Australia is a country that our family truly enjoys travelling to - and I am not saying that just because this is a sponsored post - because I, for one, simply love the climate and the carefree road trips. In fact, we have been on holidays to different parts of Australia four times ever since Ash was born!
One particular city we love is Sydney, which is the epitome of all things cool. We last visited Sydney in 2010 and we love the fact that it has something that appeals to everyone big & small, from the museums & iconic structures to the bazaars & malls.
Sydney IS Australia’s events capital with plenty of entertainment on throughout the year. And one such event doesn't come any bigger than Vivid Sydney (24 May - 10 June 2013) which features light spectaculars, music performances at Sydney Opera House and an ideas exchange. We experienced it in 2010 and the boys totally enjoyed the lit-up buildings and fringe activities. For a full listing of the events and performances, do check out sydney.com
If you are travelling with kids, then Darling Harbour is the place to be. Brimming with world‐class attractions, it is Sydney’s best attractions all packed into one location. Want to view Australia animals? The SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium boasts the world’s largest collection of all-Australian aquatic life, showcasing more than 12,000 aquatic animals from 650 species in spectacular habitat displays, while the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo boasts wombats, possums, kookaburra, kangaroos, koalas and lots of creepy crawlies and other native Australian animals in their habitats.
A trip to Madame Tussauds will definitely illicit loads of fun for kids of all ages as they get up close and personal with over 70 of the world's iconic celebrities and movie stars - all in waxed perfection. Or visit the Powerhouse Museum which houses more than 250 fun-packed exhibits that feature an assembly of technical, scientific and industrial wizardry. Over at Cockle Bay Wharf and King Street Wharf, adults will have their own kind of fun soaking in the ambience at the excellent bars and restaurants, in the presence of soothing harbourside views.
One thing that I love about Sydney is the museums! They are just so visually stunning & informative, and the best part is that they make it so FUN to go to. If you have only time to bring your kids to one museum in Sydney, the Australian Museum is it. Kids under 5 years old have their very own play area - Kidspace, where not only are there role playing sets and books, the highlight has to be the many play pods with different exploration themes. Coupled with the brilliant Dinosaurs and other natural history collections, this museum had my boys raving about it even right till today.
But don't just confine your family fun to the city of Sydney. There are tons of kids-friendly activities to be experienced too beyond Sydney, with Blue Mountains being one of them.
Situated within a World Heritage area, the Blue Mountains is truly a breathtaking destination, perfect for exploring the best nature has to offer. Choose from the many activities like nature walks, Jenolan Caves exploration, Toy & Railway Museum, Scenic World Skyway cable car ride, and not one member of the family will be bored. For my boys, the best memory of the Blue Mountains that they have is that of the Three Sisters rock formation, perhaps due to the fact that they were expecting to see 3 ladies instead! But they were greatly intrigued by the legend behind it, and also the geological reason that caused such a formation. It can get real cold up there though, so reward yourself with a steaming hot chocolate after that!
And if you are heading there during the June holidays, you may want to time it to coincide with one of Blue Mountains' biggest annual events - the Winter Magic Festival in Katoomba, which is happening on 22 June this year. There will be a grand parade, performances, shows and a giant flea market for everyone to enjoy. We definitely enjoyed it the last time when we were there!
Just 2 hours from Sydney lies Hunter Valley, a getaway which offers fine wines, gourmet fare, luxury accommodation and stunning scenery. For the kids though, the Hunter Valley Gardens is a must-go. Spreading over 60 acres, it houses 10 stunning gardens but the one garden which kids will absolutely love is the Storybook Garden. Featuring nursery rhyme characters like Humpty Dumpty, Jack & Jill, Alice in Wonderland, Little Bo Peep, our 2 boys enjoyed posing with their favourite characters while reciting the rhymes at the same time. As for us, we found it incredibly soothing to wander through the picturesque themed landscapes and just let the children run wild in the vast green space.
Or if spotting dolphins is what you prefer, head down to Port Stephens, the so-called dolphin capital of Australia. Being home to around 150 bottlenose dolphins, you're almost guaranteed to see these playful animals when you take a dolphin-watch cruise. Kids can also hand feed baby lambs, goats, kangaroos at Oakvale Farm & Fauna for a more intimate experience. For the more adventurous, one can tackle the Stockton Beach sand dunes (south of Port Stephens) on dune buggies and quad bike safaris!
One place that we have yet to visit at New South Wales is the Grand Pacific Drive along the South Coast. We didn't have time to factor it into our itinerary the last time but I have read all about the spectacular sea views enroute to Wollongong, followed by a picnic at Kiama and rounding up the perfect day at the pristine white beaches of Jervis Bay.
