We hear you. Those carefree days of travelling on a whim with zero responsibility already feel a lifetime away.
Now you’ve swapped your backpack for a baby carrier and the fast trains for a Tarago, and life is well… different!
The truth is, a family holiday with your littlies can be hard work, but with a bit of careful planning and a whole lot of patience, both you, your beloved and your ankle biters can enjoy every second of being on the road, without a daily mutiny. Here’s how...
Getting here, stress free.
Go Coastal From Adelaide.
If you’re heading towards Kingston, Robe or Beachport via the coastal route (Princes Highway), your first stop should be Meningie, where good coffee, delicious baked treats and a chance for the kidlets to let off steam is a God-send.
Positioned right on the banks of Lake Albert, the Meningie Lions Jubilee Park is a rainbow on your horizon, with nautically themed equipment ranging from a super-cool slide to climbing nets, swings and even an old boat just waiting for a Captain.
With plenty of lawn to run around and ample seating for grown-ups, washing your Kitchener bun down with a latte is a positively guilt-free experience.
Go Inland From Adelaide.
Making your way down the Dukes Highway to Naracoorte and Mount Gambier is equally do-able with your babies in the back.
After ogling the painted silos in Coonalpyn, make your way to Keith, where a pit-stop at Don Moseley Park will have you recharging your batteries quicker than your little tykes take to the train-coaster.
With an undercover playground, clean toilets and a ridiculously cool monorail, it’s also just a few paces from Henry & Rose Café for that much anticipated (delicious!) coffee break.
Across the Border From Melbourne.
Port MacDonnell is your first stop, less than half-an-hour’s drive from Nelson. By now, you’ve spent a good amount of time on the road and as the bickering over backseat movies intensifies, you’ll find sweet solace at the Visitor Information Centre.
With clean public toilets (including baby change facilities), a library and friendly staff you’ll not only have access to loads of information, but the kids will love the Lego, craft activities and video games – with a pool table thrown in for good measure!
While you’re in the building, it’s worth checking out the Port MacDonnell Maritime Museum to school up on local shipwrecks.
Celebrating the area’s rich seafaring history, expect lots of barnacle-encrusted bells and cannons to curious treasures from other parts of town.
With coffee calling, drop into Periwinkles Café, where the kids menu and meal deal comes with a handy activity pack to keep little terrors on their toes.
We’re officially on holiday! Now what?
You’re well and truly on your way, leaving the city behind for the sweet smell of country air! After a successful escape, you can almost taste the freedom – but nailing that holiday brief in between pitstops and projectile vomits isn’t easy, and we’re here to help.
Luckily, you’ll find plenty to keep your little tykes busy (and you sane) in most major centres, with a huge range of experiences, food and accommodation - for all creatures, great and small! Here’s our top tips in each of the main towns…
Coast into Kingston.
By now the excited proclamations of ‘eye-spy’ are fading and that second toilet stop really couldn’t come quick enough.
Whether you’re staying the night or taking another pit-stop here, you’ll find plenty in this cool coastal town to keep the whole tribe entertained.
As you roll into town you’ll find it impossible to miss Larry, Australia’s favourite giant crustacean. The Big Lobster is a genuine icon in every sense of the word, and standing at over 17 metres tall this local legend’s been putting a smile on the dial of weary travellers since 1979.
The perfect spot for a family snap, he’s also just around the corner from Little’s Bakery and Bliss Kingston SE, who'll keep you well caffeinated with bonus shopping therapy (think: homewares, fashion and educational toys for the kids).
For the ultimate sugar rush, sweet tooths of all sizes will find second heaven at The Candy Store & Dessert House, where ice creams, milkshakes, waffles, pancakes and churros are sure to hit the spot.
A stroll along the pram-friendly Coastal Trail is an opportunity to stretch the legs, with a nice smooth path extending along the foreshore that’s perfect for scooters, bikes and skateboards, while the Kingston Lions Playground has plenty of grass, climbing pieces, swings, a seesaw and toilet facilities.
