Australia’s little known island boasts more than just an enticing name for children. It’s a fascinating and unlikely melting pot of Southeast Asian cultures and Australian infrastructure and, for budding ecologists, the annual red crab migration is a must-see. Christmas Island with kids is a perfect tropical getaway for those who enjoy getting back to nature far from the commericalisation of mass tourism.
Christmas Island is ideal for families looking for a tropical Southeast Asian getaway with all the creature comforts of home. Technically it remains under the governance of Australia (that means Aussie currency and phone numbers), but the local community (interestingly) consists of Cocos Malays, Singaporeans and Malaysians who are unreservedly warm and welcoming. The whole island has a small town feel which makes it perfect for peaceful wildlife spotting and a quiet family holiday.
Through the wet season (October to December) roads become an unpassable carpet of red crabs making the trek from forest to sea to spawn. For nature-lovers, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even if you choose to visit during the sunnier months the charming and numerous crab species (including robber crabs and blue land crabs) accompany you on the numerous forest walks and beaches.
Beaches abound and offer distinct attractions. Dolly Beach is located on the South East coast. A twenty minute stroll along a wooden boardwalk through glorious tropical rainforest takes you to a secluded cove nestled in palm trees which is ideal for older children who can explore rocky crevices for red crabs and chase off robber crabs looking for lunch. Lilli Beach is a step from car to sand and enclosed between cliffs and rocks that break incoming waves. It is a perfect swimming hole for younger children, picnics and bonfires.
Snorkeling is best done off Flying Fish Cove where local kids love jetty jumping. The visibility is second to none and you might see turtles and manta rays surfing the coral plates. Public halal barbeques are available and this is a favourite spot for local fishermen.
For families who scuba, whale sharks are a big draw card. SCUBA charters are easily arranged and there are over 40 dive sites. You can purchase all your snorkeling gear easily from the Settlement shops. [For tips on how to SCUBA dive with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
In the sky you will be treated to a constant of show of seabirds. Look out for the golden bosun with its glorious tail feathers. Bird watching tours can be arranged through the Visitors Information Centre in Settlement.
Local events including walking groups, live bands or yoga classes are posted on chalk boards at the roundabout and all are welcome. An outdoor cinema plays Saturday night movies so take your pillows.
Christmas Island impresses with its unending hospitality. There is no theft or crime on the island and you will find it very easy to make this your home away from home.
It’s location can be problematic though as it requires some dedication to get there. Flights run four times a week from Perth, Western Australia to Cocos Island via Christmas Island and it is not unusual to have your flight delayed until the following day due to weather conditions. A weekly flight is also available from Christmas Island to Kuala Lumpur. The distance is something to bear in mind in the case of medical emergencies, although there is a local hospital that will arrange flying doctors' transfer to the mainland if required.
Because it is so far removed, there are very few internet facilities (although you can get it at the Visitors Information Centre in Settlement). Mobile phones will only access Telstra lines with no data transfer.
This also means that food can be expensive, in particular fresh fruit and vegetables. Tap water is safe to drink and the local cafes and the Asian restaurants make surprisingly high quality meals. Just be prepared to pay through the nose for them.
The Sunset is centrally located in Settlement with views over the ocean and a small swimming pool. It shares the communal kitchen facilities with VQ3 lodge across the road and is a short stroll to cafes, the supermarket and 5 minutes in the car to Flying Fish Cove.
Christmas Island is famously home to detention centres for asylum seekers applying for refugee status in Australia. To find out more about how you can help, read the suitcases&strollers story here.
By Ailene Chan