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12 luxury family travel experiences in Australia

After enduring months of lockdowns and border restrictions, it’s time to treat yourself! If you’re not quite ready to brave international travel just yet, consider using the money you’ve saved on flights to splash out on one of these luxury family travel Down Under instead, ANGELA SAURINE writes

1. Sleep underwater at Reefsuites in the Whitsundays, Queensland

Sleep under water with ReefSuites on the Great Barrier Reef. Image Tourism and Events Queensland
Sleep under water with ReefSuites on the Great Barrier Reef. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

Imagine staying overnight in a hotel under the water, with colourful tropical fish darting back and forth outside your window! That’s the kind of experience you will get at Reefsuites, which is located on a permanently moored pontoon at Hardy Reef, around 40 nautical miles from Airlie Beach in The Whitsundays. The trip begins with a cruise through the Whitsunday Islands aboard a high-speed vessel, arriving at the reef around 11am. After lunch, you can snorkel, dive, swim or take a scenic helicopter flight to see famous Heart Reef (for an additional cost). Day visitors depart mid-afternoon and then overnight guests have Hardy Reef and Reefworld all to themselves. Watch the sunset before enjoying dinner under the stars on the pontoon’s upper deck. After dinner, you can retreat to the privacy of their undersea accommodation.

2. Sounds of Silence dinner at Uluru, Northern Territory

Sounds of Silence dinner at Uluru - luxury family travel ideas
Sounds of Silence dinner at Uluru

With a million stars overhead, the drone of a didgeridoo in the background and a bush tucker meal, the Sounds of Silence dinner is without doubt one of the most magical travel experiences in Australia. Families with children aged ten and over can book the four-hour tour, which begins with canapes and drinks on top of a dune overlooking Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. As the sun sets and darkness falls, listen to the sound of a didgeridoo and join your table of fellow travellers for an unforgettable evening. Listen as an astronomer decodes the southern night sky, locate the Southern Cross, the signs of the zodiac, the Milky Way, and planets and galaxies that are visible due to the exceptional clarity of the atmosphere. If you want to go all out on your Red Centre adventure, the luxury wilderness camp Longitude 131 also welcomes children aged 10 and over.

3. Swim with dolphins off Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Swim with dolphins off Kangaroo Island in South Australia - luxury family travel ideas

Swimming alongside playful dolphins and seals has to be one of the most soul enriching experiences on the planet – and it makes for great family dinner conversation for years to come. Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures offers the experience in crystal clear waters off South Australia. If you’d rather stay dry, then book the 75-minute coastal cruise and soak it all in from the comfort of the boat.

4. Scenic flight over the Kimberley, Western Australia

See Cape Leveque from above on a scenic flight with your family - luxury travel
See Cape Leveque from above on a scenic flight. Image: Tourism Western Australia

The Kimberley is one of the most spectacular parts of the country, but its sheer size (three times as big as England) and rough roads may be daunting for a lot of families. One solution is to book a holiday in Broome and explore this remote region from the air via a scenic flight. KAS Helicopters offers a flight over Cygnet Bay, Cape Leveque and One Arm Point, taking in the turquoise waters and stunning red cliffs of the coastline. Land on the northern tip of the Dampier Peninsula to spend a few hours exploring, and enjoy an optional lunch, before returning to Broome.

5. Swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

Swim with a whale shark at Ningaloo - top luxury family travel in Australia
Swim with a whale shark at Ningaloo. Image: Tourism Western Australia

Glide beside the ocean’s gentle giants on a tour off Australia’s Coral Coast at Ningaloo Reef. Whale sharks – the biggest fish in the world – visit between March and July, and you can swim with humpback whales from late June to mid-October. Tours operate from both Coral Bay and Exmouth. You can also explore the reef on a glass-bottom boat tour, and see rare turtles, pods of dolphins and vibrant tropical fish.

6. Sailing on Sydney Harbour, NSW

Sailing on Sydney Harbour. Image Destination NSW
Sailing on Sydney Harbour. Image: Destination NSW

It may seem like a pursuit just for the rich and famous, but a day boating on Sydney Harbour doesn’t have to be! Get a group of friends and family together and charter a boat to spend a day exploring the Harbour’s hidden coves. Karisma Cruises is particularly fun for kids, with a selection of inflatables to play on, including an island raft, a lily pad, and a floating dock. Sydney Harbour Luxe Charters also has a range of water toys and can tailor a day out to suit the family’s brief.

