70 fun things to do in Sydney with kids
Sydney is a great place for kids, and it doesn’t really matter whether you live here or if you are just visiting – everybody can have a great time in this beautiful city.
The weather is a major bonus, not too hot for most of the day but not too much humidity either, and then there’s of course the beaches, the national parks and all the major tourist attractions that are just waiting to be explored by the little people.
Below you will find a list of the very best that Sydney has to offer for kids and teenagers. There’s tips for rainy days and tips for the great outdoors, there’s places where you can eat and places where you can have tons of fun. It’s a long list of more than 70 ideas, but please do let me know if there is something missing that I should add to the list. I hope you will find this summary useful!
I made this post in a way so that you can bookmark and share it with friends, sort of like a one-place-for-all, but if you think that there’s something missing in the suggestions below please do let me know so that I can include it. Scroll to the bottom to the follow areas:
10 CBD family-friendly attractions and museums
Generally speaking, most attractions in the CBD come at a cost, many of them are really not cheap. I have included them anyway because I think that expensive does not necessarily mean overpriced. If you are a Sydneysider you will certainly revisit some of these places from time to time despite the high entry fees, and if you are visiting as a tourist you may be short for time and grateful for the suggestions below. Either way, everything is this list is tried and tested and reflect my personal opinion.
Madame Tussauds: This famous wax figure museum in Darling Harbour’s Entertainment precinct may not be as big as the London counterpart but it houses all the great figures of Australian history and pop-culture, plus you can have your picture taken by a professional and even touch the wax figures! Despite the small size the list is exhaustive: sports stars, movie stars, politicians, historic people, even ET is included in this exhibition. Ticket tip: Book online or buy a combo ticket to save. https://www.madametussauds.com/Sydney/BuyTickets/Default.aspx
Wild Life Sydney: Right next door you will find Wild Life World which is basically an indoor zoo that focuses on Australian native animals such as spiders, snakes, kangaroos, emus and koalas. You may not realise it when looking at it from the outside but there is actually quite a lot to see inside, so despite the hefty ticket prices this zoo is well worth a visit, in particular if you cannot make it out to Taronga due to time constraints or if the weather is less than favourable. My favourite two areas: the butterfly garden which gets you really close to these colourful insects, and the roof-top koala encounter where you can have your picture taken with one of these super cute animals (fees apply). Again, tickets are cheaper in combination with other attractions such as the Aquarium, or if you book online. http://www.wildlifesydney.com.au
Sydney Sea Life Aquarium: Probably one of the best attractions that Sydney has to offer, and also an ideal choice if you are only here for a short visit or if it happens to be a rainy day. The aquarium can be terribly busy though, so see if you can visit during off peak hours. My favourite things to see: the shark tunnel, the Great Barrier Reef tank and the dugongs. Prebook online and save or choose a combo ticket. http://www.sydneyaquarium.com.au/
Sydney Tower Eye: If your little ones are not scared of heights then this might be a wonderful thing to do: right in the centre of the city you will find the Sydney Tower in Pitt Street, a purpose built observation tower with a height of around 270m that offers stunning views of this beautiful city, on good days from Bondi to Wollongong to the Blue Mountains and way up north. It’s a really attractive view due to Sydney Harbour in the north and Botany Bay in the south. Children from 8 years of age can also attempt the Skywalk, which is an outdoor adventure that takes you all the around the tower on a balcony with see-through glass floor. General admission also includes the 4D cinema experience. Save online, or buy a combo ticket. http://www.sydneytowereye.com.au
Australian National Maritime Museum: I find the Maritime Museum a great destination, in particular for little boys and very inquisitive kids. The museum is located in Darling Harbour just across the pedestrianised Pyrmont Bridge and entry to the permanent galleries is rather cheap, however if you want to see the ships that are outside such as the destroyer and the submarine and the tall ships you will need to invest in the Big Ticket which is way more expensive. Having said that, seeing a submarine from the inside is definitely something you don’t get to do every day, and if you are with older children they will probably find this very interesting too, looking into cramped spaces, climbing ladders and looking through wire mesh floors into the torpedo chambers and engine rooms. For kids under 12 there is a special exhibition called Kids on Deck that is very much fun and educational, and ticket prizes are not too bad for this one either. Children under 4 are free. http://www.anmm.gov.au
