When it comes to planning your dream vacation, there are few things more important than the hotel you choose. Whether you’re after a resort the kids will love, an unforgettable wildlife retreat or a secluded island escape, these are the best family-friendly hotels for your next extraordinary stay.
Extraordinary island: Reef View Hotel, Hamilton Island, QLD
One island, limitless fun. Postcard-perfect Hamilton Island, in Queensland’s Whitsundays, is the ultimate family-friendly escape where no-one has an excuse to utter the dreaded words “I’m bored”. Island life can indeed be as laid-back or as busy as you like when there’s an enormous resort swimming pool fronting palm-shaded Catseye Beach, beyond which a fringing reef provides the perfect protected spot for snorkelling.
Take your on-water adventures up a notch with wakeboarding and tube riding or keep it calm by packing the family into a dinghy to explore at your own pace. Speed around the island’s go-kart track or cuddle a koala at the wildlife park – and if you want to venture further afield, the World Heritage-listed underwater paradise of the Great Barrier Reef and the powder-soft sands of globally famous Whitehaven Beach are just a boat ride away.
Located at the heart of the action, the Reef View Hotel offers all the amenities of a big-city hotel, along with magnificent Coral Sea views from its generously proportioned family suites. A deluxe kids’ club tunes in to the tropical vibe, running activities like beach games, minigolf and pirate parties. Because, sometimes, there’s only so much fun the adults can take until they need a poolside lounge.
Extraordinary pool: JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa, Surfers Paradise, QLD
Imagine snorkelling in the turquoise waters of a broad, sandy lagoon where schools of tropical fish flit through coral formations. Fringed by palm trees, waterfalls cascade down rock walls and mysterious grottos demand exploration. And all of this is at your hotel.
It’s a short drive from Dreamworld but good luck getting the kids out of the tropical-idyll swimming pool – the star of the brand-new $8 million aquatic playground at the just-refurbished leader of the Surfers Paradise hotel scene. One of the world’s most iconic beaches is only a few hundred metres away but even the sand at this resort pool comes with a five-star rating (it’s made with a silicone base that prevents it from sticking to clothes and skin).
The best way to enjoy this sweeping paradise is to commandeer a family-sized cabana with billowing white curtains for a whole day poolside. Definitely consider hiring a sea scooter to zip through the water and keep an eye on the clock for the daily fish-feeding session.
Stray beyond the water to the basketball and tennis courts or a games room where the dial is set to retro arcade fun – or just kick back in a spacious family-sized room (sleeps four) with a balcony overlooking the pool and ocean.
When it comes to mealtimes, all four of the resort’s restaurants are family-friendly but for lunch, there’s no beating the funky Airstream caravan pumping out Asian street food right near the pool.
Extraordinary neighbours: Wildlife Retreat at Taronga, Sydney NSW
The morning welcoming committee at this Sydney bolthole is next-level cute – and always surprising. Swish back the curtains and you never know what you might see: a koala perched in a tree just outside your window, an echidna meandering past or a wallaby making a special appearance. The universal childhood fantasy of calling a zoo home for the night (shared by a few adults as well) becomes a thrilling reality at Taronga Zoo’s Wildlife Retreat.
Just 20 minutes from the CBD, the eco-sanctuary tucked seamlessly into native bushland inhabits its own David Attenborough-worthy universe, where the zoo’s residents provide an entertaining backdrop to some seriously luxurious digs. The chic suites nail a modern design brief but it’s the exclusive access to the animal attractions that makes this family experience extraordinary, including visiting the zoo before it opens to the public and a night walk to see nocturnal species at play.
Other creature comforts aren’t forgotten: the N’gurra Lounge is a lobby bar worthy of a swanky city hotel, where sunset cocktails can be enjoyed on the balcony. Me-Gal restaurant serves smart contemporary dishes that celebrate native ingredients and locally sourced produce (yes, there’s a kids’ menu for junior zoologists). Both venues serve up incredible views of the city twinkling beyond Sydney Harbour.