10 things to do in Western Australia with kids
The top 10 things to do in Western Australia with kids
The best road trip we ever took as a family was from Perth to Darwin in a 4wd camper. In 4 weeks time we saw quite a lot of Western Australia (WA) and Northern Territory (NT). There are so much things that you’ll enjoy together as a family.
And that’s not a wonder, because with 2.6 million square km’s WA is bigger than 95% of the countries in the world. Fun fact: it’s also half the size of Europe! With a size like that it is easy to come up with the best 10 things to do in Western Australia with kids. Think: beautiful scenic drives and hikes, camping out on beaches and spotting animals that are endemic to Australia. Your family will love it!
Why Western Australia is a great choice for a family getaway
Western Australia is known for its countless of rock formations, deserts, ancient aboriginal sites, incredible wildlife and crystal clear ocean waters. It occupies about one third of Australia’s total area. Unique to WA is that it’s home to the countries largest goldmine, the worlds largest producer of pearls and last but not least the worlds largest producer by volume of diamonds.
Enough with the facts, why should your family visit WA? Well, most travelers choose to travel around the east coast, but if that’s all you’ll be exploring in Australia you are missing out on some great experiences. The south coast of Australia, home to WA, is also filled with beautiful beaches, landscapes and sunsets. The difference is that the south coast is less crowded and more rugged.
Best time to visit Western Australia
Because of all the different microclimates I can’t name a specific best time to visit. With a mediterranean climate in the south, desert in the east and tropical in the north is a year-round holiday destination. This makes planning the trip a little easier, doesn’t it? Do you need any more reasons to learn more about what Western Australia has to offer and plan an ultimate road trip through WA?
Now without further ado, and in no particular order, here’s the top 10 things to do in Western Australia with kids.
How to get there
I recommend flying in to either Broome or Perth as your starting point to explore Western Australia. If you’re flying in internationally then I recommend you to use a site like Expedia to check which airline offers the best price for your flight. Expedia is an online travel agency where you can not only book your flights, but also hotels, rent cars or even excursions. I usually turn to Expedia for flights, but if you like to book everything in one place then Expedia is going to be your best friend. In this case we also booked a hotel via Expedia. This was more convenient for us this time around, because we were nearing the end of a road trip from Perth to Darwin and needed a flight and accommodation fast.
If you are taking a domestic flight or if you want to travel to Broome or Perth by train, I recommend 12Go. It’s a user-friendly website that will show you all the different price options and comparisons as well as reviews from fellow travellers.
Shark Bay can be found on the westernmost point of Australia. There’s lots to do for families. Like checking out dolphins in the morning in Monkey Mia. Or checking out Shell Beach. And what about a sleepover at one of the beaches in François Peron National Park?
When you first step foot on this beach, you’ll get why they named it this way. Billions of beautiful tiny shells can be found on the beach. All from one tiny animal, the Fragum Cockle. Bring your slippers or shoes. Walking on the shells barefoot is not advisable ;). There’s only a handful of beaches worldwide solely made of shells with no sand in sight. You can swim here, even if Shark Bay might suggest otherwise.
François Peron National Park
Another thing you should do on your family visit to Shark Bay is a trip to François Peron National Park. Unfortunately you’d have to be in the possession of a 4WD, you’ll find no paved roads beyond the Peron Homestead Precinct at the entrance of the park. And to be honest, if you only have a 2WD I wouldn’t drive all the way up here just to visit this homestead.
The real joy of a visit to this NP is that you can drive your 4WD all the way up to the different beaches to have fun in the sand and camp overnight. At all the camp sights you’ll find toilets, but no showers. The best thing is that it’s likely that you’l have the beach all to yourself after 6pm. Most daytrippers leave around that time and not a lot of people stay overnight. We had the whole beach to ourselves.
Please take note that because of strong currents, not all beaches are suitable for a dip in the sea. Check the map at the entrance of the park, where you pay your camping fee, to see where you can and cannot swim.
You’ll find lots of wildlife here. We spotted multiple emus in the park and dolphins in the sea. Depending on the beaches you’ll visit you get the chance to also spot dugongs, manta rays, turtles and sharks. A visit to this park was one of our families most favorite moments of the trip. And that’s why I gladly add this NP tot the top 10 things to do in Western Australia with kids.
