with you on the ferry (alcohol isn’t permitted, but can be purchased on the island).

So if you’re after an packed holiday with what feels like an endless array of activities – this is the place for you.

Get on the beach, on the water, in the air or on the sand desert – and at the end of the day you can sit outside at the beach café with a glass of whatever takes your fancy and watch the sunset, while the kids play right in front of you on the soft sandy beach.

Tip: Take a pram if you have very young children because it is quite a walk from one end of the resort to the other.

What a view

This blog post  is courtesy of Kirstie Bedford. Kirstie started her career as a journalist covering hard news, but always had a yearning to travel.

Working for Tourism New Zealand in her 20s she was lucky to visit some of the most remote and remarkable parts of her own country, hosting international media to many destinations only accessible by helicopter or boat.

When she got married, it was only fitting that instead of a beach resort, her and husband Dave spent five weeks trekking around Europe.

They returned to New Zealand and several years later moved to Australia, where they’ve been living for seven years, and where Kirstie works as a PR consultant focusing on the food, wine/beverage and tourism sectors.

Kirstie is also a committee member of the International Food Wine Travel Writers Association – Australasia.

With two young boys her travels are a bit closer to home these days, but her bucket list grows by the day and she hopes to one day cross them all off the list – sharing her experiences as she goes.

LinkedIn: http://au.linkedin.com/in/kirstiebedford
Twitter: @kirstiebedford
Blog: https://foodwinetraveltips.wordpress.com/author/kdjm/

The Resort from above

10 Places to Take the Kids in the Second Half of 2013

Now that the first half of 2013 has passed (and how fast did it go?!), it’s time to start thinking about where you can take the kids on holiday in the second half of the year. Have you been on holiday already this year? If so, perhaps something relatively local will appeal. If you are yet to take a break, maybe something a little further from home is on the agenda. Regardless of the type of holiday you’re looking for, here are 10 great places to take the kids on holiday for the rest of 2013.

The Great Barrier Reef

1. The Great Barrier Reef
The large majority of kids have the same thing in common: they love swimming and they love wildlife! Where is the best to combine the two? The Great Barrier Reef. Known for its colourful coral and abundant wildlife, this is one of the most spectacular natural attractions on the planet. This is a great place for your first scuba lesson, and the kids will have great opportunities to learn such as those at Green Island. June to December is also the peak time for whale watching!

2. Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island rests just offshore of North Queensland and is a popular holiday destination because of its natural beauty, entertaining things to do, and picture-perfect weather – escape the cold! Besides the sailing, fishing, walking & water sports that you and the family can enjoy, the kids will especially love swimming in the sheltered waters of Horseshoe Bay. You won’t be able to wipe the smile off the kids’ faces!

3. Melbourne
Although it is winter in Melbourne, the city is at its vibrant best during this time of year. The AFL season is in full swing, with blockbuster games being held at the MCG every week. If the kids are new to the sport, they’ll be amazed at the huge crowds that gather every weekend. Head to Luna Park for a day of thrills, and be sure to catch the fireworks in the Docklands precinct that happen at 7:00pm every Friday night in July!

4. Surfers Paradise
Yes, it’s an oldie but a goodie! If you can manage to take the kids out of the school holidays period, then you’ll find the usual hustle & bustle of Surfers Paradise to be less than usual and far more relaxing. Clearly, the big drawcards for kids are the themeparks – Dreamworld, Seaworld, Movieworld and Wet’n’Wild. During peak periods, the lines to get into these parks can be enormous – head there during the quieter periods and spend the day laughing your way through the rides all day with the kids!

5. Ayers Rock
Locals in Alice Springs say that the best time to visit Ayers Rock is during September. Take the kids to see this natural wonder (the largest free standing monolith in the world!) and it will be sure to take their breath away. Make sure you climb Ayers Rock with them and when you get to the top, call someone special. Grandma would love a call from her grandkids while standing on top of Australia’s most iconic attraction!

6.  Mt Buller
Not fussed about the cold? Think the kids can handle it? Then why not take them to one of Victoria’s best ski resorts for families – Mt Buller. With over 300 hectares of ski fields and a huge variety of beginner trails, it is the perfect place to introduce the younger ones to the thrill of skiing or snowboarding. You’ll have them asking to come back every year!

