Spend a weekend in Sydney with the kids and you will experience a city with so many possibilities. Stay for a week and you will uncover enough adventures to fill an entire family photo library.
From shark spotting to breath-taking mountain backdrops, Australia’s most iconic city has enough glitz, glamour and natural beauty to satisfy the most adventurous family. So whether it’s a weekend break or a long stay escape – here are the top 10 things to see and do with the kids in Sydney.
Bondi to Coogee coastal walk
The Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is ideal for an all-day family adventure. In just 5 kilometres you can spot whales, explore gullies and enjoy the sweeping ocean views across the Pacific.
To make a day of it, start off with a morning coffee at Bondi Icebergs. Watch swimmers doing laps and surfers in the distance. For yogis in the family, the iconic club also offers outdoor yoga classes.
From here, the coastal walk leads past Tamarama to Bronte, a peaceful family beach surrounded by pines and set within a lush green gully. You can choose to rest here, splash about in the protected rock pool or continue on to Clovelly, a popular snorkelling destination.
If the kids are hungry, grab a snack at the Seasalt cafe. Otherwise wait for the kid-friendly menu at Justin Hemmes’ Pavilion in Coogee. At Coogee, head to the locally-known “spider park” at the southern end. Let the kids scramble up the mini web and play equipment as you relax in the shade. If you need a caffeine hit, Bazura is on the way. Stay for sunset and watch the deep reds scatter over the sea. If you’re lucky, you might be able to complete the day with a night time concert at Grant Reserve.
Picnic at Neilsen’s Park
For a relaxing day in the sun, it is hard to beat Nielsen Park. Look ahead and you have a gentle harbour beach, yachts gliding past in the distance. Look to the right and you have the dramatic rocky headland, curving all the way to Vaucluse Bay and onto Parsley Bay. Best of all, because it is largely hidden, it doesn’t tend to attract large crowds.
Your family can sprawl under a Moreton Bay fig and lounge with ease, making it the perfect spot for a picnic. If you’re not into picnics, you can lunch at the heritage-listed Nielsen Park Cafe and enjoy harbour views and fresh seafood.
Nielsen Park lets you go at your own pace. That might mean reading as the kids make sandcastles and run around in floaties, or braving the sun and exploring the cicada-buzzing foreshore all the way to Bottle and Glass Point.
If you want more action, think about hiring a kayak. The gentle harbour waters make it easy to have a safe seafaring adventure and with so many beaches, bays and picturesque headlands to discover, there will be no complaints of boredom. And remember if you do get sun-weary, the tranquil, shaded lawns of the Vaucluse House tearooms are just around the corner.
Visit to Darling Harbour
Entertaining the kids is not going to be a problem at Darling Harbour. Not when you have museums, aquariums, sprawling playgrounds and the sun-splashed harbour all in the one area.
Take science-loving kids to the Powerhouse museum, an interactive space, free for children under 16, where they can play memory games on flashing disco tiles, create their very own film and climb aboard an old steam train.
If you’re keen to stay outdoors, pay a visit to the Chinese Gardens of Friendship. Arrive for the daily fish feeding at 11:30 and watch the majestic gold and black Koi swim to the surface. For more aquatic adventures, continue on to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, home to Little Penguins, Clownfish (aka Nemo) and the ferociously-looking Grey Nurse.
The aquarium also offers glass bottom boat, snorkelling and behind-the-scene tours. When it comes time for lunch, Chinatown is a short walk away. Sample freshly steamed dumplings at a street stall or sit down at one of the many bustling yum cha restaurants. Once you return to Darling Harbour, you might find the kids are happy to play along the never-ending stretch of slides, swings and water fountains. Otherwise see what’s on at IMAX theatre and end the day watching a film on the largest screen in the world.
Ferry trip to Manly
On a ferry trip to Manly both the journey and the destination counts. Not only do you get a wind-swept, wave-splashing journey across the postcard-perfect harbour, you get a sunny, seagull-chasing day at the beach.
Head out early to make the most of the day. You can take a Sydney ferry from Circular Quay and enjoy a relaxed 30-minute trip across the harbour. Or you can opt for the Manly Fast Ferry and whizz across in just over 15 minutes. On rough days, expect the kids to squeal with delight as the ferry bounces over rocky waves.
Be prepared to get splashed or take refuge indoors. Once you arrive at Manly Cove, it will be hard to decide what to do first. Do you wander the open-air artisan markets? Do you stop for fish and chips at the Manly Wharf Hotel? Or do you follow the foreshore to the quiet Shelly Beach?
From surf lessons to kayaking, bike tours to parasailing, Manly has something for all ages and interests. Throw in some roving musician, bushwalking and gelato and you have quite the family outing. Time your return with sunset and capture a family portrait that will be worth framing.
Circular Quay adventure
Lead the family on an adventure through cobblestone laneways in Circular Quay.
While the area is most famous for the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, stroll just a few streets back and you will discover a completely different side of Sydney.
Skyscrapers are replaced with colonial cottages and busy streets become narrow back alleys. You can walk past opal galleries to the free Discovery Museum in Kendall Lane and learn about Sydney before European settlement. Keep going and you will reach the outer realms of the universe––or rather the Sydney Observatory.
During the day, explore the planetarium and 3-D space theatre and or come back in the evening for a night tour. If you’re not sure where to go to next, download the Walking The Rocks app and be guided past convict homes and little-known historical sites. As you wander, you’re likely to come across the local artisan markets and catch a performance by the children’s choir.
