The 50 best family holiday destinations

For parents, family travel is all about the three Ps: proximity, price and particulars.  You want a place that's easy to get to, on a budget, with something for everyone. 

Then, once you've found Nirvana (Buddhist heaven, not the band) the kids get older. They declare your perfect paradise to be "boring". So, what next?

During the transition from toddlers to tweens, my own kids, Taj and Grace replaced Fiji with Los Angeles as their happiest holiday. (Although, frankly, I think they'd be happy going anywhere that has wi-fi…)  But every family is different. Some yearn for the country; for others, it's the buzz of a big city.  Whatever your passion, there are ground rules: always aim for the dry season; try to book direct flights; and make sure the destination is age-appropriate.

As you can see, I've done the hard work for you (!), travelling the world to select the top 50 destinations for families, whatever your age range, interests, and abilities. Any place is good for multi-generational travel, but I've highlighted a handful which are ideal for all ages. And, yes, you can take your toddler to the Jemaa el-Fnaa in Morocco, but a kids' club in the Pacific is infinitely more relaxing.

These terrific 20 (plus another 30 great family destinations elsewhere on these pages) are easy to get to (aside from Paris because, well, it's PARIS), not too expensive, and extremely kid-friendly. So, in alphabetical order, here goes:

The place: Broome, WA

Perfect for: Five to eights, tweens and teens

Why we love it: There is no strip of sand quite like Cable Beach. The kids can ride a camel, kick a footy, or spot a croc, before watching the sun slip into the ocean. The pearling history is pretty interesting, too.

Make it happen: Pinctada, one of Broome's top resorts, is a bit back from the beach, but boasts private plunge pools, which is always nice. See pinctada.com.au; visitwesternaustralia.com

The place: Byron Bay, NSW

Perfect for: Tweens and teens

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Why we love it: Watego's Beach is an awesome long-board ride for surfers, with gentle waves for body-bashers. Or drive to Bangalow in the hinterland for locavore delights. Teenagers will love the laid-back, funky atmosphere (although not necessarily my tragic use of the word "funky).        

Make it happen: Jetstar and Virgin Australia fly into Ballina Airport, a 20-minute drive to Byron Bay. However, we recommend staying out of the township, because it becomes too crowded during holiday periods. Consider byronbayfarmstay.com.au near Bangalow. Visitbyronbay.com 

The place: Canberra, ACT

Perfect for: Tweens and teens

Why we love it: The marvellous museums and galleries. Our favourite is Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre. There's also plenty of affordable, self-contained accommodation (outside of parliamentary sitting weeks). It's an excellent educational trip for school-aged kids. 

Make it happen: The iconic Hotel Kurrajong has just reopened after renovation. See hotelkurrajong.com.au; visitcanberra.com.au.

The place: Cook Islands

Perfect for: Toddlers, five to eights and tweens

Why ww love it: The extraordinary marine life. The kids and I saw a huge orange octopus while snorkelling two metres from the beach at Rarotonga. You can drive around the main island in under an hour. Make it happen: Air New Zealand has direct flights from Sydney to Rarotonga International Airport. For more information, check out See cookislands.travel.

The place: Daylesford, Victoria.

Perfect for: Five to eights and tweens

Why we love it: Equally ideal for adults and children. Meet the alpacas at Creswick Woollen Mills, tour the giant Maze, catch and cook your lunch at Tuki Trout Farm, then book in for a family wellbeing session at Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa.

Make it happen: Stay at novotelforestresort.com.au in the heart of the Goldfields, Macedon Ranges, and Spa Country. See visitvictoria.com

The place: Far North Queensland

Perfect for: Five to eights, tweens and teens

Why we love it: Spectacular scenery, where the rainforest meets the sea. The locals are lovely, with a sense of humour as dry as the air is wet. Take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway up to Kuranda, in the Daintree, for a bush medicine tour with an indigenous guide.    

Make it happen: All the major airlines fly to Cairns. Book a self-contained, two to three bedroom apartment at the Alamanda, right on the beach at Palm Cove, 20 minutes' drive north of Cairns Airport. See lancemore.com.au/alamanda; queensland.com

The place: Fiji

Perfect for: Babies, toddlers and five to eights

Why we love it: There is no better place for parents with small children: I guarantee it. The Fijian nannies can coax smiles from the crankiest kids. Many resorts offer one nanny per child, so you and your loved one can have some special time together. Ahhh…

Make it happen: Fiji Airways flies direct to Nadi and Suva from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Our top picks for family accommodation are nanukufiji.com, maloloisland.com or sheratonfiji.com. See fiji.travel/au; fijiairways.com

The place: Hawaii, US

Perfect for: Five to eights, tweens and teens

Why we love it: Waikiki is a feast for the senses: the sight of green turtles swimming in the shallows; the smell of Korean BBQ restaurants; and the sounds of the hula shows. It's perfect for an active family, with surfing, paddleboarding, swimming with dolphins, diving, and hiking.  

