If your family loves spending time outside, there are so many options for enjoying nature around the world. These national parks around the world are recommended by family travelers who have explored these parks with their own kids. Here are their suggestions for the best National Parks in the world for families.
National Parks around the world to visit with kids
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Canada National Parks
Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Banff National Park is located around 100 km west of Calgary in Canada and is packed with outstanding natural beauty. It’s easily accessible to everyone with one of the world’s most iconic mountain roads, the Icefields Parkway, running through it. Whether you’re passing through or taking your time, you’ll be treated to beautiful views, the bluest of lakes, and maybe even a bear or two.
We highly recommend taking some time to explore and trying out some of the many family-friendly activities in Banff. Lake Louise has a couple of great easy-to-moderate hikes; the Agnes Tea Trail and the Fairview Lookout Trail.
For the full, close-to-nature National Park experience, why not stay at one of the many campsites in the park? Just make sure to reserve this well in advance. Campsite bookings open up in January and the best sites are booked almost immediately. If camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of wonderful accommodation options in Banff or the slightly cheaper Canmore. Jacquie of Flashpacking Family
Fundy National Park, New Brunswick, Canada
Fundy National Park is located on the southern coast of New Brunswick, not far from the village of Alma. This Canadian National Park offers over 75 miles of trails for hiking, and each one has a different landscape. One of the park’s main attractions is its waterfalls, and there are over 25 of them.
One of the highlights of Fundy National Park with kids is the Dickson Falls Trail. This is quite easy for all ages, but does includes some stairs and bridges. The end of the trail is rewarded with waterfalls. Another fun trail with kids is Laverty Falls, with a waterfall of course and a natural pool for swimming. Fundy National Park trails are easy to navigate with kids and well signed.
Don’t miss Hopewell Rocks where you can walk on the bottom of the ocean when the tide rises and falls. Another favorite spot nearby are the St. Martins Sea Caves. Kids can explore the cave and skip rocks on the water, but later in the day it will all be underwater. The power of nature is awesome.
There are plenty of options for where to stay at Fundy National Park. Check out yurts with skylight domes or oTENTiks, a combination of a tent and cabin that comes with beds and furniture. There are also several different campsites and RV parks nearby.
The town of Alma is convenient for supplies or a place to eat. We would highly recommend The Octopus’ Garden Cafe with delicious homemade pasta and desserts. Kirsten
Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia, Canada
Families will love the 197 square mile Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, located on the west coast of Vancouver Island (Canada) and a scenic 4.5 hour drive from Victoria, B.C. Plan to spend a few days in Victoria, before or after visiting Pacific Rim. Here is a local guide covering where to eat, drink, and shop in Victoria.
Once in Pacific Rim National Park, visit Long Beach, an almost 10 mile stretch of sandy beach and rocky outcrops. Here you can play in the sand, explore tidal pools, and experience the thriving local surf culture. If you can tear yourself away from the expansive beach, follow a trail into the majestic rainforest.
For an offshore adventure, take a boat to the Broken Islands, a collection of over 100 islands. Active families with older children may want to hike all or part of the rugged West Coast Trail. This 6 to 8-day adventure is challenging, even for experienced hikers.
Plan to spend at least three days in the region. The village of Tofino is an excellent base in Pacific Rim National Park. Families will love staying at the beachfront Wickaninnish Inn. Check out Tourism Tofino for more accommodation options. Nancy of Luxe Travel Family
Prince Edward Island National Park, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Prince Edward Island National Park is located on Prince Edward Island in Canada’s Maritime provinces. In our family’s opinion, it is one of the best national parks in Canada. The park lies on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, providing beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and unforgettable views.
Families can enjoy hiking or biking on the many trails that wind through the park. Balsam Hollow trial is less than a kilometer and takes you past Anne of Green Gables Heritage House. It’s a nice stroll through the woods and runs past the river near the house. Another favorite is Cavendish Dunelands with wide open meadows and wildflowers. Floating boardwalks and dirt paths make for an easy walk through the park.
There are several campgrounds in and near the park. If camping isn’t your thing, we would recommend renting a vacation home through HomeAway or VRBO. Another option is to stay in one of the hotels in Charlottetown, the largest town on the island. Kirsten
Caribbean National Parks
Virgin Islands National Park, St. John, USVI
Our family has visited many national parks over the years, but our recent family vacation to St. John and Virgin Islands National Park was definitely one of the most unique! The park itself spans roughly two-thirds of the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We loved the laid-back Caribbean vibe and the options for beach snorkeling, hiking, and exploring historic sites within the national park.
Our favorite beach was Maho Bay, where we saw sea turtles and fish as we snorkeled just off shore. All of the beaches, including Cinnamon Bay and Hawksnest Bay offer unforgettable views. Families can visit the Cruz Bay Visitor Center to learn about Ranger programs, hiking options, and pick up a Junior Ranger workbook.
Expect hotel accommodations on this small island to be more limited compared to nearby St. Thomas. In addition to the popular Westin St. John Resort in Cruz Bay, there are plenty of family-friendly house rentals like the one we found in the Coral Bay area. There are no airports on St. John, so you need to fly into nearby St. Thomas then hop on a ferry (either by foot or car). Kath at familyTravelsUSA.com
Best National Parks for kids in the United States
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is one of our favorite National Parks in the US for it’s temperate weather, beautiful scenery, the small bustling down of Bar Harbor, and many hikes that are easy for kids. The closest major airport is Bangor, Maine and there are frequent flights from all over the US. It is about an hours drive to get to Acadia National Park and it is recommended to have a car for your use.
Bar Harbor is the perfect place to stay and you’ll have plenty of options ranging from cozy B&B’s, to larger hotels and campsites. The Bar Harbor Inn & Spa is quite popular with views across the bay.
Ready to Explore? Acadia is full of amazing hikes, tidal pools, beaches and a Pond House that serves delicious popovers (don’t miss it). Our favorite things to do in Acadia with kids include the Jordan Pond hike around the pond and the ocean trail where you can stop to watch waves crashing into the rocks or look for little animals in the tidal pools.
Plan to spend at least 3 days in Bar Harbor. There is plenty to keep busy with stargazing, eating lobster, searching for sea glass, taking a boat ride to search for seals and more. Chelsea of Pack More Into Life
Arches National Park, Utah
Located in Moab, Utah, Arches National Park is one of the best National Parks for families. Arches is renowned for its magnificent rock formations and Delicate Arch, one of the most famous arches in the park. Many of the trails can be hiked with kids of all ages.
The 3 mile Delicate Arch trail is one of the most popular in the park and was our favorite. The trail is considered difficult and cuts across sandstone paths and slip rock before reaching a sloping rock bowl above which the Delicate Arch stands. The Landscape Arch trail in the Devil’s Garden is another highlight and the easy 1.6 mile trail leads to one of the longest stone arches on the planet.
We spent two full days exploring Arches National Park with kids and there are at least 10 trails of varying difficulty which kids can hike. Most visitors combine Arches with the nearby Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park. All are within easy reach from Moab where there is a wide range of accommodation options. The nearest major airport is in Salt Lake City which is about a 4 hour drive from Moab. Elaine and Dave of Show Them the Globe
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Badlands National Park in southwestern South Dakota is one of our family’s favorite national parks. Located just south of I-90, Badlands is about an hour from Rapid City and Custer State Park. The park’s name comes from the Lakota phrase “Mako Sica” which means bad lands. Visitors will be enthralled by more than 244,000 acres of land, including one of the largest protected areas of mixed-grass prairie land in the US.
