Planning a family holiday to Australia? Charlotte and family spent three weeks in Australia taking in the classic sights from the Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef and Bamurru Plains. Here’s Part 1: exploring Melbourne and Sydney with children
Top sights on this family vacation to Australia
- Combination of city, beach and bush country
- Sun, sand and watersports
- Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef
- Airboat safaris and crocodile spotting
Who went: Charlotte and Jonathan with their children Francesca 13 and Edward 10
Where: Australia for three weeks in July/August
Family Holiday Australia: itinerary
Charlotte says: We flew direct from London Heathrow to Melbourne. We stayed for four nights in Melbourne, then flew to Sydney and stayed for five nights. After that we flew on to Hamilton Island and the Great Barrier Reef for five nights. Then we flew to Bamurru Plains in Kakadu National Park for four nights. We booked our return flight to London from Darwin, with a stopover in Singapore.
What was the weather like in Australia in July and August?
When we arrived in Melbourne it felt like a very English autumn day: there was grey mizzle and the temperature was about 14°. Not very exciting, especially as we had left London in a heatwave. But everywhere else we went was really really hot. Even though it was Australia’s winter it was still 23° to 25 °C in Sydney and 27° or 28°C in Kakadu. If it had been any hotter we wouldn’t have been able to explore so much.
6 Things to do in Melbourne with children
Melbourne is a really lovely city and actually felt very European – you can easily imagine living and working there. It maybe isn’t on everyone’s lists of things to do in Australia in three weeks – but close friends of ours live there so it was a top priority for us. Our highlights were:
Ride the City Circle Tram
There’s a lovely tram system in Melbourne which we used a lot. On Day One we jumped on the free City Circle tram, and went right round the line to view the city and see the sights. It’s one of the best free things to do in Melbourne.
Visit the Queen Victoria market
We hopped off the tram at the Queen Victoria market. This is a Melbourne landmark in a big old historic building full of Australian fruit and veg as well as knick knacks and souvenirs. Edward bought a Collingwood scarf because we were planning to go to watch them play in an Aussie Rules game.
We caught the tram round to the Melbourne aquarium then heading out into the suburbs (tram again) to visit our friends. NB Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium is being renovated in 2023.
Go to the National Gallery of Victoria
The next day we went to the National Gallery of Victoria – we made a point of seeing lots of aboriginal art, the dream paintings in particular.
Visit St Kilda
In the afternoon we took a tram to St Kilda, it’s a pretty seaside suburb with a huge sandy beach, beautiful views and a palm-lined broadwalk and pier. St Kilda is renowned for its cake shops so we had a walk along the broadwalk and then had afternoon tea. In the evening we ate steaks and seafood at the famous Stokehouse.
Watch an Aussie Rules game
By Day Four our jet lag really really hit and we didn’t wake up til 11 am. In the afternoon we met friends and went to a Collingwood v GWS Giants Aussie Rules football game at the Melbourne cricket ground. Collingwood are a big Melbourne team so it was very tense, very packed and very exciting. Everybody gets incredibly involved, there were lots of women and children there and lots of shouting! Hot dogs and chips were a must at half time.
Where to stay in Melbourne with family
We stayed in the Quay West Suites on the Southbank promenade beside the Yarra river. Our rooms weren’t ready when we arrived which was lucky because we were upgraded to a 3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment suite with a big sitting room overlooking the river! It was absolutely brilliant, very stylish and central. We were close to all the public transport we needed and we could just walk outside and choose from the restaurants lining the river. The suites share a swimming pool which we used once or twice as well.
6 Things to do in Sydney with children
We took a Quantas flight to Sydney. Once on-board we were given iPads pre-loaded with films and games which kept the children amused for ages!
In Sydney we stayed on the waterfront with views of the harbour, the bridge and the Opera House.
Catch the Ferry to Manly
On the first day we took the ferry to Manly and went for a walk. It was a beautiful day, about 25° and sunny. We got very lost but eventually found a lovely place on a hilltop for lunch with a kookaburra in a tree above us who was trying to snatch everyone’s food.
We had a view over to Shelly beach and out to sea where astonishingly we could see whales breaching.
Visit the Australian Museum
The next day we went to the Australian Museum, which is rather similar to London’s Natural History Museum…
Go to Sydney Zoo
…followed by the Sydney zoo in Darling Harbour. If you’ve got half a day to kill with young children then the zoo is great, it’s very well done with themed habitats.
Burgers at the beach
We met up with some of Ed’s old school friends who now live in Sydney. They met us off the ferry after school and we all went onto the beach and then had kangaroo burgers. The difference in the boys’ lifestyles was inescapable – there’s not so much homework to think about as there is in the UK!
Take a tram to the Fish Market
We took a ferry to Darling harbour and a tram to the Sydney Fish Market which is amazing. It sells fish wholesale, but also has an eating area by the waterside serving breakfasts, sushi and seafood. Lots of people go there to eat.
Go to Bondi Beach
We felt we had to go to Bondi beach. So on our last day we caught a bus to Coogee so we could walk the Eastern Suburbs Coastal beach path.
It’s a two hour walk that winds through every pretty bay until you reach Bondi. The walk was lovely, very gentle and easily done with children. Whilst it was quite warm by our standards it was definitely Sydney’s winter and everyone was wearing coats.
There were plenty of surfers to watch but we didn’t go in the water ourselves. Bondi is full of places to eat and we chose a surf café. We decided to take a bus back home as we wanted to use local transport although it took absolutely ages and stopped at every stop. With hindsight a taxi would have been a lot quicker!
That evening we went to Mosman Bay to meet friends and have supper. In all, five nights was enough time to see Sydney but we could easily have spent a lot longer there.
Where to stay in Sydney with family
In Sydney we stayed in the Quay Grand Suites, right on the waterfront. We were self-catering again although there was a restaurant. It’s well-placed, near the ferries, with lovely views of the harbour, the bridge and the Opera House.
Charlotte’s family trip was arranged by tailor-made holiday specialists Scott Dunn
Family Holiday Australia: what to read next
Part 3: four nights bush safari at Bamurru Plains in Kakadu National Park, in Australia’s Northern Territory