Teenagers can be tricky travel companions, being notoriously hard to please when it comes to a family holiday. But a perfectly planned trip might just be the way to lure them in.
It may be hard to believe, but the ideal formula for a family holiday with teenagers is actually quite simple: it requires a mix of freedom and downtime, action and adventure, a chance for your children to socialise with others in their age group, and opportunities to inspire Instagram envy with a range of beautiful backdrops. From a resort island to a city setting, here are a few themed holiday ideas sure to keep even the pickiest teenagers happy.
An island getaway with a side of adventure
The tropical paradise of Hamilton Island holds a lot of appeal for families with teens. One of four resort islands in The Whitsundays in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, it’s necklaced with coral and makes a great base for families with active teenagers who can choose between snorkelling and learning to dive at some of the best scuba spots in Australia.
Sporty teens will love the thrill of skimming across the aquamarine seas behind a speedboat on a water tube or wakeboard. When they’ve finished playing volleyball on the beach, they can doze on a daybed, launch a catamaran off Catseye Beach (with your supervision), play a game of tennis, try windsurfing, or embark on a Turtle Discovery tour. If that’s not enough action, they can hit the hills on an adrenaline-fuelled quad bike expedition, or set off on a jet skiing or sea kayaking adventure, leaving you free to loll on a sun lounger.
For the ultimate island experience, whisk them off to Whitehaven Beach on a seaplane so they can deploy the #beachlife hashtag on Snapchat and win on social media.
The ultimate city break
Whether you’re plotting an escape from the country or a staycation, a city break promises a good mix of things to do to keep fussy teens happy. Both Sydney and Melbourne have a profusion of arts-focused activities, with plenty of galleries to hop, museums to visit, graffiti-clad walls to tour and art classes to attend.
In Sydney, you can also explore heritage sights, Aboriginal rock art, a glittering harbour and a profusion of pretty beaches strewn with beautiful people. Stand on the cliffs at Cape Solander in Kurnell to try and spot a whale, hike to the Figure Eight Pools in the Royal National Park or test your teens’ mettle by climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
With its culture, great food scene and shopping, Melbourne is also a safe bet for a fun family holiday with teens. Book a hotel in the Victorian capital and lure them to the NGV and ultra-cool Lygon Street.
Unplug the PlayStation and head for the little seaside town of Avoca on the NSW Central Coast for great waves and a laid-back vibe. While it’s not exactly off the grid, the area is brimming with excellent options for families with teenagers. In addition to the brilliant surf beaches, there are local skate parks, vintage clothing stores and epic eateries.
Sign up those teens wanting to take their wave riding to the next level for a private lesson in Mollymook on the NSW South Coast with former ASP World Champion, Pam Burridge.
In Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, take the grommets to Cronulla Surfing Academy which caters to surfers of all experience levels or, when the waves at Wanda Beach are wild and woolly, book your teens into a kitesurfing lesson so they can learn how to harness the power of the wind.
A luxury villa with friends
Shoalhaven Heads is a great playground for teenagers. Keep costs down by combining forces with a few other families with teens, while giving yours a few friends to hang out with at the same time. Bangalay Villas has a four-bedroom holiday house, or one- and two-bedroom villas side by side. Alternatively, Airbnb has some great options for family groups, like this one located at Culburra Beach. Enjoy some coastal fine dining while your teens go horse riding on Shoalhaven Beach or ride to the summit of Mt Coolangatta on a converted 4WD open-sided tractor bus with Bigfoot Adventures.
Hamilton Island also offers self-catered villas and suites, with most restaurants and cafes within strolling distance. Skip down to the beach for a picnic breakfast or hire a golf buggy for your P-plater to enjoy a change of pace around the Hamilton Island hillside.