A great to start your visit at Badlands is to take the 31-mile Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway. Accessed from Exit 131 if westbound on I-90, or Exit 110 if eastbound on I-90, it’s a breathtaking drive through the park.
Check in at the Visitor’s Center to find out where the animals may be roaming and stop all along the byway for short hikes and a more complete experience. Bighorn sheep, bison, prairie dogs, and more are waiting to be discovered. Take in a break-taking sunset or sunrise over the spired rock formations and photograph the rugged landscape and wild animals. If your kids are adventurous and love to scramble on rocks, they will love it as much as we do. Michelle of Simplify Live Love
Biscayne National Park, Florida
Biscayne National Park is absolutely perfect for families. This park is not one of the most well-known national parks, but it’s definitely home to the some of the most unique activities and wildlife of any National Park in the United States.
Getting to Biscayne National Park is simple. It’s conveniently located 40 miles South of Miami; only a 50-minute drive from the city center. There are so many things to do inside the park including paddle boarding, fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and even some short, but interesting hikes.
My absolute favorite thing to do in Biscayne National Park with kids is to head to Boca Chita Key, an island off of mainland Florida. This little island has a nice light house, restroom facility and a Caribbean island experience with clear blue water and unreal seashells.
Biscayne National Park is home to the Northern part of the second largest barrier reef in the world, Florida Reef. This reef is home to unique and interesting wildlife and draws snorkelers and scuba divers from all over the world. Any family visiting must do the short hike just outside of the visitor center, it takes you down a path lined with mangroves, birds and unique shallow water fish. I also recommend taking one of the many boat tours offered through Biscayne National Park Institute!
This park can be explored in one day, but I recommend at least 3 days to full explore all of the islands and underwater experiences offered. I recommend families to stay at the Home to Home Suites in Homestead, Florida to take advantage of the rooms with private sleeping areas and full kitchens. Tavia of Big Brave Nomad
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capitol Reef National Park in central Utah is a great destination for families. Activities range from hiking to harvesting fresh fruit – which is pretty unique for a national park. There are hiking trails at Capitol Reef for both kids and adults. Younger kids can play in the narrow canyon of the Grand Wash Trail. Teens and adults will enjoy the vertical hike up to Cassidy Arch – the views from up there are amazing!
During the right time of year, families can also harvest fruit from some of the orchards planted by pioneers who settled this area in the late 1800s. Fruits include cherries, apricots, peaches, pears and apples.
Capitol Reef is a 3.5-hour drive from Salt Lake City – which includes an international airport and rental cars. Most of the trails and activities are accessible by car, but travel to other areas require high-clearance vehicles.
The town of Torrey (15 miles west of Capitol Reef) provides various accommodations, including hotels. There are campgrounds available inside Capitol Reef as well. Torrey includes an amazing pizza place – Red Cliff Restaurant – that hits the spot after a day of hiking. Jason of Carltonaut’s Travel Tips
Death Valley National Park, Nevada
Death Valley delights and surprises! This national park in Nevada is an other-worldly paradise that will “AMAZE” your family. Imagine you’re on a Star Wars set when hiking the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Slide down the never-ending dunes!
Have fun carefully navigating Devil’s Golf Course, a wide expanse of jagged spires of rock salt eroded by eons of wind and rain. Our favorite stop was exploring the Dali-esque Badwater Salt Flats where dynamic geometric designs created by nature can be seen for miles….and your head will spin realizing that your family is 282 feet below sea level. Smiles will appear as your kids try to lift large chunks of salt!
A relaxing nine-mile one-way drive along Artist’s Drive is incredible. Cuddle on a bench overlooking a spectacular sunset at Zabriskie Point. In one day you can see a lot of Death Valley National Park, but you can also spend weeks and never see it all. Book in advance one of the park’s limited lodging options (and if you have picky eaters bring along a cooler of food). Since Death Valley experiences extreme weather and possesses rough terrain, take precautions before visiting. Las Vegas is convenient to fly into to reach this park. Lisa of Hilton Suggests
Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park is a stunning national park and a top choice for families. Two great kid friendly hikes are Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Lake and Hidden Lake Trail. Both provide some fantastic views, gentle inclines, and payoffs at the end.
Families will also enjoy the many lakes and rivers in the area for swimming or kayaking – Lake McDonald, Two Medicine Lake, and St. Mary Lake. The Going to the Sun Road, a narrow scenic road only open about 3 months out of the year, is also a great way to see the park and stop at the Visitor’s Centers along the way.
There are many sections of the park with campgrounds for those who want to stay outdoors, but we enjoyed Whitefish, Montana, just outside of the park. The small downtown area had plenty of restaurants, hotel options, and local shopping.
Located in Northwest Montana, Glacier National Park is pretty remote. Glacier Park International Airport is 30 miles away in Kalispell for those who would prefer to fly closer, but it is small and expensive to fly into this airport. Many families fly into a nearby city and drive. Some of the closest options would include Spokane, WA or Missoula, ID and then driving a few hours into West Glacier. Margie of DQ Travel
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Located in Northern Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park bursts with natural beauty and adventure for families. Hiking and helicopter tours make a great way to explore this Natural Wonder of the World. Take a stroll on SkyWalk, a horseshoe-shaped glass-bottom bridge on the edge of the west side of the Grand Canyon. Intrepid travelers can even hike or take a mule or helicopter ride to Phantom Ranch from the North Rim for white water rafting tours along the Colorado River.
Bright Angel Trail is the most popular hiking path at the South Rim of the Canyon. If you’re planning to hike down and back up the Grand Canyon with kids in a day though, think again! It takes about four hours to climb to the bottom and another six to eight to climb back up — almost certainly longer with kids. You can book camping accommodations in advance midway along the trail or on the Canyon floor.
The drive from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon South Rim will take about four hours if you don’t encounter heavy tourist traffic or make any pitstops. There are some serious treasures to be found on your road trip from the Valley of the Sun to the Grand Canyon, such as Slide Rock State Park in Sedona, Montezuma Castle Native American ruins in Walnut Canyon, and Meteor Crater near Winslow.
You can also reach the Grand Canyon via train aboard the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams, Arizona. Expect live entertainment on-board including a faux train heist.
Accommodations at the rim of the Grand Canyon are limited. Plan to make your hotel reservations about a year in advance if you want to stay within the National Park. El Tovar is the oldest and grandest resort at the rim, made of limestone and pine in 1905 to evoke a Swiss chalet. For more affordable and easier-to-book options a few miles outside Grand Canyon National Park, consider hotel options in Tusayan and Williams instead. Colleen at Travel Mamas
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park is underrated in my opinion. It is a great national park to visit for families. Located near Jackson, Wyoming, ski enthusiasts descend to the area to tackle some of the most difficult runs in the U.S. You can go on a winter sleigh ride near the National Elk Refuge. Grand Teton National Park is home to over 60 species of mammals, including bison, moose, elk, wolves, bears and many species of birds. Summer is a great time to visit and go on a private wildlife safari.
If you want to avoid the summer crowds, go during the fall months. Vibrant fall colors can be found in the Snake River Canyon and Munger Mountain is home to aspen groves that put on a show during fall. One of the popular hikes in the around Jenny Lake to Inspiration Point or Hidden Falls.
