Best family holidays in Australia: Short break destinations

The falling Aussie dollar and lower petrol prices are creating the ideal conditions for short family breaks, writes Tracey Spicer.

Increasingly, parents are taking public holidays, annual leave, and sometimes sickies, to extend a weekend break to three, four, even five days. So, where do you go for a great family weekend away? Here are my picks: 


Serene, simple and stunning: Urunga makes my heart swell. 

We stumbled upon this coastal idyll while driving from Sydney to Brisbane over Christmas.

Just south of Coffs Harbour, it's where the Bellinger and Kalang Rivers meet the sea.

Water, water everywhere, and more than a drop to drink, at the local pub.

"The special is fresh swordfish. I caught it today!" the publican beams. 

There's also killer coffee at the local cafe, a waterfront playground and excellent fishing.

The Facebook page describes it as: "The Little Town that Time Forgot".

Five days here feels like five weeks (in a good way, I mean).    


Where to stay: North Coast Holiday Parks, Urunga Heads. 2 Morgo Street, Urunga. $175 per weekend night for a Deluxe River View Villa, which sleeps five. See


While there are many pretty pockets on the Pacific, the accommodation is often ordinary.

Not so at Seal Rocks, with three heritage cottages at the foot of a working lighthouse.

You can watch the whales from your balcony, dive with the grey nurse sharks, or surf at one of the many beaches. (Number One beach is calmer than Treachery, as the name suggests.) 

The nearby Myall Lakes are terrific for flat-water sports, such a paddle boarding, kayaking, and windsurfing.

Pack a picnic lunch for a walk through the magnificent Mungo rainforest, or go to Hamiltons on Wallis Lake for freshly shucked oysters.

Fortunately the cottages are self-contained, because there aren't too many cafes in this secluded spot, a little over three hours' drive north of Sydney.

Where to stay: Seal Rocks Lighthouse Accommodation, Sugarloaf Point. $560 per night for a minimum of three nights in the Headkeeper's cottage, which sleeps up to six people. See  


Hubby screams in horror at the thought of visiting the Blue Mountains. (He has a pathological fear of doilies.) But I love it.

What's not to love about getting your hands gooey at the Blue Mountains Chocolate Company, wandering around the marvellous Mayfield Garden, or eating pizza at the Boiler House Cafe in the refurbished Hydro Majestic?

The kids can also do a building workshop at The Gingerbread House in Katoomba.

On the way back to the city, stop at Cafe at Lewers on the Nepean River in the grounds of Penrith Regional Gallery.

There's a large garden with lots of secret paths, nooks and sculptures for children to explore, or they can create their own artworks on the chalkboard easels inside the cafe.

While there's a plethora of properties – including the wonderful Wolgan Valley, three hours west of

Sydney – it's lovely to stay in a self-contained cottage. 

Where to stay: Kerambi Cottage, 74-76 Hargraves St., Blackheath. $260 per weekend night. See   


Yes, you can drink wine without the whine.

There's lots for kids to do in the Hunter Valley, two hours' drive from Sydney: marvel at the characters in The Storybook Garden, try the chocolate dipping plate at the new Sabor dessert bar, scoff gelato at the Smelly Cheese Shop or fly high with Balloon Aloft. 

Tulloch winery has guest wi-fi, so you can sit on the balcony and sip a chardonnay while the kids enjoy some quality time with their devices.

The Crowne Plaza is perfect for under-10s because the owner is young at heart, installing a merry-go-round, miniature train and kids' club.

Where to stay: Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, 430 Wine Country Drive, Lovedale.  See Two-bedroom villa from $387 for a weekend night. 


It's time to bring tourism back to regions devastated by the Black Saturday bushfires.

The new Vibe Hotel in Marysville has a paddock-to-plate restaurant, 30 rooms that interconnect into 15 family rooms and a huge swimming pool.

In summer, you can ride bikes or fish for trout; in winter, it's all cross-country skiing and snow shoeing at nearby Lake Mountain. 

Where to stay: Vibe Hotel Marysville, 32-42 Murchison St, Marysville. Two-bedroom Suite Retreat from $399 for a weekend night.  See


This is the hot new place in Victoria's north. 

We've been going there for years, courtesy of several friends who are part of the Tree Change movement.

An hour north of Melbourne, in the Macedon Ranges, this historic village centres on Piper Street, festooned with hatted restaurants, eclectic gift stores and boutique delis. 

Duck Duck Goose serves home-grown produce; Little Swallow has sublime coffee; and the Kyneton bakehouse boasts a range of award-winning pies.

Take a picnic to the Botanical Gardens or sample wood-fired pizzas at Kyneton Ridge Estate. 

There's also Barfold Estate winery, Kyneton olives - frankly, I could go on. Suffice to say, Kyneton's got it all.

Where to stay: Apartment 61A, 61A Piper Street, Kyneton. $250 per weekend night.  See          


This strip of cobalt seas, golden beaches and verdant hinterland is experiencing a renaissance.

The destination, an hour and a half north of Brisbane, is embracing nature tourism: swim with the whales, do yoga while surfing or tackle the 58-kilometre Hinterland Great Walk.

Kids, from the age of eight, can learn to dive as part of the Bubblemaker program, with Sunreef Mooloolaba.

If you have young children, check out the iconic steam train at the Ginger Factory, the waterplay area on Kings Beach, the Big Boing indoor trampoline park near Kawana, Lemur Island at Australia Zoo, or the time-travel ride Illusionarium at Aussie World.

Our favourite place is the Spirit House restaurant and cooking school at Yandina, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Adventurous eaters will soon be able to try a "camelbert" at Maleny Cheese, using milk from the Sunshine Coast dairy, QCamel. (Not sure whether it has lumps in it, heh heh.) 

Where to stay: Novotel Twin Waters, Ocean Drive, Twin Waters, Qld. Resort room for two adults and two children from $184 a night on a weekend. See


There's something about this special spot, north-west of Perth, that makes you feel like you're a million miles away.

The kids can do trapeze with Twilight Flyers, learn to surf, or go rock climbing at The Great Escape.

The Rendezvous Hotel is right on the beach, with an outdoor pool, tennis court and games room.

There's nothing better than watching the kids frolic on the beach as the sun slips beneath the horizon, casting a golden glow over the Indian Ocean.

Where to stay: Rendezvous Hotel, 148 The Esplanade, Scarborough, Perth. Guest Room for two adults and two children from $259 a night on a weekend. See

TFE Hotels is giving away one free weekend for every week of the year. See