It’s a kids’ world af­ter all

For­get the days of fish ‘n’ chips on the beach, trawl­ing rock­pools and stay­ing in cheap mo­tels. Jen Kelly dis­cov­ers more Aussie fam­i­lies are opt­ing for ex­trav­a­gant ad­ven­ture or cul­tural hol­i­days to give their chil­dren un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ences. Here’s the

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1SWIM with dol­phins in New Zealand. WHALE watch­ing or swim­ming with dol­phins at Kaik­oura, an eco­tourism par­adise on New Zealand’s South Is­land, ranks as one of the world’s best fam­ily hol­i­day ideas in Lonely Planet’s new Travel with Chil­dren guide.

‘‘ The swim­ming with dol­phins ex­pe­ri­ence here is spe­cial be­cause the dol­phins are wild — not trained and con­tained in a theme park — and be­cause there are such large num­bers of them,’’ says the book’s co-or­di­nat­ing au­thor, Brigitte Barta.

But New Zealand has much more to of­fer, among them dra­matic spots such as the South­ern Alps and Ro­torua’s bub­bling mud pools, though chil­dren are as likely to rel­ish a farm stay or visit to a Maori meet­ing house.

Leah Squire, founder of fam­ily travel spe­cial­ists www.byokids.com.au, rec­om­mends a mo­torhome ad­ven­ture in this coun­try where there is never a dull mo­ment.

‘‘The Ki­wis will do just about any­thing, whether it’s racing down a river dodg­ing rocks in a jet boat, ski­ing down the slopes, bush­walk­ing, rolling down a hill in a gi­ant plas­tic ball, bungy­ing off bridges or out of he­li­copters,’’ Ms Squire says.

‘‘There are heaps of great De­part- ment of Con­ser­va­tion parks where you can pull up your mo­torhome and try some trout fish­ing, have a camp­fire or re­lax and en­joy the beauty and nat­u­ral at­trac­tions of New Zealand.’’

2LEARN from the first Aus­tralians TRAVEL With Kidz manag­ing di­rec­tor Wendy Buck­ley nom­i­nates sit­ting with in­dige­nous Aus­tralians and learn­ing the art of dot paint­ing as one of her top fam­ily hol­i­days.

‘‘Aus­tralian fam­i­lies are able to per­son­ally share Aus­tralian his­tory in the Aus­tralian Out­back on any bud­get,’’ Ms Buck­ley says. ‘‘Stay in lux­ury tents or par­tic­i­pate in a guided camp­ing tour. Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture is at the doorstep of all Aus­tralian fam­i­lies.’’

A mother of two and grand­mother of one with 30 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in travel, Ms Buck­ley says more fam­i­lies are choos­ing hol­i­days that dou­ble as learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

‘‘ Young chil­dren’s brains are more open to learn­ing and far more im­pres­sion­able than adults,’’ she says.

3HANG out with orang-utans in Bor­neo FOR ad­ven­tur­ous kids, tak­ing a trip down the Kin­abatan­gan River in Bor­neo is a great op­tion, says Ms Squire, a mother of two.

‘‘There is an abun­dance of wildlife in­clud­ing ele­phants, pro­boscis mon­keys, horn­bills, macaques and mon­keys in ev­ery tree top,’’ she says. ‘‘Fam­i­lies can stay overnight in huts along the river’s edge and do night walks looking for in­sects and small wildlife. A truly beau­ti­ful and mag­i­cal place.’’

4SHOP for toys in Tokyo JA­PAN – home to Ta­m­agotchi toys and Hello Kitty — makes the list of the world’s best fam­ily-friendly des­ti­na­tions in Travel with Chil­dren.

And the best of the toy shop­ping is in Tokyo at Loft stores or Kid­dy­land, which has five floors of the lat­est play­things.

Chil­dren will also love Tokyo Dis­ney­land and the Ueno Zoo, which has a pet­ting zoo.

‘‘There are also a cou­ple of stand- out places to stay: the Na­tional Chil­dren’s Cas­tle Ho­tel, atop a chil­dren’s com­plex with in­door and out­door play ar­eas, art and mu­sic rooms, wad­ing pool, pup­pet shows and origami lessons; and Suigetsu Ho­tel Ogaiso, a mod­ern ryokan with a beau­ti­ful Ja­panese gar­den, Ja­panese baths and a tea room,’’ says Barta, a mother of one.