WA doesn’t have a lot of options when you’re craving a city trip, but Perth makes up for the lack of options. This metropolitan city is the capital of Western Australia and there are lots of things to do here as a family. You can visit theme parks, museums, go shopping and eat at family friendly restaurants.
A day at the beach
Perth is one of the smaller cities in the world. You’ve seen most highlights in a day. But if you have an extra day you can spend it chilling out at one of Perth’s many beaches.
A day trip from Perth
There’s also lots to do around Perth. Visit Fremantle Prison in, you guessed it, Fremantle. A tour guide will tell you all about the prisoners that used to stay there. The first convicts, brought to Australia by boat from the UK, built this prison before being locked up there.
Another great thing to do around Perth is to pay a visit to Rottnest Island. This island definitely deserves a spot in the top 10 things to do in Western Australia with kids.
Take the ferry from Perth or Fremantle, which will take you about 30 minutes. Rottnest is a car-free nature reserve. It’s named after their most famous inhabitants, at least that’s what Dutch explorer Willem De Vlamingh thought he named the island after. Shortly after setting foot on the island he saw lots of rats and came up with the name Rottnest. But the cute marsupials he saw weren’t rats, they where quokka’s.
Meeting the locals
These extremely friendly and tame animals love to interact with humans. You can get real close to them. Just try to avoid the urge to pick them up, after all they are wild animals. This is one of the only chances you’ll get to spot quokka’s in the wild. They are endemic to Western Australia.
Yanchep National Park
Next up is a visit to Yanchep National Park. There are three things you and your family really must do here.
Visit Crystal Cave
Although there are about 400 caves in this NP, you can only visit one and that’s Crystal Cave. You can take a 45 minute guided tour or walk around yourselves.
A special (wheelchair-accesible) boardwalk leads you to lots of koala’s hanging around in the trees. It doesn’t match spotting them in the wild. We didn’t succeed in finding them in the wild, so we where pretty happy that we visited this koala boardwalk.
Camping with kangaroos
Did you ever have lunch amongst kangaroos? Or flip burgers on the barbie (that’s what Ozzies call the bbq) while kangaroos are hopping by? And best of all: have you ever opened up the doors of your camper to spot kangaroos chilling right next to you?
Well, you’ll experience all of these things if you choose to spend the night at the Henry White Oval camping site in this national park. Your whole family will love it!
The city of Broome is known as the gateway to the Kimberleys. In this city you’ll find red cliffs, white sand, turquoise water, dinosaur footprints and the famous Stairway to Heaven. You can easily spend multiple days here. To get your city fix, load up on food and petrol and relax at the beach before you’ll start exploring the Kimberley region.
There are two things that will make your family stay in Broome worth your while.
Hunt for dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point
At low tide head on out to Gantheaume Point. Before you make your way down out to sea you’ll find the first dinosaur prints. These aren’t real, but are embedded there for people who missed the low tide or who opt out of walking on the slippery reef to find the real deal. Make sure you wear shoes with profile, hold on to your smaller kids and you’ll be fine.
The hunting for the real prints is fun for everyone. The fossilized footprints are located on flat rocks 30 minutes out to sea. And they belonged to the three-toed Theropod and the enormous round footprints belonged to the Sauropod. Happy hunting!
There’s lots to experience at Cable Beach. You can have a great day playing games with your kids, build sand castles and swim, but that’s not what makes this beach special.
What makes it special is the fact that part of this beach can be reached by car. If you have a 4wd you can access the beach via the vehicle ramp at Cable Beach Road West. Just make sure you check out the tides to find out what the best time is to drive on the beach and where you park it.
Also, if you drive a hired car, check with the rental company if you’re permitted to drive their car on the beach.
Camels of Broome
Did you know that Australia is home to about 1 million camels? One of the largest national herd of dromedaries in the world (estimated in 2020). They are not native to Australia, but imported in the 1890s.
Most of them live in central Australia in the many deserts, so it’s not a surprise that a smart business (wo)man came up with the idea of using them to make a buck.
When you’re at Cable Beach you’ll find three tour operators offering short camel rides. We opted out, for reasons I’ll get into later. But most travelers come to Broome especially for the opportunity to ride a camel.
If you have a 4wd camper head out to the beach just before sunset. Pick a nice place. Have a drink and a snack (or even cook dinner) and wait for the Staircase to the Moon (aka Stairway to Heaven) to appear.