Powerhouse Museum: The Powerhouse Museum is a bit like a box of chocolate. You never know what you will see this time around when visiting. The Powerhouse is Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences which means you can see here everything from historic rail carriages to space capsules and the interiors of an old Australian country store. There’s innovative ideas here as well as old dresses, science stuff to discover as well as steam engines. Add to that changing exhibitions and hosted events from young designers, a great outdoor playground and cafe, kids activities in the school holidays, Minecraft workshops and much more and you have a museum that is not just educational but also very interactive and lots of fun for big and small. It really is one of my favourite places to go with the family. https://maas.museum
Australian Museum: Every child loves dinosaurs, and at the Australian Museum there is a big emphasis on dinosaurs and their story. But there is more to see than just robotic reenactments of giant scary dinosaurs: Older kids will be fascinated by the bones collection that shows humans and animals in their skeleton form only, often in strange set-ups side-by-side, closely resembling a weird horror cabinet. There’s of course also lots of glittery and shiny minerals and then your bugs and spiders and the stuffed Australian animals that you can study in detail. What the museum does really well is the toddler corner which is an enclosed area where the little ones can explore and touch stuff together with their parents (there’s books, toys, stuffed animals, things that make sounds, etc.), and the wing for school aged children where the kids can inspect x-ray photos, living deadly spiders and also stuffed animals. There’s also a very beautiful exhibition on the first Australians which is well worth a visit. The great thing about this museum is that kids under 16 years go free! http://australianmuseum.net.au/admission
Sydney Museum: To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of the Museum of Sydney, I find it rather dull. Sydney Living Museums who are operating this museum are doing a much more interesting job with their other museums such as Elizabeth House, Rouse Hill Farm and Vaucluse House. But there’s not much to work with here anyway, even though the Sydney Museum is located on historic ground. When you are on the top floor you can enter a protruding glass cubicle (sort of like a balcony) which looks out on the forecourt of the museum where you can find indications of the foundations of the first Government House that used to be here. Other than that, there’s a lot of drawers with shards and coins and bits and pieces there were found at diggings as well as photos explaining some key events in the development of the city. If you think your kids will dig this, by all means go for it. But I think that you should look at other museums instead. One highlight of the museum is the museum shop though where you will see not just great Sydney souvenirs like old aerial photography but also quite unusual toys for the little ones. http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/museum-of-sydney
The Rocks Discovery Museum: If you do want to explore Sydney’s history with the kids I’d rather you look into the Rocks Discovery Museum than the Sydney Museum. Located in this oldest of Sydney quarters it almost breathes history. Even though you will also find a collection of shards, sticks and stones here, the collections somehow feels more real as the museum is located in one of the historic houses of the quarter, and the touch screens are actually quite well done when it comes to showing how the first Australians used to live here before the First Fleet arrived. Best of all: Entry is free! http://www.therocks.com/things-to-do/the-rocks-discovery-museum/
Hyde Park Barracks: I actually like this museum although it may not be the most interactive one and you may need to help a little bit with interpreting. The Hyde Park Barracks are a two-fold museum, on the one hand it’s the building compound itself that tells a story or two (and the exposed parts of the structure will show you for example the massive rat nests under the floorboards), on the other hand you can see lots and lots of pieces from Sydney’s past as a convict settlement and colony, including the iconic hammocks under the rafters. http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/hyde-park-barracks-museum
10 Family-friendly beaches in Sydney
The good thing about Sydney is that family-friendly beaches can be found all over the place, no matter whether you are looking in the Northern Beaches, around the Harbour or in the Eastern Suburbs.