Don’t miss riding the alpine coaster on Snow King Mountain in Jackson, taking a photo near the Oxbow Bend and a raft ride in the beautiful Snake river.
Getting to the Grand Tetons is half the fun, you fly into the commercial airport (the only one in the US) located right inside a National Park (Jackson Hole airport). The snowcapped mountains of the Tetons look a lot like the Swiss Alps! Priya of Outside Suburbia
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee – often referred to as “The Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park” (GSMNP) and visited this National Park frequently. These days, we’re a little further (Nashville) but we visit frequently with our three girls.
The Smokies are accessible from Knoxville, TN (about a 45-minute drive) and also North Carolina. There’s tons of camping, cabin rentals and hotels near the park and one hike-in camping experience at Mt. LaConte which is challenging but spectacular.
Some other favorite family-friendly activities in the Smokies include bike riding through Cades Cove (bike rentals are available), horseback riding, exploring creeks & waterfalls or the unique firefly event that happens in early summer. There is a species of fireflies in the park that has a magical and hypnotizing flashing pattern. The fireflies flash in unison for a two-week period in June. The best place to watch them is in the Elkmont Camp ground area from 10 pm to midnight. There are often large crowds to observe this phenomena, but everyone gets quiet when it starts and it’s pretty amazing.
Some favorite family-friendly hikes in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park are Clingman’s Dome, Laurel Falls or The Gatlinburg Trail which brings you through historic Gatlinburg and also to some beautiful scenic spots in the park. There is also a wonderful Junior Ranger Program in the Smokies and kids of all ages will love it. Sarah of The Wandering Rumpus
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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii is a fascinating National Park for families! There’s truly no other place like it in America. Most families will want to spend at least one very full day in the park, but you could easily spend two days exploring.
For budding geologists, the most interesting trail is the Cinder Cone Trail off of Chain of Craters Road. The first half of that trail has no elevation gain, though it’s extremely uneven since it takes you romping through an actual lava field! The small guide book available for purchase at the trail head explains what you’re seeing at each stop along the way and how it was formed. Families with more endurance can continue their hike by going up the Cinder Cone, though it’s relatively steep and not as interesting for young kids.
There are also some wonderful non-hiking options in the park, including the newly re-opened Thurston Lava Tube off of Crater Rim Drive. Don’t miss a stop at the Visitors Center to see the park film and pick up your Junior Ranger book! Different versions are available for kids under 6 and kids 7-12. If you’ll be visiting some of the island’s other national parks, kids can also participate in the Hawai’i Island National Parks Junior Ranger Adventure Book.
Hawai’i Island rightfully earns its name as “the Big Island”. While you can visit the National Park on a day trip from Kona or Waikoloa, it’s a lot of driving for one day and you won’t get much time in the park. I recommend staying in either Hilo or Volcano Village (immediately outside the park gates) for better access and to make the most of your time. Many families choose to split their time on the Big Island by staying 2-3 nights on “Hilo side” and then 3-5 nights in Kona or Waikoloa. Here’s a 5 day Hawaii Big Island itinerary to help with your planning. Melissa of The Family Voyage
Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana
Indiana Dunes National Park is located in northwestern Indiana on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. It is an easy day trip from Chicago, South Bend, and Grand Rapids, and offers a variety of scenery children of all ages will enjoy.
Start at the Visitor Center, where you can either park your car and take the free shuttle bus or grab a map and head out to explore on your own. There are over 15,000 acres and 15 miles of coastline to hike, it’s just a matter of time and choosing the right hike for your group.
We chose the West Beach Trail, which offers the opportunity to walk along the dunes and through the forest. The trail is mostly flat, with a few elevated hills along the way. It’s definitely perfect for kids who are young or families who don’t have a lot of time. Pack a picnic and plan on enjoying views of Lake Michigan when you finish.
We stayed in a beach house at Beachwalk Vacations Rentals in Michigan City, Indiana. These homes come in all shapes and sizes, have a community clubhouse and store, and are walking distance to the beach. It is a twenty minute drive to Indiana Dunes National Park, and there is great access to restaurants and shops in Michigan City. Kirsten
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Joshua Tree National Park is located in southeast California near the city of Palm Springs. The easiest way to visit this national park is to fly into Palm Springs International Airport if you are coming from out of town, or it is also relatively close to San Diego and Los Angeles.
There are a plethora of family-friendly resorts located in the Palm Springs area to stay at when you are visiting Joshua Tree National Park, but you can also camp in the park if you want to stay closer. Joshua Tree National Park would be a perfect 1-2 day long trip if you are coming from LA, or San Diego. If you are staying in the area longer, there are many other fun things to do with kids in Palm Springs with kids.
The weather in Joshua Tre in the winter is mild and nothing is closed, making it the perfect time to visit. Joshua Tree is one of the best national parks to visit for families with kids of all ages. Most of the hiking trails are fairly easy and short, and the park is full of giant boulders that are perfect for little ones to climb around on. Some of the best hikes that are great for families in Joshua Tree National Park include Barker Dam Nature Trail, Arch Rock Nature Trail, Skull Rock Nature Trail, and Hidden Valley Nature Trail. Amanda of Patsey Family Travels
National Mall and Memorial Parks: Washington, DC
Located in the heart of Washington, DC, it is easy to access the National Mall and Memorials from just about anywhere in the city or surrounding suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. Parking can be pricey, so if you are staying in town, plan to walk or take the Metro to the Mall. The city also has a bike-share program that is very affordable, getting you from point A to point B in a flash. There is no shortage of hotels in DC either, whether you are looking for a romantic escape or a family-friendly hotel with a pool. There are several to choose from at every price point. For the best deals, look just outside the city in Bethesda too. Anywhere hotel close to a Metro stop will make it easy for you to get around the city.
You will need at least one full day to see all of the monuments and memorials on the Mall, and this doesn’t include all of the free Smithsonian museums set up around the National Mall. To give Washington, DC enough time, plan a three-day weekend or more. Shenandoah National Park is under two hours away by car, so you can do a lot if you spend a week in the District.
We love to start at the Lincoln Memorial and work our way up to the Capital Building. There are so many little monuments and memorials to see as you make the walk down the National Mall. If you only hit the big ones, you are missing out on a lot of our nation’s history. Keep in mind too that you will need to make a reservation to go up the Washington Monument (incredible views of the city) and to tour the Capitol, if that’s on your agenda. Keryn of DC Travel Mag
Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic National Park with kids should be on every family’s list because there is so much variety. Within the park you’ll find rainforests, mountains, and even beaches. This makes it feel like you’re visiting several different places since the different areas of Olympic National Park are so diverse.
This is a great park for hiking and there are several rainforest and waterfall hikes that are suitable for young kids, but have enough variety to even keep teens engaged. If you want a short hike that packs a lot into a short distance, check out the Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rainforest – it’s under a mile, but absolutely amazing!
The park is only about 2.5 hours from Seattle, and because of its unique shape, there are lots of great Airbnb rentals available just outside of the park that are amazingly unique. Jessica at Bring the Kids
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park is 415 square miles of beautiful views, spectacular wild animals, hikes for every ability – and stunning natural vistas at every turn. Located in Northern Colorado, RMNP is most easily accessible from the Denver Airport. It is 64 miles from the Denver International Airport to the park’s entrance. You can also access RMNP from around 90 miles away by flying into the Cheyenne regional airport, Wyoming.
Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect place to experience snow capped mountains on the same day you enjoy soaking your feet in a warm bubbling creek. A great place to stay when you visit the park is the nearby city of Estes Park, Colorado. Another popular place to stay nearby is Grand Lake, Colorado.
Hiking is one of the best ways to experience this breathtaking park and its views. Consider hiking the Bear Lake Trail for incredible mountain views, or to Gem Lake Trail for a more challenging climb that ends in a hidden mountain pond! A visit to RMNP is never complete however, without a drive up world famous “Trail Ridge Road” – the highest continuous paved road in the United States. It reaches an elevation of 12,183 feet! Rocky Mountain National Park is also one of the only places you can visit an Alpine Tundra ecosystem outside of the Arctic.
This incredible park is a must do on any National Park bucket list! You could easily spend a week or more at this park, and never run out of things to see or activities to do! Shannon of Every Day Best
Sequoia National Park, California
Most National Parks have beautiful scenery and hiking trails, but in Sequoia National Park the massive sequoia trees are the stars of the show. These giant trees can grow to be about 30 feet in diameter and more than 250 feet tall.
Located in California’s southern Sierra Nevada mountains, Sequoia is about 2 hours east of Fresno. It’s a 3.5-hour drive from LAX and 6-hour drive from Vegas. Your best bet is to make reservations early to stay in one of the park’s lodges or campgrounds. The closest accommodations outside the park are nearly an hour drive and you don’t want to waste all that time driving back and forth.
Families will love the hike to see the General Sherman Tree – the world’s largest tree measured by volume. It’s an easy half-mile on an improved, road-like trail, though it is all uphill on the way back! If you’re up for something a bit more challenging, I highly recommend the Tokopah Falls Trail. This intermediate trail winds along the Kaweah River and features lots of amazing waterfalls, boulders and beauty.
My family spent three days in Sequoia and neighboring Kings Canyon National Parks. But with all the gorgeous trails and exhibits, I’d suggest at least four to five days for your visit. This California vacation plan can show you our itinerary. Shannon at The TV Traveler
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
One of the best day trips from Washington DC is a visit to Shenandoah National Park. Located just a couple hours away, Shenandoah is the perfect weekend destination for families looking for an escape from the busy city life.
On your visit, you have a few choices in places to stay. You can either stay in one of the two resorts located within the park, or reserve a camping spot in one of the campgrounds on Shenandoah.
One of our favorite places to stay at Shenandoah is the Skyland Resort. You can stay in one of their many cabins with the most amazing mountain views from your room.
Hiking in Shenandoah is fun for the whole family, with so many fun trails perfect for the little ones. One of our favorite kid friendly trails is the Upper Hawksbill trail, which is an easy 2.1 mile round trip hike with the most stunning vistas everywhere you turn.
Another fun family hike is Dark Hollow Falls. This 1.4 mile trail starts out fairly easy on a downhill slope, then gets a bit challenging on the way back up. It’s totally doable with kids, as long as you take some breaks along the way. In the end, you’re rewarded with beautiful waterfall views. Skylar of Skylar Aria’s Adventures
White Sands National Park, New Mexico
White Sands National Park is located just outside Almagordo, New Mexico, which unfortunately isn’t close to much. However, this National Park is worth a visit, and we highly recommend it. Places to fly into or overnight include El Paso, Texas (about 1.5 hours by car) and Las Cruces, New Mexico (about 1 hour by car). We stopped at White Sands on our way from Dallas to Phoenix, and overnighted in Las Cruces.
White Sands National Park is unlike most of the other national parks in that it is entirely composed of sand. The park spans over 275 square miles, and is filled with gypsum sand, perfect for sand boarding. The visitors center sells plastic sand disks that you can return for a deposit at the end of the day.
The park has a sixteen mile scenic loop for driving, with parking lots and pull off areas along the way. Closer to the entrance is a handicap accessible boardwalk so everyone can visit the dunes.
Kids will love choosing their own dunes and sledding down. Our kids spent about two hours taking turns and walking through the park. It is very easy to walk on the sand, as most of it is hard packed. Everyone will love exploring White Sands, so we recommend going once in the late afternoon for sunset and early the next morning as well. Kirsten
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone is the world’s first National Park and one that should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s mostly in northwestern Wyoming, with edges sliding into Idaho and Montana. Hot springs, geysers, wildlife, mountain lakes, and stunning views draw millions of visitors every year.
Yellowstone is a great park for families in part because it is so iconic, but also because there are so many things to do. From geyser gazing to wildlife tours, to camping and chuckwagon dinners, there is something for everyone. In the gateway communities (Big Skye, Cody, Cooke City, Gardiner, Jackson, or West Yellowstone), visitors can take a whitewater or scenic rafting trip, go horseback riding, or take a dip in developed hot springs.
Most people get to Yellowstone by driving or flying and then renting a car. There really isn’t a way to access the park without a private vehicle unless you take a tour. Fly into Bozeman, Montana; Idaho Falls, Idaho; or Jackson, Wyoming. Some folks fly to Salt Lake City, Utah or Denver, Colorado and make a road trip out of visiting the park.
When planning your Yellowstone trip, consider spending a minimum of four nights in Yellowstone or the gateway communities. Mel from YellowstoneTrips.com
Yosemite National Park, California
Incredible waterfalls, spectacular cliffs, giant sequoias, and high country hiking helps set Yosemite National Park apart from the others. If you only have a few days to discover this national park with kids in the warmer months, Yosemite Valley should be your base. From here you can explore waterfalls and towering cliffs, as well as ride bicycles to and from trailheads. Don’t miss the Ansel Adams Gallery, the Visitor’s Center, the historic Ahwahnee Hotel, and the soft, sandy beaches of the Merced River. See El Capitan on the way in or out of the valley, and make time to drive up to Glacier Point one afternoon for eye-candy views.
Our family’s favorite hiking trails include short walks to see Bridalveil Fall, Lower and Upper Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake for a picnic and beautiful reflection of the famous Half Dome, plus a more challenging day hike up the Mist Trail to roaring Vernall Fall (recommended with 8+ year olds).
You’ll make the most of your time by camping or lodging right in Yosemite Valley during the week, arriving Sunday, leaving Friday. This way, you’ll avoid the weekend crowds, your car stays parked as you use the free shuttle or bicycles to explore and you’ll love the quiet mornings and late evenings.
Yosemite Valley offers a wide variety of accommodations from primitive camping to a four star, historic hotel. But plan months ahead, as the Yosemite Valley Lodge, Ahwahnee Hotel, Half Dome Village, Housekeeping Camp and various campgrounds in the the valley fill up well in advance.
Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (FAT), is the closest airport to Yosemite National Park, about 65 miles south of the park (about a 1½-hour drive). San Francisco (SFO), Oakland (OAK), and San Jose (SJC) are also within driving distance of park, but plan on 3-4 hours of travel by car from each of these airports.
*If you have a week or more to delve into Yosemite, don’t miss Wawona and Mariposa Grove in the south, both open year-round. Tuolomne Meadows on the western side of the park is best for summer hiking and camping, while Hetch Hetchy in the northwest is loved by backcountry enthusiasts. Badger Pass Ski Area is open in the winter only. Tanya of Rad Family Travel
National Parks in Europe
Berchtesgaden National Park, Germany
Berchtesgaden National Park is a gorgeous park of mountains and lakes in a little corner of Bavaria, Germany, not far from Salzburg, Austria. The scenes in the “Sound of Music” when Maria is singing in the mountains and when the family Von Trapp escapes on foot were filmed not far from here.
