I’m delighted to share another story from Kelly Burch. We first met Kelly when she shared her stopover in Dubai en route to Australia to visit her husband and family, and here is her story of that trip. I will admit that the thought of flying to Australia with kids is incredibly daunting, but it looks like visiting Australia with baby is well worth the effort!
I never imagined I would be flying to Australia with my child before she was a year old. However, when the baby was just four months old a health crisis in the family brought my husband – an Australian – back to his home country. Not one to miss an adventure, I quickly arranged a passport for the baby and met my husband in Brisbane three weeks later.
Although the trip stemmed from a crisis, it ended up being a great adventure, even more so because the day we landed our family member received good news medically, which freed us to enjoy our trip. We were able to introduce the baby to her grandparents, and enjoy an adventure through Queensland, Australia, bringing the baby to places my husband had visited as a child and that we had enjoyed during the 18 months we lived in Australia.
My love for the country’s striking natural beauty and laid-back people was deepened after visiting Australia with baby. Here’s what we did – and didn’t do –during the trip:
Australia with Baby: The Sunshine Coast
No matter how wonderful Australia is and how smoothly the flights go, one thing is unavoidable when visiting down under: jet lag. Luckily, my husband flew a few weeks before us and was able to help with the baby while I slept. For our daughter, who was still in the fourth-trimester bliss of waking every three hours around the clock, the time difference didn’t seem to matter much. However, for me it was brutal. To relax and ride the wave of jet lag we headed the to the Sunshine Coast soon after we arrived. Brisbane is an inland city and doesn’t have easy access any great beaches. However, it is flanked by some of the most beautiful beaches in the world – on the Gold Coast to the south and the Sunshine Coast to the north. We were lucky enough to stay in a family friend’s apartment in the beach town of Caloundra, one of the closest beach towns to Brisbane, about an hour north of the city. Caloundra was a perfect destination for a jetlagged couple with an infant.
When you are facing the ocean or watching the waves crash on Bribie Island you feel as if you are on a remote resort in the south pacific. However, when you turn your back to the beach you remember that there is a good-sized city with everything that you could need just beyond the sand. This came in especially helpful when our daughter developed a bad cough and had to visit urgent care. We were able to get her a doctor’s appointment and pick up her prescriptions easily, and the staff were familiar with tourists paying cash for medical care.
The easily accessible beaches and paved, shady walkways made strolling with the baby easy and enjoyable, and the numerous coffee shops and cafes were perfect for taking nursing breaks. A short drive up the coast brought us to Noosa, an absolutely stunning upscale beachside village that is home to a national park famed for koalas. Although we weren’t able to spot any on our hike, the views over the ocean made up for the lack of wildlife.
Australia with Baby: Brisbane City
Brisbane is smaller than other Australia capital cities like Sydney and Melbourne, and that allows visitors to feel as if they truly know the city. The relaxed atmosphere outdoor focus make sub-tropical Brisbane an enjoyable, easy place to live – or to visit traveling to Australia with baby. Brisbane is a walkable city that is slightly smaller than Boston, but despite its size, there is always something to do. One of our favorite activities during was to visit Southbank, the man-made sand beach and saltwater pool that overlooks the Brisbane CBD (Central Business District, or downtown) from the other side of the Brisbane River. Aussies are very keen on sun-safety, so there is plenty of natural shade provided by the landscaping along the pool. The baby loved splashing in the warm water, and I loved that the sand was safe for her to crawl around in. I didn’t mind that there was no easy beach access from Brisbane because Southbank was a perfect alternative with close parking, restrooms, and easy access to shops and dining.
Playgrounds, a boardwalk through a small tropical forest, and the huge Riverwalk (a paved path along the Brisbane River) make Southbank the perfect place to spend an afternoon, and we returned often throughout our trip. The weekend markets, beginning on Friday nights and lasting through Sunday, bring even more life to the area.