Of course, hitting the beach is a way of life around here, and the very aptly named Long Beach is perfect for a paddle, and if the kids are up for a little 4WD adventure, you can also access the sand for a detour to The Granites. These giant boulders stand as lone soldiers along the longest unbroken stretch of beach in Australia, having been smoothed by the sea for millennia, making an easy climb for little explorers at low tide.
Naturally your kids get hungry - and so do you - and with some great country pubs (with kids menus) in town you’ll be well and truly covered. Hit up the Crown Inn Hotel for a variety of home grown cooking in the centre of town and the Royal Mail Hotel for hearty pub grub on the coast.
Beachcomb across Robe & Beachport.
You came for salt and sand, and there’s no doubt that this area’s endless array of beaches are a drawcard at any time of year.
Find some of the safest swimming spots right in the heart of town, with Robe’s Long Beach and Beachport’s Town Beach both being easy picks to roll out your towel, with Sea Vu Caravan Park also offering direct access to Guichen Bay.
With squeaky white sands and gentle lapping waters, these are perfect spots for beach cricket, castle-building and shell collecting, with safe swimming and boogie boarding for grommets.
If you’re keen to stretch your legs, it’s well worth a short walk along Robe’s coastal path to the Cape Dombey Obelisk, a genuine icon of this sea-faring village. Commanding seriously stunning views, the obelisk has been standing tall since 1852, having been used as a navigation beacon for passing ships, with a sturdy enough path for strollers.
Back in town, there’s a decent selection of playgrounds (including one right next to Mahalia Coffee – winning!) that will easily tucker out your tribe. If you’re staying at Discovery Parks Robe you’ll also make good use of the awesome in-house Nature Park, with a double flying fox, hanging basket swings and a number of treehouses that'll occupy them for hours.
Stay well fed and watered in between adventures, with Adventurous Spoon your go-to for a cappuccinos and a bite with a fantastic ‘build your own breakfast’ and (put your guilt aside) a range of breakfast cocktails for Mum & Dad.
Drift is another hotspot for lunch, with a sizeable outdoor area and plenty of grass for ‘little drifters’, who’ll be spoiled for choice on the menu. For pizza in particular (always a winner), it’s hard to go past The Project Robe, while the tropical oasis gardens at Robe Ice Cream offer a smorgasbord of gelato and sweets.
By now, you’ve earned a little retail therapy. Check out Loaves and Fishes, where you’ll find a huge range of boutique homewares and gifts, plus a handy kids and baby section, with Holiday Trading & Co Collective also showcasing a wide range of home and fashion brands. Oh, and Dads, fear not – a cold beer’s never too far away… Head to Robetown Brewery, where frothies are a family affair.
When it’s time to hit the hay, a caravan park is always a great option - but if you’re after something more self-contained, Robe Lifestyle Properties are one of the more popular options around town, with a large selection of family-friendly holiday houses that range from total beachfront luxury to quirky little retreats.
Adventure filled Naracoorte.
The World Heritage-Listed Naracoorte Caves are prime for little adventurers, with the Wonambi Fossil Centre your first port of call.
Take a stroll through the recreated rainforest to transport yourselves back in time, with fossil displays and life-sized models of extinct animals providing plenty of eye-fodder.
Those without prams will also find plenty of entertainment below ground, with a half-hour guided tour of Alexandra Cave the perfect starting point (note: those with prams will love the accessibility of Tantanoola Caves a little further south).
Back on the surface, the Fossil Hunter’s Playground is sure to be a hit, with a menagerie of mazes, logs, swings and slides - plus a sand play table for junior archaeologists to dig for bones.
Also above ground, the fully accessible Roof Top Loop Walk is a great link between many of the park’s sites, with intriguing ‘mega-fauna’ figurines scattered along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, with kangaroos, echidnas and possums also known for making a cameo.
By now, the kids are probably hungry and so are you, so hitting up the Caves Café for a light lunch or hot meal is a super easy option, with a great kids menu to keep your little explorers happy.
