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Best holidays in Australia for dads

From the confines of Sydney lockdown, BEN GROUNDWATER uncovers the best holidays in Australia for dads to love

A father and son at Fontanini Fruit and Nut Farm in Margaret River. Image Tourism Western Australia
A father and son at Fontanini Fruit and Nut Farm in Margaret River. Image: Tourism Western Australia

It wasn’t meant to be like this. I was supposed to be swanning around Australia with my young family these last few months, having adventures and making memories. Instead, I’ve been stuck in lockdown, as so many of us have during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This time indoors has, however, provided the chance to do many things: get acquainted with local take-away joints; learn entire episodes of Bluey off by heart; figure out how to put a trampoline together and, most of all, to dream – because I can’t wait to go travelling again, particularly to a destination that offers a little something for everyone, for dads (and mums) and kids alike.

Whatever your point of passion is, there’s a family-friendly holiday destination to suit you. Now for the chance to get there.

For dads who love… surfing

Pacific Palms, NSW

A surfer at Blueys Beach at Pacific Palms. Image Destination NSW
A surfer at Blueys Beach at Pacific Palms. Image: Destination NSW

Yes, there are innumerable surfing destinations on every coastline of this wonderful country, however, not all of them are family-friendly. If you’re hoping to catch a wave while also keeping the kids happy – and maybe having a surf themselves – then you want to head to the Pacific Palms area on the NSW Barrington Coast. Not only are the beaches here, including Blueys, Elizabeth, and Boomerang, stunningly beautiful, there’s also plenty of awesome holiday homes available to rent, as well as Blueys Motel, which has a barbecue and a pool to hang out at. There’s usually the chance for dads to enjoy a decent swell, before heading out with the kids on much smaller beach breaks.

For dads who love… a drink

Margaret River, Western Australia

Colonial Brewing Co in Margaret River
Colonial Brewing Co in Margaret River

As I’ve learned the hard way with my young family, dragging your kids to winery after winery, or microbrewery after microbrewery, really doesn’t work. It’s not a good time for anyone. Instead, you need to space out these visits with other attractions and ensure the venues you do select know how to cater to families. To that end, may I suggest: Margaret River. Not only do you get a gorgeous location with plenty of non-drinking activities, from beach hangs to river kayaking to town strolling and more, but you also have a host of world-class wineries and microbreweries that cater to kids. Check out Swings & Roundabouts, which has a wooden fort and play area; Leeuwin Estate, with games on the lawn; Aravina Estate, with swings and slides. And then you have the microbreweries: Cheeky Monkey, with playground on-site; Colonial Brewing Co., with another huge playground and a golf driving range; Brewhouse Margaret River with, yet again, a huge play area and a great kids’ menu. This is the stuff upon which holiday dreams are made.

For dads who love… hiking and biking

Thredbo, NSW

Hike to Mt Kosciuszko for the ultimate family adventure. Image Thredbo 1
Hike to Mt Kosciuszko for the ultimate family adventure. Image: Thredbo 1

How often can you say you’ve taken the kids to the highest point on an entire continent? Australia is pretty much the only place you can do it – unless your kids are hardcore mountaineers – so why not make the most of that with a trip to Thredbo in the summer? Although it’s known predominantly as a winter destination, Thredbo has plenty to offer in the warmer months, perhaps even more so for families looking for active adventure.

There’s the chance to hike up Australia’s highest mountain, a surprisingly relaxed five-hour return journey from the top of Thredbo’s Kosciuszko Express chairlift. There are also plenty of gentler walks, plus the chance to go mountain biking, either on family-friendly trails or roaring down serious single-trackers. And Thredbo village is a great place to hang out.

For dads who love… fishing

Cairns, Queensland

Here’s the deal: you want to bag a big fish while you’re on your holidays, but you also recognise that the rest of the family might find that pursuit eye-wateringly boring. So, what do you do? My advice would be to head to Cairns, where there’s plenty for everyone in your family, regardless of their preferences – and there’s also the opportunity to bag a massive marlin. Cairns is the black marlin capital of the world, the ideal spot to bag a seriously big fish from about September to December. It’s also a great place to go snorkelling on the reef, to play in the Cairns lagoon, to go white water rafting on the Tully River, or just hang out at a resort.

For dads who love… golf

Gold Coast, Queensland

Play golf at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast
Play golf at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast

Golf is a little like fishing, in that it’s extremely enjoyable for those participating, and on par with the drying of paint for everyone else. So, if you want to play a round or two on your next holiday, make sure there’s something for the rest of the family to do at the same time. For that reason, the perfect destination might just be the Gold Coast. The Goldie, obviously, is home to some high-quality golf courses like Royal Pines, Sanctuary Cove and Palm Meadows. It’s also home to Dreamworld, Movie World, and family-friendly resorts including Paradise Resort Gold Coast and BIG4 Gold Coast Holiday Park.

For dads who love… relaxation

Hamilton Island, Queensland

A man taking in the view from Passage Peak on Hamilton Island. Image Destination NSW
A man taking in the view from Passage Peak on Hamilton Island. Image: Destination NSW

There’s a tendency to want to do “stuff” when you go on holidays, to plan activities and visit attractions, but sometimes the best thing to do is… nothing. Just take it easy. And for those to whom that appeals, while being assured that the rest of the family has something to do, your destination is Hamilton Island. Here is a place with a whole heap of accommodation options to suit families, activities galore for kids (including a kids’ club), and the chance to go snorkelling or sailing or sunset cruising with everyone involved. And, of course, this is also the place to just lie by the pool and chill.

For dads who love… food

South Australia

Love to eat? Of course you do, so, it seems reasonable that your next family holiday will involve some tasty cuisine. And the place to do that: Adelaide. This is Australia’s surprise gastronomic heartland, a city with the best market in the country (Adelaide Central Market), as well as easy access to three of our finest wine and food regions in the Barossa, Adelaide Hills, and McLaren Vale. The Adelaide Hills Kids’ Food Trail is an educational adventure that starts with fruit-picking, then moves on to cheese, chocolate, organic markets and more. And, of course, if you have to call into, say, Lost in a Forest, for a wood-fired pizza and a glass of wine, so be it.

For dads who love… culture

Canberra, ACT

Ride around Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra. Image jinkyart.com .au
Ride around Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra. Image: jinkyart.com .au

Maybe you prefer an art gallery or science museum or historical monument. Friends: Canberra has you covered. Our nation’s capital is the ideal spot to soak up culture while also keeping the kids entertained. Here you’ve got Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre, which kids go bananas for. You have the National Dinosaur Museum. You have the chance to cycle around Lake Burley Griffin, visit the National Zoo and Aquarium, and much more. And then of course there’s the National Gallery of Australia, the Australian War Memorial, Parliament House… Is that enough? It probably is.

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