Updated September 2020
Welcome to this second instalment of my series: How to Holidays With Kids. Thank you for the great response to the post How our holidays have changed as our family has grown too – it’s clear that how to holidays with kids is a topic that people want to talk about and hear from other people’ about their experiences and recommendations.
In this post, I’m covering some of our favourite family holiday destinations within Victoria (which is local for us).
While I’m updating this post now in 2020 when our boys are much older (currently 14, 12 and 9), when I initially wrote this post back in 2014, our boys were aged 8, 6 and 3. We were in a totally different stage of life back then, and just beginning to get the hang of holidays with three kids.
Back then, we were on our annual January beach holiday. We were having a fun week but I shared that holidays with kids is always a mixed bag, depending on the weather and what time you are woken up (5.30am for me back then, NOT GOOD). Now our guys are older, our guys might sleep in (the teen a lot, while our nine year old mostly makes it to 7am), but we’ve got a whole other set of shenanigans to contend with. We’re navigating Teenage Land now as well as how to balance the needs of our three boys with our own, not to mention our mix of introverts who like pottering and hanging at the holiday house and extroverts who need activity, action and lots of food. I’m definitely in the latter category!
But I digress.
Over the years, we’ve covered a fair bit of ground in terms of family holidays but of course we haven’t been everywhere. (Reading back through this list though, I’m surprised at how much ground we have covered in the last fourteen years). So, as with all my travel posts, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment with any of your tips, traps and favourite places to stay, whether that be a particular destination or accommodation that has really worked for your family. Thanking you!
Where to Holiday with Kids in Victoria – Why Local?
With babies and toddlers, I reckon the easiest holiday by a long shot is a local holiday. By local, I mean a one to two hour drive away max. It is much easier and cheaper to pack your own cot, pram, booster seat, favourite bowl etc and to leave when it suits you.
In terms of the travel itself, we would generally plan our drive to coincide with our baby or toddler’s sleep times to ensure a peaceful drive. No need to hire anything, no airports, transfers or parking to contend with let alone cabin pressure on tiny ears as well.
The ease of being able to pack the car with essentials (including buckets and spades for the beach, bikes, helmets and scooters), some food and creature comforts can really help you to have a (hopefully) relaxing holiday. This applies the older the kids are too, as their stuff just gets bigger. Hello boogey boards, boardgames and play stations.
No matter how old our kids are, we will always make sure we spend some time each year at one of our favourite local spots. Our kids love the familiarity of going to the same place year after year and the opportunity to catch up with friends we’d love to see more often that holiday in the same area. Now they’re older, this is still the case, as they seek the social connection of kids their own age as much as ever.
Being only an hour or so down the road too, we’ve also been known to duck back home when we forgotten something important (medication once and a back up phone just this week when Mr SnS’s mobile died).
For us, the criteria for a successful local holiday is actually pretty simple: safe beaches, parks, the odd attraction for extreme weather (cinema, pool, air conditioned/heated indoor attractions) and meeting up with friends or making new ones. We’ve also found that the older our children get, the more they enjoy going away with other families which works for everyone as the kids happily entertain each other for hours.
Below I’ve listed our favourite holidays spots in Victoria, beginning with those that are within a 1 – 2 hour radius of Melbourne and then moving further afield. In terms of where we’ve stayed, with a couple of exceptions, we have found most of our accommodation through Stayz and Air BnB.
1. The Mornington Peninsula Bayside from Mornington to Portsea – this is a great place all year round for its wealth of things to do and of course the bay beaches which are ideal for swimming and the patrolled back beaches for surfing, boogey boarding and exploring rock pools.
In fact, any time of year there is loads to do around these parts, so much so that I’ve put together thirty ideas here in this post What to Do on the Mornington Peninsula with Kids.
Blairgowrie front beach
We generally stay in Blairgowrie as we like its village feel, but have also stayed in Sorrento and Rye. It is super busy at peak times though – especially over summer – so if you have the flexibility with little ones, it’s significantly cheaper and quieter off peak and during the school term.
2. Barwon Heads – Barwon Heads is one of my favourite places to take the kids. Even though it’s small, I feel like there’s something for everyone: a great park and the inlet for the kids; the golf course for golf enthusiasts and some seriously fab shops not to mention some seriously excellent places to eat.
