With the release of half-price flights in Australia starting from April 1, the obvious question is, where should we go for our next family holiday and what should we do when we get there? Thankfully, Queensland has all the answers you need!
For Victorians, there are 50% discounted flights from Melbourne to three Queensland destinations including Gold Coast, Cairns and Sunshine Coast. Travelers departing from Sydney can add the spectacular Whitsundays to these three havens thanks to low-priced flights to Hamilton Island and Proserpine Airports.
So, Australian families itching for a Queensland holiday bathed in sunshine, clear your diaries, tap into those ticket savings, and use our guide to Queensland’s best family holidays to plan your next holiday. Queensland awaits with open arms.
SYDNEY/MELBOURNE TO CAIRNS AND GREAT BARRIER REEF
There’s no denying it, Cairns is like a foreign country in the winter months. There’s the balmy climate, a rainforest that’s said to have inspired the hit movie Avatar, and the biggest reef system in the world. Bed down at the all-new Flynn Hotel overlooking The Esplanade and make a plan on where to go and what to do around Cairns.
At Rainforestation in Kuranda, kids can tour an Aussie wildlife park then join the Pamagirri Mini Mob to gain an insight into the culture of Australia’s First Nation. Costing $45 per child, the experience includes a didgeridoo lesson, a didgeridoo painting session, and a Pamagirri Rainforest Walkabout tour. The experience bumps into the park’s Dance Show extending the fun to almost three hours.
For a family trip to the outer Great Barrier Reef, choose Reef Magic Cruises and take a moment to consider a day in the life of Eric Fisher. A Master Reef Guide and phD student passionate about teaching the next generation about the Reef, some days Eric can be seen shepherding kids around the massive Marine World platform which comes with eagle-eyed lifeguards and a lot of stability for little ones yet to find their sea legs.
If the family is not up for a long boat trip, sign up for Big Cat’s re-engineered glass bottom boat that cruises around Green Island. The boat’s massive windows offer little ones big coral views. Elsewise, stick to Terra Firma and visit the marvelous Cairns Aquarium. Here mini Attenboroughs can look into deep reef lagoons, without getting wet, and as captivating guides tell the story of the reef.
Get airborne on the Atherton Tablelands and sign up for Hot Air Balloon Cairns for a dawn float over high country west of Cairns. Down at ground level, see the world’s oldest rainforest by joining Nicholas and Annemaree Haley from Daintree Safaris for one of their off-the-beaten-track tours through the Daintree Rainforest. Who knows, you may just get to spot a cantankerous cassowary.
Back in the heart of Cairns, take time to uncover some funky laneway art, hidden bars, and cafes with a conscience with Cairns Urban Walking Tours, Georgia Babatsikos also hosts food-lover tours to Rusty’s Markets and a Cairns history tour.
SYDNEY/MELBOURNE TO GOLD COAST
No matter the age of your kids, a Gold Coast theme park is a no brainer. Dreamworld offers rides to for practically every member of the family from the joys of ABC World and LEGO Land through to the white knuckle Tail Spin. Even Sea World has upped the thrill level launching Vortex, a colossal new ride that twists, turns and then spirals 18 metres back to sea level in their new Atlantis precinct.
But if super-sized fun is what the family wants, then set sights on whale watching. Both Sea World Cruises and Spirit of the Gold Coast Whale Watching are gearing up for the annual humpback migration and a chance to view some of the 20,000 majestic creatures as they breach offshore and in front of a spectacular Gold Coast skyline.
The Gold Coast may seem like a paradise of ever modern, ever reaching, ever sparkling skyscrapers all clamouring for front row seats to the beach, like Xanadu Main Beach Resort, however beneath this new city of 600,000 residents, the country has always been home to eight different tribal groups connected by the one Yugembeh language. Take a two-hour walking tour around the iconic Burleigh Headland with Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre to understand the first history and culture of the region.
Alternately, take the story teller’s hand and join Spirits of the Red Sand at night. This roving theatre show re-enacts a series of true and sometimes gritty events from early settler history and is told through the eyes of descendants of the land. Sit down to a hearty chargrilled buffet after the show to chat with the cast and crew of this powerful experience. Book online and receive 25% off a family pass.
