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
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