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The BEST Family Travel Trends in Australia for 2023

From haycations to regenerative travel, ANGELA SAURINE reveals how the way families holiday is changing

Boy and girl staying and hugging singing songs waving hands playing the ape on haystack in field
Boy and girl staying and hugging singing songs waving hands playing the ape on haystack in field

Regenerative travel

Asian little girl and parent planting young tree on black soil together as save world concept
Little girl and parent planting young tree on black soil together as save world concept

This new buzz term is an extension of sustainable tourism, which aims to minimise the negative impacts of tourism such as damage to the environment and overcrowding and maximise the positive ones, such as job creation and the preservation of culture. It means not just leaving no footprints, but helping improve the places we visit, with experiences that go beyond a typical holiday. It may include taking part in voluntourism activities such as beach clean ups in Fiji, helping plant trees in the Hawaiian Islands, or becoming a marine biologist for the day on a Passions of Paradise cruise on the Great Barrier Reef.

Haycations

Strawberry picking at Coal River Farm
Strawberry picking at Coal River Farm

Agritourism has become another buzz word, with families embracing experiential travel experiences that connect people to products and produce in regional areas. With Aussies more aware than ever of where their food comes thanks to empty supermarket shelves in the wake of the devastating 2022 floods and COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a great way to educate kids and have a bit of fun at the same time. Think collecting eggs for breakfast and feeding pigs at a farm stay or picking fresh berries at a fruit farm on the outskirts of the city.

eBiking holidays

The Lake Wendouree Loop Ride in Ballarat
The Lake Wendouree Loop Ride in Ballarat

There’s never been a better time to jump on a bike, with new options popping all over Australia and the world – and the growth in eBikes making it easier than ever before to do it with kids! From the 10km round-trip Lake Wendouree Loop Ride in Ballarat to the first stage of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail – set to open in the Tweed in March 2023 – there’s plenty of places for families to bond on two wheels. According to Rail Trails Australia, there’s nearly 150 shared paths on old train tracks across the country, with more than 50 more on the way. Many are also being extended, including the Great Southern Rail Trail in Victoria, which will become the second longest in Australia after the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.

Survival experiences

The Bear Grylls Survival Academy at NRMA Parks and Resorts
The Bear Grylls Survival Academy at NRMA Parks and Resorts

Interest in survival TV shows like Man vs. Wild and Running Wild with Bear Grylls shows no sign of abating, and it’s leading to a desire for ordinary people to try similar experiences. The Bear Grylls Survival Academy – introduced at NRMA holiday parks in 2022 – has proven popular, with families rushing to learn how to light fires in the bush, hide to survive, and craft and throw spears to ‘capture’ food. The SHIPWRECKED experience is available at Ocean Beach Holiday Resort on the NSW Central Coast, South West Rocks and Darlington Beach Holiday Resorts on the mid-north coast, Treasure Island Holiday Resort on the Gold Coast and Halls Gap Holiday Resort in Victoria.

Cruising

The Carnival Splendor cruise ship
The Carnival Splendor cruise ship

With the high cost of flights and pent-up demand in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, cruising is set to be bigger than ever for families. And there’s lots of exciting things happening in the space, with Carnival Luminosa joining Carnival Cruise Line’s fleet and Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder coming to Australia from October 2023. An abundance of family-friendly activities and restaurants, kids’ clubs and even waterslides mean cruise holidays are not only great fun, they are also excellent value at a time of rising interest rates and soaring inflation. 

Holiday parks

BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort 1
Aerial view of the BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort

Did you or someone you know buy a campervan during the pandemic? You’re not alone, with more than 40,000 camper trailers, caravans and motorhomes entering the Australian market in 2021, according to data from the Caravan Industry Association of Australia. Needless to say, that’s a record — and it means there’s a lot of families out there hitting the road and staying in holiday parks around the country. And with everything from gigantic water parks at places like BIG4 Gold Coast Holiday Park to autism sensory rooms at BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort, it’s fair to say the kids are having he time of their lives.

Book your stay at BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort

Retro motels

A kombi van parked outside Blueys Motel at Blueys Beach
A kombi van parked outside Blueys Motel at Blueys Beach

Maybe we can blame it on Mum and Dad bingeing Schitt’s Creek – the hilarious Canadian sitcom set in an old-school motel – after the kids went to bed during COVID-19 lockdowns, but retro motels are back, baby! There seems to be a newly refurbished motel opening every five minutes, with family-friendly options such as Blue Water Motel at Kingscliff, The Sunseeker in Byron Bay and Blueys Motel at Blueys Beach on the NSW North Coast. For a bit of novelty nostalgia, kids will especially love Kyneton Springs Hotel in Victoria, which has even gone so far as reviving the breakfast hatch!
Book your stay at Blueys Motel now!

Nostalgic beach holidays

A family playing cricket on the beach in Hervey Bay
A family playing cricket on the beach in Hervey Bay. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

After back-to-back La Niña’s there’s one thing Aussie families are seeking more than anything else – sunshine! As a result, beach holidays are booming, with coastal towns seeming more crowded (or overcrowded!) than ever during school holidays. Cost of living pressures and the eyewatering price of international flights are also contributing to the trend, with domestic holidays de rigueur. Many parents are taking the opportunity to return to their favourite holiday playgrounds of their childhood to enjoy the simple pleasures of building sandcastles, beach cricket and barbies.

Family adventure travel

A family tour on the Mekong River in Laos with World Expeditions
A family tour on the Mekong River in Laos with World Expeditions

Australian adventure travel companies are reporting a huge amount of in interest in family travel. Intrepid spokeswoman Sarah Anderson said the company, which offers family tours everywhere from Peru to Egypt, was expecting to hit pre-pandemic booking numbers for family travel this year. While Bali and Vietnam were the top destinations, interest in Borneo and South Africa was growing. World Expeditions has seen a 67 per cent increase in search and visitation to the family adventure travel pages on its website in the past year. The greatest interest was in its Larapinta Trek Family Adventure in the Northern Territory. Its other family destinations include Vietnam, Laos and Nepal.

Festivals and events

A girl dancing at the Toyota Tamworth Country Music Festival
A girl dancing at the Toyota Tamworth Country Music Festival

Avoiding crowds was the name of the game for so long, now that we are allowed to mingle again, we are getting out and amongst it! Events like the recent Tamworth Country Music Festival are appealing to families with everything from free kids’ concerts to carnival rides and rodeos. And we are relishing soaking up the atmosphere and vibe of such festivals like never before! Other big events to look out for include Vivid Sydney, the Brisbane Festival and the Canberra Balloon Spectacular.

Airport hotels

The lobby at Rydges Gold Coast Airport Hotel
The lobby at Rydges Gold Coast Airport Hotel

With nightmarish queues at airports during peak periods and regular flight changes in the post-COVID world (which might see you bumped to a flight that leaves at the crack of dawn!), it’s no wonder airport hotels have surged in popularity, especially with families who need the convenience more than anyone. And while there may be a perception that airport hotels are boring many, such as Rydges Gold Coast Airport Hotel, are surprisingly cool, with everything from fun surf décor to a cool rooftop restaurant and bar with a great vibe. I mean, everyone who’s there is excited to be travelling again, right?  

Book your stay at Rydges Gold Coast Airport

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