Adults-only retreats, glamorous wineries, and nationally-renowned eateries: Australia’s South West has it all. But, for all the region’s more sophisticated and grown-up attractions, it’s also one of the most family-friendly places in the state to holiday. Think wild animal encounters that’ll woo the children and restaurants with not only a refined menu for fully matured palates but a playground, too.
Heading to the region with the kids in tow? Here’s our guide to what to do, what to eat, things to see, and places to stay in Australia’s South West.
What to do
The whole family—big and small—will enjoy a day out at the Busselton Jetty. Board the train to ferry little legs the length of the jetty or make the 1.8km walk out instead. At the end, there’s the newly refurbished underwater observatory to explore, or you can throw a line along the way and try your luck catching squid. On shore, stop for lunch at Shelter Brewing Co, where kids can burn some energy on the playground, and parents refuel with a wood-fired pizza.
Keep the kids active with a few hours of finding their way through the Yallingup Maze or A Maze’n Margaret River, or get climbers in their element on the high ropes at Forest Adventures South West. If the family is more into ocean-based activities, stop by Bunbury’s Dolphin Discovery Centre and join their dolphin swim, where you’ll be snorkelling with the local bottlenose population. Want more animal encounters? Visit the Bunbury Wildlife Park to hand-feed kangaroos and birds.
Not all family-friendly activities in Australia’s South West will have you dipping into the wallet, though, with Collie’s Mural Trail, Harvey’s Mosaics and Murals Trail, and the ReDiscover Bunbury art trail all cultural, outdoorsy, and free.
Where to eat
Friendly ducks and a handful of feed are all it takes to get a few moments to finish your slice of woodfired pizza in peace. The flock at Pemberton’s Ampersand Estates are a hit with kids, and the winery’s reds, whites, and rosés all winners with the adults. Hop fans have ample expressions to try at Metricup’s Beerfarm over a shared-style lunch of cauliflower tacos and Indonesian wings. And you can thank their summer slip’n’slide for the hours of entertainment for the kids.
If your little ones are of playground age, head for the repurposed wine barrel playground at Swings & Roundabouts or the shaded swings and slide at Black Brewing Co. Both venues have approachable kid’s menus, too, for palates not yet up to the likes of olives and octopus.
Need something on the go? Pick up a parcel of crispy-battered catch of the day and a few dollars worth of chips from Peaceful Bay Fish & Chips, or stop by Miami Bakehouse for a classic steak pie and vanilla slice combo.
What to see
Wild animal sightings are just as magical for adults as for children. Watch their faces light up excitedly when they see a migrating humpback on the horizon, anywhere from Bremer Bay in the south to Bunbury in the north. You can see them from any beachside vantage point during whale-watching season (May to December) or board a tour for a closer encounter.
There’s no particular season to see Hamelin Bay’s resident ray population, the smooth, black, and eagle rays gliding through the shallows hunting for feed almost daily. They’re harmless when not threatened, but keeping your distance and refraining from feeding them is essential.
The region isn’t short of beautiful national parks and nature reserves to visit, but two that should be high on the list are the Walpole-Nornalup and Torndirrup National Parks. At the former, you can take the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk through the canopies of towering Tingle trees, and at the latter, watch the Southern Ocean come thundering into the cliff from the cantilevered lookout at The Gap and Natural Bridge.
Say goodbye to winter blues and welcome the beauty of spring at the 2023 Great Southern Treasures Bloom Festival, proudly presented by WCP Civil. Running from September 23 to October 31, this year’s festival promises over 55 exciting events across the picturesque Great Southern region.
Where to stay
Though there’s enough to entice you to leave your accommodation and explore the region, bunking somewhere with on-site activities makes those early-morning wake-ups with the little ones much more manageable. Take them to pet the horses and donkeys on the Diamond Forest Farm Stay property in Pemberton and hang around for the daily farm animal feeding. There’s a similar paddock of animals to see on Margaret River’s Burnside Organic Farm and a thriving organic vegetable garden to explore.
Why not try the lakefront tent suite at Olio Bello in Margaret River for a memorable family holiday? The two interconnected tents sit at the edge of the olive farm’s lake, completely transforming the traditional camping holiday with a touch of luxury. If being on the lake’s edge still isn’t close enough to the water for you, hire one of Houseboat Holiday’s floating homes and cruise the serene Walpole and Nornalup inlets for a few nights. You can fish for King George Whiting from the deck or board the tender boat to further explore the narrow waterways.