Berchtesgaden is a great park for families because there are a range of activities and every view is beautiful. It’s possible to take a boat ride across Königsee and an easy walk to the Ice Chapel. The more adventurous can hike high into the mountains. For an easy hike, take the boat to St. Bartholomä and explore or onto Salat (in summer) where there is an even shorter, easier trail to a lake.
You could easily spend a week or more in the town of Berchtesgaden, but plan for at least three days. There are a lot of things to do just outside the park, including visiting the salt mine, and downhill skiing or summer sledding. Melynda of TravelingMel
Black Forest National Park, Germany
The Black Forest National Park is made up of two large areas in southwestern Germany. There are hiking paths from very easy to quite challenging, throughout both sections.
One of those most beautiful areas is the All Saints Waterfalls, in the southern part of the park. In a deep valley, you’ll find the remains of an old church and monastery, as well as other preserved historic buildings. A restaurant that specializes in local animals and plants raises majestic big-horned cattle right there in the valley. After following a path winding along a small river, you come to the splashing waterfalls, with steep forested hills reaching up on either side.
If you’re looking for a bit more high-speed action, the ski hill at Mehliskopf is fun in any season, with an all-weather luge ride on rails and an excellent adventure playground.
You can reach Black Forest National Park by train from Frankfurt or Stuttgart. Freudenstadt in the south and Baden-Baden in the north are both lovely towns to make your home base. Baden-Baden has the added benefit of natural thermal baths for soaking away those post-hike aches. Erin of Erin at Large
Giant’s Causeway National Park, Northern Ireland
Giant’s Causeway, located along Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast, is one of the best national parks in the world for families. If you’re planning a one week road trip through Northern Ireland with kids, it’s a must see.
Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is managed by the UK’s National Trust system. The park’s name comes from the huge basalt rocks formed by ancient volcanic eruptions that are thought to look like giants’ footprints. These rocks create a natural playground that’s great for kids to climb on in a beautiful setting along the coast. There’s also a paved path leading down to the rocks. You can easily take a stroller if you’re visiting Giant’s Causeway with young children.
Families visiting Giant’s Causeway can learn more at the Giant’s Causeway Visitor’s Center. Although there’s a charge for parking and entrance into the visitor’s center, admission into Giant’s Causeway itself is free.
Giant’s Causeway is located in County Antrim along the north coast of Ireland. Bushmills and Cushendall are both great family-friendly towns to stay in when exploring the Causeway Coast. If you’re coming from Belfast, Giant’s Causeway is about 60 miles north and a beautiful drive. Amanda of Toddling Traveler
Göreme National Park, Turkey
Cappadocia’s Göreme National Park was one of our favorite places we visited in Turkey and it is the perfect place to travel to as a family. Located in central Turkey, Göreme National Park is home to many incredible sights and some of the most iconic views in Turkey. A Turkey itinerary is not complete without witnessing the balloons at sunrise over Cappadocia!
Göreme is a great national park for families as there is so much to explore. From the stunning Fairy Chimneys to the beautiful hikes in the Rose Valley, families will love the many short hikes and walks on offer in the park.
Kids will love the Göreme open-air museum where the remains of many churches are carved into the Cappadocia stone. Göreme National Park is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Rock Sites of Cappadocia.
We visited Cappadocia while on a road trip through the country and drove from Istanbul. However, most visitors to Cappadocia fly from Istanbul to Göreme. One of the most fun things about Göreme is the opportunity to stay in one of its famous cave hotels which are carved into the Cappadocia rock. Elaine and Dave of The Whole World is a Playground
Killarney National Park, Ireland
Killarney National Park is located on the southwest of Ireland, not far from the town of Killarney. This stunning park is the oldest national park in Ireland, and covers over 26,000 acres. The park offers waterfalls, lake views, and stunning mountain hikes, all perfect for families to explore.
Highlights of Killarney National Park include: Muckross House and Abbey (a 19th century mansion and 15th century ruins), Ross Castle (castle ruins from the 15th century), and taking a ride on a boat through the park. To see the Torc Waterfall, take the Muckross Lake Loop from Muckross House, going through the woods, all the way to the waterfall.
The famous Ring of Kerry ends inside Killarney National Park, so be sure to take a day trip around the ring. Another fun hiking spot is the Gap of Dunloe. It takes awhile, but older kids might enjoy it, and younger ones can always hop on a pony trap ride when their little legs get tired.
Plan on spending a few days to explore the area with Killarney as your home base. We would recommend The Europe Hotel, The Brehon, or The Killarney Park hotel. If traveling with older children, another favorite is Cahernane Bed and Breakfast.
Killarney is accessible by car, rail, or plane. Kerry and Cork airports are the closest. Cork is about an hour and fifteen minutes by car. Having a car, is the best way to explore the area.
Linnansaari National Park, Finland
In the heart of the Finnish Lake District is Linnansaari National Park, a beautiful area painted in vast swathes of greens and blues. Seemingly everywhere you look in this region, the forested landscape is dotted with patches of brilliant blue water in varying shapes and sizes. So much so, in fact, that Finland is called “the land of the thousands lakes”.
The biggest lake in the region is Lake Saimaa whose waters form part of the Linnansaari National Park. This is the ideal place to spot majestic ospreys and the very cute – and very elusive – Saimaa Ringed Seal. Horribly endangered, there are less than 400 Saimaa seals in the world.
One of the best ways to enjoy Linnansaari National Park is by boat, exploring the many islands and inlets. You can stop off at some of the islands and follow rocky paths up hills for views over the surrounding area. If you’re thinking about spending several days in the region, and I highly recommend that you do, base yourself at the Jarvisydan Hotel & Spa Resort. Katja of Globetotting
Loch Lomond and Trossachs, Scotland
One of our favourite national parks is Loch Lomond and Trossachs in Scotland. Granted it’s very close to where we live, but there’s so much to do in terms of activities! It’s around an hour from both Edinburgh or Glasgow, depending on which part of the park you are traveling to and it’s best to have a car to drive as public transport is not very frequent around certain parts of the park (although it is possible to do it without a car if you are organized!).
There are plenty of routes to hike and you can choose from some of Scotland’s most famous hills, such as Ben Lomond, which towers over the loch, or shorter gentler hikes including a great family walk along to Bracklinn Falls near Callander.
For those who prefer their water sports, there’s plenty to do on Loch Lomond itself, either from Balloch or Balmaha. You can even land on one of the many islands of Loch Lomond to look around! If you are a cyclist then one of the more spectacular routes is cycling around Loch Katrine and then taking the steamship back across the loch to the car park.
There is plenty of accommodation around the national park, including camping in designated areas, as well as hotels and guesthouses in Balloch, Balmaha, Drymen and Callander.
Kids will also love visiting the park and aquarium at Balloch or heading across to The Lodge at Aberfoyle to play on the equipment along the trails. This is the perfect Scotland national park for all ages! Jenny of Monkey and Mouse
New Forest National Park, Hampshire, England
New Forest covers southwest Hampshire and southeast Wiltshire and is even listed in the Domesday Book. Explore the area on horseback crossing open heathland, cycle along over 100 miles off-road trails, or enjoy a coastal walk. Children will also enjoy feeding the animals or enjoy a tractor ride at Longdown Activity Farm.