Staircase to the Moon
The Staircase appears between March and early November when a full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats of the bay. This phenomenon appears two or three days a month from March to November, so plan your stay in Broom wisely. On the website Visit Broome you can find a pdf with the predicted dates on it. Just keep in mind that visibility might vary depending on the weather, tides, sunset and moonrise.
Lots of reasons to add Broome to your itinerary, don’t you think? And it definitely deserves a spot in this best 10 things to do in Western Australia with kids list.
Camel riding at Cable Beach
Do or don’t?
Let me start by saying that the decision to ride a camel or not will always be a personal one. When in doubt, there are a few things you can do to help ensure your that the camels are well treated and comfortable. I’d like to mention them here:
- short rides are generally a bad thing for camels. They have to walk the same short route over and over again. Are you riding the camel to get from A to B or are you riding it just for the sake of it? If you’re a bedouin living a traditional lifestyle in the desert you would get that riding a camel is a necessity to you. If you’re a traveller it’s a great experience for you, but is it necessary?
- do your research before you book a ride on a camel. Go for a tour operator that has an animal welfare policy.
- if you see that the operator shouts at the animal or uses sticks to get them to move, please opt out. As travelers we should respect and treat animals the same way we treat our pets. Would you shout at or beat your dog when it’s not listening? Or would you teach him to listen by rewarding it with a treat when he does?
- one person = one camel. Some operators want to maximize their profit by allowing 2 people on a camel. Ask to ride your own camel.
Karijini National Park
Karijini NP is one of the largest national parks of Western Australia. You can spend a week here and go on a different hike everyday. There’s lots to see and do and it’s all jaw-dropping gorgeous. Erosion created steep gorges and at more than one point water finds its way down into a waterfall.
To get an idea of what’s in store for you, start by driving yourselves to Oxer lookout. From a (child-friendly) lookout point you’ll get a beautiful view of the gorges. After this first intro set up camp at one of the campsites. After that there’s lots to read about what’s on offer, so take your pick.
Something kids will love is a visit to Fern Pool. This is a rock pool under a waterfall, no crocs in sight, so take a dip here. And while you’re there make sure you look up. Above you, in the sky and especially in the trees, you’ll see dozens of flying foxes hanging and flying around. A beautiful sight, and: you finally get what you guys where smelling this whole time ;).
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Purnululu National Park
Next up on this 10 things to do in Western Australia with kids list is a place where you’ll find another special natural phenomenon: Bungle Bungles (aka Bungle Bungle) in Purnululu NP.
The bee-hive shaped rock domes of the Bungle Bungles can be found in one of Western Australia’s hidden gems. Purnululu NP isn’t easily accessed. If you don’t have a 4wd you won’t get far. Most of the routes can only be accessed with a 4wd. The last stretch of the road to the Bungle Bungles is strictly 4wd.
If you don’t have a 4wd you can still see this phenomenon. You can go on a helicopter ride that starts and finishes at the first campsight in the NP. That way you can still admire these spectacular rock formations, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason. And what kid doesn’t want to go for a ride in a helicopter?
If you do have a 4wd you can get up close and personal and also explore more of the park. Camp overnight and take time to check out Cathedral Gorge and Mini Palms Gorge, where you can spot (you guessed it) palm trees.
The 8th tip in this top 10 things to do in Western Australia with kids listing is a place where you get the chance to get up close and personal with a freshwater crocodile. Also known as the Australian freshwater crocodile. In Bandilngan National Park you’ll find Windjana Gorge where you get a 100% chance of spotting them.
They are smaller than the salties and only bite in self-defense. They are definitely not man-eaters. You can get really close, but don’t scare them or try to touch them. You’ll definitely get yourself in trouble if you do.
While hiking the loop route from the campsite through the gorge and back, 3,5km each way, you’ll spot them right after you’ve entered the gorge. Dozens of them are chilling in and next to the creek. You can stay at a safe distance. Meaning, you don’t have to get as close as I do in the picture. It’s a beautiful walk and do-able for kids ages 4 and up. Lots of trees to get some shade and also a great opportunity to spot flying foxes.
Do you enjoy this list of 10 things to do in Western Australia with kids?
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Nambung National Park
The main reason to visit Nambung NP is to check out the Pinnacles in this desert area.
