Grampians NP, VIC
My kids place this park on top of their list for different reasons. The bush camping is fantastic and you’re guaranteed to see plenty of kangaroos, emus and even echidnas. Plantation Campground, a 10-minute drive south of Halls Gap, is a massive camping area with plenty of bush for the kids to explore.
Situated next to the impressive Mt Difficult Range, you’ll most likely witness a majestic sunrise as the sun’s rays seem to set the rocks alight. If your kids are confident walkers, the hike up Mt Difficult is challenging but rewards with panoramic views at the top.
In fact, bushwalking in the Grampians is simply spectacular. The famous MacKenzie Falls is a must – the 1.9km (return) walk takes you down countless steps to the base of this awe-inspiring waterfall. Swimming is not permitted at the base of the falls.
Some of the sights can only be seen by jumping in the car. Mount Victory Road is the main road through the park and goes past a number of breathtaking lookouts. The 1km walk to the Balconies is mandatory as it treats the visitor to more spectacular scenery. The amazing rock formation juts out over the valley below and provides an excellent spot for a family picture.
Of course, a trip to the Grampians is not complete without heading to the Wonderland area. The 900m Grand Canyon loop is suitable for families and involves rock steps, several water crossings and some rock hopping. The walk is a bit of a challenge with younger children but worth the effort.
Getting there: The Grampians NP is approximately 250km north-west of Melbourne.
Lamington NP, QLD
Driving up the steep, windy road to the national park campground, perched on top of the mountain, is a riveting experience. The road twists and turns and in some sections there’s room for only one car. It’s like driving into a magical green wonderland with towering trees seemingly reaching the heavens as their canopies obscure the sky above.
The camping area at 900m above sea level is a kid’s delight and the perfect natural playground. The subtropical rainforest provides plenty of interesting spaces to play all sorts of games, though it is important to tell ensure your kids are careful and watch out for snakes.
Brush turkeys abound as they rummage through the leaf litter looking for food. Beautiful king parrots and colourful crimson rosellas also call this piece of subtropical rainforest home. At dusk, kids will love watching the pademelons (small marsupials) when they come out to feed. Around this time the cicadas will start their song, which can be deafening at times as there are so many.
Lamington NP is a great destination for bushwalking and some of the walks are suitable for families with younger kids − the 3.1km (return) hike to Python Rock Lookout and the 2.2km track to Moran’s Falls, one of 500-odd waterfalls in the park.
The area has an impressive history. Kids love hearing about the amazing rescue of two survivors who crashed in a Stinson plane in the rugged McPherson Range in 1937. A reconstructed Stinson plane and a memorial statue can be seen at the O’Reilly’s Retreat, a short walk from the campground.
Getting there: Lamington NP is approximately 100km south of Brisbane.
Leeuwin-Naturaliste NP, WA
A piece of paradise, hidden in WA’s south-western corner, Leeuwin Naturaliste NP is a great destination for families. Conto’s Campground is a great place to spend a long weekend or even a week as this large camping area provides plenty of space for kids to run around and ride their bikes.
Kids will love exploring the different beaches − Yallingup Beach is particularly nice for families with small kids. With a bit of luck, there’s always the chance they might spot a whale. Humpback whales are common in this region and can be spotted in winter off the coast at Augusta, and in spring from the coast at Dunsborough. Southern right whales frequent the area in August, while December brings blue whales.
Kids are mesmerised by lighthouses and this part of WA is home to two. Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse in the north stands on a 100m bluff overlooking Geographe Bay. Tours are open to children (fees apply).
The 113-year-old Leeuwin Lighthouse in the south sits on the tip of a spectacular peninsula where the Indian and Southern oceans meet – it is a breathtaking sight. Leeuwin Lighthouse is Australia’s tallest mainland lighthouse situated at the most south-westerly edge of Australia. For safety reasons, children under the age of four are not permitted to climb the tower.
Getting there: Leeuwin-Naturaliste NP is approximately 270km south of Perth.
Bournda NP, NSW
New South Wales’ southern coastline is dotted with beautiful national parks but Bournda NP, 14km from Merimbula, tops our list as it has so many different child-friendly attractions. Hobart Beach campground is spacious, only a hop and a step from Wallagoot Lake, and the facilities are excellent. Gas-powered hot showers and a basic laundry keep the parents happy while the kids can entertain themselves for hours at the safe little beach.
Wildlife abounds – kangaroos call this beautiful area home and laughing kookaburras make plenty of noise early in the morning. Our kids also spotted a couple of large goannas during our stay.
Several day trips can be made to explore this beautiful region. North Tura Beach is a great place to check out − kids can run off their energy on the soft white sand. Swimming isn’t recommended as the currents are strong and the beach has a sudden drop-off.
It’s a short drive to Turingal Head, on the north side of Wallagoot Lake, to marvel at the interesting rock formations. The picturesque Wineglass Bay is another fantastic place for kids to play. On the way back to the campground you’ll pass Wallagoot picnic area, which is a great place in summer for families as the lake is safe for swimming and the barbecues are free.
The historic town of Tathra, home to an old wharf, is worth a visit. It is not uncommon to spot a fur seal or fairy penguin playing in the surrounding waters as they call Montague Island their home, a nature reserve 9km off-shore from Narooma.
Getting there: Bournda NP is approximately 250km south of Canberra or 535km south of Sydney.