Balmoral Beach: On Sydney’s North Shore you will find a piece of paradise that is not surprisingly very popular with the wealthy population that call Mosman their home – Balmoral Beach. This long stretch of beach is not just extremely child-friendly, it also offers great views and plenty of things to explore, for example there’s a small footbridge that crosses over to a small island with great views of the harbour. For food or coffee, expect more pricier options but it’s certainly a beautiful beach where the children can run free.
Shelly Beach: Located in the sea-side suburb of Manly, this little beach comes as a package deal – already getting there is a great experience for the senses. From Manly’s main beach follow the pathway along the steep cliffs to the little bay that is sheltered from great currents and away from the traffic. While the sand is rather coarse (hence the name), the lack of waves makes this beach ideal for snorkelers and divers. There’s public barbecues in the back, showers and WCs, and now also the Boathouse which sells snacks at the kiosk and hot food in the restaurant.
Bronte Beach: Bronte Beach is located in the Eastern Suburbs, just a short bus ride from the city. Its biggest drawcard is its sheltered position surrounded by parklands, perfect for a picnic in the shade, while the headlands seem to give this beach a bit of a secluded feel that is missing in the bigger neighbouring beaches of Coogee and Bondi (sometimes it’s all about psychology). This is an ocean beach, so there will be waves and rips, and you need to ensure your children are save at all times. The most important rule to remember is that the kids need to stay between the flags as this is always the safest part of any Sydney beach.
Murray Rose (Redleaf) Pool: This harbour-side pool in Double Bay with stunning views is a great choice thanks to its generous shark net enclosure which makes it popular with young and old. In fact, on weekends it can get a little bit crowded here. There’s a kiosk here for snacks and ice-creams. Since you are still quite close to the city parking can be a bit of a hassle, so consider using public transport to get here.
Nielsen Park: A lovely harbour beach in Vaucluse, Nielsen Park has it all: great facilities, a restaurant and kiosk, fabulous views, picnic areas with lots of shade and glistering Shark Beach. If you are a visitor to Sydney, this beach is perfect if you want to combine the beach with some of the best views of the city.
Camp Cove: A little bit further away but with rivalling views of the city skyline, Camp Cove in Watsons Bay offers calm waters, plenty of sand, a kiosk and showers. The beach is also great for snorkelling and non-motorised water sports such as kayaking or paddle boarding.
Clifton Gardens: Back on the North Shore, Clifton Gardens is directly opposite on Camp Cove, a wave-free extremely toddler-friendly beach with shark net, picnic facilities and a very relaxing holiday feel. Older kids may want to jump off the pier or explore the underwater world with their snorkelling gear. There’s also a huge playground with large sun sails that they kids will love.
Little Manly Beach: This used to be our local beach, ironically before we had kids. Because Little Manly beach is fantastic for children of all ages. It has a shark net enclosure which the bigger kids climb on to jump off, there’s rocks to explore and views to enjoy. No big playground here but a good kiosk and this warm neighbourhood feel that make you feel so welcome.
Wylie’s Baths: If you are located in the Eastern Suburbs then the Wylie’s Baths is a great option for families with smaller children. Sometimes pools are a preferred option to beaches as they are free to swells, making it easier for swimming and you don’t run the risk of encountering nasty marine animals like jelly fish (they don’t kill you in the Sydney area but they can hurt like a wasp sting!) and sharks. The Baths are not free as opposed to many public rock pools along the Sydney coastline but the facilities and location is good, so the small fee is actually quite justified. What I really like about this facility is that you can always check the current conditions on their website before you pack your stuff and get down there. The baths are open every day of the year.
Manly Cove: If you are staying in the city then it’s just a short ferry ride to this beach which is located right next to Manly Wharf. Manly Cove comes with a shark net enclosure, large pine trees offering shade in summer, showers, kayak rental and takeaway outlets and a supermarket right next door in the wharf. You can combine a visit here with a day trip to Manly, or you could visit the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary which is right next to the beach. Manly Cove is also popular with the famous fairy penguins, and you may be lucky and see the colony in action when you are visiting.
