Instead of the usual beachside or skiing holiday this year, why not step off the beaten track a little – there’s nothing like a little adventure to cement family bonding and build memories that will last long after your tan has faded.
Going on holidays that have something for everyone has never been more important for families, as we strive to make the most of our personal time in an attempt to strike a favourable work/life balance in our busy lives. Phoenix Arrien talks us through some of her family’s best-loved destinations across Australia.
For families with older children, Tasmania’s remote northwest coast is an ideal holiday for those who want to get right off the beaten track, get into nature and get some exercise. The Tarkine is largest temperate rainforest in Australia and the second largest in the world. A remnant of the ancient landmass Gondwanaland, that included parts of South America and Asia, this is a wild landscape of furry mosses, giant trees and fallen logs. Spreading out in the remote north-western corner of Tasmania, the ‘Tarkiner’ were
a band of Indigenous Tasmanians who lived in the region for thousands of years.
The best way to experience the rainforest is with a local company such as Tarkine Trails, who can safely take people into the wilderness and bring them out again with a new perspective gleaned away from the distractions of modern life. There is just you, your family and a 65 million-year-old wilderness – how many times in your life will such an opportunity present itself?
Probably the easiest trip for families is the Tarkine Explorer. A heady six day mix of camping in permanent ‘standing’ camps (with stretcher beds) and cabin accommodation, this trip involves day walks in the rainforest, a boat trip and a walk along a wild coastline. As we walk, 85-metre-high ‘Eucalyptus oblique’ trees tower above us, intermingling with giant myrtle, sassafras and ferns. We stop at various bushes where the guides explain how the indigenous people used to prepare the berries and eat them. The guides take care of everything, (except the actual walking) and for this I am constantly grateful. They cook, wash-up, coax us out of bed and encourage us along the walk, pulling out vines and offering us a particularly potent ‘bush liqueur’ in the evening to round off each day’s walking experience (adults only!). This is surely the way to live, but they decline my offer to take them home.
Yarra Valley, Victoria
This region has just about everything you could wish for: beautiful scenery; cute little self-contained holiday cottages and lovely atmospheric guesthouses nestled in lush gardens; slow-paced unique villages such as Warburton with its playgrounds; a river for fishing and swimming; and plenty of family activities.
The Healesville Sanctuary is close by, offering up-close-and-personal interactions with a host of Australian wildlife, including wombats, koalas, platypus and eagles. Also nearby is Puffing Billy, a restored steam train that puffs and whistles through the magnificent Dandenong Ranges.
This is also a wellbeing hotspot offering everything from massages to tarot readings. Or leave the kids at a horse-riding camp and take a complete break with a meditation retreat or relationships workshop. The Yarra Valley is one hour from Melbourne.
Margaret River, South West Australia
Margaret River is surrounded by water on three sides. Visualise a giant grabbing a big T-shirt with two hands and stretching it out into the ocean, painting it a glorious green colour, bookending it with lighthouses and proclaiming it one of the best food, surf and weather regions in Australia.
You can take canoe trips along Margaret River with bush tucker lunches, beaches, forests and caves to see along the way. And you can stop in at the local Wardan Cultural Centre, where elder Bill Webb tells stories and demonstrates hunting tools and ceremonies.
Winery and gourmet trails criss-cross the region and the food here is spectacular. Juicy olives, creamy cheeses and crusty bread make up picnics on beaches and in forests, however all gluttonous moments lead to the hallowed Margaret River Chocolate Factory. You come here to suck in lungfuls of chocolate-infused oxygen, between sobs of delight and moments of pure tastebud bliss.
Home Valley Station, Kimberley
Have you ever wanted to go into the Outback and have a real pioneering family holiday? If so, head to the Kimberley in north-western Australia. This is an ancient landscape echoing with the music and spirit of aboriginal tribes, layered with soaring mountain ranges, cut by towering gorges and blanketed by wooded plains.
An indigenous-owned cattle station has created a holiday experience like no other. Home Valley Station is an overwhelming merger of three giant cattle stations creating a 3.5 million acre ‘playground’, you can camp, swim, fish, ride and hike the spectacular Kimberley bush, and there is even an awesome playground at the accommodation hub.
Gold Coast, Queensland
If you want a holiday that will soak up the young ‘uns energy, yet keep you interested, try the Gold Coast on Australia’s eastern shore. There are ocean beaches, offshore fishing, protected water activities, a lush rainforest hinterland, wineries, rural experiences and, of course, adrenalin activities.
Gold Coast has a large range of parks, children’s play areas, walkways, cycling tracks, skateboard parks, protected swimming areas, pools and child-minding services. Many resorts also offer special children’s programmes and facilities.
While Seaworld is the Aussie ‘Vegas’ of theme parks, it has at least some kind of educational aspect – nature and marine life. Seaworld brings the creatures that usually live under the surface of the ocean, up close and personal, and the experience is both hugely fun and profound.
You can jetski around rock pools and watch the animal shows (a popular one being the dolphins at Dolphin Cove, the largest sandy bottom lagoon ever built for dolphins). Large stingrays ripple through water, sharks flash their toothy pegs at us and hubby even bravely swam in the Shark Encounter, swimming amongst the great creatures, while the kids and I hummed the theme to Jaws. They also loved the polar bears, penguins and seals … and of course, the rides.
Head to the Kimberley in north-western Australia. This is an ancient landscape echoing with the music and spirit of aboriginal tribes, layered with soaring mountain ranges, cut by towering gorges and blanketed by wooded plains.
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