30 things to do with kids in Queensland before they grow up
We get it, the Sunshine State is a big place – covering over 1.8 million kilometres if you want to get technical – and mapping out all the things to do with kids in Queensland on your family holiday can seem like a tricky task.
With this in mind, we’ve done the hard yards and come up with 30 of the top ways to keep the kids entertained, and make some pretty special family memories along the way.
Calling all adventure seekers
1. Qantas Founders Museum
If you’ve a budding pilot or aviation enthusiast in the family, a visit to the Qantas Founders Museum on your Outback travels is a must. Based in the heart of Outback Queensland in Longreach (the birth place of Qantas), this one-of-a-kind museum tells the narrative of our national airline, and is home to an impressive collection of historical aircraft and full-size replicas to boot. Time your trip to coincide with the line up of special events taking place in 2020 to mark the Qantas centenary.
2. Dinosaur Trail
Practising palaeontologist on-board? Give them something to knock ‘show and tell’ out of the ballpark with a trip to Outback Queensland’s Dinosaur Trail. Witness the only known evidence of a dinosaur stampede, ‘oooooh’ over Australia’s largest dinosaur fossils, and fossick to find your own.
3. Undara Volcanic National Park
Heading west? Be sure to consider a visit to Undara Volcanic National Park, where families can explore one of the world’s longest lava tube cave systems, formed after a volcanic eruption nearly 200,000 years ago. While you’re there, brush up on your bird watching skills, explore the savanna woodland on a beginner-friendly bushwalk, or pack a picnic and make use of the onsite facilities.
4. Cape Hillsborough National Park
Another natural wonderland is Cape Hillsborough National Park, located on the Central Queensland Coast. It’s here that the bush meets the sea. Young adventurers can discover eucalypt forest teeming with wildlife, ancient volcanic rock formations, and tidal pools.
5. Kuranda Scenic Railway
See Queensland from an entirely different vantage point aboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Journey through million year old World Heritage-listed rainforest from Cairns to Kuranda and watch as rugged mountains, verdant rainforest and tumbling waterfalls pass by.
6. Bunya Mountains National Park
Lace up the kids’ sneakers and pack the sandwiches. Bunya Mountains National Park has jungle-like rainforest, cascading waterfalls, and epic viewing platforms. Not to mention it’s home to the largest crop of ancient bunya pines in the world, plus a dazzling display of birds – from king parrots to satin bowerbirds – and other wildlife species. BYO tent if you’re feeling extra adventurous.
7. Big Red Sand Dune
Buckle up and embark on an off-road adventure to Birdsville and scale the famous ‘Big Red’ – otherwise known as an epic 40-metre high sand dune that sits pretty in the heart of the Simpson Desert. Its flame-coloured sands and sunset vistas are well and truly worthy of an Instagram upload.
8. Natural Bridge
Springbrook’s Natural Bridge is like stepping back in time, with ancient Gondwana rainforest weaved with walking trails that are not too challenging for little legs. Your kids will love the after dark version too, so join a tour to visit caves home to glow worms and forests filled with fireflies.
9. Broken River Circuit at Eungella National Park
Mackay’s Eungella National Park’s Broken River is a platypus-spotting sanctuary, where, if you’re quiet, you might spy the shy marsupial in its natural habitat. Camping is permitted if you want to stay a night or two, while the dedicated picnic area is wheel chair accessible and also ideal for day-trippers.
Wonderful wildlife encounters
10. Mon Repos Turtle Centre
Take your little eco-warriors to see sea turtles at Mon Repos Turtle Centre near Bundaberg. It’s home to the largest nesting population on the Australian mainland, and one of the most rewarding things to do with kids in Queensland. The nesting season kicks off in November and runs through to late March. Take a ranger guided tour, and expect a late night as the turtle time is anywhere between 7pm and 2am. For a chance to see the nests erupt with tiny turtles, January to March is the best time.
11. Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere
Fraser Coast is the whale watching capital of Australia, but you can also learn more about this pristine marine playground at the Discovery Sphere (open to all for a gold coin donation). Challenge the kids with interactive and immersive activities, and snap a pic with the 12-metre high life-like sculpture of Nala, one of the resident whales of Hervey Bay.
12. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Wondering what Roger Federer, the late Queen Mother and pop sensation Taylor Swift all have in common? They’re just a few of the celebrities that have cuddled a resident of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. A safe inner-city refuge for our national treasure, Lone Pine is the world’s largest koala sanctuary. Your entry fee supports the critical work undertaken at the Sanctuary’s new koala science and research facility.
13. Lady Elliot Island
Perched on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, Lady Elliot Island is a hive for nesting turtles and migratory sea birds. And if your kids don’t mind getting wet, it’s a great place to swim with turtles, spot manta rays and humpback whales (in season) too. Turtles visit its sheltered lagoons (which can easily be accessed via the beach), making it a perfect place for kids to snorkel out a short distance to see them. A resident marine biologist is on hand to share information about the Island’s fascinating ecosystem, take you on guided ecology tours and teach kids more about conservation.
14. Reef HQ Aquarium
If you can’t make it out to the Great Barrier Reef, or your kids aren’t quite ready to snorkel in open waters yet, include a visit to Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville – the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium. It’s home to over 300 species of coral and marine friends – including Nemo and Dory, and home of Queensland’s only Turtle Hospital too.
15. Australia Zoo
Made famous by the late Steve ‘the Crocodile Hunter’ Irwin and his family, this sprawling 1000-acre wildlife sanctuary is home to over 100 different animal species, as well as a dedicated team of conservationists. Its state-of-the-art animal hospital, designed by Steve and dedicated to his wildlife pioneer mum Lyn, holds tours and also allows zoo patrons to fully observe the team of vets as they save the lives of local wildlife.
16. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Equal parts educational and fun, it’s here that kids can hand feed ‘roos, interact with cheeky lemurs in the Lost Valley, watch eagles soar at the Free Flight Bird Show, or visit one of the busiest wildlife hospitals in the world.
17. Whitsunday Crocodile Safari
Eye off with one of the most feared, and largest living, reptiles in the world – the estuarine (or saltwater crocodile) – in their natural habitat aboard Whitsunday Crocodile Safari’s River Runner. There’s thought to be over 150 of these fascinating prehistoric creatures that call the Proserpine River home, so keep your eyes peeled and camera at the ready.
18. Texas Longhorn Tours
No, we’re not referring to the American football team. Queensland can hang its hat on having its own squad of Texas Longhorns too. Set amongst 1000+ acres of undulating grassland in Leahton Park, just out of Charters Towers, Texas Longhorn Tours proudly harbours one of the largest herds of longhorns in Australia. Not to mention, an award-winning steer whose horns measure in at a whopping 3.1 metres.
For the water babies
19. Tallebudgera Creek
One dip in this crystalline creek will be enough to get your kids begging you to stay for the whole day. A patrolled swimming beach, Pandanus-shaded picnic spots, and gentle SUPing conditions make for the ultimate (and free!) family day out. And when hunger strikes, Neptune Kiosk right next to the sand delivers creek-side coffee, sweet treats and savoury eats perfect for beachgoers.
20. Tangalooma Island Resort
A short ferry ride from Brisbane, Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island is a natural Queensland wonder with a host of water and land-based activities that will keep kids occupied from sun up ‘til sun down. Wild bottlenose dolphin feeding is the hero here, with these gentle ocean creatures visiting each sunset. But with wrecks to snorkel, sand dunes to toboggan, and water sports to tackle, this place ticks plenty of other kid-friendly boxes too.
21. Hamilton Island
The Whitsundays is perennially popular as a family-friendly holiday destination and Hamilton Island has kid-cred in spades. Roll out a towel at Catseye Beach, feast on a fish and chips from Popeye’s, challenge each other to a friendly game of mini golf or try go-karting, tubing, wake-boarding or water skiing nearby. You can also hop on a tour to nearby Whitehaven Beach or the Great Barrier Reef from the Hamilton Island Marina. Your kids will love having breakfast with the koalas at the Hamilton Island Wildlife Park.
22. Streets Beach at South Bank
A beach in the middle of a city may sound like an oxymoron, but trust us when we say you’re going to want to pack your swimmers if you’re heading to Brisbane with your travelling tribe. Streets Beach is a man-made kid-friendly lagoon-style swimming spot at South Bank, ideal for families wanting to beat the city heat this summer with plenty of green space, playgrounds and places to grab a bite nearby too.
23. Daydream Island
Stop dreaming and start planning your family getaway to this new-look Whitsundays island paradise. Daydream Island is a short ferry ride from Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island and home to the only resort in Australia with a living reef. Kids can join the Junior Reef Program to learn about coral and crustaceans, visit the underwater observatory, or join the daily stingray feeding beside marine biologists who will be able to answer all their fishy questions. A giant lagoon pool with kids wading area awaits and you can kayak, SUP or snorkel from the beach.
24. Fitzroy Island / Fitzroy Island Resort
Headed to Cairns? Add Fitzroy Island to your Tropical North Queensland family itinerary. Your family will find sheltered lagoons, fringing coral reef to explore and one of Australia’s best beaches – Nudey Beach. If you kids aren’t as keen to go snorkelling, try kayaking or join a glass-bottomed boating tour to see the incredible marine world beneath the surface from another perspective.
Thrills, spills, eats and chills
25. Aussie World
No trip to or from the Sunshine Coast is complete without a pit stop at Aussie World. Easily spottable from the Bruce Highway, let the little ones burn off some energy at the giant slides, mini golf, dodgems and thrill rides; tuck into some classic pub grub upstairs; or simply grab a few road trip essentials from The Village.
26. Wet ‘n’ Wild
A rite of passage for any Gold Coast kid growing up, Wet ‘N’ Wild is still as popular with local and visiting families today as it was when it first opened in the 80s. And while the thrill-factor has been turned up a notch, there’s still that balance of good-time nostalgia combined with crowd-pleasing fun for all ages. Book a cabana to spoil the family and have a shady spot to retreat to.
27. Eat Street Northshore
Round up your hungry kids when in Brisbane and sample your way through myriad multicultural stalls serving everything from Japanese pizzas to Spanish-inspired paella at Eat Street Northshore. You’re not going to want to miss dessert, so save a little room for ice cream cronuts, candy floss creations and loaded donut fries. Open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with entry costing $3 for adults, while kids 12 years and younger get in for free.
28. Ginger Factory, Yandina
All aboard the 116-year old ginger train, taking you on a guided tour of the grounds of one of the world’s largest ginger suppliers. Kids will love the dedicated play zone, interactive boat ride and honey tastings, while parents can browse local wares at Ginger Town and stock up on tasty pantry essentials at the Ginger Shop. Round it out with a scoop of the sweet stuff (ginger-inspired of course!) at the ice creamery upon exit. Entry is free for families.
29. Paronella Park
A fairy tale-like, century-old ruined Spanish castle that sits amongst acres of tropical surrounds, Paronella Park is a magical, heritage-listed site that draws crowds of families from far and wide, featuring ethereal gardens, fountains and falls.
30. Gold Coast theme parks
It’s no secret that the Gold Coast serves up fun by the tonne in the way of its theme parks, which always make the cut for top things to do with kids in Queensland. So whether your tribe likes to get their thrills from sky-high coasters, splashtacular spills, character cuddles, or animal encounters, there’s a park to suit your family’s style.