Family Fun: The Top 13 Destinations

24 January 2017
Read Time: 13.2 mins

Watching children excitedly discover your favourite journeys for the first time is why parents put up with the Herculean task of planning family holidays. Rediscover the magic of these perennial holiday favourites by making the trip with your kids. Whether you're visiting for the first time or the tenth, each promises a new experience with a wealth of activities you can enjoy together.

Pura Ulun Danu water temple Pura Ulun Danu is a famous Hindu Water temple located on the shores of Lake Bratan

1. Bali

This Aussie front-runner isn't just for beach bums anymore. With the perfect combination of light adventure and incredible value for money, it calls to families looking for a tropical escape close to home. Set aside some time to enjoy the beautiful beaches, but don't forget to try something new! 

Seminyak and Kuta make for great exploration bases with plenty of beachside resorts catering to guests of all ages, but there is fun and adventure to be had throughout the island. This includes the likes of Ubud, Nusa Dua, Bedugul and Sanur. Most day trips are approximately one to two hours away with tours and transport readily available, ensuring your days are well spent expanding your family's holiday horizons.

There are plenty of purpose-built attractions for kids as well as a heap of engaging cultural activities to appeal to both young and old. All ages can explore the native flora and fauna at one of the many animal parks or delve into a new and fascinating culture at Garuda WIsnu Kencana or Taman Nusa cultural parks. Older children might appreciate a treetop zipline adventure through Bali's biggest botanic garden, or snapping a few brag-worthy photos at one of the 3D Trick-Eye galleries.   

Don't Miss ...

  • The Waterbom Bali water park
  • A cultural cooking class
  • Ubud's Monkey Forest
Wat Plai Laem temple in Koh Samui The Wat Plai Laem temple in Koh Samui is a popular cultural spot for all ages to check out

2. Thailand

Known as the 'Land of Smiles', Thailand is renowned for its exceedingly friendly hospitality. Combine that with a sweep of vibrant destinations, show stopping scenery and top accommodation and you've got the stuff that memorable family holidays are made of. Easily explored with groups of all ages, this captivating country will have you discovering all the charms of Thailand.

Popular Phuket, Koh Samui and Chiang Mai make it easy to get into the spirit of family fun. All offer an abundance of family-friendly resorts complete with the facilities to please all guests. From expansive pools to kids clubs and playgrounds, the little ones are well taken care of, while mom and dad can rest and rebalance with a couple's treatment at the spa.

Beyond the hotel, a whole world of discovery awaits. Choose from cultural extravaganzas, natural wonders and more! Why not explore the upside down house of Baan Teelanka on the outskirts of Phuket Town; visit the golden glory of Samui's Big Buddha; or explore the landscape and traditional villages on a Chiang Mai bike tour? There's no shortage of activities to thrill the young and young at heart.

Don't Miss...

  • Phuket's FantaSea Show
  • Ang Thong Marine National Park
  • A Chang Mai night safari
A beach one one of the outer Yawawa Islands in Fiji Venture to the Yasawa Islands for quieter shores

3. Fiji

What if you could board a plane, fly less than four hours from the east coast and find yourself in a secluded island archipelago surrounded by pristine blue waters, sugary white sand and more family-friendly fun than you can shake a stick at? Set your sights to Fiji and it will be the reality of your next holiday.

Viti Levu (Fiji's largest island) is the starting point for most international visitors, and though it's tempting to head straight for the outer islands, Denaru and Nadi are perfect spots to decompress as you soak up the local culture. Visit the open air markets for a souvenir or two and take the time to show the kids the magic of the Garden of the Sleeping Giant and Sabeto Mud Baths. Kula Eco Park, in the coastal rainforest reserve, provides a chance to discover Fiji's beautiful native animals, while Kila World's rope courses will thrill older children.

Then it's on to the outer islands. Split into the Mamanuca and Yasawa groups, you'll have your choice of unspoilt paradise where family-friendly resorts provide perfect getaways. Days are filled with snorkeling, glass bottom boat rides, parasailing and more, while nights can be spent experiencing friendly Fijian culture at a traditional dinner (known as a lovo). 

Don't Miss...

