Your Ultimate Guide to Sydney for Kids
Think of Sydney Australia, and no doubt the Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach, Taronga Zoo and the magnificent Opera House come to mind. They may be the jewels in Sydney’s many-pronged crown, but there is so much on offer in Sydney for kids and the whole family, you could stay for a while.
Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, Australia is home to an incredible tapestry of cultures and flavours which is likely why it’s tops to visit Sydney with kids. The city’s colonial history is the perfect balance to its beach lifestyle and thriving urban vibe.
Save up your vacation days and spend them checking out all the fun things to do in Sydney with kids. You won’t regret it.
Best things to do in Sydney with kids
There are so many things to do in Sydney with kids, but never enough time! Sydney is filled to overflowing with stuff to do, and these are our favourites.
Want to get up close and personal with native and exotic animals? Taronga Zoo is your place to go. Throw in gorgeous harbour views and a beautiful park-like design, and Taronga could quite possibly be the highlight of your trip. You’ll need a full day at Taronga Zoo if you want to see most of the animals.
If you’re after some adrenaline pumping adventure, then try tackling Wild Ropes, an action-packed high ropes course, high up in the trees of Taronga Zoo (separate ticket required). You need to be aware that if your kids are under 15, an adult will need to do the course with them. My boys absolutely loved it (ages 8 and 10) but I was absolutely terrified pretty well the entire time, and I love a lot of adrenaline activities. Not one to give up, especially since you have to get winched down as there’s no easy way out like a ladder, I made it to the end!
If you’re there during New South Wales’ school holidays, enrol the kids in one of the Keeper for a Day programs. For the ultimate sleep-over, book the Roar and Snore and camp overnight with the animals. The zoo is located on Bradleys Head, Mosman. If you’re staying in the city it’s a 12-minute ride on a Sydney ferry that leave Circular Quay every 30 minutes. You can also reach the zoo by bus or car.
Sydney Opera House
Put on your walking shoes and grab your camera for a day discovering the dazzling Opera House. Take time to walk around the exterior, then dive beneath the sails and go backstage the city’s busiest music, arts, and performance venue. The Sydney Opera House Junior Adventure Tour held during school holidays is seriously cool for families.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge! Do we need to elaborate? It’s totally awesome. Book your climb here.
If trudging up the 1,332 steps on the BridgeClimb is not for you, you can still enjoy 360-degree views of the city from the Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout, an 87m-tall bridge bearing that only requires a 200-stair climb that you can take at your own pace while enjoying a photographic tour through the history of the Bridge. Access to the pylon is via the Bridge Stairs in Cumberland Street, The Rocks. Open daily 10.00am to 5.00pm (last entry 4:45pm).
Take a ride on Sydney Harbour
There are lots of options to explore Sydney Harbour, you can take a harbour cruise, a tall ship, or if you’re short of time, the best value way to cruise the harbour is aboard a Sydney Harbour Ferry. Ferries run from Circular Quay to Manly, the Zoo, Darling Harbour, and up the river to Parramatta. The kids will love it.
The Rocks is a family favourite. Wander the cobble-stoned streets, learn a thing or two about the history of Sydney with a guided-tour (or self-guided outing), picnic under the Harbour Bridge, visit the many galleries and museums or wander through the renowned Rocks Markets. Quirky, quaint and unexpected. Did you know, many of the buildings are the original, convict-built sandstone buildings.
If you’re wondering where people are taking those iconic photos with the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the Harbour and if your really good, Luna Park, then Circular Quay is the place to go. Circular Quay is also the place where you’ll catch the ferry to places like Manly and Taronga Zoo, it has a major train station, and is where you’ll see the Opera House, the Rocks, and the Museum of Contemporary Arts.
Sun seekers will be satisfied with a trip to the famous Bondi Beach. It may get a little crowded during the height of Summer, but with the water, waves and white sand, the crowds shouldn’t worry you too much. Linger a little longer and enjoy a leisurely lunch at any number of cafes fringing the beach.