From Southbank it is easy to take a short ferry ride to many points in the city, including Kangaroo Point Cliffs (another beautiful recreational area along the river) and Eagle Street Pier, a trendy riverside area full of bars and restaurants (although here you’re more likely to encounter city workers having a drink after work than families). If you’re up for a longer ferry ride (which can be an event in and of itself for older kids), New Farm Park is a beautiful grassy park, complete with paved trails and a fantastic playground about a 15 minute ferry ride from the CBD. A ten-minute walk inland from the river will bring you into the newly gentrified suburb of New Farm, full of boutique shops and cafes.
If you have access to a car it is worth driving fifteen minutes outside the CBD to Mount Coot-tha, a small mountain with a beautiful overlook. From the overlook, which has a restaurant and ice cream stand you can see all of Brisbane city, the winding course of the Brisbane River, and all the way to the ocean. Adventurers can hike to the top of the mountain (a fairly short, easy climb), but you can also drive all the way to the outlook.
Australia with Baby: What We Missed…
One of my only regrets of our trip to Australia with baby is that we didn’t make a trek to Fraser Island, one of my favorite spots from previous trips. The world’s largest sand-dune island is located three hours north of Brisbane, accessible only by ferry and four-wheel drive vehicle. Fraser Island is what people picture when they think of Australia – it is truly wild. Access to the island is controlled by the tides, and campers must carry in everything they need, including drinking water, fuel, and cooking supplies. There are no designated campsites; rather, Aussies just set up camp behind the dunes. The Pacific Ocean rails against the island and the shark-filled surf is unsafe for swimming. Wild dingoes watch campers, hoping for food left unattended.
However, the island’s untouched wilderness is breathtaking. The freshwater lakes are simply amazing and the four-wheel drive tracks through the hills and rainforests are unlike anything else I’ve done. Yet, despite my willingness to adventure to the other side of the world, I couldn’t work up my courage to take an infant to Fraser. Although I’m not usually cautious, the idea of being out of cell reception with no access to emergency services was too much with a baby.
My husband finally convinced me that we should stay at Kingfisher Bay Resort, one of the only resorts on the island. Set on the inland side of the island Kingfisher provides housing, dining and tour options and is an easy ferry ride away from the mainland. It was a compromise that would allow us to go to Fraser with more support. Unfortunately, we left Australia quickly because of a job offer, before we could make the trip.
Tips and Tricks for Traveling to Australia with Baby:
I may be partial to visiting Queensland because I’ve lived there, but I believe a visit to Brisbane offers the most bang for your buck on a trip to Australia. From Brisbane, you can visit the beautiful mountains, rainforests and waterfalls of the Gold Coast Hinterland (about an hour south of the city). To the North, you have the Sunshine Coast, with Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo (an hour north); Mon Repos Turtle Centre, where you can watch sea turtles nest and hatch, depending on the season; Fraser Island; and access to the Southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef from the Town of 1770 (About 6 hours north of Brisbane). Having visited the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns and from 1770, I found the snorkeling equally breathtaking at the southern tip of the reef.
When people learn that I took my infant to Australia, they all have the same first question: How did you survive the flight? It’s true that the flight to Australia is brutal – about 24 hours of travel if you time it perfectly from Boston. But really, flying with an infant wasn’t any worse than flying down under usually is. I knew from experience that having one stopover rather than two is worth the extra money.
Flying from Boston to L.A. or Dallas, and then direct to Brisbane on Qantas makes the trip much easier, despite the 14 to 17 hour flight over the Pacific. Because my daughter was still an infant we booked a bassinet seat, which means that we were guaranteed a seat on the bulkhead. The extra legroom and the bassinet meant that flying with a baby was in some ways more comfortable than making the journey alone. It is worth noting that a lap child traveling internationally pays about 10% of an adult fare.
Logistically, Australia with baby was an easy visit. There were plenty of options for diapers (nappies), and although the brands were not the same the quality was great. I had no problem finding an equivalent of the dairy and soy-free formula that my daughter required, and when we needed medical care on the trip it was easily accessible and affordable.
Everyone in Australia loved getting to know the “bub” who had travelled the world to come visit her father’s homeland, and I was so glad that we made the trip.
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