10 easy bush walks around Sydney for the whole family
Once you start a family everything becomes a bit more complicated, even simple things like going out for a walk. At first, you are probably navigating a pram which means you need to stick to sealed surfaces and a minimum of stairs, then you may want to try a carrier of some sort but still have to haul tons of equipment and supplies for the little fella. Then, when the kids are old enough to walk you will notice they won’t walk very far, so distances need to be measured. Suddenly, your most favourite walks are somehow out of reach and you need to find alternatives, at least until the kids are of school age.
The walks below a suggestions that are particularly child-friendly and basically provide fun for the whole family. Fabulous views, interesting historic features, easy to reach – these walks give you plenty of ideas to get back out there and explore the beautiful natural spaces that we have here in Sydney.
Fairland Pleasure Gardens in Lane Cove National Park: The Fairylands Trail is a loop walk on Sydney’s North Shore. It takes about 2.5 hours to master and takes you through a variety of environments including the historic site of Fairylands and across the Lane Cove river. Start is at Fullers Bridge. Despite the beautiful name you will probably not encounter fairies along the way, but the Pleasure Garden is a historic piece of cleared land that used to be a popular excursion destination some time ago. Today, there’re still a lot of interpretive signs around the area, so you explore the grounds together with your children and imagine how things used to look like in the old days.
Chowder Bay Track: Plan around 2 hours for this easy walk along the shores of the Sydney Harbour, not far from Taronga Zoo. Start at Bradleys Head and follow the trail along the water with rewarding views of the most iconic Sydney icons such as the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Highlights along the way include also Bradleys Head Amphitheatre and the Military relics at Bradleys Head.
West Head Lookout: The West Head Lookout is one of my most favourite places to take visitors. It is located in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in Sydney’s North and can be easily accessed by car (fees apply). Just park at the end of the loop road and walk a couple of steps down to the lookout for some spectacular views of Broken Bay, the Pittwater, Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Lighthouse. From here it’s just a couple of steps down a path to the awe-inspiring location of the Aboriginal Red Hands cave, one of the treasures hidden deep in the bush. The loop walk takes around 2.5 hrs and will take you past further engravings and Aboriginal artefacts, however you can also just walk up to the cave and then return back to the West Head Lookout.
North Head Lookout: North Head Lookout is great, even when you have a pram to push as the walk is completely sealed. You can park very close to the lookout at the end of the loop road (fees apply) and then set off. I love this walk because the kids can roam quite freely without me having to worry of them falling down somewhere (of course once you have arrived at the various look out areas along the way make sure they don’t do silly things like climbing the railings). You can enjoy some of the best views from here, deep into the harbour on one side and up the coast to the other. A great spot also during the whale migration season. Plus, there are some Military relicts that can be explored safely along the way.
Banks-Solander Trail in Kamay Botany Bay National Park: Named after the first white people to explore this area even before the First Fleet arrived, this is a very easy, very short walk, perfect for smaller walkers and toddlers. You can take your pram if it has biggers wheels, but I recommend you use a carrier. The walk is just about 20 minutes long and it will take you through some beautiful fern covered areas and an eucalyptus forest. There’s sand tracks and boardwalks to master, overall a great way of introducing the kids to the wonders of the Australian bush. Parking is at the Kamay Botany Bay Visitor Centre car park.
Swain Gardens Killara: Technically this is not a bush walk suggestion but rather a walk in an English Garden which is surrounded by the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Which makes it no less enchanting but probably much easier to conquer when you have small children with you. What makes it so special is not just the fairyland ambience of this secluded pocket of garden but also the fact that it is so little known that you will hardly meet any other visitors. So it’s our little secret, don’t tell anyone, ok?
