Sydney With Kids: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Welcome to the land down under! Although it’s not its capital, Sydney is probably the most famous city you can visit in Australia. It’s the one place where you can find pretty much anything. Some of the most iconic landmarks in the world, exciting wildlife, a vibrant nightlife and incredible beaches are focused in this multicultural city. In this ultimate itinerary, you’ll learn about the best things to do in Sydney with kids, where the best areas to stay in Sydney are, and even tips on what food and delicacies you should try in this city. We’ll also cover what the best time to visit Sydney is (seeing as the seasons go the opposite way!), about how much time you should spend inside the city, and how to get around in it.

We hope that this is both the best and last guide of Sydney you’ll ever have to read. We’ve tried to make it well-rounded and include tips and information to keep the whole family entertained and happy. Enjoy!

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Best Time To Visit Sydney

As you may very well know, Sydney is located in Australia. Australia is popularly known as a hot, sunny place where winter doesn’t exist. However, this is rather untrue! Cold temperatures indeed come to take over the city, not at times where you’d normally expect. The winter months happen from June to August, and the hottest months of summer happen from the beginning of December to the end of February. Below we’ve divided the months of the year and listed the pros and cons of visiting Sydney in the different seasons. 

Winter (June, July, August)

Sydney’s winter temperatures don’t get nearly as bad as winters in the northern hemisphere of the world. On the other hand, winter in Sydney isn’t warm enough to spend your days at the beach. In fact, the city can be very windy and rainy. Although winter isn’t the best time to visit Sydney, there are actually quite a lot of indoor things to do in Sydney with kids. Winter also happens to be the start of the whale migration season. There are many affordable whale watching tours that are definitely worth booking since you are pretty much guaranteed to see a whale or two up close!

Spring (September, October, November)

Spring in Sydney is probably the driest times during the year, as it starts to get warm. The best part about Sydney during springtime is the wonderful, flowery trees that start to come alive all throughout the city. The best area in the city to see the natural landscape of Sydney transform is the botanical gardens, Centennial Park or in the Glebe and Newcastle suburbs. During spring, the heat in Sydney is very bearable. Visiting beaches and natural parks start becoming pleasant to visit, especially because it’s not peak season yet. This means that you’ll be likely to see Sydney’s best natural landscapes without huge crowds of people blocking them. Because of this, spring is definitely the best time to visit Sydney. One of the best things to do in Sydney with kids in spring is the Sydney Spring Carnival. It takes in the Royal Randwick and Rosehill Gardens Race, and it’s an opportunity for you and our family to dress in fancy clothes to watch the races!

Summer (December, January, February)

The summer temperatures in Sydney can rise drastically, with temperatures reaching up to 35°C (95°F) in the case of a heatwave. If you choose to visit Sydney during summer, we recommend that you spend most of your time at the beach, or outdoors with a body of water close by to cool down. The outskirts of Sydney’s CBD like Bondi, Cronulla, Royal National Park, and Manly are ideal for high temperatures. Summer also tends to be the time where most tourists arrive to visit the city, so keep in mind that a lot of the main nature walks or visits to the most popular attractions may be very crowded. Plan ahead so you avoid queues and crowded spaces!

If you visit Sydney in summer, make sure to spend the day on the streets on Australia Day at the end of January. This is Australia’s largest holiday; where people dress in Australian national colors from head to toe and celebrate their country. It’s an incredible scene, and one of the best things to do in Sydney with kids! Celebrating New Year’s on December 31st is also one of the most memorable things you can do in Sydney. The city is very good at organizing viewpoints from which to experience the world-known Harbour Bridge fireworks as the new year begins. We visited Sydney during this time and found it to be spectacular!

Autumn (March, April, May)

Autumn is another good time to visit Sydney. During the fall, Sydney transforms from being a green city, into one that is decorated with rich shades of red, orange, yellow and brown. Doing bush walks, hikes and visiting national parks during this time is great since crowds are a lot smaller, and the landscape looks a whole lot different. Make sure to look out for Australian native flowers! They’re incredibly unique and different from anything else in the rest of the world. The waves are particularly good in autumn, so we recommend you to plan a BBQ or picnic by the beach and admire professional surfers as the dominate the seashore waves. It may even encourage you to take some lessons!