  • A stroll in the Garden of the Sleeping Giant
  • Island hopping through the outer islands
  • Eating  and singing at a traditional lovo
A view over one of the capsules of the Singapore Flyer ferris wheel Be sure to take a turn on the Singapore Flyer for incredible views of the city

4. Singapore

Singapore has seen plenty of change over recent years, transforming into one of Southeast Asia's top destinations for travellers. This is especially true when it comes to family travel, as the city offers all the character and diversity of Asia in a modern and easy to navigate package. Visitors of all ages will be thrilled by the sweep of activities that span the spectrum of high energy excitement to cultural enlightenment.

Accommodation is plentiful with options for all budget sizes, and  you need only stroll down the street to absorb the city's energy and charisma. Colourful cultural hubs such as Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam offer a taste of the vibrant diversity, while kid-friendly meccas like the Singapore Discovery Centre, Singapore Zoo or Jurong Bird Park will keep young ones entertained for hours.

Venture outside the city to uncover family-friendly gems such as Sentosa. This island playground is all about fun with plenty of venues to capture the imaginations of both young and old. This includes the Dolphin Lagoon at Underwater World and Universal Studios.

Don't Miss...

  • The cable car to Sentosa
  • Sledding at Snow City
  • Breakfast with the Orangutans at Singapore Zoo
Family teaching a young daughter how to surf Surfing is just one of the many family-friendly activities to find in Hawaii

5. Hawaii

Somewhere between the beautiful beaches, lush volcanic mountains and engaging culture, Hawaii has managed to strike the perfect balance between holidays for kids and holidays for adults. From Oahu and Maui to Kauai and the Big Island, this tropical paradise is all about experiences to suit every member of the family.

Honolulu is a great option for younger children with a sweep of resorts that take family-friendly to the next level. You could easily spend your entire holiday exploring the amenities on offer, from kids clubs to golf courses, but rest assured a little island exploration will be even more rewarding. The Polynesian Cultural Centre and Iolani Palace are top cultural highlights, or snorkel the sheltered waters of Hanauma Bay. 

Older children will appreciate the pursuits found on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island as all provide a healthy dose of adventure. Get below the water's surface with a trip to the Maui Ocean Centre or the Atlantis Submarine, or simply stake out a spot on one of the many white, black and even green sand beaches. Away from the water's edge, hiking trails for all levels will reveal stunning waterfalls and pools, or explore steaming fields and lava tubes at Volcanoes National Park.

Don't Miss...

  • The Old Lahaina Luau
  • A family surfing lesson
  • A scenic tour of the Na Pali Coast
The Roman baths in Bath Discover the ancient history of the Romans in Bath

6. England

England may be small, but it packs a punch. There are few places on earth that can rival the sheer variety on offer here. There are fewer still that can charm visitors of all ages with the perfect balance of rich heritage and modern innovation. It doesn't matter if your family is looking for pastoral beauty, cultural enlightenment or a beach getaway, you'll find it in England.

Naturally, the best place to start your English exploration is London. It's one of the most visited city in the world and welcomes families with an endless list of highlights. What's better is that it's all easily navigated with abundant public transport available. From the London Eye to the Tate Museum; Tower of London to Buckingham Palace; St Pauls Cathedral to Piccadilly Circus; a month in London would only scratch the surface.

Of course, the charms of England go beyond its most famous city. For seaside fun, get to Brighton or Kent. Walk over ancient stones as you follow in the footsteps of the Romans in Bath. Cheer on the home team at a football match in Manchester, or cycle the picturesque streets of the Cotswolds' limestone villages. There is no shortage of family fun right throughout England!   

Don't Miss...

  • A round on the London Eye
  • The Roman Baths family audio trail
  • A Manchester United match
Lombard Street in San Francisco at sunset The kids will love the twists and turns of Lombard Street in San Francisco

7. California

Beaches and mountains, world class theme parks and museums, decadent spas and shopping – California calls to families across the globe with fun that spans the entire spectrum of age and interests. What's better is that the Golden State lays claim to more than 200 days of sunshine every year and plays host to a spread of scenic cities capable of providing once-in-a-lifetime family holiday  memories.

