The Independent Parent: 'We're taking our family to Australia. Where are the best child-friendly attractions?'

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The Independent Travel

Q. We have booked a holiday in Australia over Christmas with our two children aged nine and seven. We are spending one night in Sydney, six nights in Wagga Wagga with relatives, seven nights on the Gold Coast and three nights in Sydney before flying back. We have got all our accommodation sorted out but are looking for things to do with the children - we want a mixture of fun, nature and local culture. Also, what should we expect to pay to hire a car on the Gold Coast?
Barry Smale, via e-mail

Q. We have booked a holiday in Australia over Christmas with our two children aged nine and seven. We are spending one night in Sydney, six nights in Wagga Wagga with relatives, seven nights on the Gold Coast and three nights in Sydney before flying back. We have got all our accommodation sorted out but are looking for things to do with the children - we want a mixture of fun, nature and local culture. Also, what should we expect to pay to hire a car on the Gold Coast?
Barry Smale, via e-mail

A. The east coast of Australia is a great area for a family holiday. Wagga Wagga (pronounced "Wogga Wogga") is in the heart of southern New South Wales, around 480km south-west of Sydney in the Riverina region. The name Wagga Wagga translates from the Wiradjuri aboriginal as "place of many crows". It's the largest inland city in New South Wales and has plenty to offer.

The 30km-long Wiradjuri Walking Track is a good place to start. From the visitor centre you can wander along the Murrumbidgee river, through the town and up to Willans Hill. You can also visit the city's impressive botanic gardens (00 61 2 6926 9621) and zoo on Macleay Street. The gardens feature a free-flight aviary with over 300 different species of birds and a miniature railway that runs on the first and third Sunday of each month from 10.30am-4.30pm. The gardens are open daily from 7.30am-4.15pm on weekdays and 7.30am-8pm at weekends, and admission is free.

For something more hands-on, you could also visit the Museum of the Riverina on Baden Powell Drive (00 61 2 6926 9655; www.wagga.nsw.gov.au/museum). The museum concentrates on people, places and events from the city's history, and it often has activities for children. It opens Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm, noon-4pm on Sundays and is closed on Mondays. Admission is free. The Wagga Wagga tourist office (00 61 2 692 69621; www.waggawaggatourism.com.au) opens daily from 9am-5pm.

The busy Gold Coast, 950km north of Sydney and 80km south of Brisbane, will be quite a change of scene from Wagga Wagga. The area has plenty of apartment blocks, fast-food chains and theme parks, all of which will be busy when you get there. Despite this, it's also the ideal place get a taste of Aussie beach culture.

For a break from endless swathes of golden sand, head to Burleigh Heads, part of the Burleigh Head National park, which offers a coastal walking trail and fantastic views of Surfers Paradise. Nearby you could also pay a visit to the David Fleay Wildlife Park (00 61 7 55 76 2411), which is home to koala, brogla, kangaroo and dunnart, among other animals. It opens daily from 9am-5pm. Admission is A$13 (£5.40) for adults and A$8.50 (£3.50) for children aged from four to 17. Further inland you can also experience "the green behind the gold" - Queensland's beautiful national parks. Tamborine (00 61 7 3235 9037; www.epa.qld.gov.au) is around 36km from Surfers Paradise and encompasses 17 different sections of the Tamborine Mountain Plateau. You can tackle several walking circuits, and there is an information centre at Doughty Park in North Tamborine that is open throughout the year, except on Christmas Day, from 10.30am-3.30pm.

Expect to pay around A$40 (£20) per day for car hire through Cost Less Car Rental (00 61 7 5592 4499; www.costlesscarrental.com.au), 2/3142 Gold Coast Highway, Surfers Paradise.

In Sydney,Taronga Zoo (00 61 2 9969 2777; www.zoo.nsw.gov.au), is a firm family favourite. It offers the novel Roar and Snore experience, which gives visitors the chance to spend the night in the company of animals. The visit begins with a two-hour zoo safari, followed by a barbecue and a night under canvas. The next morning, visitors are woken by the roars of the animals. Prices start at A$150 (£62) for adults and A$100 (£42) for children. The zoo opens daily from 9am-5pm and costs A$27 (£11) per adult and $14 for children (aged four to 15). For more information contact the Australia Tourist Commission (0906 863 3235 - calls cost 60p per minute; www.australia.com).

Send your family travel questions to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or e-mail crusoe@independent.co.uk

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