Native reptiles can be found at the New Forest Reptile Centre, near Lyndhurst or have a fantastic family day out at some of the family-friendly attractions, including the nearby Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park or the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu.
In the New Forest and surrounding area you can easily plan for a week’s stay with a wide variety of accommodation from forest to coastal options. Try Sandy Balls Holiday Village with lots of family friendly amenities or the Lime Wood hotel for a luxury retreat in the heart of the forest. Carrie at Flying with Baby
Peak District National Park, England
Nestled between the big cities of Manchester, Sheffield and Derby, The Peak District National Park is the oldest National Park in the UK. It is a place I have been visiting since I was a young girl and it is now our home.
There’s nothing better than a long walk through the green rolling hills and over dry stone walls to a cosy old pub serving real ale in front of a roaring fire. The National Park is dotted with heritage farmyards and quaint villages, amongst some of England’s finest countryside, and you are guaranteed to stumble across many farmyard animals (just be weary of those lonesome bulls and avoid wearing red)! If you visit during lambing season (early spring) be sure to visit Blaze Farm to watch lambs being born – it’s incredible to witness.
Our favourite family walks are the Nine Ladies Circle through Stanton Moor Peak or the walk starting next to The Robin Hood pub in Baslow, with spectacular views from Birchen Edge. Alternatively, hire some bikes and ride the traffic free Monsal Trail or Tissington Trail.
Ideally you need your own wheels to get around, although villages such as Grindleford and Edale are accessible by train. As for accommodation, there are numerous holiday cottages dotted around the Peak. But if you’re after a budget option, the YHA is fantastic for families. Jenny of Peak District Kids
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
When most families are looking for the best Croatia National Park to explore, they settle upon Plitvice Lakes National Park. Another fabulous one is Krka National Park, between Split and Zadar. The best way to access Plitvice is by car or bus, coming from Zadar, Zagreb, or Split, with Split being the furthest away, about 3.5 hours by car.
Plitvice is known for its stunning waterfalls and sixteen lakes (12 Upper and 4 Lower). When visiting with kids, it is advised not to use strollers, as trails are narrow in some places, and it can get quite crowded. Since most trails are along the water, be sure to keep an eye on small children at all times.
There are seven different trails for exploring Plitvice, and it can be difficult knowing where to start. We started at the Visitors Center at the Lower Lakes (Entrance 1), and worked our way from Veliki Slap (the largest waterfall) to the boat crossing of Kozjak Lake (point 3) to point 2, and then walked back along the lake to our starting point. This took about 5.5 hours, but we weren’t walking the entire time as there were plenty of stops for photos.
There are campgrounds at Plitvice, and several bed and breakfast and hotel options. If you have time, spend the night, so you can be the first people to explore the park and avoid the crowds that arrive around 10am. Read this post for tips before you visit Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Wicklow Mountains National Park, Ireland
Wicklow Mountains National Park is a hidden gem in Co. Wicklow Ireland, and it’s a great National Park for families. The park is located approximately an hour south of Dublin and is best known for its 6th-century monastic settlement of Glendalough.
Glendalough is stunning and is a great place for children to explore. You’ll find an assortment of ancient churches and houses, a 6th-century cemetery, and a 30 meter high round tower. Glendalough is fascinating, in that it’s a blend of history, serenity, and nature, all less than an hour from the hustle and bustle of Dublin.
Venture further afield than the Monastery, and you’ll find nine hiking trails sprawled throughout the Glendalough Valley. For families, try the Green Road Walk. You can access it just up from the round tower; it’s an easy, level walk (suitable for strollers, although a baby carrier would work well too) that will take you about an hour, round trip. It winds through the forest, over a boardwalk, and past a small lake. Midway you’ll encounter Upper Lake, a remarkable crystal blue lake great for bird watching.
Wicklow Mountains National Park is a serene place, and perfect for letting kids loose so they can explore nature on their terms. If you get there early, you can explore the valley in a day. There are several hotels, bed and breakfasts, and hostels in the area, although the Glendalough Hotel is adjacent to the valley. Catherine at Traveling with the Littles
Yorkshire Dales, England
The Yorkshire Dales is a fantastic destination for a family day out or an extended break. Located within an easy drive of Leeds Bradford Airport and close to Harrogate, Leeds and York, which have public transport links, the main challenge will be deciding where to begin your adventure.
At the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales, stunning Bolton Abbey, near Skipton, is a great place to start with lots of walks, places to have a picnic and The River Nidd for swimming and paddling on a hot summer’s day.
Down the road, Hesketh Farm Park is a great farm with a playground for little ones and if your kids are anything like mine, they will love a steam train ride at nearby Embsay. Top off your day with dinner, ice cream and a play at Billy Bob’s Ice Cream Parlour (best to book a table at peak times).
Accommodation options in the Yorkshire Dales are vast and varied depending on your family’s needs and budget – from camping and caravans to holiday cottages and hotels. The Youth Hostel Association is also a great place to find a self-catering family room on a budget. Lizzie of A Curious Journey
National Parks in Asia
Qobustan National Park, Azerbaijan
Qobustan National Park is Azerbaijan’s true gem. It is all about pre-historic rock art and with over 6,000 rock carvings, families will be delighted to spend a few hours there.
The park is located about 40 miles from Baku, Azerbaijan’s thriving capital. There is no public transportation to the park, but there are plenty of half-day tours. If you prefer to be more flexible, just hire a taxi. They offer an excellent value and if you use the app Bolt, you won’t have to worry about drivers trying to overcharge you).
At the visitor center there’s a small but very informative and interactive museum, where families can learn about what was painted/carved on the nearby rocks and how. Kids will be amazed to learn that the area used to be covered by the sea – which they can now see in the distance, while all around them screams “desert”.
The rock art is about 10 minutes drive from the visitor center, up the mountain. There’s only one trail and no shade, so it is necessary to wear a hat and bring some water. The loop takes about 45 minutes and you are not allowed to leave the trail, for several reasons, including the presence of snakes. For this reason, it’s best not to wear sandals or flip flops.
The rock art is amazing and because Azerbaijan is still off-the-radar, you won’t find large crowds and your visit will not be rushed. August of Mini Me Explorer
Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Families who love adventure should not miss out on a visit to Komodo National Park in Indonesia. Located on the islands of Komodo, Rinca, and Padar, Komodo National Park is home to the world famous Komodo dragons. The park is also home to other animals such as wild deer and boar, as well as a variety of coral and marine life surrounding the islands.
The majority of Komodo dragons live on Komodo island, which is open for day visits. Park rangers lead visitors on trails throughout the island as a safety precaution, as Komodo dragons have been known to attack people. However, the park rangers are quite knowledgeable about Komodo dragons.
The best way to visit Komodo National Park is by taking a one day or multi-day tour through the islands of the park. Lodging options are located on nearby Flores island, in the village of Labuan Bajo. Families can also opt to stay on a live-aboard boat.