Make it happen: The Hilton Hawaiian Village.com is set across  9 hectares on the widest part of the beachfront, with five pools, waterslides, and a semi-submarine tour. See hiltonhawaiianvillage.com; gohawaii.com.

The place: Los Angeles, US.

Perfect for: Tweens and teens

Why we love it: All of a sudden, you're the best parents on earth: Disneyland, Universal Studios, Hollywood, the LA Lakers, Venice Beach, Santa Monica. Need I say more…? 

Make it happen: If you shop around on the net, you can get cheap flights from most Australian cities to Los Angeles. Try to stay at one of the Disneyland resorts, for ease of access and early entry. Alternative, lemeridiendelfina.com is close to the beach and shops at Santa Monica. See visitcalifornia.com.au

The place: New Caledonia

Perfect for: Babies, toddlers, five to eights and tweens

Why we love it: A slice of the south of France in the South Pacific, just under three hours from Australia. Live with a local family in a homestay, so the kids can learn a little French. You can pick up a bottle of Bordeaux for next to nix (for you, of course, not the kids…). And the cuisine? C'est superb. 

Make it happen: Air Cal flies to Noumea from Sydney and Brisbane. See en.visitnewcaledonia.com

The place: Norfolk Island, Australia

Perfect for: Multi-generational travel

Why we love it: The history, beauty, and idiosyncrasy. Only three hours' flight from Australia this tiny island is home to Australia's oldest convict sites, white-sand beaches, and friendly, albeit quirky, locals.

Make it happen: Choose from the sprawling homestead or smaller cottages at Tintoela, four-and-a-half-star boutique accommodation overlooking the ocean. There's a fabulous foodie culture on Norfolk, too. See norfolkisland.com.au

The place: Paris, France

Perfect for: Tweens and teens

Why we love it: What's not to love? All of the attractions have audio guides or apps for kids; the Metro is easy to navigate, and around every corner is a history lesson. Then there's the cheese. And the bread. And the shopping…    

Make it happen: Stay in The Marais, which is walking distance to Notre Dame and the ice-skating rink at the Hotel de Ville. We use airbnb.com.au to find self-contained apartments. See en.parisinfo.com

The place: Phillip Island, Victoria

Perfect for: Toddlers and five to eights

Why we love it: Well, the fairy penguins are an obvious attraction, as they waddle up the beach like little old men in three-piece suits. But the whole island is a theme park for kids, with mazes, carnivals, and a chocolate factory.

Make it happen: Phillip Island is a  90-minute drive from Melbourne. A farm stay is a good option for families. Or, set high in the rolling hills around San Remo, Silver Water Resort is an ultra-modern work of art with one, two and three-bedroom self-contained apartments. See visitphillipisland.com;  visitvictoria.com; silverwaterresort.com

The place: Phuket, Thailand

Perfect for: Toddlers, five to eights and tweens

Why we love it: It's got a bit of a bad rap. But if you stay outside of Patong – which, frankly, is disgusting – you'll find perfectly peaceful, pristine beaches. The food is cheap, delicious and healthy.

Make it happen: Jetstar.com flies direct to Phuket International Airport. From there, it's a 15-minute drive to the Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao Beach  This resort is built for kids, with colourful suites filled with books, games and toys.  See holidayinnresortphuketmaikhaobeach.com; au.tourismthailand.org

The place: Queenstown, New Zealand.

Perfect for: Tweens and teens

Why we love it: This is the antipodean home of adventure tourism. Teenagers will go nuts over the jet-boating, bungy-jumping, black water rafting, river-surfing and canyon-swinging. The town is compact enough to get around on foot. And, in winter, skiing in the Remarkables is – well – just that.

Make it happen: There are direct flights to Queenstown on airnewzealand.com.au and jetstar.com, from Melbourne and Sydney. Stay at the Heritage Queenstown, with views of the Remarkables. See heritagehotels.co.nzqueenstownnz.co.nz; newzealand.com

The place: Samoa

Perfect for: Babies, toddlers, five to eights and tweens

Why we love it: Samoa remains relatively untouched by tourism, compared with its Pacific neighbours. It's cheap to stay in a fale, an open-sided hut, right on the beach. And the water off Sava'i, the smaller of the two islands, is the colour of Bombay Sapphire.   

Make it happen: Virgin Australia flies to Samoa's capital, Apia, from Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. At the top end, stay at Le Lagoto Resort & Spa. See samoa.travel; lelagoto.ws

The place: Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Perfect for: Five to eights, tweens and teens

Why we love it: The diversity of topography, activities, and attractions. A short drive from the sparkling coastline is the lush rainforest of the hinterland. There's a thriving paddock-to-plate culture here, too.

