Summer holidays never lose their charm, but there’s something especially magical about viewing your family trip through the lens of childhood.
As adults, certain smells, sounds, activities and even temperatures can take us right back to the nostalgia of our childhood summer holidays – so imagine how refreshing a trip to our old favourites would be when we’re old enough to be planning the itinerary.
We asked around the Australian Traveller office to see which places ignited our childhood excitement.
There’s nothing like road trips and hikes for family bonding. (Image: DNSW)
1. Townsville, QLD
Nothing says ‘family road trip’ like arriving in Townsville. With family who lived in a small town two hours further north, Townsville served as the gateway to a tropical north adventure.
High humidity, slapping on copious layers of sunscreen and the scent of ocean mixed with cane fields on the air takes me right back to being a 10-year-old taking a ferry ride out to Magnetic Island and jumping on an inflatable tyre being pulled by a small boat and snorkelling and diving, before continuing the trek to Ingham and my Grandparents’ cane farm.
The best change to happen in Townsville since childhood, is that it now has a booming foodie scene. Fish and chips were always a good bet, but now cute cafes covered in street art and high-end restaurants take tastebuds to a whole new level.
Enjoy the animals, flora and serenity of Magnetic Island, no matter how old you are. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
2. Palm Beach, NSW
Sydneysiders are very familiar with Palm Beach, heading out there to surf (or learn how to) or take their kids for a swim in the southern end at Cabbage Tree Boat Harbour or in the iconic rock pool.
Add to that the nearby cafes and corner stores for essential ice cream treats and hot chips for lunch, plus a fairly easy walk Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk for awesome views of the coastline: it’s the perfect day out from your childhood that still leaves you happy, sandy and satisfied as a grown up.
Take the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk for the best views of Palm Beach. (Image: DNSW)
3. Rottnest Island, WA
Rottnest Island is a Western Australian gem that never loses its charm. As the perfect day trip to take the kids on (or a great place to spend a few days more) the pure thrill of getting up close and personal with those smiling quokkas is especially thrilling as a child.
Add to that pristine beaches for swimming, snorkelling or diving, a rich Indigenous history and tours to help you understand it, ice cream, not to mention the ferry ride over from the mainland, and you have a trip with plenty of things to do (although no judgement if you spend the whole time lazing on the white-sand beaches) that hits right in the childhood.
Release your inner child with the quokkas of Rottnest Island. (Image: Tourism Western Australia)
4. Hunter Valley, NSW
While the Hunter Valley is one trip that could be claimed to only get better once you become of drinking age, there’s nothing like remembering the wholesome thrill of riding a bike through the beautiful countryside along Hermitage Way Cycleway as a kid.
Not to mention other kid-friendly attractions, like the botanic gardens, Hunter Valley Zoo and more than one chocolate shop. Of course, it only gets better going back once you can join a winery tour.
But if you get sick of soaking in the beauty at ground level (impossible), then you’re in the perfect spot for an iconic hot air balloon ride to get a load of the vineyards from a bird’s eye view.
Take you bike through the wineries, now you’re old enough to do it. (Image: Destination NSW)
5. Portland, VIC
This Victorian beach town is the perfect getaway, which is probably why a lot of us have fond childhood memories of the place. Despite its beauty, Portland remains something of an uncovered gem along the famous Great Ocean Road, making it a more relaxed stop for families.
It honestly has it all, whether you want to stick to the (mostly) free entertainment of walking out to the locally-famous Corkscrew Observatory, walking along the beach munching on salted peanuts from the local store or soaking in the beauty of the marina.
For those seeking more adventure, you can hire kayaks and get out on the water, or explore the BMX Track in Alexander Park. A range of museums – from maritime history to World War Two to model trains – mean you can learn something while still enjoying yourself.
Walk out to The Corkscrew, munch on salted peanuts or just enjoy the serenity of the marina.
6. Yamba, NSW
It’s impossible not to feel relaxed in the New South Wales surf town of Yamba. Here, it’s all about the beach life, that is, slowing down and chilling out.