5RIDE an ostrich in South Africa SOUTH Africa makes the grade in Travel with Chil­dren thanks to its awe­some wildlife.

‘‘Kids can see ele­phants and lions in their nat­u­ral habi­tat, and small game re­serves such as Kwandwe and Addo Ele­phant Park are great for watch­ing wildlife without hav­ing to go on long sa­fari drives,’’ Barta says.

‘‘An ostrich ride at Oudt­shoorn is sup­pos­edly a bumpy and fast af­fair (there is no slow Shet­land pony ver­sion), with the passenger sit­ting un­der the wings and cling­ing on to the feathers.’’ The re­ally keen can join in an ostrich race.

6DANCE with the Maa­sai in Tan­za­nia TAN­ZA­NIA will teach chil­dren to ap­pre­ci­ate and re­spect the planet, Ms Buck­ley ad­vises.

Fam­i­lies can dance with the Maa­sai at Ngoron­goro Crater or watch lions on the great plains of the Serengeti.

‘‘Through the eyes of chil­dren we are able to teach them to re­spect the en­vi­ron­ment to­day and see the per­sonal im­pact they have on the planet,’’ she says. ‘‘Over 200,000 lions roamed Africa 20 years ago — now there are less than 18,000.’’

7SCARE your­self silly in Queens­land FAM­I­LIES will have a scream of a time at the Gold Coast’s theme parks, with thrilling rides, fan­tas­tic shows and at­trac­tions for all ages, Ms Buck­ley says.

‘‘The Gold Coast also has some of Aus­tralia’s best beaches, a huge range of fam­ily-friendly ac­com­mo­da­tion and restau­rants,’’ she says. ‘‘There are also lots of day trips to take from the Gold Coast. Head to the hin­ter­land and take in the beauty of Lam­ing­ton Na­tional Park or drive to the beaches of north­ern NSW.’’

8PLAY beach volleyball in Fiji IT’S hard to beat a game of volleyball with Fi­jians on white sand beaches for a great fam­ily hol­i­day, ac­cord­ing to Ms Buck­ley.

‘‘Fam­i­lies ap­pre­ci­ate the sim­ple things in life — white sand beaches, find Nemo the clown­fish, play volleyball with the lo­cals and watch the sun­set over the Pa­cific Ocean,’’ she says.

9RIDE a gon­dola in Venice IT may not come cheap, but Ms Buck­ley nom­i­nates a gon­dola ride in Venice fol­lowed by ge­lato in the Pi­azza San Marco as one of her top fam­ily hol­i­days.

‘‘ Venice of­fers fam­i­lies his­tory and cul­ture without hav­ing to sit in a car for hours,’’ she says. ‘‘ Chil­dren love rid­ing the canals of Venice by boat.’’

10SEE bears in the Cana­dian Rock­ies IT’S the wildlife and vast­ness of the scenery that make a fam­ily trip to the Rock­ies one of the top picks in Travel with Chil­dren, says Barta.

‘‘Aside from count­ing moun­tain peaks and watch­ing for bears and moose, both Banff and Jasper of­fer amaz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to get out and stretch your legs — ei­ther on skis, in hik­ing boots or snow­shoe­ing,’’ she says.

‘‘ There are lake­side camp­sites sur­rounded by forested moun­tains and glacial lakes, and the drive along the stag­ger­ingly gor­geous Ice­fields Park­way takes in the Athabasca Glacier, a part of the enor­mous Columbia Ice­field that reaches down to the road.’’ More: Travel with Chil­dren from Lonely Planet is out now. (rrp $24.99)

Travel With Kidz has 45 offices in Aus­tralia, in­clud­ing nine in Vic­to­ria. Visit www.trav­el­with­kidz.com.au or phone 1300 729 541.

Visit www.byokids.com.au or phone 1300 296 543. Pic­tures: SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM, PHILIP and KAREN SMITH and LONELY PLANET IM­AGES

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