Family Destinations

Travelling down under on the cheap

Image - Gino Rodrigo
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Taking your family on holiday is never cheap and if you decide to go further afield than Europe to see the cultural delights of countries such as Australia, the flights will be the main cost but the thought of spending more money once you’ve landed can be worrying.

However, once you have booked your flights to Australia, there are plenty of free things on offer that the whole family can enjoy. Austravel has picked out a selection of attractions in the cities Sydney and Melbourne with something to suit the whole family and that won’t cost you a penny.

Guide to free Sydney
Spend a day on the Rocks
The Rocks is Sydney’s oldest preserved colonial district and has recently undergone an amazing metamorphosis. Without destroying the area’s Old World charm and historic buildings, the old district has been transformed and there’s now something for the whole family – from vibrant pocket of cafes, to restaurants and stalls.

Most activities centre on walking, looking, eating and soaking up the vibrant atmosphere. The Sydney Visitor Centre, The Rocks (open daily 9.30am to 5.30pm) and Corner, Argyle and Playfair Streets, are all good starting points.

Bowled over at Balls Head
Balls Head Reserve not only has great views of the harbour and skyline, but also wonderful waterline and inland paths, ancient Aboriginal rock paintings, carvings and barbecue facilities. It will give you a good idea of how pre-European Sydney once was.

Directions: From Waverton train station it’s a ten minute walk – turn left and follow Bay Rd, which becomes Balls Head Rd (just before the harbour, turn right).

Hazing over the Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains are an hour’s train ride from down town Sydney (Central station) and are aptly named due to the blue haze created by the thousands of Eucalyptus trees covering the mountains. The atmosphere is filled with finely dispersed droplets of eucalyptus oil, which in combination with dust particles and water vapour, scatter short-wave length rays of light which are predominantly blue in colour. The Blue Mountains became a world heritage park in 2000, nominated for its incredible biodiversity of plants and animals.

If you have access to a car, you can reach the mountains via the scenic mountain road – it takes about 90 minutes from Sydney to get to the main tourist destination of Leura and Katoomba. Alternatively, City Rail trains will get you there in an hour and service the mountain areas of Leura, Katoomba, Blackheath, Mt Victoria and Lithgow.

Guide to free Melbourne
Birrarung Marr
Birrarung Marr playground is still fairly new, it opened in 2002 and covers 20 acres. The park is open all year round and completely free. The younger ones in the family will enjoy the playground which has tube slides, sand pits, swinging hammocks, activity panels, rock and rope climbing features and balance beams. Those who wish to sightsee will enjoy the park’s views of landmarks such as the spires of the Victorian Arts Centre and St Paul’s Cathedral and the Rialto office tower. The park also provides barbeque facilities so you can feed hungry mouths on the cheap.

Directions: The park is situated on the north bank of the Yarra River next to Federation Square.

Food fiends at Queen Victoria Market
The foodies in the family will love Queen Victoria Market which is is the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere. It has with over 600 traders selling everything the palate could desire, and shouting out their tempting offerings in traditional market style. On Sunday the produce stalls are replaced with clothing and knick-knacks – great for finding something weird and wonderful. In summer (UK winter) the market is open on Wednesday evenings from 17:30 to 22:00, when it features hawker-style food stalls, music and dance performances.

Swan around Albert Park Lake
Wildlife lovers will enjoy Albert Park Lake where hundreds of elegant black swans and a plethora of exotic water birds including pelicans, cormorants and herons will greet you as you stroll around the 5km perimeter of this beautiful lake. Lakeside Drive was used as an international motor-racing circuit in the 1950s, and since 1996 the revamped track has been the venue for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix each March. The lake offers stunning views of down-town Melbourne, so worth the visit for a bit of camera action.

Indigenous art at Alcaston Gallery
Budding artists in the family will enjoy a trip to the Alcaston Gallery. Set in an imposing boom-style terrace, the Alcaston is a contemporary Australian art gallery, focusing on living indigenous artists. The gallery works directly with communities and is particularly attentive to cultural sensitivities. There’s also a space dedicated to works on paper.

Directions: Take tram 112 from city centre