Make it happen: Fly into Sunshine Coast Airport at Marcoola, or drive an hour-and-a-half north of Brisbane. Novotel Twin Waters Resort is always a good option for families, with large inter-connecting rooms.   visitsunshinecoast.com.au; novoteltwinwatersresort.com.au.

The place: Uluru, Northern Territory

Perfect for: Five to eights, tweens and teens

Why we love it: What better way to teach kids about our rich indigenous history than take them to the beating heart of Australia? Just promise me you won't climb the rock: it's extremely disrespectful.    

Make it happen: There are many levels of accommodation, from the five-star Sails in the Desert to the campground. Information on accommodation, attractions and tours can be found at Ayersrockresort.com.au. Also see travelnt.com

The place: Vanuatu

Perfect for: Tweens and teens

Why we love it: Price points and proximity. Under three-hours flying time from Brisbane, this archipelago offers everything from resort-style accommodation, to huts in remote villages close to an active volcano. The Vanuatu Tourism Office says resorts are reporting limited damage to buildings  after the recent devastating cyclone. Once essential services are restored, resorts will be open for business.

Make it happen: Air Vanuatu flies from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Port Vila. See vanuatu.travel/airvanuatu.com

The place: Vietnam

Perfect for: Multi-generational travel

Why we love it: The chaotic street scenes, flavoursome food, and exquisite tailoring. While initially an assault on the senses, travelling to Vietnam teaches the kids important lessons about the war, religion, and poverty.   

Make it happen: Take an Intrepid tour, to share the experience with other families. See ntrepidtravel.com/au/

BEST OF THE REST

AUSTRALIA

BARWON HEADS, VICTORIA

No wonder this town was chosen as the location for the TV series, Sea Change. Children can paddle or make sandcastles on the river beach, while stellar surf spots are just around the bluff. See visitvictoria.com; barwoncoast.com.au.

BLUE MOUNTAINS, NSW

Riding the Scenic Railway past the Three Sisters is simply otherworldly. Do a half-day bushwalk then indulge at Josophan's Fine Chocolates. See bluemountains.com.au; visitnsw.com

FALLS CREEK, VICTORIA

This is our favourite ski resort in Australia, because of the wide range of dining and skiing options. You can also snowbike, snowtube, or play snocce (snowbocce). See fallscreek.com.au

FLEURIEU PENINSULA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

A 45-minute drive from the Adelaide, the Fleurieu Peninsula features animal farms, adventure parks, and beautiful beaches. See fleurieupeninsula.com.au; southaustralia.com

FRASER ISLAND, QUEENSLAND

No traffic, caster-sugar sand, towering rainforests and freshwater lakes.  World Heritage-listed Fraser Island is the ideal place for an eco-adventure. 

See visitfrasercoast.com; queensland.com

HAWKS NEST/TEA GARDENS, NSW

A morning of kayaking, swimming or surfing, followed by scoffing lollies at the Ice Cream Shack. Is there anything better? See greatlakes.org.au; visitnsw.com

HUNTER VALLEY, NSW

Despite the focus on wine, there's plenty for kids to do, including the Storybook Garden, hot air ballooning, aqua golf, and putt putt. Oh, and the wineries, of course. See huntervalleyvisitorcentre.com.au; visitnsw.com

LORD HOWE ISLAND, NSW.

You can walk or cycle everywhere, snorkel straight off the beach, hand-feed the kingfish, and trek Mount Gower. See lordhoweisland.info; visitnsw.com

MOUNT TAMBORINE, QLD.

Base yourselves in the Gold Coast hinterland to visit Dreamworld, MovieWorld, and Whitewater World, within half an hour of the beaches. O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat in the Lamington National Park is terrific for families. Oreillys.com.au. Discovertamborine.com.au.

PERISHER, NSW

On snow adventure zones, plus seven terrain parks with different degrees of difficulty, mean the kids will never be bored in Perisher Valley or Smiggin Holes. See perisher.com.au

SCARBOROUGH, WA

This glorious spot, half an hour north of Perth, has been revitalised in recent months, with funky cafes including Boho Espresso and The Wild Fig. Stay in modern interconnecting rooms, and watch the sun set over the ocean, at Rendezvous Hotel  Perth. See rendezvous.com.au; westernaustralia.com

STRADBROKE ISLAND, QLD.

Hire a holiday home here for a digital detox. Tea-tree lakes, wide beaches, and rock-pools teeming with marine life: this is truly a special place. See stradbrokeisland.com; queensland.com

SYDNEY, NSW

Climb the Harbour Bridge, see a show at the Opera House, or hit the waves at Bondi Beach. Stay in one of the special kid-themed rooms at swissotel.com, or go glamping on cockatooisland.gov.au. See sydney.com

TASMANIA

Outdoors, teens will love the hiking and bushwalking; indoors, they'll be bemused by the oddities at the Museum of Old and New Art. see discovertasmania.com.au.