Anaheim is a popular choice for first time family visits to California, thanks in large part to Disneyland.  The 'Happiest Place on Earth' is certainly the king (or evil Queen) of the state's theme park precinct, but don't forget that Universal Studios, Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags, Raging Waters and Legoland are all approximately an hour's drive away!

Beyond the thrills and spills of roller coasters and cartoon characters, California stuns with its natural beauty, from Yosemite's scenic mountainscapes to the incredible glory of the tallest trees in the world at Redwoods National Park. Enjoy the laid back beach culture of Santa Monica and its famous pier; marvel at the majesty of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge; spot the stars along Hollywood Boulevard or hop in a car for the road trip of a lifetime along California's coast on Highway One.

Don't Miss...

  • A day or two at Disneyland
  • Animal spotting at San Diego Zoo
  • Standing at the foot of a Redwood tree
The Eiffel Tower Paris pleases all ages with more than enough to see and do

8. Paris

Families with older children are sure to savour the sights, sounds and flavours of Paris, but the City of Lights and Love may surprise with its varied selection of fun suitable for families with younger children. History, food, culture and some of the world's most famous landmarks are all par for the course, but delve a little deeper to uncovered Paris’ less travelled attractions that can be just as rewarding.

It’s easy to discover (or rediscover) the magic of Paris with your kids. Climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for sensational views over the city to the Eiffel Tower. Children will love watching the hustle of the traffic down the Champs Elysees. Walk the great halls of the Louvre, while the entire family marvels at the world’s greatest collection of artworks. Or simply grab a treat to suit all taste buds by ordering a crepe from a street vendor.

Escape the crowds and please younger minds with a trip to La Cite Des Enfants. Designed specifically for children, this unique museum teaches little ones about science through interactive, multi-lingual exhibits. Alternatively, check out some of the city’s green spaces to relax while the kids run wild. Parc de la Villette, Jardin d’Acclimation and Jardin des Tuileries are all popular choices with playgrounds and rides to explore.

Don't Miss...

  • The toy sail boats in Luxembourg Gardens
  • A private tour of the Louvre
  • A sweet treat from the local bakery
Vanuatu pools Get back to nature with the kids in Vanuatu

9. Vanuatu

Any parent will tell you, one of the deciding factors of where to go to on holiday is the length of time it takes to get there. Luckily, Vanuatu offers up all of the sun, sand and fun of a tropical island escape, and it only takes approximately three hours to get there from the east coast!

Port Vila is a great place to start, if only because most international flights land here. There are ample quality accommodation options for families to choose from and a great mix of things to see and do. It’s all about water based fun with soft sand beaches and crystal clear waters teeming with colourful fish and corals. Snorkel, paddle or jet ski in nearby Mele Bay, or take to the skies with older children for parasailing.

If you can peel yourself away from the water’s edge, exciting inland experiences await. Both young and old will appreciate the natural beauty of the Mele Cascades reached by an easy jungle walk. Or island hop over to Tanna Island to see the fiery display of the Mount Yasuo volcano.

Don't Miss...

  • Hideaway Island's underwater post office
  • Nambawan Cafe & Moonlight Cinema
  • The culture of Ekasup
Surfers Paradise at the Gold Coast Queensland's Gold Coast is a popular spot for sun, sand and family fun

10. Gold Coast

If you can’t quite make it overseas for a family getaway, there is plenty of excitement to be found right here in Australia. Queensland’s Gold Coast is a top spot for family fun, and for good reason. More than 200 days of sunshine throughout the year mean perfect weather to enjoy the 70 kilometres of dazzling coastline and array of thrilling theme parks.

Beach-going families are spoilt for choice when it comes time to pick where to spend the day. Head to the golden shores of popular Surfers Paradise or Broadbeach. Get off the beaten path with a trip to any number of smaller, quieter spots in between. Or make the short trip to Tangalooma or Moreton Island.

Off the beach, there are many theme and water parks to choose from. Warner Brothers Movie World offers up movie-themed thrills, while Sea World Gold Coast lets visitors choose between creatures and coasters. Dreamworld, Wet’n’Wild and WhiteWater World plus other attractions like Currumbin Wildlife Park, Australian Outback Spectacular and Paradise Country are all also available. Just make sure you take some time to explore some of the Gold Coast’s natural wonders, with hiking trails to suit all levels amongst the World Heritage listed rainforest.   