7. Fly over Kakadu, Northern Territory

Take a scenic helicopter flight over Kakadu National Park - luxury family travel ideas in Australia
Take a scenic helicopter flight over Kakadu National Park. Image: Tourism NT Shaana McNaught

There’s no better way to take in Kakadu’s dramatic scenery than from above, so make sure you include a tour with Kakadu Air Services in your Top End itinerary! They offer charter flights, 30-minute flights and 60-minute flights. Sunset is a particularly beautiful time to see the spectacular gorges and waterfalls – with the latter even more impressive during the wet season, from November to April.

8. Cruise to Wineglass Bay, Tasmania

See Wineglass Bay from the water with Wineglass Bay Cruises. Image Tourism Tasmania
See Wineglass Bay from the water with Wineglass Bay Cruises. Image: Tourism Tasmania

It consistently appears on lists of the world’s best beaches, so a visit to Wineglass Bay is a must for your Tasmania itinerary. Wineglass Bay Cruises offers a 4½ hour tour of the waterways surrounding Freycinet National Park, from Coles Bay to Wineglass Bay, on the state’s east coast. Soak in the stunning granite cliffs, sea caves and blowholes, and see lesser-known white sand beaches, including Cooks and Bryans beaches, which are only accessible by water or a full-day bushwalk. Spot little penguins and short tailed shearwaters whilst exploring the inner passage of remote Schouten Island, before heading into the Tasman Sea towards Wineglass Bay. It’s also an educational experience, learning about the area’s Indigenous history and tales of early explorers and entrepreneurs.

Book a sightseeing cruise from Coles Bay to Wineglass Bay HERE

9. Hot air balloon ride over Canberra, ACT

Fly over Canberra in a hot air balloon. Image VisitCanberra
Fly over Canberra in a hot air balloon. Image: VisitCanberra

Soar over Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin on a magnificent sunrise hot air balloon ride with Balloons Aloft. All flights are conducted by CASA-approved pilots, and last between 45 minutes and an hour. The experience is available for families with kids aged six and over. The Canberra Balloon Spectacular, which will be held from 12-20 March in 2022, is a great time to do it, with balloonists from around Australia flying over the nation’s capital each morning.

10. Scenic flight over the Gold Coast, Queensland

Enjoy luxury family travel through a scenic flight over the Gold Coast with Sea World Helicopters. Image Village Roadshow Theme Parks
Enjoy a scenic flight over the Gold Coast with Sea World Helicopters. Image: Village Roadshow Theme Parks

Fly over the Gold Coast’s famous beaches on a scenic helicopter flight with Sea World Helicopters. There are several packages to choose from, ranging from a 10-minute coastal city experience to the 20-minute Family Package – Southern Gold Coast to Stradbroke Island. The latter begins by climbing over the Broadwater before crossing over the golden sands of Main Beach. Once the helicopter reaches the coastline, you will begin your journey south, flying over towering high-rises. You will then fly inland and see Mt Tamborine, Springbrook National Park and the rest of the Gold Coast hinterland in the distance. Then head further south before turning around over Gold Coast Airport, taking in views of Point Danger and Coolangatta. The journey back will showcase Currumbin Creek, Elephant Rocks, Tallebudgera Creek, Burleigh Heads National Park, the Q1 and Porpoise Point. For the final leg, you will fly over South Stradbroke Island and descend over the Broadwater.

11. Hiking at Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

Adventurous families can go hiking at Cradle Mountain. Image Tourism Tasmania John L Coombes Photography
Adventurous families can go hiking at Cradle Mountain. Image: Tourism Tasmania John L Coombes Photography

Intrepid families can have a bonding experience like no other, trekking through the Tasmanian wilderness to the summit of one of the state’s tallest mountains. The three-day Cradle Mountain Family Adventure, for families with children aged eight and older, begins with a visit to the Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary to see Tasmanian devils and other native animals, followed by a trip to see the limestone caves of the Mole Creek Karst National Park. Then it’s on to the Cradle Mountain National Park high country, where you’ll have a number of walks to choose from over the next two days. Before heading back to Launceston, visit Tasmazia, which is home to eight fun mazes.

12. Stay at Tanja Lagoon Camp on the Sapphire Coast, NSW

The family tent at Tanja Lagoon Camp. Image Kit Goldsworthy
The family tent at Tanja Lagoon Camp. Image: Kit Goldsworthy

Hidden within the ancient forests of Mimosa Rocks National Park just north of Tathra, Tanja Lagoon Camp’s luxury safari tent accommodation provides an amazing nature stay for families with children aged three and over. The family tent, Buru, is located away from the other tents and the layout inside allows for up to three bush swags to be rolled out on the floor – or even on the deck under the stars! All tents offer views across a private coastal lagoon, with canoes available for guest use. There is also a private walking track to the nearby beach.

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