Besides Sydney, Brisbane & Gold Coast is another destination our family adores as well. Hmmm... come to think of it, Gold Coast was part of our itinerary during our last three visits! Not that it should come as a surprise, considering that Queensland is blessed with year-end round sunshine and a mild winter which makes it a cool getaway especially from April to July with day time temperature ranging from 20-22°C.
And if you are heading down to Brisbane, there are two experiences that will be sure to delight everyone in the family - Hand-feeding Dolphins at Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort and a Farm Stay at Lillydale Farmstay.
Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort on Moreton Island, which is just 75 minutes by catamaran from Brisbane, is where one will get to hand-feed wild bottlenose dolphins. Every evening at around 6.30pm, these dolphins swim up near the beach of Moreton Island for a feeding session. And guests of the resort are given a chance to feed them fishes, which we did in 2009.
And the boys loved it! Though I have to say the waters were freezing then. Another fave activity of ours at Tangalooma is the 4WD sand safari adventure which took us through the bushes and to the edge of a huge sand blow. But that wasn't the clincher - we then climbed up a 70-metre high sand dune and plummeted down at top speed on makeshift toboggans!
VERY VERY FUN, and definitely an experience not to be missed! You can read more about our adventures at Tangalooma HERE (Dolphin Feeding) and HERE (Sand Tobogganing).
Lillydale Farmstay, on the other hand, offers a different kind of experience for kids and families alike. Nestled in the foothills of South East Queensland, this authentic agri-cattle property offers fun farm holidays for kids and families alike.
One of the highlight of a farm stay at Lillydale is the daily feeding activities that guests can partake in for free. Everyday at 8.30am and 4pm, guests would be able to follow Farmer Doug, a fifth generation farmer in the family, on his animal feeding rounds. And this, I reckon, was what the monkies looked forward to the most for the entire duration of our stay there. There were tons of other activities at Lillydale as well, and you can read all about them HERE and HERE.
Down at the Gold Coast, I am sure the 3 major Theme Parks of Dreamworld, Warner Bros. Movie World and Sea World need no introduction.
But Gold Coast is more than just adrenaline-inducing thrills and spills, it packs enough activities to delight the entire family:
Head down to Currumbin Sanctuary, which is home to hundreds of animals and birds in 27 hectares of natural bushland and rainforest setting - one of the largest collections of Australian native wildlife in the world. Or go on a Glow Worm Night Tour in the world heritage listed Springbrook National Park, where Natural Bridge is home to an amazing colony of glow worms whose lights can be seen only after sunset. Better yet, take-off in a hot air balloon and be mesmerized by the picturesque expanse of the Gold Coast Hinterland.
How about some jungle bashing? Join in a 4WD Safari tour to Lamington National Park where you get to ride through eucalyptus forests, spot for koalas and kangaroos, try your hand at whip cracking & boomerang throwing and end the tour with an Aussie BBQ lunch in a private estate. Or if you prefer, the entire family can enjoy the cool, crisp mountain air and spectacular views with an overnight stay at the legendary O’Reilly’s Rainforest Guesthouse. And if you are at the Gold Coast between June and October, you're in luck. Catch the annual migrating humpback whales on a whale-watch cruise and behold the acrobatics show that they put up.
And if you have more time to spare, Sunshine Coast is the perfect place to explore. We toured the Noosa region back in 2009 and loved the Eumundi Market! Oh, and do pop by the Ginger Factory - a must-go if you are in the vicinity - as well!
Last year, we paid Caloundra a visit and fell in love with the beach there. But then again, we couldn't really make up our mind because we visited Glass House Mountains next and totally adored it as well. Or was it the Blackall Range which consists of the three main settlements of Maleny, Mapleton and Montville that had us purring?
Life is full of tough choices, isn't it? And if you were to ask me whether my family had enjoyed Sydney or Brisbane & Gold Coast, I will be hard-pressed to answer. We love BOTH and if you too are facing the tough decision on which city to visit first, I have the perfect solution for you.
How about BOTH cities in one holiday?
With a Qantas Walkabout Pass, you can customize your trip for much less than if you booked flights separately. So now, there isn't any need to choose between Brisbane and Sydney. From only $818 (return economy), you can depart Singapore and connect between Brisbane and Sydney in the following combination: Singapore-Sydney-Brisbane-Singapore or Singapore-Brisbane-Sydney-Singapore.
Better yet, add a domestic flight to your international booking from just $113 to fly Brisbane-Cairns-Sydney to pay Cairns a visit. Home to the Great Barrier Reef, it is the largest, most spectacular coral reef system and is the only living thing on earth visible from space making it truly one of the most amazing natural wonders of the world.
To book, visit qantas.com and enjoy 30kg of checked-in baggage should you purchase the Qantas Walkabout Pass. The offer is good for departure dates between 31 March and 31 July 2013. But hurry, the sale ends on 17 Apr 2013, unless sold out prior.
So... have you plans for the upcoming school holidays in June yet? :)