Short and sweet: Micro adventures for kids

By Jennifer Ennion March 21, 2024
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They may be little, but kids dream big when it comes to adventures in the outdoors. Here are some of our favourites.

Fireworks blast from somewhere up the beach. I wait to hear cries from my six-month-old son sleeping in our tent, nestled in dunes. There’s not a sound. I continue ringing in the New Year with friends, one ear on our increasingly raucous conversations, and the other on my firstborn. I had been certain that our son wouldn’t sleep in a tent, on sand, surrounded by festivities, and nervous we wouldn’t make it to nightfall, given we had to use a four-wheel drive (4WD) to reach our campsite. And yet he proved me wrong, and I learnt very quickly how adaptable kids are. Since then, family life has revolved around many micro adventures (and a few bigger ones). We’ve swum in outback waterholes, hiked through remote gorges, been snowboarding, surfing, and snorkelling together, and tackled plenty of other activities that are part of the joy of living in Australia. One of the main things I’ve learnt since becoming a parent is that you don’t have to go far from home to have an epic family adventure…

Hiking in the NT

It’s hard to resist the lure of Australia’s largest national park, Kakadu, so we store our 36-year-old Viscount caravan and hire a Britz “Safari” Land Cruiser with a roof-top tent. An adventure in Kakadu can be big but it doesn’t have to be, especially if you’re living or travelling through Darwin, about 1.5 hours’ away. Although a visit requires a 4WD and rough-around-the-edges sleeping arrangements, the highlights are undoubtedly the hikes to remote waterfalls. You won’t want to miss Maguk, Gunlom or Ubirr, but if you only have time for one, make it Jim Jim Falls, purely for the adventure factor. It’s a long and sweaty hike (especially with a toddler) over boulders, through monsoon forest and alongside a glassy creek. The reward is one of Australia’s most awe-inspiring landscapes: an amphitheatre of rock that towers above two inky green pools and a small sandy beach. In the wet season (summer) there’s a raging waterfall and it’s inaccessible but in the dry (winter), Jim Jim will burn the energy of the most active children – and their parents.

A man carrying a child on a hike of the Kakadu National Park
Exploring the Jim Jim Falls region of Kakadu National Park is one very big (and fun) adventure for the little’uns.

Don’t forget… to leave just after breakfast, to avoid NT’s heat and Kakadu’s “crowds”.
Make it happen… by hiring a 4WD through Britz, which has a depot in Darwin.

Boating in Queensland

It’s known for having some of the whitest and finest sand in the world, which makes Queensland’s Whitehaven Beach a popular day-trip destination for anyone and everyone. For families, it’s a good way to test your sea legs (or, more so, the sea legs of your children), without submitting them to a full multi-day sailing package. Cruise Whitsundays offers morning and afternoon trips to Whitehaven, a seven-kilometre-long stretch of sand on Whitsunday Island. If you want to do more than splash about in the aquamarine water, follow the Solway Circuit, a 1.2km (one-way) track that is part of the Ngaro Sea Trail. Learn about the history of the region and the traditional owners, the Ngaro, as you soak in views of Solway Passage, Pentecost Island and more.

A woman sitting on a cliff overlooking a view of the ocean during a hike of the Whitsundays' Ngaro Sea Trail
The Whitsundays’ Ngaro Sea Trail offers a number of short day walks that provide some spectacular views over this magic part of Queensland.

Don’t forget… to take shade for the beach. There is very little provided by the cruise company, and you’ll have two hours in the sun.
Make it happen… Cruise Whitsundays picks up from Port of Airlie, and Daydream and Hamilton islands.

Snorkelling in NSW

With a beach at the end of our street and many more within walking, cycling and easy driving distance, often micro adventures are as simple as keeping it local. You could have a family surf session or SUP, but one of my favourite mother-son activities is snorkelling. Terrigal Haven, on the NSW Central Coast, is a great spot as it’s often where beginner scuba divers learn their skills; just be sure to use a float so the boaties and fisher folk know you’re there. Toowoon Bay is another favourite, as the tides create a lagoon-like area that’s safe for kids learning to use a snorkel and mask for the first time. Marine life doesn’t compare to that in tropical climates, but you could spot small rays, squid, flathead and groupers. And for young children, snorkelling is more about the novelty than spotting numerous nudibranchs anyway.