7. Phillip Island
This popular tourist destination just 90 minutes from Melbourne is choc-full of kid’s activities! The big one is the Penguin Parade, where you can sit and watch hundreds of fairy penguins waddle their way up the beach to their sand burrows. A guaranteed kid-pleaser! Phillip Island also boasts a wildlife sanctuary, as well as a well renowned maze that will keep the kids busy trying to find a way out! Mini golf is also available with the maze

Dolphin at Monkey Mia

8. Monkey Mia
This world famous attraction in Western Australia should be high on the list of places to take the kids. It is famous for its dolphin interaction experience, where you get the chance to get up close and personal with wild dolphins. If you’re lucky your child will be picked to feed the dolphins as they come up into the shallow waters. An unforgettable experience that they will remember the res t of their lives!

9. Sydney
If you’re stuck for ideas and you want somewhere easy to visit, Sydney is the answer. Australia’s most popular tourist destination has an amazing variety of activities to keep the kids entertained. The Sydney Observatory will take your children on a journey to the moon and back, while the Sydney Aquarium features all-Australia sea life that will have them fascinated for hours. If your littlies have a favourite celebrity, visit Madame Tussauds and see a perfect wax version of their idol!

10. Port Arthur
Port Arthur in Tasmania is an historic site and is an important part of Australia’s history. Educate the kids with the amazing stories & events that have taken place here. A kids activity book is provided for the young ‘uns on arrival, to help them understand what has happened in the past and how it affects them today. There are many displays that allow children to interact – their knowledge of Australian history will double after a day at Port Arthur.

Authors note:
Matt Pruys manages the Holiday Ideas section for HomeAway.com.au, the world’s leading online holiday rental accommodation network.     

5 Things Your Kids Would Love to do in Queensland

There is no doubt that taking the children on holidays is a special time for families.  It is a real joy for parents to be able to help create fun holiday memories for their children which will last them a lifetime.  Queensland offers a wealth of experiences for holiday makers travelling with children.  Whether you prefer the dusty outback, ancient rainforests or world class beaches, Queensland is packed with new and interesting ways to entertain and delight the kids.  And best of all, these activities are fun for adults too! Take a look at these top 5 picks for your next holiday ideas:

Dinosaur trail, Winton

Travel back through time to the Lark Quarry dinosaur track-ways, near Winton in Central Western Queensland.  The quarry has preserved 3,300 footprints of dinosaurs running to escape an attacking predator.  It is the only known record of a dinosaur stampede, and gave Steven Spielberg the inspiration for his the Jurassic Park movies!  Viewing the site is by guided tour at Dinosaur Trackways.

Helicopter ride, Great Barrier Reef

Flying out of Cairns in a helicopter toward the world famous Great Barrier Reef, the whole family will enjoy the stunning blue vistas, spotting marine life and marvel at the unique coral formations.  Touchdown on a beach for an afternoon swim in the warm clear waters and a picnic lunch on the sand.  And as if that is not enough, just wearing headphones and talking to the pilot through a radio microphone will be incredibly fun for the kids.  Talk to Great Barrier Reef Helicopters  to plan your perfect family outing.

Australia Zoo

Situated in the Sunshine Coast hinterland is the iconic Australia Zoohome of Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin.  Come and see Australian wildlife in truly remarkable surroundings near the Glasshouse Mountains.  Take in a show, feed the animals and learn about wildlife and conservation.   With everything from bluetongue lizards through to the humble elephant, it’s all about the animals.

Whale watching, Fraser Coast

From late July to November each year, pods of mighty whales make their annual migration north from Antarctic waters.  Hervey Bay on the Fraser Coast is the whale watching capital of the world.  Seeing these gentle giants breach the waves is an unforgettable experience for children and adults alike.  Check out Spirit of Hervey Bay for information about a half day or full day trips.

Theme Park, Gold Coast

No school holiday in Queensland would be complete without a trip to one of the legendary theme parks on the beautiful Gold Coast.  If you only have time for one, take the kids to Movie World.  There is action, adventure, rides and thrills suitable for even the most faint-hearted movie fan. Imagine your kids getting their photos taken with Batman or Scooby-Doo – something they will never forget!  There is plenty of main street entertainment too, with live parades and shows throughout the day.  For show times visit: http://movieworld.com.au/

It’s great to take a break from family routine and enjoy new holiday activities together.  Whether your kids are toddlers, teenagers or anywhere in between, Queensland is the ideal tourist destination and offers something for every family’s taste and budget.  With so much to see and do, make sure you allow plenty of time for to explore and make the most out of your time in Queensland.

Lara Preston is a keen traveler and mother of 2 tiny humans. After spending many years traveling the globe and her own backyard in Australia, she has settled down in Victoria with her husband and 2 children. Feeling homesick for adventure, she decided to concentrate her efforts on sharing her travel tips with other families brave enough to travel with little ones.

