Phuket delivers unforgettable family holiday

We have discovered the perfect holiday for families with adventure loving kids and it is full of relaxing surprises for parents along the way.

The sun is setting over the lush jungle-lined field as we traverse the terrain on the back of our elephant in the cooling Thailand heat. Moments later our rider offers me prime position on the neck of this majestic animal. I climb down from my seat and dangle my legs either side behind his two massive ears and wonder how such an experience could be possible.

Our five-day family adventure in Phuket had started out on a high, and the famed island south of the mainland, bordered by the azure Andaman Sea, was about to deliver many more ‘pinch yourself moments’ over the course of our stay - starting with the deluxe accommodation on offer.

Laguna Phuket is home to six luxury resorts nestled along the 8km stretch of Bang Tao Bay beach, and the best part is when you stay at one you can wine, dine and enjoy the facilities at all of them.

Candy the baby elephant greeting guests before breakfast at the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort.
Candy the baby elephant greeting guests before breakfast at the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort. Photo: Katie Carlin

Our first three nights were spent at the newly renovated Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort. As we entered the wide, open foyer that overlooked the tropical ponds and pools, with the beach in the distance, we were adorned with jasmine bracelets and given icy cold lemongrass facial towels to cool off as we sipped sweet floral iced teas. The perfect remedy for a long flight.

After settling into our room we ventured to Locavore for a divinely Italian inspired meal, one of three restaurants at the resort – all of which offer meals that cater to western tastes (and fussy younger eaters). Make sure you pencil in some time by the pool and join the kids for a thrilling trip or two down the resort’s waterslide.

Arrive to breakfast early and take the kids to meet the local baby elephant Candy. If she wraps her trunk around your neck don’t panic – she is giving you a kiss not strangling you, and the encounter is rather sweet. But if you happen to come across Lucky the elephant in your travels around the resorts avoid a 'kiss' from her – I thought I knew what I was in for until she hoovered half my face. I still feel a little queasy recalling the memory.

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Our next resort, the Banyan Tree Phuket, might just be the definition of luxury. The pool villa is a must for families, with a fully equipped kitchen, a private pool that you can enter from your bedroom (you can even phone to organise a chef to cook your family a poolside BBQ), all the mod cons you and the kids could want in what feels like your very own private piece of paradise.

Brunch at Banyan Tree in the resort's open-air restaurant is a foodies heaven. The kids will be mesmerised by the chocolate fountain, dripping honeycomb, cakes and treats, while you can get lost in the cheese room, or stand in awe as you look at the mountain of fresh seafood cooked to order on the BBQ or steamed to your liking. Don’t forget the garlic butter to go with your lobster.


After all that eating you will need to get back to the slightly more active offerings in Phuket and the perfect place to start is a few hours of quad bike riding through their muddy jungle tracks. The bikes are fairly easy to operate and you can show off your 'skills' to the kids by driving behind someone who makes all the mistakes for you – we guarantee you will come off looking like a pro. Halfway through the ride we stopped for a break at a beach and gleefully waded into the water.

You have probably worked up a well-deserved appetite by now and the Thai cooking classes at Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket will solve that for you quick smart. If you aren’t the worlds greatest cook there is no need to worry, this class is designed for beginners and children will love the chance to cook a meal outside while being guided by their own Thai chef. We served up a delicious banquet of spicy minced chicken salad with fresh mint, a spicy and sour prawn soup, red curry roasted duck, and poached banana in coconut cream syrup for dessert. The best bit is you get to sit down and enjoy all four courses to yourself at the end.

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If there is one experience you simply must have while in Phuket it is a private speedboat day tour of the islands. Enjoy the picturesque ride out to sea, soak up the warm Thailand sun, and marvel at the impossibly shaped islands that pop up out of the ocean and scatter along the horizon. And that is all before you arrive. Kids will get a kick out of wearing their own head lights to wade through the dark seacaves of the Panak Island.

Next up is James Bond Island - famous for it's appearance in The Man with the Golden Gun - followed by Thalu Island. Here you board a floating port where your sea kayak and driver is waiting to paddle you through the intricate cave formations of the island. Pull up alongside the coconut selling boat if you are feeling a little parched, then sit back and enjoy the ride.

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A short boat ride away and we arrive at Koh Panyee, a floating Sea Gypsy Village for our authentic Thai and seafood banquet lunch. Afterwards you can wander the streets of the village and poke through the markets. We topped the afternoon off with a couple of hours swimming at our own private island. Book the Private 4 in 1 Phang Nga Canoeing tour as soon as you book your flights.

Just because you are after adventure doesn’t mean you don’t want some down time thrown in the mix, and no one does relaxation like the Banyan Tree Spa. Having experienced the sensory wonders of the 90 minute Island Dew massage, I can attest to the fact that I floated out of that private villa smelling sweetly of rose, plai, and chamomile - my muscles were so relaxed I wasn’t even sure all my limbs were still attached.

However, if quality mother and daughter or father and son time is what you’re after you can’t go past the Girls Only or Boys’ Hangout treatments at Angsana Spa. For a bit of cultural fun you can also head down to the beachfront of Angsana Resort and haggle a bargain price on a mani pedi under a straw hut. Top it off with a browse around the markets and remember the keys to successful haggling are always be prepared to walk away, don’t look back until they call you and if they refuse to budge never return – chances are you will find it two beach huts over anyway.

If you are lucky enough to travel during May through to October you must attend Laguna Phuket’s Summer Family Festival. The five month long event is full of activities to keep kids engaged and entertained, including sports skill classes, night time campfire parties, Zumba classes, cooking lessons, movie nights and visits from a baby elephant. And parents get to sit back and relax with happy hour drinks, food, music and entertainment. On second thought you should just plan your trip around those dates.

Getting there: Thai Airways fly regularly from Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne to Phuket. Visit their website for prices.

More information: Visit Laguna Phuket's website for information on accommodation, the fabulous kids' clubs on offer at each resort, tours, events and more in the area.

The writer was a guest of Laguna Phuket.