If you enjoy a good walk then head off on the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk which is absolutely stunning. There are plenty of things to see and do along the way. A great place to finish your walk is Coogee Pavilion, one of our favourite places to eat in Coogee with excellent food, a great atmosphere and an entire area up the back for the kids to play in. You can reach Bondi Beach on a 30-min bus ride from the CBD.
Step off the ferry at Manly and you’re a short stroll from another of Sydney’s most popular beaches. If it’s time to eat, there are heaps of kid-friendly choices– fish and chips, burgers, Thai food. If you’re planning a picnic lunch by the beach, there are a couple of supermarkets between the wharf and the beach.
Sydney has so many other fantastic beaches to enjoy with kids including Tamarama, Bronte Beach, which has rockpools that kids will love, Palm Beach and Shark Beach.
Kids will love exploring the ancient world of dinosaurs at the museum, with its 10 complete dinosaur skeletons, and high-tech interactive displays. There is also a huge room full of animals from today’s world which we loved exploring. You can also learn about our Indigenous heritage (the boys loved the spears and shields) plus so much more. If you’ve got little ones then a visit to Kidspace for under 5’s is a must. Located corner of College St. and William St, in the CBD, across the road from Hyde Park.
All the cool kids are heading to the Powerhouse Museum for a dose of science, design, technology, and FUN. There’s a replica of a NASA Space Shuttle, plus The Lab, a hands-on multimedia space where kids can explore digital technologies. Entry is free for all kids under 16 years. 500 Harris St, Ultimo, a short walk from Darling Harbour precinct.
Spend one perfect day at Darling Harbour, Sydney’s waterfront dining and entertainment precinct. There are dozens of cafes and restaurants to choose from, including a Hard Rock Café, and no less than 6 different ice-cream shops. There’s a huge children’s playground, and an old-fashioned carousel, the National Maritime Museum, a branch of Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the SeaLife Aquarium, a flight simulator experience, a bowling alley, jet boat rides, laser Skirmish – and much more! The precinct is open daily, early til late. Located across the Pyrmont Bridge from the CBD.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Bring a picnic and choose a patch of lawn for a little respite from attraction hopping. These vast gardens, established in 1815, are a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. Gates to the gardens are open daily from 7:00 am to dusk. There are multiple entry gates; near the harbour-front, opposite the art gallery, and from the city side on Mrs. Macquarie’s Road.
Spit Bridge to Manly Coastal Walk
If you’re a family of keen trekkers, this walk is highly recommended for breathtaking views of the harbour, and the chance to enjoy a dip in seclusion at one of the hidden beaches. Take a bus from the city to Spit Bridge, where you pick up the well-marked trail to Manly (or in opposite direction, leaving from Manly). The walk is 10 km long and will take 3-4 hours. From Manly, you can take the Ferry back to the city.
Justice and Police Museum
If your child is interested in bushrangers and policing, then go and check out the Justice and Police Museum near Circular Quay. Here they can put their parents in the dock in the courtroom, walk into a real police cell, find out about bushrangers, crime and policing.
Sydney Tower Eye
Another fantastic vantage-point for 360°views of Sydney, and out to the Blue Mountains is to take a ride up to the Sydney Tower Eye observation deck, 258 metres above the city streets. There are interactive touch-screens throughout to provide information about the views.
Sydney Aquarium SeaLife
Kids can take an underwater adventure through the Sydney Aquarium at Darling Harbour, where they’ll see penguins, dugongs, sharks, turtles, stingrays, and many other kinds of fish. A great wet-weather activity for younger kids.
The kids will love an afternoon at Luna Park amusement park, with the Wild Mouse rollercoaster and the Hair Raiser drop. At a much slower pace, the 40m high Ferris Wheel has fantastic views over Sydney Harbour, especially at night. Opening hours vary seasonally. Located at Milsons Point, under the northern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Arty kids will love the art gallery, where they can see some of Australia most famous artworks. There are drop-in workshops inspired by the Gallery’s collection, held on the first and third Sundays of every month and during school holidays. The workshops are open to all ages and enable kids to get hands-on with different art techniques. Located on Art Gallery Rd, The Domain (opposite the Royal Botanic Gardens).
