Family-friendly things to do these Christmas holidays

The summer holidays are a time to press pause on our busy lives, spend time together as a family and make memories that our kids will savour into adulthood. From art exhibitions and shows to the simple pleasures of a sunset picnic, these boredom-busting ideas for family activities should get you started on a summer to remember.

Sydney

The Quarantine Station at North Head, Manly was the first port of call for hundreds of convicts and migrants entering Australia. A great daytime destination for soaking up a bit of history and some spectacular views, the station also runs spook-tacular ghost tours for older kids and adults. 

Within easy road-trip distance is Wollongong’s Early Start Discovery Space, a joyous, hands-on introduction to science for all children, from toddlers to tweens. Crawl through the human digestive system, grab a torch and explore a realistic cave, or get an introduction to astronomy in Galileo’s Study. 

An appreciation of nature is one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids and the Royal National Park south of the city is a great place to start. The NSW National Parks website gives a good overview of bushwalks and cycle tracks, or head straight for Audley, which is a great place to stop for a cafe lunch before going on a bush adventure or hiring a kayak from Audley Boatshed and paddling along the Hacking River.

 


Melbourne

Engage your kids creatively at ArtPlay at Federation Square in the CBD, which runs holiday workshops (ikebana sculpture, anyone?) and interactive exhibitions for kids up to the age of 12. 

Summer holidays are a good chance to escape the sweltering city heat; stock your pantry while you enjoy the outdoors with a little berry picking. Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm on the Mornington Peninsula is one of the best-known strawberry patches, or try Ripe ‘N’ Ready Cherry Farm nearby, which has sweet cherries for the picking and a trout dam where you can try and catch your dinner.

While you’re in the area, check out Ashcombe Maze & Lavender Gardens, where you can get lost in the lush hedge maze, explore the gardens or get the kids involved in the Great Gnome Hunt. 

 

Brisbane

Gorgeous beaches are a dime a dozen in Queensland, so taking the kids inland is a great way to explore nature in a different setting. Mount Tamborine is a favourite family destination for good reason; explore the forest canopy via the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, take the kids on an unforgettable tour of the glow-worm caves or just pack a picnic and find a scenic spot to soak up the serenity. 

Taking in a show is a wonderfully memorable experience to share with kids. Perfectly timed for the Christmas holidays, Brisbane plays host to Matilda the Musical from November 25 to February 12. Alternatively, put a retro spin on the standard cinema visit with a trip to the Yatala Drive-In. Put the wee ones in their PJs, pack the car full of pillows and blankets and enjoy the kids’ excitement at being allowed out after dark. 

 

Adelaide

Kick off the school holidays and get the kids psyched for the festive season with a trip to Santa’s Wonderland at the Adelaide Showgrounds (December 9 to 18). With an array of Christmas-y activities, carnival games and even an ice-skating rink, this action-packed day out might just become part of your annual Christmas ritual. 

Beyond Christmas, South Australia has plenty to entertain the littlies, as well as mum and dad. While a wine tour might not be the most obvious suggestion, plenty of wineries cater for kids with child-friendly menus, indoor activities and outdoor games. Visit Winey Kids for tips on the best way to explore the Barossa, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale with children. 

Train-mad kids will love a day out the Morphett Vale Railway. On the second and fourth Sundays of the month, the MV Rail club runs miniature train rides for families. One ticket gets your little trainspotter unlimited rides, plus it’s a lovely spot for a picnic.

 

Perth

No Perth summer holiday is complete without a trip to Rottnest Island: from exploring the beautiful beaches to having a splash at the Just4Fun Aqua Park or enjoying a round of mini golf, there’s no shortage of things to do. Rottnest also puts on a full program of holiday activities and tours, so kids can learn about the island’s history and unique environment. 

Often the most memorable childhood experiences are the simplest (and cheapest). Try taking a picnic down to Cottesloe Beach, having a late swim, watching the sunset and listening to the raucous chorus of hundreds of parrots, which descend on the pine trees every evening. 

A little further out of the city– but still an easy day-trip distance – is Noble Falls, a stunningly beautiful spot to spend the day. Pack your swimmers and jump into one of the many swimming spots, have a picnic under the trees, or walk the Noble Falls trail.