22 July 2016
Caz & Craig Makepeace are the founders of ytravelblog.com, one of the world’s biggest travel blogs and have been featured by notable brands such as Virgin Australia, Expedia, and Lonely Planet. When not traveling and writing about it, you can find them swinging in a beach hammock at sunset to the tunes of Jack Johnson, or screaming in the stands of their favourite sporting match. Connect with them on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
Sydney is a fantastic destination to visit as a family and the list of things to do with kids is endless. We grew up an hour north of Sydney and never ran out of things to do, and we still keep going back to our favourites! Sydney is one of the world’s top tourist destinations and whether you have toddlers, teens, or young adults, you’ll all enjoy doing these activities together.
Here are 10 suggested activities and things to see and do for families including the iconic highlights and more:
Circular Quay is a great place to visit as a family, as it is the main transport hub of Sydney Harbour and where you’ll find two of Australia’s most famous landmarks: the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. There’s probably no other place that will jolt you awake from your jet lag and have you saying to yourself “hey, I’m in Sydney!” We like to wander about Circular Quay, take our “we were here” family photo, or hop on a ferry to explore more of the Harbour. You can also find many outdoor cafes and restaurants lining the harbour, a stunning place to be on a sunny day!
Our favourite free thing to do in Sydney is the stunning Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. Starting from the Bondi Promenade, this walk usually takes us two hours with our 8 and 4-year-old kids, as we like to take photos and admire the stunning views of cliffs, bays and rock pools along the way. If you start early enough, Bills Cafe is iconic to Bondi and family friendly, or stop in at the café kiosk at Tamarama Beach for a coffee and bite to eat along the walk. There’s a playground at Bronte Beach that our young kids enjoy, don’t forget your swimmers and have a dip in the Bronte Baths in the warmer months.
Our kids love going to Taronga Zoo to see their favourite Aussie wildlife, animals from around the world, the shows, keeper talks, and animal encounters. We also love going back for the setting as it’s situated right on Sydney Harbour in a spectacular natural bushland setting. Taronga Zoo is just 12 minutes from Circular Quay by ferry and the trip across offers amazing views of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s a great day out with the family.
You’re in one of the best harbour cities in the world, so getting out on the water is a must. We love jumping on the ferry at Circular Quay and visiting Manly on the Northern Beaches. This short ferry ride is a cheap way to experience Sydney Harbour with more stunning views of the city, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Whilst in Manly, walk down the palm tree-lined Corso, and hit the promenade on the beach for an ice-cream. Time your return ferry trip back to Circualr Quay to coincide with a beautiful sunset behind the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Darling Harbour is a lively harbourside precinct that offers activities for everyone in the family and is only a 20-minute walk from the city centre or a quick ferry ride from Circular Quay. We like to wander around and enjoy the free and paid entertainment on offer, and our kids especially love the large playground featuring slides, swings, a flying fox and climbing ropes. Darling Harbour is also home to Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, IMAX Theatre, and ample waterfront restaurants and cafes overlooking Cockle Bay. For a cheaper bite to eat there’s also a food court in the Harbourside shopping centre.
Luna Park’s enormous smiling face is an iconic symbol of Sydney, and their tagline ‘Just for Fun’ lives up to expectations – our kids didn’t want to leave this amusement park on their first visit. They loved taking on the big slides in Coney Island, riding the Wild Mouse, and driving the Dodgem Cars. If you want another perspective of Sydney Harbour, jump on the giant Ferris Wheel for an elevated view. Luna Park is on the northern side of the harbour at Milsons Point. Jump on a train or ferry from Circular Quay, or you can do as we did and walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
Cockatoo Island is one of Sydney Harbour’s largest islands, and a short ferry ride from Circular Quay or Darling Harbour. What was once an island covered with red gums and frequented by the sulphur-crested cockatoos, it has served as a prison, a reformatory, and shipyards, with its prison buildings now recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. There’s an informative 45-minute Convict History Tour where you learn about the fascinating history of its days as a convict prison between 1839 and 1869, and our kids loved the self-guided Convict Clues Challenge with activity booklet and pull-out map, running in and out of the ruins and dancing in the old mess hall. Cockatoo Island is a unique place to visit, and you can even camp or sleep in a heritage house on the island!
Visiting one of Sydney’s beaches is another fantastic way to spend a few hours in Sydney as a family. From the Northern Beaches to the Eastern Suburbs you have many great beaches to explore. Our personal favourites include Bronte Beach, Coogee Beach , Manly Beach, Freshwater Beach, Palm Beach, and you must visit the famous Bondi Beach at least once.
If your kids like hands on learning experiences, the interactive Powerhouse Museum is an excellent museum for kids and adults alike from an educational standpoint. There’s always a new exhibit on show here, Isabella Blow: A Fashionable Life is currently on. There are also other permanent exhibitions, like Experimentations (experiment with heat, light, chemistry, electricity and movement), Locomotive No. 1 (brings the age of steam travel to life), and Wiggles World.
One thing we love to do as a family on our travels is to enjoy a picnic. Our kids like having space to run around in, and picnics are a fantastic way to eat out on a budget. Our favourite picnic spot in Sydney is the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, which we think is one of the most impressive gardens in the world, certainly from a location standpoint. You cannot beat the serenity of the city and harbour views from these gardens, and spending an hour or so here is a relaxing and free way to enjoy one of Sydney’s top spots. Pack a picnic or grab some take away from one of the shops at Circular Quay, and enjoy a casual lunch with plenty of room for the kids to run free. You can also take a free self-guided walking tour, and be sure to check out Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, one of the best vantage points in Sydney looking back over the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.