A child with snorkelling gear in front of the ocean.
Introduce your children to the joys of snorkelling when they are young and you’ll have a marine explorer in the family for life. Jennifer Ennion

Don’t forget… to be patient if it’s your child’s first few times. They’ll likely get frustrated when water gets in their mask.
Make it happen… you won’t find many snorkelling tour companies in NSW; they tend to focus on scuba. But you can grab an affordable mask and snorkel set from many chainstores or online, and head out with a family member or friend who’s confident in the ocean. Go to Seabreeze for the tide, wind, and swell forecast.

Snowboarding in Victoria

It’s a lucky child that gets to enjoy the snow in Australia before they’ve even started school, but one of the main reasons I’ve been determined to teach my kids snowboarding is to instil a love for the outdoors in all climates. There’s no doubt about it, the snow can be a challenging environment for anyone – blizzards, sleet, ice, below-zero temperatures – but it can also be magical in so many ways. Mt Buller in the Victorian Alps is a family favourite ski resort because you’re smack bang right on the slopes, making it easy to go from the chairs back to the chalet for numerous reasons – mid-morning snack, breastfeeding breaks, a change of socks. The resort’s main slope, Bourke Street, is a great beginner run that’s not too flat and not too steep, and it features a magic carpet area that my then three-year-old daughter loved. I also recommend you book your children into a private snowboarding lesson. 

A man and a child snowboarding down a small hill in front of townhouses.
From your chalet’s front door you are straight onto the slopes at Mt Buller. Jennifer Ennion

Don’t forget… to travel in the shoulder seasons (June and September) because there will be less people on the slopes and that means more space for you.
Make it happen… by booking accommodation, lift passes and lessons through the Mt Buller website, where you can also check snow conditions and resort entry rules.

Camping in Tassie

I’ve lost count of how many campsites I’ve taken my kids to, especially after a year of caravanning around Australia, but one of the most memorable is Tasmania’s Chain of Lagoons. This place is a fantastic free campsite, set behind the dunes of a quiet, creamy beach. The only facilities are drop toilets, so it’s best if you are self-sufficient or happy to rough it for a few days. It’s a top long-weekend destination for anyone in Launceston, less than two hours’ away, or for Hobart residents, who are under three hours’ south. Spend your days swimming, beachcombing, fishing, and popping into the nearby tourist village of Bicheno.

A man fishing off the rocks on the coastline.
It will be hard to leave this part of Tassie, with its fabulous beach exploration opportunities and the chance to catch your dinner each day. Tourism Tasmania

Don’t forget… that if you want to shower, take a bucket for a “bush bath” (a.k.a. a wet-cloth wipe down).
Make it happen… by staying outside of school holidays. The campground isn’t on the typical tourist trail, but it is well-known in the camping world.

Coasteering in WA

Coasteering is not for the faint-hearted, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone not confident in the ocean. But if you have an adventurous teenager (or competent tween) who’s tagging along on a tour of wineries in WA’s Margaret River region (“bor-ring”), they’ll be stoked if you book a coasteering micro adventure. Margaret River Adventure Co. runs two-hour coasteering experiences, where you scramble over rocks and jump into swell while kitted out in wetsuits, helmets, and life vests. It’s a crazy amount of fun that starts in Ngari Capes Marine Park, and it’s available for kids aged seven and older, although conditions and ability will determine suitability. 

People jumping off of rocks into the ocean.
Have coastline, will explore. The Margaret River region is awash (excuse the pun) with awesome micro adventures for families. Tim Campbell

Don’t forget… to stop between jumps to soak in the views of the stunning aqua bays and rugged coastline.
Make it happen… by giving Margaret River Adventure Co. a call if you have any concerns or questions. The company’s owner, Cam O’Beirne has more than 30 years of experience in aquatic rescue, so he knows what he’s doing.

Rock climbing in NSW

Not every adventure needs to be outdoors. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate, while other times you simply need “training”. That’s when indoor rock climbing is a handy option to test the mind and the body. For regular climbers, gyms may be nothing more than a necessity, but for beginners and families, they make for great mini adventures where mum or dad can bond with their child. Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym is huge, with plenty of walls and obstacles for all levels, as well as a bouldering area. You can hire harnesses, chalk bags and shoes too, meaning you can try the sport without having to commit to the gear.

A group of children on the rock climbing wall at Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym
School holiday fun doesn’t get much better than trying your hand at climbing. Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym

Don’t forget… if you’re taking a young child and you’re the only adult, they won’t be able to belay you. Go with friends so the adults get to climb too. 
Make it happen… by heading there whenever the weather is wet. You can also book your child into a full-day ROCKCAMP during school holidays. That sure beats soccer, I say.