Away from the caves, sometimes all you really need is a lazy day by the pool, and Naracoorte Swimming Lake is perfect for a dip. With plenty of grass and an ankle-deep section for toddlers there’s plenty of room to splash in safety, and a beach that’s primed for sand castles. The on-site playground, BBQ and kiosk will also help you make the most of those long summer days.
If you’re looking to stretch your legs, it’s well worth a look at the Naracoorte Creek Walk and Nature Park near the Naracoorte Holiday Park, which is a great base when you’re in town. Allow 1.5 hours for the full walk, through native bushland where birds and wildlife abound, or just take it one section at a time. As you make your way along, you’ll find tables and chairs for impromptu picnics and rest areas for little legs.
Whether it’s before or after your day’s escapades, a good coffee is never far away, and you’ll find plenty of that at Sweet Espresso 5271, where well… sweets are the order of the day! Early risers will also appreciate Maddie’s Café, which despite being small in stature delivers a great perk-up when you need it most.
For lunch and dinner, the outdoor undercover area of Billy Mac’s Bistro at the Naracoorte Hotel offers country pub fare and a menu for your minions, and if you’re wondering it’s wine ‘o clock yet, it definitely is! Pull into KALV & Co. Cafe and Wine Bar in the heart of town when the tribe’s driven you to the brink (no, wait… drink). A saving grace on any day of the week, you’ll also find a quick meal here, with prompt service when the heat’s really on.
If you’re looking for other great accommodation options, Naracoorte Holiday Park has a wide range of accommodation options with the added bonus of mini golf and trains, an arcade and games room, jumping pillows and a ridiculously big pool to keep your water babies covered.
Big nature in Mount Gambier.
No visit to this city is complete without a walk around the legendary Blue Lake, which is at its vivid best from November to March.
With a smooth, easy-access path to make strollers and scooters a breeze, there’s plenty of lookouts and rest spots along the way.
Allow an hour or so to take in the whole 4-kilometre ring-route, or simply pinch-hit the best bits when the kids’ attention is fading.
If the cool-factor of a luminescent lake isn’t enough already, nearby Valley Lake is a little less crowded and the perfect spot to let the kids run wild. With a large playground, BBQ area, grassy space for ball kicking and shady spots for picnics, it’s a relaxing spot to laze around in the Sun.
Back in town, a peek into Umpherston Sinkhole is always a hit, while those without prams can enjoy the short walk down to a lush, sunken garden straight out of Alice in Wonderland. If you make it to the bottom, stick around until dusk to meet the local possums, who’ll entertain your rug rats to no end.
With a menagerie of farmyard favourites on hand to pat, feed and frolic with, reconnecting with nature comes all too easy at Echo Farm Mount Gambier, making a short detour out of town a total no-brainer. Whether you're strolling at your own pace or taking a guided tour, taking the time to meet the locals here is a firm family favourite.
Of course, all paths lead to and from a great coffee, and visit to Treehouse Adventure Centre will not only net you some quality downtime while the kids run riot, but also free wifi to help plan your next move. With two enormous play structures equipped with speed slides, ball pits, jumping castles and climbing walls, these guys cater for kids of all ages, with great food and cuppas at the in-house café.
For more caffeinated goodness, pop-in to Scroll Queen for top quality brews and a sweet selection of scrolls, from Cinnamon to Tim Tam, Mint Slice, Oreo, Reece's Peanut Butter and more. Other great options include the Limestone Coast Pantry, Metro Bakery and Café, and Presto Eatery for brunch.
Of course, any good pub with a kids menu and a bit of space will tick all the boxes in your parental universe, and both the Federal Hotel and South Eastern Hotel are great options with kid zones for toddlers, with menus to match their appetite.
Oh, and in a town this big you’ll always be spoiled for choice when looking for places to stay, starting with the conveniently placed Blue Lake Holiday Park sitting right beside its namesake. Rest assured, the kids won’t want to leave this place, with an adventure playground, jumping pillow, pool, tennis courts and games room to keep them occupied, and accommodation options for any budget.
You’ll also find loads more family-friendly, self-contained accommodation options around town to float your holiday boat in style.