Warriewood Wetlands: Wetlands are a very special kind of environment, the water providing the ideal conditions for lots of birds, very special species of plants and of course amphibies and reptiles as well. More than 80 species of birds alone have been recorded here. The access to the Warriewood Wetlands is easy these days thanks to a 2.4km long boardwalk which together with the surrounding streets of the neighbourhood connects to a full loop. Bikes and dogs are not allowed in this area, so it is rather safe to have your toddler go out and explore at their own pace. There’s also an enclosed playground and BBQ facilities, perfect!
Narrabeen Lakes Bush Trail: This walkway which goes all around the Narrabeen Lakes system is still fairly new but extremely popular with the Northern Beaches locals. In fact, on weekends it can get quite busy with walkers, bike riders, dog walkers and joggers all sharing the narrow path in both directions. What I like about the trail is that it is so versatile – if you complete the loop you will have come past old relicts of a concrete works, a picnic ground with BBQ facilities, a boardwalk through wetlands, tall mahogany woods, a golf course, inviting cafes and quite picturesque purple pedestrian bridges. The walk takes around 1.5hrs and is 5km long – if that’s too much you can also just tackle a section at a time.
Walk to Gibraltar Rock in the Royal National Park: Park at the Willow Tree picnic area in the Royal National Park and embark on a short but interesting walk down to Gibraltar Rock with the kids. Gibraltar Rock is a stunningly large sandstone overhang which you can find by following the historic Lady Carrington Drive (you can see and old section of that road, made from cobblestone, right where the rock is). The place is a great spot for a picnic before you return to your car, and you can also enjoy fantastic views of the Hacking River from here. You will reach the rock after about 20mins, so this is a really good starter walk for the little ones, and since it’s fairly flat you will even manage to get a pram with big wheels up here.
South Head Heritage Trail: This 1.4km walk will take you about an hour and is great thanks to the outstanding ocean and harbour views and the military history. There’s a lighthouse to explore as well as a 1870s cobblestone road and gun emplacements, and during the migration season you may be able to spot a whale or two. Park entry fees apply.
10 Playgrounds that we dig
Darling Harbour: An absolute classic right in the CBD – the kids will love this playground, but it can get quite busy at times. What makes it great is the waterpark which is part of the playground, great on those hot summer days! Just make sure you pack a second second of clothes or your swimmers. There’s also giant slippery dips, a flying fox and other out-of-the-ordinary play equipment to explore, and nearby you will find a cafe and other food outlets.
Sydney Park: This playground is Sydney Park in St Peter is popular with the local community as it offers not just a cafe but also plenty of play equipment including hills slides, a suspension bridge and water play in the sandpit. This is actually one of the prettiest playgrounds you will encounter in Sydney with a very thoughtful design and great views. The kids will love that there are so many areas to explore.
Livvi’s Place: A fantastic playground due to the fact that it is the very first all-abilities playground in Australia. Located in Timbrell Park in Five Dock, this inner city playground offers lots of interesting play equipment including a roundabout, an all abilities ramp and slide, a climbing net, a sway bridge, tandem bull riders, a snakes and ladders path, a musical sculpture and the natural areas. There’s plenty of shady areas, lots of space for ball games, a cafe and a toilet block.
Plough and Harrow Park: A really large playground in Abbotsbury in Sydney’s west, perfect also for older kids. There’s a lot to do in terms of gross motor, including a hamster wheel, a flying fox and a big climbing frame. There’s a special area just for the toddlers. The included water park is perfect for summer, and there’s plenty of shaded space for picnics.
Pirrama: Can a playground be described as “elegant” or “stylish”? After seeing Pirrama Playground I think it can. Located right next to the harbour in Pyrmont Point, this small but beautiful space is great for smaller kids, for as long as you keep an eye out on them while you are sipping your latte as you don’t want to have to fish them out of the water. There is not just play equipment to explore but also some grassy areas (rare in this part of town), and shaded picnic tables. In summer, jets of water will ensure the kids get wet and cooled down, and the City of Sydney has just installed a spinner that can hold up to three wheelchairs at a time. Thumbs up!
