With the weather at its best, families across Australia are seeking out new and different ways to spend their free time. Now that you've been to the beach, spent all day at the swimming pool and shopped 'til you've dropped, it may feel like you've exhausted all ideas. However, there's always another direction to turn — and hiring a boat is a great option.

More involved than simply booking seats on a cruise, self-drive boat hire allows you and your family to experience the water without the disruption of other passengers. You'll have the freedom to set your own course, exploring the water as you please — and each family member can take a turn at captaining the ship. Plus, there are boats to suit all price ranges. If you really want to splurge, you might find yourself at the helm of a luxury sailboat — but if you prefer to keep your costs lower, then there are certainly less extravagant options to choose from too. It will all depend on the company you choose to hire from.

You won't need to walk far along the shore to find a reputable boat hire company to investigate. However, you should definitely be sure to do some research and not just hire from the first company you see. Different companies will have different policies and price ranges, and it's imperative that you find one to suit your needs. Are you looking for a short-term rental for the day or something a little longer? Will any help or training in operating the boat be given to you or will you be left to your own devices? Be sure to ask about anything you're uncertain of, and remember that you can always look up reviews online to read up on other customer experiences.

One extremely important factor to consider is, of course, safety.  Especially if you'll be taking your family aboard, you'll want to be absolutely certain that each passenger knows what to do in case of an emergency and that good, high-quality lifejackets and safety equipment are accessible on board your rental.

However, if you are sure to follow all instructions and be careful, the chances of needing that equipment are slim. It will simply give you peace of mind to know the proper safety procedures. With that settled, you'll have plenty of time to focus on enjoying your experience.

With that in mind, be sure to maximise the day by bringing everything you need on your trip! Consider preparing some drinks and snacks in advance — and be sure to bring along your sunscreen if you'll be spending the day above deck. Other than that, all you'll need is a good book, a spirit of adventure and a Captain's attitude.