The school holidays are almost here – and the kids are harping on about their mates who are heading to Fiji, Disneyland and other far-flung places. But you’ve left it a bit late to organise a long-haul holiday. It’s time to break it to them: you’re not headed to the airport anytime soon, kiddo, but – guess what – you’re still going to have a really fun holiday! Cue the kid-friendly staycation (stay at home vacation), that also keeps grown-ups happy. If you can’t jet set to an exotic locale, there is plenty to see in your own local backyard. Plan a staycation filled with day excursions or if you’re up for an adventure away from home, you can indulge in an overnight stay with lions and cheetahs. Read on for our top 7 staycation ideas that children will love.
For nature lovers looking for a close encounter with wildlife i.e. see sharks from your lounge room and bathe with lions and cheetahs
The national capital just became a whole lot more exciting with the opening of the National Zoo’s Jamala Wildlife Lodge. The African-themed lodgings include three precincts: stay at uShaka Lodge and admire sharks swimming past in the giant tank that has been incorporated into the lounge room (you could also spot a monkey from the terrace). From the Giraffe Treehouse, you can easily hand-feed a giraffe. Perhaps the most thrilling option is the glass-walled Jungle Bungalow that puts you eyeball to eyeball (even if you’re in the bathtub) with lions, cheetahs, brown bears or a Malayan sun bear. Kids must be at least six years old to stay at Jamala; larger families are also catered for, with two uShaka suites accommodating two adults and four kids. Don’t forget the rest of Canberra while you’re there and don’t forget to visit Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre with more than 200 hands-on exhibits. Active kids can also cycle around Lake Burley Griffin.
For a trip to the zoo they’ll never forget
Zoo sleepovers are, in fact, all the rage. They are popping up across the country, encouraging families and animal lovers to get to know wild species on a more intimate level. Just west of Melbourne is Werribee Open Range Zoo, which offers an African-style slumber safari. The lodges, perched on a ridge overlooking open country, can accommodate families of five and the schedule includes night walks to see the animals and marshmallow toasting around the campfire.
Port Arthur, Tasmania
For the history buff and curious thrill seekers
One way to bring history alive for kids is to take them on a ghost tour. At Port Arthur, a former 19th-century penal colony 95 kilometres from Hobart, parents can decide if the kids can handle the after-dark experience, which relies on atmospheric storytelling for the spookiness factor. The 90-minute, lantern-lit walking tour travels from the roofless church to the parsonage and beyond – you may hear tales of ivy refusing to grow where a dead man’s blood once flowed and of a long-dead convict’s face peeking out from a prison cell. *Ghost tours are suited towards older children. For more info, please see FAQs.
Darwin Waterfront, Northern Territory
For those who love sun and surf
Catch a wave along the Darwin waterfront at the wave lagoon that’s free of stingers and crocodiles. Boogie-board riders can tackle the waves that reach up to 1.2 metres and there’s also a dedicated wading area for toddlers. The redevelopment also includes a saltwater recreation lagoon with a man-made beach.
Gold Coast, Queensland
For those who don’t fear of heights and love a good roller coaster
The Gold Coast is home to many other “worlds” – last year, many of the theme parks added new features. Sea World added a new show – Affinity is a dolphin show that includes a trainer on a stand-up paddleboard. Car-mad littlies can tackle Movie World’s Junior Driving School course. Wet’n’Wild opened Wet’n’Wild Junior – a miniature version of the waterpark. And as always, DreamWorld is always a popular choice and you might also want to visit Whitewater World which opened the high-thrill tubing ride, Triple Vortex.
Snowy Mountains, New South Wales
For kids and kids at heart
The ski season in the Snowy Mountains doesn’t kick off until the June long weekend, which means there’s still time to walk to the top of Australia. It’s an easy 6.5-kilometre stroll over elevated walkways protecting the fragile alpine landscape to reach Mt Kosciuszko’s 2228-metre-high summit. A chairlift from Thredbo village hauls hikers to the start of the trail, which takes most of the hard work out of the day trip. However, the weather at this elevation can change in an instant – remember to pack warm layers, a picnic and drinks, and lather on the sunscreen. Mountain-bikers cradling their wheels also ride the chairlift. Thredbo’s bike tracks cater to all levels, from the adrenalin-pumping Cannonball Downhill to the intermediate Flow Trail to flat paths tracing the Thredbo River’s course through the valley. In the village, there’s a luge-style bobsled that kids over nine can ride solo (big kids can also enjoy it).
Rottnest Island, Western Australia
Just a short 25minute ferry ride from Fremantle, Perth, Rottnest Island makes for a great weekend stay or a short day trip. A prison for Aboriginal men between 1838 and 1904, Rottnest Island has become one of the top tourist destinations in the country. Visit the Family Fun Park for a few rounds of mini putt-putt or splash around at the Just 4 Fun Aqua Park. Immerse yourself in history and culture at the Rottnest Island Museum. Nature lovers can opt for a walk on the 50km Rottnest Island Wadjemup Trail. Most rave about The Bickley Bay Walk which stretches 9.4km in distance – explore the remnants of defence systems which were put in place during WWII. The best way to get around Rottnest Island is by cycling. If you want to ride on the quokka selfie bandwagon, there will be no shortage of quokkas to take selfies with.
So if the kids are getting on your case these school holidays and want to go somewhere fun and exciting, you don’t need to fork out loads on a holiday to show them a great time! Staycations at the zoo and day trips to museums are great for the school holidays, and if all else fails head to the closest adventure park for an awesome family day.
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Do you love the idea of a staycation? Where are you going with your family this school holidays?