Solothurn Farmstay Maleny Queensland

We had 3 nights near Maleny, Qld on a farm At Solothurn Rural Resort. What a great holiday for kids who were 5, 3 and 8 months when we stayed at this farm. It’s a good idea to go with a few families as all the kids enjoyed the company of the others and it helped give the parents some much needed R and R as well. The bungalows are well-equipped and roomy, with bunk beds for the kids and spectacular views for the adults to enjoy.

Every morning at 7.30 there is animal feeding and this takes a good hour as the animals are numerous – cows, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, emus, ducks, chickens and one morning even a carpet python (in a cage). At 10 am there is a tractor ride, which the kids loved. The rest of the day can be spent playing tennis, table tennis, riding bikes (bring your own), playing in the farm playground or even driving into Maleny (only about 10 minutes away) and enjoying lunch out or exploring the surrounds.  Gumboots are a necessity and plenty of warm clothes for the evenings, as it got surprisingly cold.  Also handy to have a husband good at making fires, as each bungalow comes with a log fireplace and wood, making for very cosy evenings if the fire is lit!

The above post is courtesy of Teresa Holding. Teresa is a busy mother of three.

Hamilton Island with Kids – Review

Infinity Pool at Shorelines

I was always unsure about whether Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays would be a good island holiday or not. I was worried that it may be too built up and therefore not as relaxing as other island destinations.

I was wrong, it was  one of the best family holidays we have ever had. It is an ideal destination with kids as there is a lot to do there keeping the kids happy yet you can easily relax with a good book by the pool, keeping the parents happy!

Accommodation

We had 7 nights in an apartment in Shorelines which was absolutely fantastic! We stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment which had the most amazing views of the water from every room. The apartment was fully self contained with a great kitchen and laundry facilities. Upstairs (the level you enter on) had a kitchen, dining room, good sized lounge and a great deck overlooking the water.

One level down was the kids bedroom and bathroom, and then another level down again was the main bedroom and ensuite with another deck.

On the back of the buggy

The furniture and fittings were very modern and of very high quality and there was loads of space for us with 2 adults and 3 kids. There was a laundry and clothes line at the back and the apartment came with an electric buggy for the week which the kids loved! This enabled us to get around the island easily.

The staff at Shorelines collected us from our plane and returned us at the end of the stay so it was really so easy.

We booked Shorelines through Whitsunday Holidays who were fantastic to deal with, it is around $350-$400 per night depending on the time of year. One tip – ask for an apartment on the end of a group – ie apartment 1 and 4 are on the ends, 2 and 3 are in the middle. That way one side of your apartment is open at the front and the side (not just at the front)!

Infinity Pool

Facilities

Shorelines had 2 pools, one was a pretty standard pool but the other one called the Infinity Pool was simply beautiful. The water fell over the edge and as it was down on the ocean side it felt like you were sitting in the ocean. There was also a spa in the Infinity Pool and a little waterfall the kids could sit under!

Staying at Shorelines also gives you access to all of Hamilton Island Resorts facilities which includes several pools (I think we visited 3) and full access to the resort beaches.

Things to do on Hamilton Island

There are some fantastic activities for kids and adults on Hamilton Island, here are a few we experienced:

Hire a Boat – we hired a little dinghy on 2 of the days with fishing gear, with this we could head out and explore some of the smaller islands close to Hamilton Island, we did some fishing and the kids got to explore some new beaches and rock pools. It was good value too, around $120 for 4 hours including petrol and life jackets.

Have breakfast with the Koalas – we had a buffet breakfast one morning at the Hamilton Island Wildlife Park. It was a lovely setting and there were a few koalas munching leaves and sleeping in the trees which the kids loved!

9 Pin Bowling– The bowling alley is a great fun activity for kids that is open from 12.30pm-10.00pm most day, we went in the evening and the kids had a blast!

Kids Quad Biking

Quad Bikes – we took our eldest boy (7 years) to the Quad Bikes for kids which is a 15 minute session on a Quad Bike Track. Ben had a ball! It is for kids 6-14 years and is $32. It does not seem like much time but it was plenty of time, 15 minutes holding on and steering on the dirt track was enough!

Day Spa – For parents that want a bit of relaxation there are 2 day spas on the Island. Hamilton Island Resort has Spa Wumurdaylin or if you really want to splurge then try the Spa at Qualia, Hamilton Islands Luxury Resort. We had a massage here and it was divine! You have to be buzzed in through big wooden gates and you are then welcomed into an amazingly relaxing setting with a relaxation area, steam room, tropical outdoor shower and a meditation pavilion.