Get back to the Gold Coast’s aquatic roots and join a number of small group tours to either kayak, SUP, Surf, Jetboat or Jetski one its many waterways. The most tranquil activity may be a paddle across the Broadwater on a Half Day Dolphin and Stradbroke Island with Australian Kayaking Adventures, or by paddling a SUP board with Go Vertical on the Nerang River’s tranquil waters. Explore the Broadwater at your own pace with HOPO – the hop on, hop off ferry – or board the Aquaduck for a land and sea adventure all on the one vessel to get the best of both worlds. But the crowd favourite for thrill-seeking families is a toss up between a Paradise Jet Boating tour where you’ll blast along the Broadwater whipping up figure eights, and a Jet Ski Safari Tour and the chance to blast along the untamed mangrove estuaries and sub-tropical shores of south Stradbroke Island. Leaving Surfers Paradise, this is a self-drive escape and no experience or licence is necessary.
SYDNEY/MELBOURNE TO SUNSHINE COAST
Roll up the beach towel and spend the savings from the 50% discounted flights to explore the other side of the Sunshine Coast. Inland from the buzzing coastline are dozens of tiny hilltop villages, waterways and rolling pastures that fuel the region’s fresh produce.
Get off the bitumen and push the family road trip boundaries with a Great Beach Drive Tour. The 4WD tour travels across a pristine sandy highway between Noosa and Rainbow Beach, stopping at the world-famous Coloured Sands. Here, you’ll get an insight into how the Gubbi Gubbi people used some of the 40 different shades of sand to create artwork.
Speaking of Gubbi Gubbi people, over at Saltwater Eco Cruise budding sailors of all ages can feel the grit of a 100-year old timber ketch underfoot, as a master storyteller narrates the punchline to a 10,000-year old creation story. The two-hour sailing trip offers laid back fun and dreamy views of the mansions that line one of Mooloolaba’s most popular waterways.
For a dose of calming nature, head to the Noosa Everglades, Australia’s only Everglades system and one of only two in the world (the other being in Florida). Take an overnight adventure and paddle over slow-moving waterways and tropical mangroves with Kanu Capers to camp out in the Great Sandy National Park. Both Kanu Capers and Everglades Eco Safari also offer half-day tours through this pristine wilderness.
SYDNEY TO THE WHITSUNDAYS
Noted for its calm seas and 74 dreamy island wonders, a trip to the Whitsundays could be just the tonic to get over the 2020 blues. Fly to either Hamilton Island or Proserpine Airport for easy access to the best of the Whitsundays attractions.
Immerse the kids in a buccaneer style outing with the lure of Derwent Hunter’s Eco Pirate certificate, earned when kids help the captain steer the vessel or hoist the sails. Built in 1946, the Derwent Hunter is a 22m timber Tall Ship and the last Australian vessel built to work by sail.
If kids are going through a “wild” phase, then set your sights on the Whitsunday Crocodile Safari to get up close to crocodiles and other native animals in their natural habitat on Proserpine River. Jump on board an open wagon train and then cruise the estuaries and wetlands looking for “Boofhead” and his pre-historic estuarine mates. The full day tour includes a barbecue lunch washed down by Billy Tea and fresh cooked damper.
When it comes to out-of-the box poetic places to stay, you can’t go past Reef Sleep, an overnight adventure that culminates in a cosy camp 80km out at sea. Venture out with Cruise Whitsundays for a day of reef adventures, then hang back overnight (with a dozen or so other couples) as the sun sets on the Coral Sea. Each of the tents are scaled for romance with Queen-sized beds and canopies that open to the remote night sky.
Calling all seafaring adventurers, Salty Dog offers the best sea-kayaking adventures in Australia including half day, full day or six- day expeditions over this idyllic playground. The emphasis is on combining fun with paddle power and the chance to trek some of the lesser-known islands.
If the notion of getting “shipwrecked” on Whitehaven Beach’s pure white silica sand pushes your adventure buttons, then baton down the hatches for Summertime, a charming timber ketch handcrafted in 1945, and carrying enough kayaks on board to allow all 16 passengers tackle a blue-water safari. The beautifully restored ketch adds old time charm and appeals to younger adventurers.
To really get into the heart of the Whitsundays, explore the Ngaro Sea Trail with a direct descendent of the Ngaro people. The Whitsunday Paradise Explorer’s new Cultural Tour visits significant sites at South Molle, Whitsunday and Hook Islands and walks the trails of the Ngaro People who lived on the land for more 9,000 years.