For a treat, take the kids to Pancakes on the Rocks or indulge in a sweet from the Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe. If you go on the weekend, don’t leave before seeing Attack of the Pirates on Sydney Harbour, a free show at Camp Cove.
Adventure in Wattamolla
For a change of scene, make like Indiana Jones and take the kids on an adventure to the Royal National Park.
In just two hours, you can be swinging off a tree rope into the clear emerald waters of Wattamolla, a picnic area wedged between a beach and a lagoon. Toddlers can paddle at the beach of the mouth of the lagoon while older kids snorkel with schools of tiny fish. You can bushwalk up the honey-coloured cliffs and admire stunning views over Garie Beach or go on an adventure and follow the shores of the lagoon to a mini cascade.
While it gets busy in summer, this unspoilt area is typically quiet, allowing you to enjoy the surroundings in peace, relaxing in the shade as you listen to the gently lapping water. For lunch, make use of the BBQ and picnic areas or drive north to Bundeena and have a meal at the Passionfruit Cafe. You can decide to camp the night at Wattamolla or head back via Cronulla for a dinner at Northies (on Sunday kids eat free as part of their weekly Jazz and Shiraz event).
Day trip to Palm Beach
Enjoy a day trip to Palm Beach—aka Summer Bay.
This long golden beach is not only the set of Home and Away, it is an idyllic family getaway suitable for kids of all ages. Kiddies can splash in the calm shores of the southern end and swimming pros can do laps in the 30-metre rock pool.
Consistent swell at the north end also makes the beach a popular destination for surfers. If you want a break from the sun, sand and surf, go for a short climb to Barrenjoey Lighthouse. Built in 1881, the historic lighthouse offers sweeping panoramic views past Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and up the Central Coast. Bring your binoculars and look out for the whales migrating south.
If the kids are hungry, there are lots of great restaurants to choose from. Stop for lunch at Jonah’s, the spectacular cliffside restaurant overlooking the beach or head to The Boathouse for a more relaxed meal. As afternoon approaches, take one last stroll before the sun sets then dangle a line at the wharf and see if a fish bites. At just over an hour outside from Sydney, Palm Beach is the perfect escape from city life.
Looking for an opportunity to escape the city for a breath of fresh air? Take the family to the Blue Mountains and discover a long-lost world of endless valleys, ancient legends and crashing waterfalls. To appreciate the epic scope of this World Heritage-listed site, start your trip with a visit to Scenic World in Katoomba.
Descend into the Jamison Valley via a glass Cableway then walk among the lush rainforest floor, dating back to Jurassic times. Or, if the kids are feeling brave, hop on the Skyway and glide 270 metres above the blue-tinted tablelands. Not only will you see the eucalypt-strewn forests, you will soar past the iconic Three Sisters and rushing Wentworth Falls. Be awed by the grandeur of the landscape and learn about its significance to indigenous culture on an Aboriginal walkabout adventure.
If you want more hands-on action, you can always follow one of many well-marked bushwalking trails. Take a map and enjoy the cool crisp air as the kids imitate bird calls and point out colourful flowers. If there’s an adrenaline junkie in the family, try an Adventure Tour and explore the majestic region by kayak, through canyons or by hanging off a cliff. Once the family is all tired out, freshly baked scones with homemade jam are waiting for you at Lindsay’s Cafe.
Visit the most famous face in Sydney with a trip to Luna Park. Take the ferry across from Circular Quay and spend the day jumping on and off rides. Try not to fall off the Whirly Wheel in Coney Island, enjoy the views from the Ferris Wheel or pit yourself against the kids in Dodgem City.
Teens will scream on the stomach-churning Moon Ranger, a metallic arm that spin 360-degrees, 20-metres in the air. While little kids might prefer the Mirror Maze or tumbling down the park’s rolling slides. When you need a break, stop for lunch at The Deck or wander on to Kirribilli. Share a pizza at the bright and pot plant sprinkled cafe The Botanist or try the fish and chips on the kid’s menu at Fisherman’s Cove.
After lunch, you can cool off at North Sydney’s olympic swimming pool. Entry to the picturesque pool is free with an Unlimited Rides pass from Luna Park. If you’re up for more adventure, take the ferry to Cockatoo Island and explore its unusual mix of rugged wildlife and old colonial ruins. To
If you’re looking for a change from the beach and the harbour, take the family to the Entertainment Quarter. You’ll find laser tag, flying trapeze, a bowling alley—not to mention Monkey Mania, a kids play centre filled with jumping castles.
The Entertainment Quarter is especially fun for little children. As well as the activity centres, there are also many open-air playgrounds, trampoline games and kids toy stores. Grab a coffee from Gosh Coffee and let your child pull you from one playground to the other. On Wednesdays, there is a fresh produce market where you can pick up chocolate-dipped strawberries or lunch on gozleme. The outdoor Bavarian Bier Cafe also has a special kid’s menu plus free face-painting on Sundays. But older kids can also have a good time.
With Centennial and Moore Park just outside, you can hire a bike from The Lab and ride through the expansive green parklands, around lakes and into the paperbark forest. Alternatively, swap the bike for a horse and let a trained rider from the Centennial Park Equestrian Centre lead your kids on a one-hour circuit of the park.