Steel Park: This Marrickville Park is great fun in summer as it focuses entirely on the water circle, from the source in the mountains to the estuary. All the kids need to do is press a button, and water will flow for 10 minutes through all the different areas of the playground, not just fun but also very educational. Plus, there is of course all the usual stuff like swings, slippery dip and so on, as well as a bike track. The lack of a good coffee shop is a let-down, so is the unfenced the river front, but all in all this is a great park which promises a lot of fun in particular in summer.
Rushcutters Bay Playground: A fenced playground, perfect in particular for younger children and babies, complete with cafe and a park next door. Lots of natural shade and lovingly selected equipment including a pirate ship and a wobbly rowing boat. Parking is free along the street but you may need to be lucky to find a spot nearby.
Blaxland Riverside Park: 12 metre tree house anyone? Or how about a swinging tree trunk that fits a handful of kids at a time? There’s also a flying fox and a giant suspended spider web to climb on (horizontally, that is), as well as a water park, tunnels and hill slides. As you can see, this playground is not boring at all, it is probably one of the most challenging and fun experiences in all of Sydney, although maybe a bit overwhelming for some kids at first. It is certainly something you need to check out in your lifetime.
Constellation Playground: Playgrounds can have a theme too, I think that’s totally ok. This Leichhardt playground in King George Park comes with a space theme, so you will find here an impressive rocket ship climbing structure. The Constellation Playground boasts beautiful water views, which is certainly appreciated by the parents, and there’s of course more to explore such as water play features, a climbing net tower and twin hill slides that are easily accessible via steps.
Fairfield Adventure Park: This new playground right opposite the Fairfield Leisure Centre is absolutely crazy! Just look at the slides, long winding tunnels that seem to go in all directions, guaranteed to confuse you and give your kids a really good time. Just getting up to the start of the slides will be an adventure and real challenge for some kids, but, boy, is this mad construction a looker!
20 ideas for active kids and teens
Some kids can’t sit still and need a regular dose of physical exercise or even adrenaline. Why not challenge them in new ways by exploring some more unusual activities? Here are some ideas…
Sail on a pirate ship: The Attack of the Pirates adventure is a 1hr 15mins theatrical performance on board a tall ship in Sydney Harbour, complete with sword fights and cannon thunder. While expensive you can save by combining the ticket with a Luna Park ticket for unlimited rides. The show departs in Milson’s Point and in The Rocks.
Jump on a dozen trampolines all at once: There’s a couple of indoor trampoline arenas in Sydney that are all pretty much doing the same thing: they offer big halls that are filled with trampolines. The kids can run on these things in big strides, they can jump into pools fills with soft cushions and they can jump up the walls. Risk of injury included.
Ride an aqua bike: These funny vehicles are like large bikes that ride on the water. Hiring one of these cost $15 for half an hour at the Audley Boatshed in the Royal National Park. Alternatively, look into hiring a pedal boat at the Lane Cove Boatshed in the Lane Cove National Park – this is suitable also for a family of four with two smaller kids.
Explore some caves: The Jenolan Cave system is located on the other side of the Blue Mountains, so getting there is a bit of a ride, but once you are there you won’t regret it! There are a couple of guided walks to choose from, but make sure you come in early to avoid a long wait. The kids will love the mix of narrow spaces, long caves and enormous stalactites, for sure.
Go skydiving (well, not really): Indoor skydiving is great fun for all ages, and you don’t even have to jump out of a flying plane to get all the kicks! The idea is to fly on top of an upright wind stream in a vertical wind tunnel. It really is a fun experience!
Climb into the tops of trees: The Tree Top Adventure Park is located in the Western Sydney Parklands. For this attraction your children must be ok with heights because there are three courses to explore for children aged 3 to 9 years. There’s more courses of course for older kids and adults, and basically it’s all about leaping, swinging and flying.