It’s a great spot for families thanks to many activities and accommodation options for any budget – from beachfront camping spots to high-end luxury hotels. The beach, movie theatre and farmers’ markets always provide just enough entertainment to keep everyone happy, without ever adding the hassle of running from activity to activity.
Revisiting as an adult means that you’re also able to take advantage of the increasing number of foodie delights on offer. It might be a relaxed place, but Yamba does not sleep on culinary delights, with plenty of restaurants, distilleries and craft breweries to keep your tastebuds very happy.
Relax and enjoy the beautiful sleepy town of Yamba. (Image: Destination NSW)
7. Port Stephens, NSW
A beachside holiday is a solid family holiday win. So when there are multiple beaches – each more stunning than the next – you really can’t go wrong.
Port Stephens is also a haven of cute cafes and tasty restaurants, plus nearly every beach has its own top-notch fish and chip shop, and really who could complain about sun, sand and full bellies?
When it comes to wildlife, Port Stephens really has it all. From whale watching, to actually swimming with wild dolphins, to some of the best free diving spots in New South Wales. Then there’s the pure joy of jumping on a quad bike and joining a tour around the stunning 32-kilometre-long Stockton Sand Dunes – the largest moving dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. The list of things to do here is endless.
From quad-bikes over the Stockton Sand Dunes, to endless stunning beaches, Port Stephens is the perfect spot for nostalgia. (Image: Destination NSW)
8. Gold Coast, QLD
Heading to the Gold Coast and getting a family theme Parks Pass was never dull. While one could debate for hours over which major three Goldie theme parks were the best, nothing says ‘childhood joy’ like Movie World.
Between rides and shaking hands with iconic movie characters, Gold Coast beaches would be calling. This was a family holiday for those who like plenty of things to do so they can keep moving; who like a touch of glitz and shopping with their beach vacation.
After a swim, surf or snorkel, while away the afternoon at the famous Harbour Town shopping centre or find one of many markets. And if you could find yourself a carved wooden dolphin necklace while you were at, all the better.
Let a trip to Movie World take you right back to childhood. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
9. Gongolgon, NSW
For a truly outback family adventure, Gongolgon is the road trip to set out on. An eight-and-a-half-hour drive from Sydney, or almost two hours from Bourke, this red-dirt country town has serenity, river activities, wildlife and more to make a kid’s dream come true. Not to mention the drive includes a stop at Nyngan, home of the ‘Big Bogan‘, which is always a fun family tale to tell.
Set up camp by the Bogan River then get out on the water. Bring your own tinnie and set out for a day on the river.
For land activities, wait until the sun goes down and whip out the torch to play spotlight with the area’s nocturnal animals or, during daylight hours, get out the motorbikes and zoom around the dirt trails.
Camp along the Bogan River for country serenity and family bonding. (Image: Destination NSW)
10. Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, NSW
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park really is a natural wonderland. The fact that it’s also an easy one-hour drive from the centre of Sydney, it’s also the perfect day trip (or weekender, if you love family bonding over a campfire in the Basin campground).
This is a place for some of the best bushwalks in Sydney, many of which end in secluded beaches or water holes so you can cool off before you head back. For those who love watersports, pull out the kayak, SUP board or swimmers and get out on the Pittwater estuary.
Find secluded beaches, rivers and hiking trails in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. (Image: Destination NSW)
Set beside the Shoalhaven River, Nowra has just about everything you need for a family getaway, whether you’re into relaxing by the hotel pool, getting out on the river or adding a little adventure to your trip.
No matter what age you are, renting a kayak or blowing up a pool inflatable to float along the gentle currents of the Shoalhaven provides endless hours of entertainment. There’s also nothing like using up your excess energy climbing through the ropes course at Treetops Adventure in Nowra Park. Then there’s Shoalhaven Zoo and the Fleet Air Museum, so all kid interests are covered.
Challenge yourself to Trees Adventure in Nowra Park. (Image: Dee Kramer)