Entrance into Komodo National park is Rp. 150,000 (roughly $10-11 USD) per person. But there are also additional fees added on, including a tourism tax, hiking fee, and wildlife observation fee, as well as fees added on by tour operators. Astrid of The Wandering Daughter
Sigiriya and Kaudulla / Minneriya National Parks in Sri Lanka
Sigiriya and Kaudulla / Minneriya National Parks are right in the middle of Sri Lanka. We headed there in search of some outdoor adventures and found them in spades! We found plenty of things to do in Sri Lanka with kids, but the parks were especially beautiful.
The highlight was hiking up Lion’s Rock (“Sigiriya” in Singhalese). It includes spectacular views from the fortress ruins at the top (note the lion paw carvings at the entrance). On the way, you can detour to see some ancient wall paintings and after the hike you can explore the palace gardens and water gardens. It is easy to see why Sigiriya is one of Sri Lanka’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites.
In nearby Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks, you can go on a wild elephant safari. It’s good to ask around to find out where the animals have been most recently sighted as they migrate between the two. You can get a 2-4 hour guided tour in a 4×4 to see elephants in the wild rather than in a “sanctuary”.
You can reach Sigiriya and Kaudulla / Minneriya by train or car from Colombo. I’d recommend spending at least 2 days in the area and staying Royal Retreat Tented Camp or Aliya Resort and Spa. Emma at Wanderlust and Wetwipes
National Parks in Australia and New Zealand
Fjordland National Park, New Zealand
New Zealand is a world apart from what most of us find familiar. With over 75% of the fauna unique to the island country and some of the oldest plant forms, it sometimes feels like another planet.
One of the crown jewels is Fjordland National Park, with cavernous openings filled with crystalline water. Clean, safe, and welcoming, the National Park is perfect for families with kids.
Don’t miss taking a cruise through Milford Sound, one of the most famous and jaw-droppingly beautiful areas of the park. You’ll be rewarded with steep cliffs and views of animal life.
While it’s possible to fly into Milford Sound airport itself, I highly recommend flying into either Queenstown or even Christchurch and taking the opportunity to road trip around the beautiful South Island. It’s certainly possible to enjoy a couple highlights of the park in a day, but leave 3-4 to get even more off the beaten path, do some hiking, and take in the surrounding beauty. Preethi of Local Passport Family
Kakadu National Park, Australia
Kakadu National Park is Australia’s largest national park. As one of just twenty UNESCO World Heritage sites to be listed for both cultural and natural values, it is one of the most famous and spectacular destinations in the country.
Kakadu protects six major habitats and a huge number of animals and birds, including the ubiquitous saltwater crocodile. From a cultural perspective it is famous for its incredible Aboriginal Rock Art, which dates back as far as 20,000 years.
Highlights of exploring Kakadu include visiting these rock art sites at Ubirr Rock, taking a morning boat ride on the Yellow Water Billabong to look for birds and crocodiles, swimming in one of the many beautiful waterholes and enjoying the incredible scenery.
Located in Australia’s Northern Territory, Kakadu is just a 2.5 to 3 hour drive from Darwin, although roads are rough and a 4WD vehicle is highly recommended. There are several accommodation options, from basic campsites, glamping tents, holiday parks and the 4-star Crocodile Hotel.
Note that Kakadu is best visited during dry season (May – October) as during the wet season, many roads are impassable and swimming holes are closed. Marianne of Mum on the Move
Mungo National Park, Australia
Head west out of Sydney for a good 875 kilometres (544 miles) and you will come across the World Heritage Mungo National Park. This incredible, isolated marvel spans 2,400 square kilometres (930 square miles) and features seventeen dry lakes. Visiting Mungo National Park with kids is an incredible experience.
This is an important place for the Muthi Muthi, Nyiampaar and Barkinji Aboriginal Nations who have used it as a meeting place for thousands of years. It is also the very place where the remains of Mungo Man and Mungo Lady were discovered. Mungo Lady is the oldest known human to have been ritually created, whereas Mungo Man is the oldest human remain to be discovered on the Australian continent. They are both dated at over 40,000 years of age.
While you can drive to Mungo National Park, without a guide you will only see a small part of the park. By booking a guide you can explore much more than you can on your own. One of the most spectacular vistas within the park are the ‘Walls of China”, a series of lunettes around the rim of the eastern part of the lake.
Getting to Mungo Park National Park is not that tricky as long as there hasn’t been much rain. A regular car can drive into the park, albeit on dirt roads. The easiest way is to forego planes and trains, and plan a road trip from either Melbourne or Sydney. There are camping spaces within the park, or some local accommodation which may be more comfortable. Make sure to prepare – this is a remote part of Australia and your mobile phone coverage is likely to drop out once you hit the dirt road. Leah at Kid Bucket List
Tamborine National Park, Australia
The Tamborine National Park, also known as Mount Tamborine, is located within a one-hour drive from both Brisbane and the Gold Coast, southeast Queensland, Australia. With so many great hiking trails, swimming holes and child-friendly activities, Tamborine National Park is a popular location to take the family for a short break.
We love the Mount Tamborine walks because they are perfectly suited to children of all ages. Our favorites include Curtis Falls, Witches Falls and Cedar Creek which includes a picturesque swimming hole to cool off in at the end of your walk. For something even more exciting, check out the Tamborine Rainforest Sky Walk. This eco-friendly adventure includes a 1.5 km walk on a cantilever bridge high in the canopy of the rainforest!
Not far from here is Thunderbird Park which is full of fun activities for kids, including horse rides, a tree top challenge, laser skirmish, mini-golf, thunderegg fossicking, and bird feeding. Thunderbird Park is also an excellent option for accommodation as it offers family-friendly cabins and camping.
Once you’re done adventuring, you can enjoy a relaxing ice cream and a coffee at one of the cafes on Main Street or check out some of the wonderful art galleries around.
Other than Thunderbird Park, popular accommodation options at Tamborine National Park include luxury cottages, AirBnB rentals and other campsites. There is something for everyone! We recommend you stay a few nights, and enjoy the peaceful surrounds. Stephanie at Navigating Adventure
National Parks in Africa
Etosha National Park, Namibia
At 8,600 mi2, Namibia’s Etosha NP is even larger than Kruger NP in neighboring South Africa. But don’t let the big size scare you; viewing wildlife in Etosha NP is like fishing in a barrel. This is what makes it an ideal national park for families with children. On traditional safaris featuring long game drives, young children can get restless while searching for lions, elephants, zebras, and giraffes. But in Etosha, the wildlife come to you…literally.
The Okaukuejo Camp is famous for its floodlit watering hole just steps from the camp’s chalets. From the comfort and safety of one of many benches overlooking the hole, guests can enjoy the shifts of wildlife who make their way to the watering hole 24/7. In between viewing giraffes and elephants, the kids can take a dip in the swimming pool or enjoy ice cream in the restaurant. This is what makes Okaukuejo Camp the best place to stay in Etosha for families!
Etosha is an easy four hour drive from Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek. Most visitors to Namibia from outside of Africa connect through Johannesburg, South Africa; Doha, Qatar; or Frankfurt, Germany. Don’t miss this 10 day itinerary of Namibia to help plan your trip! Kellie of 4 Worn Passports
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Our favorite national park for incredible family adventure is the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Bordering both Mozambique and Botswana in the northeast of the country, the park is the size of Israel, and offers some of the best wildlife safaris anywhere in the world.
Kruger is home to an incredible number of species, and the big five are all present (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, buffalo) along with just about any game you care to mention.