We’ve also loved visiting the neighbouring towns of Point Lonsdale and Queenscliff during our happy holidays here. We’ve generally visited off peak (in April and July) and always had great weather and a fab time. I would return in a heart beat!
For all my intel on Barwon Heads, check out my recent post on Barwon Heads with Kids – Where to Stay, Play and Eat.
In terms of accommodation, I’ve included our most recent accommodation in this post. Loads of our friends have also stayed at the Bellarine Big 4 too (inland towards Geelong) which they have highly recommended.
Finally, if you’re looking for good coffee en route, be sure to check out this post on where to find the best coffee in Geelong, written by G-Town local Colour Me Anna here.
3. Phillip Island/San Remo – I spent many a happy childhood summer at Philip Island and it’s a place we visit at least once if not twice every year.
The Nobbies, Phillip Island
Besides the well known tourist attractions such as the Penguin Parade and the Nobbies, we’ve enjoyed Churchill Island Heritage Farm and the beaches and great parks of San Remo and Cowes.
We’ve spent two summers in recent years at the family friendly beach at Silverleaves too, after which I wrote this post: What to Do in Phillip Island with Kids.
4. Inverloch – when our boys were toddlers and preschoolers, we loved spending our summer holiday at Inverloch, in Gippsland. The fabulous and protected Anderson Inlet, the playground and extensive grassed areas next to the beach made a relaxed beach holiday possible. When we visited more recently with friends, our guys loved scooting around town and exploring the rockpools at Eagles Nest, pictured below.
We also found Inverloch to be much quieter and laidback compared with Sorrento and Lorne, the evidence of which was the relative ease with which we could get a morning coffee/a loaf of bread/fish and chips. After the busy rush of New Year’s Eve, we found it was easy to find a car park and to make a restaurant booking. We also loved that the park and the beach were full of families with similar aged children.
In the style stakes, I found a couple of gorgeous shops (including Mookah) and loved the farmers’ market and other local craft markets but there’s not a lot to do, so it’s an easy place to relax without FOMO (fear of missing out).
If the weather turns, there are cinemas in nearby Wonthaggi and Leongatha (as well as the fab homewares store/cafe Henrietta’s) and a short drive away you’ll find the gorgeous Koonwarra Food Store. It’s about a half an hour drive to Philip Island too.
You’ll find more all my Inverloch intel in my What to Do in Inverloch with Kids post.
5. The Macedon Ranges (Trentham/Daylesford/Hepburn Springs/Kyneton) – These fab towns are always on my list.
A few years ago (back when I was preggers with Mr 9), we’ve stayed at the Kyneton Bushland Resort with friends, which is pretty basic but it’s gold for the kids with an indoor pool, mini golf and plenty of activities to keep them occupied, particularly if you visit with friends.
In town, a short ten minute drive away, there are plenty of great places for foodies and shoppers, so make sure you arrange an afternoon in town if you can.
More recently, we had a fab stay in the beautiful Blackwood/Trentham area which we used as a base to explore nearby Daylesford and Musk as well. I love this area for its natural beauty, walking tracks, quaint towns and great foodie scene.
I wrote about our most recent visit in detail in my Macedon Ranges with Kids and Dogs – Where to Stay, Play and Eat post.
6. Bendigo – A few years ago we spent three nights in Bendigo with the kids (in the April school holidays) and we had an absolute ball.
We found that Bendigo offered truckloads of options for the kids including visiting the mines, the Discovery Centre, the historical tram, the excellent Art Gallery, not to mention checking out the beautiful historic buildings, fab playgrounds and gardens. For something different, add popping in to Bendigo Pottery for a class or the famous Woollen Mill to your itinerary.
There’s some great good and shopping options for the adults too. You can check out all my intel on Bendigo with or without kids in my Bendigo with Kids post.
7. Flinders – on the other side of the Mornington Peninsula, and only an hour’s drive from the east side of town, this small coastal meets country town is a great place for a weekend.
There is a great park in town (recently refurb-ed), the Cape Schanck Lighthouse nearby and some great places to eat and shop.
The fab Tree 1 homewares & fashion store in Flinders
8. Ballarat – Over one Anzac day long weekend, we spent a weekend with two other families at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat.
We bought a package which included accommodation, so we stayed on site at the motel (one family per room – there was a queen size bed and two sets of bunks in each room plus an ensuite). We had an absolute cracker of a time and between us, we had nine children aged 3 to 11. The kids loved it and it was a fun activity to do in a group.