Hunt some ghosts: At Q Station in Manly you can take children from 5 years of age with you on a guided ghost tour. The Q Station is the former Quarantine Station of Sydney where ships were diverted to if there had been a sickness on board on the way to Australia. So a pretty scary place to begin with, and the ghost tour can make it all just a little bit scarier.
Go on a roller coaster: Historic Luna Park on the other side of the harbour can be easily accessed via ferry. Entry through the big scary mouth is free but the rides comes at a cost of course. There’s different ticketing options to choose from, with the annual pass probably the most cost effective one.
Get wet’n’wild: Sydney’s premier water theme park opens for the summer months and is everything a child could wish for: giant water slides and pools galore. And there’s more: for the very daring the Sydney SkyCoaster will raise you 75m up in the air in a harness – now, that’s scary! Plus you can surf an eternal wave at the Surf Deck.
Take them horse riding: Australia is a great country for cowboy style horse riding in the bush – just take the kids to Megalong Valley Farm in the Blue Mountains or to Glenworth Valley north of Sydney. Trust me, they will love exploring the bush on the back of a gentle horse.
Escape a mystery room: The Mystery Puzzle is a great family adventure game in the CBD where you get locked in a room and need to solve the clues to escape within a set time frame. The game is great for people of all ages and skill sets because you will always need someone who is good with numbers, others need to tap into their general knowledge and then you need little people to check all the cavities and hidden spaces for further clues, keys and the like.
Sleep with the tigers: Roar’n’Snore is a wonderful Sydney institution in Taronga zoo. Kids need to be at least five, and you will be accommodated in purpose built powered tents in the zoo grounds. There is a walk in the evening and one at night where you see animals that are nocturnal, and then in the morning you can join the exclusive behind-the-scenes tour.
Watch a 3D movie: Did you know that kids can watch a free 3D movie at the IMAX in Darling Habour if they attend the 10am or 11am session with a full-paying adult? Tickets are available at the box office.
Take a scenic railway: Ride the steeped railway incline in the world – in our very own Blue Mountains! Scenic World offer not only that but also the steepest aerial cableway in the Southern Hemisphere. Not for the faint-hearted!
Go on a jet boat: Rather than going on a boring harbour cruise take the kids on a Harbour Jet ride – a speed boat tour with lots of splashing and music beats. There’s plenty of opportunity to take pictures too, so this tour really doubles as a fun cruise alternative.
Hire a kayak: Kayaks are a great way to explore areas of Sydney Harbour that are otherwise too hard to access. There’s a couple of places where you can hire a kayak including Manly, Point Piper and Rose Bay. The great thing is that with a double kayak you can even take smaller kids with you, from three years of age.
Let them climb like a monkey: Wild Ropes is a fairly new attraction in Taronga Zoo, and you can do it as a standalone adventure or in combination with a visit to the zoo. The idea is that you are climbing two courses in a harness high up in the trees, completing different challenges. Kids need to be at least 10 years old to take part.
Try a Segway Tour in the Blue Mountains: In case you never heard of Segways, these are little motorised vehicles that you use while standing upright. Kids need to be at least 9 years old. Once you master the Segway a guide will take you on a scenic tour, so this is quite a different way of exploring the mountains.
Climb the bridge: This is a very expensive exercise but definitely something you won’t find anywhere else in the world – join the long list of celebrities and climb to the very top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. After a safety training and breath test you don your camouflage onesies and then climb the stops to the top of the bridge where your picture is taken. Views are outstanding during this 3.5 hrs tour. Children need to be at least 10 years old.
Dive with the sharks: You can do this at Shark Dive Xtreme at Manly Sea Life Sanctuary. Children need to be at least 14 years old and must satisfy medical restrictions.
