Australia remained unexplored on our travel list for way too long. There was always a more convenient destination. Somewhere closer. Somewhere cheaper. Somewhere where nature is not trying to get you. 2017 seemed like a perfect year to break the spell. And it didn’t take a Chinese fortune teller, talking octopus, or a falling star for us to make that call. All romance aside, coming to Australia was a purely economical decision: babies travel (almost) for free only until they are 2 years old.
And so we flew to the other side of the world and spent a little over 3 weeks on Australia’s east coast. We have seen spectacular harbors, bridges, and skylines. We have fed and fled from weird animals, got a sunburn on white sand beaches, swam with sharks and turtles, walked in magical forests. We loved every minute of it, and although he will not remember, our little boy loved it also. He did not mind the long flight at all, in fact he managed better than we did. Jet lag is a pain though. It took 4 days for him to adjust, and there was nothing we could do to help but wait. Wait and visit Sydney during sunrises and midnights. At least we avoided the crowds.
There is a lot to see in Australia. Our best advice is to put your thongs* on and take it easy. You want to avoid spending your vacation transiting between places, especially when traveling with kids. That said, we have still seen a lot: we rented a car in Sydney, took an easy road trip north to Brisbane, and spent a week on Great Barrier Reef. All avoiding domestic flights, to give Baby some time to rest from take offs and landings.
We found Australia very baby/kid friendly. Every city has a superb playground or park. There is always a natural reserve nearby with easy trails, or a little zoo to play around with animals. Baby adored these, running after birds, patting wallabies, or having a conversation with a talking parrot. And, of course, Australia’s coast is a one huge sandpit. Our learning: make sure to plan enough beach time for the little ones, there’s never enough sand to throw around, dig out, or roll in.
Our 21 days & 3171 KM in Australia:
- 4 days in Sydney, hanging around Circular Quay, suntanning in Bondi Beach, walking from Spit to Manly
- 2 days in Katoomba, tracking in Blue Mountains, soaking views in the Scenic World
- 5 days road tripping the New South Wales coast, max 3 hours on the road a day:
- Katoomba to Newcastle (Merewether beach), stopping to see koalas in Blackbutt Reserve
- Newcastle to Port Macquarie, stopping at Anna Bay to see One Mile Beach and Stockton Sand Dune
- Port Macquarie to Emerald Beach, detouring to Bellingen and taking the Waterfall Way to Dorrigo
- Emerald Beach to Byron Bay, walking to the most eastern point of Australian mainland on Cape Byron.
- Byron Bay to Brisbane, with 2 nights to chill out on South Bank and hiking on Mount Coot-tha.
- 5 days in Heron Island, 6 hour drive and 2 hour boat from Brisbane, sunbathing on unspoiled beaches, diving and snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, watching sea turtles hatching and egg laying.
- 1 night stop over in Hervey Bay, continuing on to Fraser Coast, Tin Can Bay, and Rainbow Beach.
- 4 days in Nambour, exploring the Sunshine Hinterland and Sunshine Coast.
- See our travel map
Driving in Australia is smooth, although renting a car is a little pricy: mid-size car rental 65 AUD/day, return at different location 350 AUD, local VAT 10%, and 60 AUD for a car seat. Driving on left side was not an issue for us, but Australian one lane highways are something to get used to. No wonder they need to entertain the drivers. Yellow warning signs of possibly every animal trying to jump in front of your car gives it a safari feel (although we did not spot any, it did keep us alert). Every now and then, the highway is telling you to “don’t sleep and drive”. Well, I won’t if you let me drive over 100km/h. In Queensland, we could even play a trivia game – every couple kilometers, a sign with a question and later with an answer popped up. And if game is not enough to keep you awake, there are Stop Revive Survive rest places along the Pacific Highway, with free toilets, picnic tables, even a kids playground time to time.
Accommodation is not cheap, and our options were even more limited. Surprisingly, there are a lot of B&Bs, guest houses, or hotels that either don’t accept children, or they charge for a night, even if the child is under 2 years old and will share your bed. In Sydney and Brisbane, Airbnb worked well for us. Motels are a good option when on a road trip. What you lack in atmosphere, you get back in cash – they are usually the cheapest option with a free car park. We also tried a double room in YHA (Youth Hostel Association) – same price as a motel, but the common areas and kitchen are a huge plus when having a baby around.
Packing was easy, knowing we can buy anything we would forget. We could have left at home our portable crib (co-sleeping was easier, and also it’s not difficult to get a crib from hotels). We wished we have packed 5 more diapers to avoid buying a new pack (imagine how efficient we could have been). We were happy to leave at home Baby’s stroller (we have spent so much time in nature that carrier was all we needed). Things that are useful to buy there are: children’s UV protection clothes (absolutely essential for a safe beach time, affordable and available everywhere), baby food and formula (Rafferty’s Garden is Baby’s favorite).
Things useful to buy there are:
- children’s UV protection clothes, which are absolutely essential for a safe beach time. Not only they are very affordable (10-15 AUD), but the variety available is great. You can get them in any decent shopping mall, in a kid, surfer, or a sport shop.
- baby food and formula, which are of a very high quality (Baby recommends Rafferty’s Garden). Formula was available in any bigger supermarket, and baby food in any corner shop, or even at petrol stations.
Happy traveling mates!
*lesson one of Australian English, thongs are flip flops! But, feel free to put on whatever you want:)