What makes Kruger so special for families is that self-drive safaris are allowed on a network of roads in the park. This means you can be totally independent, taking the exact route you want at the time that’s most convenient with kids (though early mornings and sunset are still the very best time to catch the most wildlife)! The park also has a great selection of rest stops with playgrounds and swimming pools to keep the kids happy in between seeing their favorite animals.
Kruger is around 500km from Johannesburg, and the nearest airports are an hour or so by car in Nelspruit. It’s possible to get public transport to within a few kilometers of one of the nine entrance gates, but you’ll need your own vehicle to enter the park and get around it, unless you’ve arranged an Africa safari with a tour operator. Jacquie of Flashpacking Family
Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town, South Africa
Stretching from the north of Cape Town along the Cape Peninsula to the Cape of Good Hope, 22,000-hectare Table Mountain National Park is dominated by iconic Table Mountain, a flat-topped beauty famous not only for its handsome visage but the cool revolving cable car that ferries people to its summit for views of the city and startlingly beautiful coastline with its white sand beaches.
The most famous of these is Boulders Beach, part of the national park and a protected area for a colony of endangered African penguins. Families can safely view the penguins from elevated boardwalks or take a dip with the cute critters in its pretty sheltered waters.
The mountain itself is also home to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. A UNESCO World Heritage Site dedicated to protecting South Africa’s indigenous flora. Families will love the 130-metre canopy walkway known as the Boomslang (tree snake) that weaves through the trees and offers jaw dropping views over the Garden and surrounding Cape Flats.
More outdoor treats await atop Lion’s Head, another majestic mountain, nestled between Table Mountain and Signal Hill. Named for its resemblance to the head of a lounging lion, there are brilliant views, especially at sunset, and some great kid friendly trail walks. Aleney of Boy Eats World
National Parks in South America
Galapagos Islands National Park, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Park, are known for their unique wildlife. Families will love the islands for their pristine beaches, varied landscape and animal encounters.
Located off Ecuador’s coast, the park has 127 islands but humans inhabit only five. Cruising is a popular option to see the uninhabited islands occupied by animals only found here. But, cruising is expensive and with a set schedule.
We did a land-based Galapagos itinerary on Santa Cruz Island for a week which was cheaper and more flexible. There are boat day trips to neighboring islands with naturalist guides. We went to North Seymour Island and loved seeing many blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, sally lightfoot crabs and baby sea lions. It was incredible to see so much wildlife.
The Galapagos are also known for the hundreds of tortoises that roam freely on the highlands. It was interesting to see many giant tortoises moving around and basking in mud ponds.
Our favorite hiking tail on Santa Cruz was the 3-mile round-trip to Tortuga Bay. The white sand beach was one of the best places to observe marine iguanas swimming and walking on the shoreline. We also enjoyed kayaking, snorkeling and spotting sea turtles and stingrays.
The islands have two airports: Baltra and San Cristobal. There are various accommodation options including eco lodges, apartments, hostels and small hotels. Mary of The World is a Book
Patagonia National Park, Argentina and Chile
Patagonia is a bucket-list region that straddles both Argentina and Chile. Argentina’s Los Glaciares is just one of the most accessible of this country’s gorgeous national parks.
Take a bus from the Chilean side or fly directly from Buenos Aires and stay in the charming town of El Calafate to visit the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier. You may even catch a thunderous “calving” (ice falling to the water below) from the many viewing boardwalks. Those between the ages of 10 and 65 can try the “mini-trek:” a guided hour and a half hike ON the glacier itself. Everyone in our family loved this unforgettable experience!
Use the hiking village of El Chaltén as your base to explore the spectacular mountains of the Patagonia brand logo. Even younger hikers can make it to magnificent views of the peaks above, the valleys below and forests and brooks in between.
Teens will also love the local white water rafting. If you have time, stay at one of the traditional ranches nearby to ride some horses and experience real gaucho culture. All over the region, keep your eyes peeled for the families of guanacos (adorable llama-like animals), the ostrich-like rheas and Andean condors and Austral parakeets overhead. Julia of Inspire World Travel
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
If you’ve ever longed to visit some of the most pristine wilderness settings in the world and come face-to-face with sublime landscapes that will make you feel completely insignificant, then Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chilean Patagonia is for you.
To get there, families can fly from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas airport and then take a bus or private transfer to Puerto Natales, a journey that can take about 3 hours. Another option is take a bus or transfer from El Calafate in Argentina, a 350- kilometer journey that can take approximately 4.5 hours.
Accommodations within the park vary from more simple “refugios” to luxury all-inclusive hotels, such as Explora Salto Chico. Families can also choose to stay in Puerto Natales and take (long) day trips to the park.
The “W” circuit refers to the W-shaped system of park trails providing access to three iconic destinations: the French Valley, the Base of the Towers, and the Grey Glaciers. The entire circuit requires at least five days to hike and is not for the faint of heart. While some of these hikes are accessible for preteens and teenagers, a better choice for hiking with kids at Torres del Paine National Park is the half-day trek to Hunter’s Trail, featuring sweeping landscapes, wildlife viewing (including pumas), and 8,000-year-old cave paintings.
Another accessible hike for kids, Mirador Cuernos takes you to Salto Grande, the prime waterfall attraction in the park. A gorgeous hike with stunning views, and easy on little one’s legs. Patty of Our Whole Village
National Parks in Central America
Tikal National Park, Guatemala
The ancient Maya City of Tikal is located deep within the dense jungle of northern Guatemala. It is the perfect national park to visit with your family because the ancient ruins are fascinating for kids and adults alike.
To really enjoy the park you will want to stay at least two nights in a lodge near the park entrance. By staying near the park entrance you can enjoy Tikal early in the morning and in the evening when the park isn’t as hot and crowded. The Jungle Lodge is the best lodging option. It is close to the entrance of Tikal, the rooms are modern and clean, the restaurant has good food, and the pool is amazing.
The best way to get to Tikal from Guatemala City is to fly into the nearby town of Flores. From Flores, you can arrange for a shuttle to take you to the park. If you are coming from San Ignacio, Belize, you can take a two-hour bus ride over the border to Tikal.
Although you can explore Tikal on your own, you will get much more out of your visit if you have a knowledgeable local guide. Use these tips for visiting Tikal National Park to help plan your trip. Diane of Travels with Eli
Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica
Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica is not the easiest place to reach, but those who make the effort will not be disappointed. Most visitors access the via a one hour boat ride from La Pavona or by plane from San José. Driving distance from San José to the docks at La Navona is approximately two hours.
We took the boat from La Pavona and it felt reminiscent of the Jungle Cruise at Disney World. The boat slowly made its way along the river until it reached the heart of the jungle. Tortuguero Village is where you will find most of the accommodations, most are eco lodges. We stayed at Laguna Lodge which provided a central location for exploring the park.
In Tortuguero National Park all exploration is by water with the exception of the sea turtles who lay their eggs on Playa Tortuguero (on the Caribbean Sea). Families can arrange for a night tour to the beach to see this amazing event.
Most lodges have their own boat tours that can take you into the jungle where you can see copious amounts of wildlife. Common animals found in Tortuguero National Park include howler, spider, and capuchin monkeys, toucans, iguanas, otters, and caymans. There are over hundreds of bird species, and reptiles too. It will be hard to know where to look as there are animals everywhere. Tortuguero is one of the most unique parks we have ever visited in the world and definitely worth a visit. Kirsten
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