Beach Activities – Catseye Beach is the main beach to head to for beach activities. They offer a range of activities here including paddle skis, catamarans, windsurfers, snorkeling equipment etc. Some of the places include the hire of these and some don’t, so check this when you book.

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach – A trip to Whitehaven Beach is a must when you go to Hamilton Island. The beaches here are pristine white and the water so clear.

Dining Out – There are loads of dining options at Hamilton Island. We combined eating out with barbecues at our apartment, as some days the kids were simply too tired from all their swimming to head out.

Coles deliver daily to Hamilton Island so we did an online order before we went for most of our food. There is also a grocery store and bottle shop on the Island for extra provisions!

We had one meal at the Marina Tavern which offers a great range of steaks/chicken/fish and was very kid friendly. Other restaurants at Hamilton include Romanos Italian, Manta Ray Cafe (pizza), Beach Club (for a parents night out), plus loads more!

Whitehaven Beach

We had a fantastic holiday to Hamilton Island and will definitely be back! For more information about places to stay and things to do visit their website.

It’s Whale Watching time – an annual event not to miss!

Whale Watching off Mooloolaba

The amazing humpback whales are gracing the East Coast of Australia again and it is definitely a must see event. Predictions are over 16,000 whales will be migrating this year – the most seen in over 50 years!

We headed out on a Whale Watch adventure with the kids last weekend and it was fantastic. We went on the Whale One Cruise which sets off from Mooloolaba (1 1/2 hours drive north of Brisbane). It was a 4 hour cruise which was a perfect length of time with young kids.

The boat was 3 levels – we sat on the top level and had a perfect view of the ocean and whales. It only holds around 100 people so is small enough to be able to easily get around but big enough so the boat does not move too much and make anyone seasick! (we were worried about this but we all escaped sickness free!)

Being a smaller boat though we were able to get really close to the whales which was unbelievable and for both us and the kids it was such a memorable event.

The tours run from June-November, 8.30am-12.30pm each day and 1.00pm-5.00pm on weekends. The cruise included morning tea and the crew were fantastic – highly recommended. See the Whale One website for more information.

Whale Watching on Whale One

Review – Stradbroke Island for a family holiday

The Gorge Walk

We recently had our first holiday as a family to Stradbroke Island with me, my husband Mick and 3 kids Ben (7), Brooke (5) and Emma (2).  We had a fantastic 5 days there, it really feels like an island holiday but you are only 1 hour on the Ferry from Cleveland (1/2 hour approx from Brisbane City).

With young children we always try to minimize the travel time as they get bored easily, but going to Stradbroke Island was great as we only had a 1/2 hour drive from Holland Park to Cleveland, then 1 hour on the ferry, and then another 1/2 drive from Dunwich around to Point Lookout. And the best part was the kids thought taking the car on the ferry was the coolest thing ever!

One note though – always book your ferry as soon as you have booked your accommodation as the ferry’s fill up quickly.

Accommodation

We stayed at Pandanus Palms Resort which sits on top of the hill at Point Lookout. The views were breathtaking and we booked an ocean view unit to guarantee this. The resort is older but perfect for families with a good pool and tennis court. The townhouse style accommodation was a good size with dining, kitchen, lounge and an outside area all downstairs and 2 good size double bedrooms and bathroom upstairs. There are full kitchen and laundry facilities in each unit so perfect for holidays with young children.

The only negative thing is because they are up on the hill you have to drive everywhere.

Beaches

The beaches are fairly spread out and some are tucked away but the beaches were awesome. A great beach for kids is Cylinder Beach, it is easy to park at, is sheltered and at low tide there’s a good area with no waves for the little ones. It is also patrolled and has a kid’s playground and a merlo coffee can (most important!).

Cylinder Beach

Another beach we loved was Deadmans beach, if you go down Hopewell St off the main road there is parking on Cutter St. There are a few steps down to the beach from the car park but it’s still fairly accessible. Down the far right end of the beach though are great rocks for climbing over and rock pools the kids can play in, spot fish, crabs etc. There is also a huge sand dune here which the kids loved riding their boogie boards down.

For the fitness fanatics running up and down here is a great workout, I did it a few times carrying my 2 year old, and my legs felt it the next day! There are also some good little tracks to explore from the top of the dune.

The Gorge Walk

The Gorge Walk is an easy walk (approx 1.5km) which starts opposite the main group of shops on East Coast Rd at Point Lookout. It is fine for small children with good pathways, but it’s not fenced in all areas so keep small kids close. The views over the gorge are spectacular and we heard that it is one of the best places to see the whales during their annual migration.