We arrived on the Saturday afternoon, settled in and after a quick dinner in town (the fab barn sized pizzeria Forge), it was time for the Blood on the Southern Cross show.
The next day, Sunday, we spent the whole day at Sovereign Hill, making a bee-line for tickets to the underground mine first thing and then across to the photo studio where we booked our group photo for all 15 of us for the following morning (both are super popular so book first thing, as soon as you arrive, to avoid disappointment).
On Monday, we had our photo shoot, did a bit more gold panning, visited the Gold Museum across then road before heading to the excellent not to mention brand new Inclusive Playspace Victoria Park – a huge, fenced playground on the outskirts of town, for a lazy picnic lunch, before heading home.
Most recently, Mr SnS and I managed an overnighter in Ballarat – sans kids – which I covered in my Ballarat – Where to Stay Play and East post. While our kids weren’t with us, we saw and did plenty we knew they’d love to do on our next visit.
9. Bright/Wandiligong – A little over three hours drive away, we also love to visit Bright and Wandi which we have visited regularly over the last five or so years.
We love Bright’s incredible natural beauty, walking and riding trails and fab foodie scene. Regardless of their ages, we’ve always found plenty to do with the kids too.
Wandi is a little drive out of Bright and is quieter and very picturesque but is home to the fab Wandi Pub and bike and walking trails into Bright.
While we usually visit in Spring, it’s really is a beautiful place all year round. Several friends of ours particularly love it in summer and are now converts to swimming in the river.
I’ve also written a lot on our stays in Bright with Kids. My most recent and comprehensive intel is in my Bright with the Kids: What to Do post.
10. Anglesea/Lorne/Port Fairy – Slightly further afield on the Great Ocean Road, we’ve have had great holidays in Anglesea, Lorne and Port Fairy.
There is a fantastic playground near the foreshore in Lorne, a cinema, the beach and plenty of great cafes and restaurants. It’s a bit busy for me during the peak summer season although several of our friends go and have a great time every year.
In Anglesea we’ve stayed with a group of friends at the fantastic Anglesea Beach Front Family Beach Caravan Park which has a heated pool, plenty of activities for the kids and direct beach access. Below is one of the fantastic parks in Anglesea which borders the inlet.
The park on Anglesea River
Port Fairy is a gorgeous town which I’d love to return to soon. We stayed for a couple of nights en route to the Barossa Valley some years ago. Otherwise, at around 4 hours drive out of Melbourne, it is a pretty long journey for small kids although it can be broken down into blocks of two hours. For all of our stays, we found great accommodation through Stayz.
11. Metung/Lakes Entrance/The Gippsland Lakes – It’s a big drive to get there (3 – 4 hours depending on which side of town you live on), but this area never ceases to amaze me for it’s beauty and mix of coast meets country.
We’ve stayed in the quaint lake side village of Metung right opposite Lake King (pictured below) and enjoyed the relative quiet and ease of this small town and the magnificent lake by which our kids played for hours.
Lake King, Metung
Our accommodation in Metung at The Moorings was excellent, spacious, centrally located and right on the water (although a very high level of supervision was required for our ground floor apartment). Nearby Lakes Entrance (below) has plenty of parks, activities and places to eat and of course the incredible 90 mile beach.
View from 90 Mile Beach back to Lakes Entrance
12. Beechworth – the gold mining town of Beechworth is a great destination for a weekend away. We visited on the long weekend earlier this year, and found plenty to occupy and explore from its historical buildings and jail through to country pubs, natural wonders, gold mining history and local food and wine scene.
You’ll find all my Beechworth intel in my Beechworth with Kids post.
Looking for more travel guides for holidays with kids within Australia, including interstate options?
We’ve had some awesome family holidays in recent times to Uluru, Margaret River/Perth, Noosa and Tassie. You’ll find all my intel and more in my Australian travel guides here.
Looking for travel guides for travel with kids overseas?
We’re regular visitors to Bali, but have also travelled to other parts of Asia (China and Thailand) as well as Fiji and Hawaii with our kids. We’ve also travelled to the U.S. mainland twice, both times with our three kids. Last time we even brought Grandma and went to Disneyland!
So over to you, what are your favourite local destinations (in and outside Victoria) for family holidays? Where did you stay and what did you do?