No family holiday is further from the UK than Australasia.
The distant continent includes the Polynesian islands and bleak rocks like Pitcairn, but it’s the siren call of Australia and New Zealand we’re mostly unable to resist.
It takes a day or more flying to reach these fabled lands and yet, no one ever complains. Is it because air travel is wonderful or is journey’s end so thrilling the travel itself is almost instantly forgotten?
Here are a few far flung places to answer the question.
Only one country on earth was fantastic enough to truly convince in The Lord of the Rings. Disappointed or delighted by the movies, no one could fault New Zealand’s flawless scenery and it’s all even better in reality than it is on-screen. Naturally visitor numbers grew enormously after the brush with fame, but that hasn’t spoiled this wild and wonderful place one bit. The homeland of the Maori is loved for Alpine mountain ranges and a landscapes dotted with glacial lakes and drenched in spellbinding forests. You can drive the country from end to end in less than a week and span its width in a matter of hours. But only if you don’t want to linger over cities like Auckland and Christchurch, laze on the beach, hike in the hills, stop to watch whales or explore the vineyards and valleys of the wine country. Outdoors is where almost everything happens in New Zealand and if you and the kids are of an adventurous persuasion, it should be top of your holiday wish list.Take me to New Zealand
Whether it’s new year fireworks over the harbour, the Opera House, surfing beaches or an international reputation for everything from superb restaurants to designers, writers, artists and chefs, Sydney is the city that can’t help but define modern Australia. But the one-time penal colony is just the beginning of New South Wales’ brilliance. The Blue Mountains are less than an hour inland from Sydney. To the far west, Mungo National Park lets you explore Willandra Lakes’ 40,000 year old Aboriginal heartland. Visit the beaches of Byron Bay to see some of the world’s most expensive homes – or stay in an equally costly resort hotel. And, if you can drag yourself away from the golden sands and blue, blue seas, a road trip along the New England Highway is a chance to bask in the state’s arable splendour and sample celebrated Hunter Valley wines at source.
If anywhere in Australia has pitted itself relentlessly against land and elements, it’s the evocatively named, Northern Territory. This dramatic state is just about as different from the cafés and waterfront markets of Sydney as it’s possible to be and share a landmass. But it’s also home to some of Australia’s biggest legends. Uluru is here, in the magnificently desolate Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to the south west. Alice Springs, birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, is also in the south and if you’re planning a road-trip across NT, this is where to start. It’s a journey of 2000km north from Alice Springs to Darwin on the coast, but they say driving is the only way to truly appreciate this extraordinary state. And, daunting as the distance and environment sounds, the highways are excellent without diminishing any of the grandeur.
The state that counts the Great Barrier Reef in its marvels couldn’t help but become Australia’s prime holiday spot. Even in winter it’s sunny here and the climate is only rivalled by the diverse and unusual geography. Queensland has everything from rainforest to desert in its boundaries. Tropical islands trim the northern shore. And its Gold Coast is where other states come to do seaside breaks when it’s too cold for the beach back home. Stately Brisbane is the capital and now gives Canberra and Sydney stiff competition for its range of museums and galleries, shopping and, of course, spectacular beaches.
Land of the Barossa Vineyards, pretty Adelaide, ancient Aboriginal culture and opal mines, South Australia is packed with holiday possibilities. The outback here is stunning and covered in enormous national parks. There are beaches and islands and bays and harbours all round the south coast. You can even book a summer motel underground at Cobber Pedy and stay cool when temperatures reach highs of 50˚C. Or hire a car, take to the road and tour South Australia’s geological wonders like Flinders Ranges, Dalhousie hot springs, the sands of Coorong and Nullarbor Plain.
The largest Australian state is also the hottest and least populated, with just 2 million people living across an area that’s roughly the same size as India. This is where the outback demands true pioneer spirit, mining towns scatter across a harsh desert landscape and it’s possible to travel for days without coming across another living soul. But most of Western Australia’s small population lives in Perth; the sunny capital famous for its beachy lifestyle, easy-going attitude and gorgeous, lush gardens. So, to get the most out of this vast state in the space of a family holiday, choose the city or a spot on the coast and dip into the outback by air or road. Self-drive in remote areas is an astonishing experience with older kids and fairly risk-free if you stick to known routes and do your homework. The northern coastline has a tropical climate, pretty seaside towns and the gorgeous port of Broome for a glimpse of Australia’s exotic, seafaring history. Perth’s in the south and the nearby region of Margaret River is where to find rolling vineyards, incredible limestone caves and the state’s best surfing and water sports.