You won’t believe some of the cool and quirky, family-friendly accommodations you can sleep over in Australia. Go beyond hotels, resorts, and holiday parks and try something a little different for your next family holiday … here are Australia’s most quirky accommodation options
1. Sleep on a heritage train
Dunsborough Rail Carriages and Farm Cottages, Margaret River region, WA
This 40ha farm is just 2kms from Australia’s western coast, and about 2.5 hours southwest from Perth. From the verandah of your lovingly restored, historic, jarrah rail carriage (with kitchenette and en suite and all mod cons), you can watch kangaroos and native birds, wander around and collect fresh eggs, paddle in the creek and explore the bush, and white sandy beaches are just a few minutes drive away! The carriages suit small families, with a queen bed and a double sofa bed, and dogs are welcome too!
For more railway-themed adventures, drive 25 minutes east to the Busselton Jetty. You can catch a train nearly 2kms out to sea on the southern hemisphere’s longest timber jetty and, while you’re there, descend the stairs to the underwater observatory for a close-up encounter with vibrant fish and coral!
Madison's Mountain Retreat, Blue Mountains, NSW
This alpaca farmstay borders the Wollemi and Blue Mountains National Parks in Kurrajong Heights, just over an hour northwest of Sydney, and Madison’s two, self-contained, air-conditioned ex-railway carriages can each sleep up to 5 people. There’s also a heated pool and spa and, of course, alpacas! (Madison’s is pet friendly too!)
Enjoy the mountain air and wildlife on a private trail, and in the national parks next door, or at the nearby Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens. Head out on a Garden Safari, including hands-on activities, while you marvel at the sweeping views!
Quirky Cottages, Coochiemudlo Island, QLD
A 10-minute ferry ride from Victoria Point (45 minutes southeast of Brisbane) brings you to “Coochie” where you can choose between two fun and colourful carriages: Jeannie’s Carriage or Barbie and Ken’s Carriage! Inside, the kids will be tickled pink discovering the toys, dress-ups, DVDs, and books. Outside, mango and lychee trees shade a playground (including a fun Kombi van cubby).
The island also has 4kms of beautiful, safe beaches – explore them all from a hired paddleboat or tinny.
2. Wake up to a water park
Paradise Resort, Gold Coast, QLD
In Paradise Resort even the busiest children are hard-pressed to exhaust all the fun on the menu. They’ll probably go for the water park first, with two aqua playgrounds (one for littlies), a paddling pool, lagoon pool and 9m-high slide. But then it might be tough choosing between the ice rink, rock climbing wall, laser tag, outdoor playground, and kids club.
There’s a variety of rooms, including family rooms that let everyone stay close but keep their space. Some even have brightly coloured bunk beds and Xbox.
BIG4 North Star Holiday Resort and Caravan Park, Hastings Point, Tweed Coast, NSW
Half an hour from Gold Coast airport, this resort is a dream for active kids. On hot days, they’ll be in the two-storey-high water playground with four waterslides, a wading pool, and Australia’s first water piano! On dry land, there’s an indoor playground (plus ball pit), a shaded outdoor playground, and a free kids club on weekends and school holidays.
You can head out from the resort on your scooters, bikes and strollers along 10km of safe beachfront footpath, or take the family fishing, canoeing or kayaking in the creek and estuary. From June to November, watch out for whales cruising past.
Accommodation ranges from camping sites to 4.5-star villas, catering for groups of up to 12.
Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort and Aqua Fun Park, Twin Waters, QLD
An hour north of Brisbane (5km from Sunshine Coast airport), this beachfront resort is set among 36ha of bushland surrounding a private lagoon.
The natural setting provides for a huge program of organised activities, from fish feeding to frisbee; sailing lessons to sand art. You can tour the resort and beaches by segway or hire a stand-up paddleboard or kayak to paddle at your own pace.
But the biggest attraction onsite is the Aqua Fun Park. Picture a playground floating on a lagoon – inflatable slides, runways, and soft pillows for clambering, running, and jumping on (and off). Life jackets keep little ones safe.
3. Nod off in a natural wildlife sanctuary
The Canopy Treehouses, Atherton Tableland, QLD
Travel 90 minutes southwest from Cairns and climb about 700m above sea level to an ancient rainforest canopy, on the banks of the Ithaca River, that hides six self-contained luxury two, and three, bedroom glass and timber treehouses!
From your lounge room high in the trees of this eco rainforest resort, you might even spot brushtail possums and bright red and green king parrots. Meander along the paths below looking for cassowaries, platypus, rare tree kangaroos, and endangered green possums.
Just 15 minutes down the road, marvel at the spectacular Millaa Millaa waterfalls – perhaps the most photographed falls in Australia – and swim in the safe waterhole underneath.
Hanson Bay Cabins, Kangaroo Island, SA
Kangaroo Island is known for its untouched wilderness and these cabins make the most of it. There are six self-contained cabins (most with two bedrooms) just 100m from a safe swimming beach at Hanson Bay.
Kids can get a natural workout by poking around historical ruins, clambering over rocky cliffs, sandboarding down dunes and sprinting along pristine beaches.
You can take the Koala Walk to see koalas in their natural environment, and there are plenty of wallabies, kangaroos, bats, echidnas, and birdlife in the area. Guided night tours let you check out the many animals that party when others sleep!
From Adelaide, Kangaroo Island is a 30-minute flight, or a two-hour drive plus ferry ride.
Girraween Environmental Lodge, Ballandean, QLD
Set in 162ha of private bushland, and surrounded by the Granite Belt’s Girraween National Park, you only need to step out of your recycled-timber chalet to set off on an extraordinary bushwalk!
Girraween means ‘place of flowers’ but, along with wildflowers, there are also striking granite formations, balancing boulders, and swimming holes to enjoy.
Refuel at the Chocolate Shop (two minutes drive from the Lodge), or head to Sutton’s Farm, around 30 minutes drive, where you can pick fresh fruit and sample the most flavoursome apples you’ve ever tasted! Many of the boutique wineries dotted throughout the area also welcome families.
As far as old-fashioned road trips go, the three-hour drive back to Brisbane or the Gold Coast is a pleasure. Pass grazing cows and colourful crops, and stop at a country bakery for morning tea.