Kid-friendly restaurants and cafes in Sydney
There’s a surprisingly good choice when it comes to kid-friendly venues in Sydney – many cafes and restaurants will these days facilitate the special needs of families such as pram parking spaces, changing facilities, play areas and kids menus. The ten places I listed below are just a small sample of restaurants and cafes that do a really good job at accommodating little people. There’s a lot more out there, so if I don’t cover your area please add your experiences in the comments below.
Watsons Bay Hotel, Watsons Bay: Harbour front venue with a wide deck overlooking the harbour, just steps from the ferry. The deck overlooks the tame beach, and next door there is a park with playground. The menu features a handful of kids items such as pasta bolognese and pizza, and it’s the perfect place for fish’n’chips that the whole family can enjoy.
Sprout Wholefoods Cafe & Grocer, Naremburn: Not many places will feature kids breakfast that is also surprisingly varied and healthy, for example berry bircher musli or buckwheat pancakes. The kids lunch box reads equally healthy: cheese toastie, organic popper, popcorn or corn chips and a pack of healthy fruit chews – a place that actually put a lot of thought into the kids options too, love it!
Coogee Pavilion, Coogee: I recently discovered the Pavilion for myself – it is located just steps aways from Coogee Beach and follows a concept that offers spaces that are great for adults and kids alike. The back area has lots of different play options such as ping-pong and checkers, and the pizza here is outstanding.
Flying Fox Cafe, Mona Vale: One of these places that all the locals will know about but that is probably quite unknown elsewhere. The Flying Fox Cafe is located next to one of the best playgrounds on the Northern Beaches in Mona Vale, in a lovely spot bordering the Pittwater. But it’s not just about location, the menu options for kids read like from a kid’s wishlist and include satay chicken, fish fingers and pancakes. This is a place where you want to sit outside and enjoy the lovely garden atmosphere and the views.
Pancakes on the Rocks: This restaurant and its sister restaurant in Darling Harbour can get extremely busy at times with long queues forming outside. Why? Probably because the menu offers something for everyone. Initially started as an American inspired pancake restaurant, you can now also indulge here in pizzas, BBQ meats and salads. The pancakes, by the way, can be savoury or sweet, depending on what you are after. For kids under 10 there’s a special menu that may not be ultra healthy but has items on it like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Ned Kelly”.
Criniti’s Darling Harbour: The Criniti’s chain is perfect for pizza and other South Italian dishes, and since the restaurant has its roots in Sicily, little people are considered very special guests. There’s a good selection of kids sized pizzas and pasta dishes as well as Nutella pizza pockets for dessert (yum!). It may not be the cheapest place around but it’s a great venue for bigger family celebrations where you want to bring together several generations with different tastes around the same table.
Grounds Keeper Cafe, Ryde: Located in Ryde Park, the Grounds Keeper Cafe has an extensive list of items on its breakfast and lunch menu, while for kids there are chicken tenderloins, cheese burger and penne napolitana to choose from. What makes it so popular is the setting right in the middle of the park next to a great playground and basketball court.
Newmarket Hotel, Mascot: Great food, friendly staff – when it comes to pubs this is as good as it gets. Besides the usual pub fare and a good kids’ menu you will also find a bowling alley downstairs, so why not combine a lunch with a bowling match? I’m sure the whole family will enjoy it!
Manly Wharf Hotel, Manly: If you are heading out to Manly, consider the Manly Wharf Hotel right on the wharf a good choice for your family. Kids meals are $10, but if you dine free Monday to Thursday from 5.30pm to 6.30pm with every adult meal, so that’s a great deal! The location is great too, right in the middle of everything and just steps away from Manly Cove beach which is shallow, netted and really family-friendly.
The Henson, Marrickville: The Henson’s mission is from farm to table, from field to fork. Sounds good? Then have a look at the kids’ menu: this is a place that totally understand that macaronis don’t necessarily need a sauce, and there’s even a salad option. Treats for the little ones include frozen banana chocolate pops and a variety of shakes. And with prices all under $10 (except the hot dog New York style) this is a very budget-friendly place too.