Thousand of limestone pillars can be found in the desert that is Nambung NP. It honestly feels like you’re on another planet. I’ve heard lots of kids, including our own, ooh and aah at the sight of them. This lunar-like landscape of sand is home to pillars of lots of different sizes. Some only a few centimeters long and others multiple meters high. A true highlight of your family road trip!
Ningaloo Reef Marine Park
Last, but definitely not least on this list is a multiple day stay at a campsight or hotel in Coral Bay. Coral Bay lives up to its reputation as one of Western Australia’s most favorite destinations for families. It’s the perfect base to explore all that Ningaloo Reef Marine Park has to offer. There’s so much to do here to keep every family member entertained, that it will be a real pain to get the kids to want to leave. There are multiple beaches to stay at, lots of playgrounds, more than enough places to snorkel and so many families around that your kids will be making friends in no-time!
Whale watching tours
The main reason for people to visit Ningaloo Reef is to spot wildlife. There are numerous tour operators that offer whale watching tours.
If you want to spot humpback whales, make sure to book one of the many tours on offer. The best time to spot them is from July through to October.
If your kids are old enough to dive they are in for a treat. Because this reef isn’t overcrowded with tourists, the amount of fish and different species and the quality of the coral is exquisite, Ningaloo prevails over a visit to Great Barrier Reef. Spotting turtles, manta rays and reef sharks is definitely an option here!
Swimming with humpbacks and whale sharks
Lots of tour operators offer the chance to swim with whale sharks or humpbacks. When we went to Ningaloo Reef for the first time, there wasn’t an option to swim with humpback whales yet. Therefore I can’t recommend this activity to you. But like I prescribed earlier when talking about a camel ride, please do your research before booking a tour.
In 2015 we had only heard about swimming with whale sharks in certain parts of Asia. We never opted to go there, because the whale sharks are lured with krill and motor boats generally keep the motor running while constantly following the whale sharks around and the boats come so close that they sometimes injure the whale sharks. That’s not something we wanted to be a part of.
Ethical encounter with whale sharks
When we arrived in Western Australia we started researching the option of swimming with whale sharks in Ningaloo Reef Marine Park. There were multiple articles that said that there was a huge difference between all the tour operators and their handling of the whale sharks.
Coral Bay Ecotours
There was one company that we thought was worth checking out once we arrived at the Marine Park and that’s Coral Bay Ecotours. How do they operate? A spotter plane searches for the whale sharks. They will not be lured with food. If they find a whale shark the boat will bring you to them. They do not work with other operators to make sure the whale sharks aren’t bombarded with boats and swimmers.
Only two groups of 10 people can swim with the whale sharks at the same time and if it swims away they won’t follow it along. If the whale shark does stick around, there’s still a time limit of one hour of swimming in total, split between the two groups. Touching them is strictly prohibited and if you do try, they’ll politely ask you to get back into the boat. They also ask you to keep a minimum distance of 1 meter.
All in all this was a great experience. Only my partner went and the rest of the family watched the whale shark from the boat. Which was also a pretty amazing sight to see! By the way: Coral Bay Ecotours is working with the Parks and Wildlife Services. That gave us the last nudge we needed to book this excursion with a clear conscience.
Note that we went on this excursion in 2015. While writing this article I checked recent reviews and their website and took the conclusion that I can still recommend this company. If you disagree, please educate and inform me by emailing me or by writing a comment below.
That’s it. The top 10 things to do in Western Australia with kids. Have you ever been to WA? Do you have questions about something I’ve written? Please leave me a comment. I’ll be happy to answer them.
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Sarah McDonald posted on 29 Jun 2021 at 1:55 am
I went pre-kids, I would love to take them some day. This is a great guide to a great area (and often overlooked by visitors to Australia)!
Kristina posted on 28 Jun 2021 at 11:17 pm
What a great list! Would love to get to Western Australia one day. Only made it to the East Coast last time.
Saskia posted on 29 Jun 2021 at 12:06 am
The west coast is worth a visit, too :).
Cosette posted on 28 Jun 2021 at 12:57 pm
Great things to do with kids in WA. WOuld love to visit the national parks and camp in them. Camping near the beach sounds heaven.
Saskia posted on 28 Jun 2021 at 2:42 pm
It really is magical to camp out on a beach!