This article was originally published in Examiner.com on April 17, 2009.
Traveling with children? Australia is the perfect destination! From weird and wonderful animals to exciting sports events … excellent beaches to rainforest adventures … pie floaters to “hamburgers with the lot” … you just can’t beat Australia for a fun-filled family vacation.
I know, because I’m an American who lived and worked in Australia for a year, when my son was ten years old. I found Australians to be warm and welcoming, and the country to be much more family-friendly than America. Here are some of the activities you’ll want to consider:
- Swim the Great Barrier Reef: It’s guaranteed fun in the sun for all ages and abilities. Dive, snorkel, splash on the beach, or sunbathe. You’ll all get a great, experiential education about one of the seven wonders of the natural world, as well as a first-hand understanding of the effects of global climate change.
- Take a ride on Puffing Billy: This 100-year-old steam train is still going strong, and runs every day of the year (except Christmas). You’ll travel through lush forests and enjoy panoramic views.
- Pan for gold: They won’t realize it’s a history lesson, but at Sovereign Hill your family can pan for gold, explore an 1850s-era mining camp, and learn about the history of coins at the Gold Museum. Check out Family Night in the museum.
- Circumnavigate Ayers Rock: Indigenous people consider this sacred ground, so I don’t recommend climbing the Rock, but there’s lots to see in a hike around the base, and local operators provide excellent tours explaining Aboriginal life in the desert.
- Spot a croc: Kakadu National Park is a must-see. The entire family will enjoy dramatic landscapes, whitewater cascades, and amazing bird life. Remember to keep your arms inside the boat!
- Cheer at an Aussie-Rules football game. It’s Australia’s most popular spectator sport, and much rougher than the American version. 2008 was the 150th anniversary of the first recorded Aussie-rules games.
- Raft Katherine Gorge: 13 gorges and 75 miles of bushwalking trails make up beautiful Nitmiluk National Park, where you can whitewater raft, canoe, swim, camp, and hike.
- Pet or feed a kangaroo and a wombat, up close and personal, at Wombat World in Victoria’s Gippsland. Animal parks just don’t get any better than this.
- Visit Aboriginal artists in Arnhem Land, then try your hand at X-ray painting or dot painting.
- Lick an ant’s butt: the Australian Green Tree Ant secretes a strong, fizzy, citrusy oil from its abdomen, which you can taste without harming the ant.
- Climb to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, nicknamed “The Coathanger” for its arched design. The views are spectacular, and you’ll feel like a real adventurer.
- See an earthworm that’s ten feet long at the Giant Earthworm Museum in the town of Bass in southern Victoria.
© 2009 Laurie McAndish King
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