ASIA-PACIFIC

BALI

Steer clear of Kuta to find the pleasures of this paradise: resorts in Nusa Dua, villas in Seminyak, or hotels in Sanur. See balitourismboard.org; indonesia.travel

HONG KONG

The Octopus Card makes it easy for families to get around this bustling city, which boasts Disneyland, Ocean Park, Peak Tramway, Ladies' Market and delicious dumplings. See discoverhongkong.com 

SINGAPORE

Universal Studios, 4D Adventureland, the Skyline Luge, MegaZip Adventure Park, and Gogreen Segways are all found on Sentosa Island. Don't miss the solar-powered Supertree Grove, at Gardens by the Bay in the city. See yoursingapore.com.

THE MALDIVES

It's not just for couples. Club Med Kani has 75 over-water suites, fanning across the lagoon like a giant palm tree. See clubmed.com.au; visitmaldives.com

THE PHILIPPINES

El Nido is one of more than 7000 islands in this archipelago. The resorts are set in a marine reserve, for world-class snorkelling and diving. Another island worth visiting is Bohol, with its famed Chocolate Hills. See itsmorefuninthephilippines.com

TAHITI

Yes, the accommodation is expensive. So, hire a boat through moorings.com.au and buy fresh produce from local supermarkets. This was the best family holiday we've ever had. See tahiti-tourisme.com.     

UNITED STATES

DISNEY DREAM CRUISE

I guess, technically, it's not a destination. But the Disney Dream Cruise is a floating theme park. The highlight is the Aquaduck: the first water coaster at sea. See disneycruise.disney.go.com

FLORIDA

This place is custom-built for families, especially the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. See visitflorida.com

SAN FRANCISCO

The spooky tour of Alcatraz is a hit with tweens and teens, while a bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito is nothing short of spectacular. See sanfrancisco.travel

ROCKY MOUNTAINS

An RV trip through Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho will take the kids straight back to the Wild West. Yee-har! See rmi-realamerica.com.

EUROPE & THE UK

LES 3 VALLEES, FRANCE

Skiing in the south of France sounds like an expensive family trip. But, when you take into account the extortionate cost of snow resorts in Australia, it's comparable. This is the biggest ski area in the world, with chocolate-box villages at the bottom of the slopes. See Les3vallees.com

LONDON

Most of the museums are free for kids; some have backpacks with activities inside. But Buckingham Palace is difficult to visit with small children, because of the crowds. See visitlondon.com

ROME

It's dirty, I know. But the breathtaking sight of the Colosseum, Forum and Vatican makes up for that. Contextravel.com runs family tours, guided by academics who speak in terms children can understand. See turismoroma.it

AFRICA

MAURITIUS

A jewel in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius has dozens of five-star family-friendly resorts, where the kids clubs' offer language classes and water-skiing lessons. The food is an exotic mix of French, Creole, and Indian. See tourism-mauritius.mu

MOROCCO

The beaches of Essaouira; the jagged peaks of the Atlas; the vast expanse of desert: there's nowhere quite like Morocco for an adventurous family holiday. Base yourselves in Marrakesh near Africa's Disneyland, the UNESCO-listed Jemaa el-Fnaa. See visitmorocco.com

SOUTH AFRICA

Check out &Beyond's Phinda Mountain lodge in KwaZulu Natal. There are four lodges, plus a homestead with private staff. Game drives can be tailored for the shorter attention span of young children.  See andbeyond.com; southafrica.net

INGREDIENTS FOR A DREAM FAMILY DESTINATION

THE CHILD CARERS OF FIJI

Fijian nannies can calm the wildest beast. It took two minutes for a carer at Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Island Resort to turn our six-month-old screamer into a picture-perfect smiler. As a parent of a small child, this is priceless.

THE ADVENTURE SPORTS OF HAWAII

Regardless of which island you visit, there's an endless array of activities, from swimming with manta rays to climbing a volcano. This is ideal for active families, especially with tweens and teens.   

THE THEME PARKS OF LOS ANGELES 

Disneyland, Universal studios, and Legoland, further south, are fun for all ages. I remember saying, "This is the best day of my life!" after my debut at Disneyland, despite earlier disparaging it as Merchandiseland.  

THE FOOD, MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES OF PARIS

Let the kids guide you around the Louvre by hiring a Nintendo 3DS, with inbuilt GPS. Download the Eiffel Tower app, to learn how it was built. Stay in the Marais, a foodie and fashion district, walking distance to Notre Dame. This is the kind of holiday that brings history to life.    

THE INDIGENOUS CULTURE OF ULURU

Many of the performances are aimed at children, with lessons in how to throw a spear, do a dot painting, and respect their elders. It's a magical experience for adults, too.     

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