Other things to do

  • Markets – there are markets on the main road (East Coast Road) opposite the bowls club on Saturday and Sunday until around midday. They are small but have some good stalls of clothes, bags, jewellery, kids toys etc
  • Bowls – The bowls club is great fun for kids and a nice relaxed atmosphere
  • Skate Park  – on the main road there is also a skate park perfect for kids and their scooters and a huge oval for the kids to kick the footy
  • Brown Lake not far from Dunwich is Brown Lake. A huge lake kids can swim in.
  • Fishing – There are a few good fishing areas around Stradbroke Island mainly at Amity Point. Amity Point it also lovely at sunset and we saw a few dolphins around here too. We also heard some kids were even hand feeding them!
  • Day spa – when the Straddie pub was recently renovated they put in an amazing day spa, my hubby tried a massage and came back extremely relaxed with a few more looser joints

Eating out

Heading out to dinner with 3 young kids after a day at the beach is always challenging. The Straddie Pub has been recently renovated and is a great place to take kids. The meals are not cheap but the food was excellent quality and the kids can be noisy and hop up and down without disturbing anyone.

We also went to La Foccacia, a restaurant in the Anchorage Resort. The service and food was really good, they were very accommodating for kids bringing them colouring in and the setting was lovely. It is a restaurant though so the kids have to stay at the table the whole time and be reasonably quiet! They do an all you can eat pizza and pasta night Wednesday which with kids is ideal.

Another place we tried for dinner was the Bowls Club. We had heard they do a good roast, the roast wasn’t on the night we went and the food was very ordinary. It was inexpensive however and the kids could run around, play on the greens and watch people playing bowls so it was still a good night out despite the food.

The Gelati Shop on Stradbroke Island is superb, there were so many flavours it was hard to choose!

The only disappointing meal was we had takeaway fish and chips from Fins n Fries which were very ordinary.

Bobs is the convenient store on the island, near the real estate on Endeavour St, it had a great range of groceries and very reasonably priced.

Overall we had a fantastic holiday and would definitely go again, there are lots of rental houses on the island that can take 2 families so next time I think we will go with some friends and maybe get something closer to the beach.

Pandanus Palms Swimming Pool

Tennis Court at Pandanus Palms

Top 5 destinations for cruising with your kids

Voyager of the Seas

Cruises aren’t just for honeymooners and retirees anymore. More cruise lines are creating very family friendly amenities to their ships, such as family suites and child-oriented activities. Below are five of the top destinations for cruising with your kids.

1. Alaska

The wild state of Alaska still has that frontier feel that will expose your children to animals, nature, and the outdoors in the most exciting way possible. The ships will typically have nature experts on board who can provide fun and educational experiences for your children as they learn about the true wilderness. On shore activities will generally include hiking on glaciers, kayaking, and other ways to explore Alaska’s treasures up close.

2. Hawaii

If you prefer warmer climes, then Hawaii might be the natural choice for you family. The breadth and beauty of the nature you’ll all see while cruising around the Hawaiian islands is another terrific experience. Here, the type of flora and fauna will be completely different from the Alaskan cold, but not less impressive. The massive waterfalls and beaches provide a variety of physical outings, like surfing, swimming, and hiking, that kids will love.

3. United States

Most Cruise Ships have great Kids Activities

There are loads of cruising options around the United States. Whether you find a new way to see New England, follow in the footsteps of Mark Twain down the Mississippi, or soak up the sun in the Gulf Coast. You can keep an international flavor as well by finding a cruise deals that will also take the family along the coasts of Canada or Mexico, depending on where your U.S. starting point is.

4. Australia

Cruising around Australia is a great option and can provide both an outdoors and city experience. Having this range of variety of places to see and activities can be particularly helpful if your children (and perhaps your spouse) have varying interests. This way, everyone has something to get excited about. Visiting Australia by cruise ship will also give you a fascinating way to see the Great Barrier Reef, along with on-board experts.

5. Galapagos Islands

For the family that does want a deep wildlife experience and wants to visit foreign, exotic lands, then the Galapagos Islands may be the perfect fit. The cruise ships visiting this area tend to be smaller, which creates a more personal experience. The animals on the islands (with some of its creatures existing no where else in the world) have no fear of humans, which allows children a truly personal interaction with them. The ships will have naturist experts leading the educational activities. There is also generally a good range of leisure activities, such as snorkeling, diving, and glass bottom boating.