Don't Miss...

  • The theme park fun
  • The glow worms at Springbrook
  • Lizard spotting at Burleigh Heads National Park
The reef in Northern Queensland Discovering the Great Barrier Reef is one of the best ways to spend a holiday in the Tropical North

11. Cairns & Great Barrier Reef

When it comes to tropical getaways right here in Oz, Cairns holds the top spot. Home to the World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest and gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, it more than holds its own among the world's top travel hotspots. When it comes to families, though, Cairns really hits its stride. Beachfront hotels and apartments suitable for all group sizes are abundantly available as are exciting activities to create holiday memories.

Your days can be as relaxing as watching the kids splash around in the Esplanade Lagoon or marvelling at the treetop views of the Daintree in the Skyrail cablecar. For an added touch of luxury, head a bit further north to Port Douglas and famous Four Mile Beach. Local markets and shopping offer great land based fun for older children, while plenty of air conditioned restaurants and cafes cater to all tastebuds.

The Great Barrier Reef is among the top highlights of the area, with plenty of tour options to suit families young and old. Teens will appreciate getting to the outer reef to view the multi-coloured coral and creatures. There are also pontoon tours available for younger kids, providing multiple reef viewing opportunities. From glass bottom boats and semi-submersibles to Scuba diving and snorkelling, everyone will get their chance to peek below the water's surface.    

Don't Miss ...

  • A dip in the Esplanade Lagoon
  • Finding Nemo on a reef snorkeling tour
  • Gliding over Barron Gorge National Park with Skyrail
A giraffe at Taronga Zoo in Sydney Get to the Taronga Zoo with the family for a full day of fun all ages can enjoy

12. Sydney

Sydney serves up the big city glam yet maintains a certain accessibility that makes it a top choice for families seeking a little cosmopolitan flair in their holidays. You can get into the thick of it with a spot in Darling Harbour, or you can bunk up along the fringes to venture into the city when the mood strikes.

The city itself is ripe with opportunity for families to get exploring. Many of the best museums and attractions are positioned close together, ensuring easy navigation as you start out. A trip to the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge are great family photo opps. Older children may even want to brave the climb to the top of the bridge. The Sydney Aquarium is close by as is Madam Tussauds. Alternatively, ride the roller coasters of Luna Park or catch the ferry out to Taronga Zoo.  

The fun isn't restricted to the city centre, though, with a couple of coastal getaways within a 30 minute drive. Stretch out in the sands of famous Bondi Beach, or head to Manly to test the waters at Manly Cove Beach.  

Don't Miss...

  • Cuddle a koala at Taronga Zoo
  • Soak up the sun at Bondi
  • A picnic at the Royal Botanic Gardens
The Blue Lagoon in Iceland Iceland is more than its natural beauty, but the stunning landscapes certainly won't disappoint

13. Iceland

Appealing to families that appreciate holidays well off the beaten path, Iceland is a fantastic choice. It's all about new adventures, but that doesn't mean it's strictly for older kids. Quite the opposite in fact. This other-worldly island enchants young and old with its surreal landscapes and incredible hospitality.

While it's certainly not fair to say that Iceland is all about the landscapes, it's true that nature's bounty  plays a large part! From Reykjavik to the Westman Islands, the scenery inspires open-mouthed amazement no matter how young or old. Summer offers up blue skies, verdant cliffs and cascading waterfalls. Winter transforms the landscape into a snow-covered wonderland worthy of your children's favourite Disney movies, while geysers gush, hot springs steam and mud pots bubble throughout the year. 

You may be transfixed by the natural surrounds, but don't overlook the cultural side of this destination. Reykjavik is a compact centre easily traversed on foot that captivates imaginations with a rich history and varied list of activities. Learn about the Vikings at one of the many museums, relax in the thermal pools or feed the ducks at Tjornin Lake.      

Don't Miss ...

  • A dip in Grindavik's Blue Lagoon
  • The Aurora Borealis
  • The Great Geysir

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Carlie Tucker

Travelling is for discovering the unexpected. From fantastic meals in ramshackle joints to stumbling upon a best kept secret, I love those fortuitous travel moments that couldn't be planned if I tried.