Kids will love racing along this 410m long wooden wharf, where all sorts of boats are docked; Australian Navy warships and yachts. If everyone’s hungry, you can’t go past a meat pie piled high with mashed peas at Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, a Sydney institution. You’ll spot the kiosk near the top of the wharf. The wharf is located at the bottom of the tall stairs leading down from the Art Gallery of NSW.
Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Primary school aged kids will be fascinated by a visit to this museum where they can check out all the treasures hidden under the floorboards by the resident rats back in convict days. Listen to stories about what it was like to be a convict, try on some leg irons and convict clothes, and even take a rest in a convict’s hammock. Queens Square, Macquarie St, in the CBD.
St Mary’s Cathedral
If your young ones are musically inclined they may like to visit St Mary’s Cathedral to listen to the bell ringers on practice night. The 14 bells located in the cathedral’s central tower peal out a spine-tingling sound in the key of C# major. If they sing in a school choir they may also enjoy hearing the resident Saint Mary’s Cathedral Choir. Located at St Marys Road, in the CBD.
Best area to stay in Sydney with kids
The Rocks is a fantastic area to stay in Sydney with kids. Situated on the periphery of Circular Quay, not only will you wake up to the iconic image of the Harbour Bridge, but the many cafes and restaurants provide awesome breakfast choices and lunch options. Plus, it’s a lot less busy than the CBD: practical with kids. Take a look at the family-friendly accommodation on offer at The Rocks, including the latest prices.
Know before you go
Food for kids in Sydney
Sydney’s rich multicultural population means you can eat some of the tastiest (and most authentic) food from around the world. China Town is chock-full of incredible food, Darling Harbour has a line-up of bistros and restaurants while the city centre boasts everything from Peruvian to Vietnamese to Australian fusion (which is just a fancy way of saying a mash-up of flavours).
Getting from Sydney airport to Sydney CBD
Sydney Airport is located just 8km from the Sydney CBD, which means it’s about a 25-minute drive to the city centre in light traffic. Taxi and rideshare services are available to and from the airport and will cost about $45-$55 one-way. Trains and buses are available both ways – Airport Link offers a fast and convenient way to reach the city and suburbs with trains running about every 10 minutes.
Public transport in Sydney
Taxis, Ubers, trains, buses and ferries make getting around Sydney super easy. Grab an Opal pass and tap on and off the public transport of your choice (excluding taxis and Ubers, of course!). Ferries will ferry the family to any number of suburbs on the harbour, but they are also an awesome way to sightsee the harbour.
Car rental in Sydney
Rent a car and set your own travel timetable; perhaps even venture into the World Heritage-listed mountains behind Sydney. Check here for the latest prices.
Parking in Sydney
While there are a number of parking facilities throughout Sydney, they are expensive. CBD street parking is scarce, and again, expensive. If you want to visit the likes of Paddington, Mossman, Double Bay or Woolhara, street carparks are rare. Unless you have car parking at your hotel and you need to venture out of Sydney, then it’s best to grab that Opal Pass and catch public transport.
Weather in Sydney
Sydney’s weather is true to the seasons: meaning hot summers and cold (but not too cold!) winters, and mild in between. Summers usually hit the early 30s (about January) while winters can dip to single digits (generally only for a few days during July). With 340 days of sunshine every year, Sydney’s climate makes it ideal to explore all year round.
Favourite Family Events in Sydney
More things to do in Sydney with kids
22 of the best beaches for kids in Sydney – by Adventure, Baby
Fruit picking with kids near Sydney – by The Kid Bucketlist
Top 5 things to do in Sydney with boys – See My City – on Travel with Boys
Discover where to get the best views of Sydney Harbour without the huge price tag – by Officer Travels
Before you hit the beaches of Sydney, take a look at our Aussie beach survival guide for great tips and tricks, with everything from chafing to stingers, sand to sunburn.
Now all you need to do is get there!
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Images by Travel with Boys and Tourism Australia