Sydney is the place to be during the school holidays; there are so many activities to choose from and many of them are free. Enjoy the great outdoors at the beach, take a trip to the zoo to see the animals or visit one of the city's interactive museums that make learning fun. Whatever you do, there's no danger of being bored.
Kids love the water and they're always happy with a trip to the beach. Luckily, Sydney has a long list of family-friendly spots for a dip, from the sheltered Nielsen Park to the gently lapping waves of Balmoral Beach. You can also make a splash at one of the city’s sparkling ocean and outdoor pools or escape the crowds at a tucked-away secret beach. For something a little more active, try stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking or learn to surf.
If you want to enjoy the ocean views from dry land, go on an exhilarating coastal walk along the beaches and headlands, such as Bondi to Coogee or Spit Bridge to Manly. Want to bring pooch along too? Check out a dog-friendly hike, including the Glebe Foreshore Walk and Sydney Park.
Take a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, where you can hire a bicycle from Manly Bike Tours and then have a well-earned relax on Manly Beach. From there, walk up to picturesque Shelly Beach which is a protected cove perfect for snorkelling.
Or simply pack a picnic and find a patch of shade in a pretty park or garden, such as the Royal Botanic Garden and Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden.
Zoos & wildlife parks
Little animal lovers can meet the king and gentoo penguins at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium or buddy up to a kangaroo at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo. At Taronga Zoo you can feed a giraffe or play on its sky-high adventure course, Wild Ropes. Other great animal options include Featherdale Wildlife Park in Doonside and Symbio Wildlife Park just south of the city.
Sydney Zoo in Western Sydney exhibits a wide range of animal species from around the world, including African lions, orangutans and Sumatran tigers in an open-air setting. There are also interactive experiences on offer, where kids can get a closer look at some of the zoo’s residents, meet a meerkat or become a keeper for the day.
Museums & galleries
Hang out at Darling Harbour and visit the Australian National Maritime Museum where kids can climb aboard a submarine and a tall ship before spending the day at the playground at Darling Quarter, which boasts a 21m flying fox, climbing ropes and water games.
The Powerhouse Museum makes learning about space, technology and Australian history fun with interactive exhibits and hands-on workshops. Get up-close to dinosaurs at the Australian Museum, which you can also visit after dark for a Night at the Museum-like experience at certain times of the year. While the Museum of Fire in Penrith is ideal for any budding young firefighters in the family.
The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of NSW regularly host family-friendly exhibitions and children’s workshops. Sydney’s theatres, including the Sydney Opera House, host a range of productions, musicals and performances throughout the year. For family shows and festivals, check out what’s on at this up-to-date events calendar.
More options include learning about convict history during an interactive tour at Hyde Park Barracks Museum; going behind the scenes of the SCG at the Sydney Cricket Ground Museum; checking out the fantastic exhibits at Customs House; or stepping back in time at The Rocks Discovery Museum.
More fun things to do
Children as young as eight can scale the Sydney Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb Sydney and learn its fascinating history. Another place to get high is Sydney Tower Eye, offering incredible views and an immersive 4D cinema. If you have older kids that are thrilled by all things spooky, join the nightly Rocks Ghost Tours , a Lantern Ghost Tour or a Q Station Ghost Tour.
If you have a kid that isn’t great at sitting still, sign them up for archery and cycling at Sydney Olympic Park, make a splash on the 30-plus waterslides and rides at Raging Waters, or let them loose on the go kart track at Luddenham Raceway. In Penrith, go white-water rafting at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium or zip-lining at Tree Tops Western Sydney. And, of course, kids and adults alike will love the rides, carnival games and entertainment at Luna Park Sydney.
In the warmer months, book into one of Sydney’s outdoor cinemas for a movie night under the stars. Between the months of April and November, jump on a whale-watching tour to see the gentle giants in the wild. Got a foodie in the family? Brush up your kitchen skills at an all-ages cooking school or learn about multicultural cuisine on a food tour, such as the fabulous Gourmet Safaris, Taste Cultural Food Tours or I Ate My Way Through.