Best Areas To Stay In Sydney

Being the biggest city in Australia, Sydney has countless amazing and unique places where your family could stay while visiting. Sydney’s CBD is perhaps the most popular area where tourists prefer to stay since it’s the closest to the main attractions. However, Sydney is flooded with incredible things to do all over the city, not just in the CBD. Even though we consider the CBD to be one of Sydney’s best areas to stay in, we’ve listed other areas that are equally as recommendable to spend your nights are. Every area has its own charm! 

Sydney City Center

Stay in Sydney City with kids

In Sydney’s CBD you’ll find all the buzz, bustle, and excitement. The CBD is quite large, but the most recommendable areas to stay in within CBD are Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, The Rocks or Potts Point. Most of the kid friendly hotels in Sydney that we recommend are located in this area, and tend to have very good amenities like pools, sundecks, and included breakfast options. Sydney’s CBD there tends to be the place with the most amount of public transport. All connecting train lines, light rail, and buses are concentrated in this area; making it very easy for you to visit the city itself, as well as its outskirts. The main tourist attractions such as the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Hyde Park, and Chinatown are within walking distance, but with children, it is worth taking public transport. Since it’s a large city, there are constant modes of transportation, so you won’t have to wait long for a bus or train.

This is definitely the area with the most accommodation options, so you’ll be likely to find a place to stay very easily here. 

Bondi

If you’d prefer to experience the white, sandy beach side of Sydney, staying in Bondi is a great option. It’s located less than 10km away from the center of Sydney, and there are regular buses and trains that can bring you back and forth. If your family is one to enjoy a more laid back and relaxed holiday, we really recommend basing yourself here. Another excellent reason is that the east coast of Sydney is packed with beautiful beaches to discover every day. In fact, the Bondi Coogee walk is a great way to find new beaches to spend the day at. Tamarama and Bronte are beautiful beaches with natural pools children can swim in safely. 

Also, hotels in Bondi are typically in the form of apartments. This is great for families since they can feel right at home. They can have the freedom to cook, be noisy and comfortable as they like. 

Chippendale

Located very close to the CBD is Chippendale. Chippendale has been transformed from an industrial, warehouse-packed area into a trendy, charming and beautiful neighborhood. The streets are decorated with witty street art and murals created by true artists and are covered with small cafes, restaurants, and bakeries. Brickfields bakery is one of the most famous bakeries in Sydney. Their breakfast and brunch options are incredible – we can guarantee your family to fall in love with them!

 Although it is a popular area for young professionals, it has a strong family-residential presence. It’s located very close to Central station, so you’ll have no problem in transporting your family anywhere in the city. We suggest Chippendale as an area to stay in Sydney because of the different sides it shows. One that is less crowded, with fewer tourists, and truly captures the essence of Sydney as a creative, inclusive city. 

Manly

Manly Beach is a great place to stay in Sydney with kids

Located a 40-minute ferry ride away from Circular Quay is Manly. Although it may seem like being in a completely different city, Manly is actually still a Sydney suburb. It’s considered one of the best places to stay in Sydney with kids because of the holiday that it gives. Once you step out of the ferry, you can instantly feel the relaxed surf culture that lives in this area. You’ll certainly be eager to step out to lay on the beach. 

The town itself is small with pop up farmers and artisanal markets every weekend. There are dozens of cafés, ice cream parlors, and pubs where you can enjoy the best Aussie food. But what we suggest the most is for you to try their delicious fish and chip shops – we reckon they’re the best in the whole city!

Surry Hills

Surry Hills is quite close to the CBD and Sydney’s surrounding best suburbs. The reason why this suburb makes it to the top 5 best places to stay in Sydney is because of its amazing Victorian terraced style architecture and buildings. Some say they make them feel as if they were in New Orleans! Surry Hills has traditional Aussie pubs with the best food in the city, which tends to be very well-liked by kids. The harbor and city center are a 30-minute walk away but are even closer to public transport. This neighborhood is the perfect combination of vibrant city nightlife and a calm family space…ideal for when you’re looking for the best of both worlds!

How To Get Around Sydney

As you may expect, Sydney is a large city with big uphill and downhill walking trails. Walking the city is doable, but this would perhaps only be possible if you were on your own and prepared to take longer to go from place to place. However, when visiting with your family, taking advantage of Sydney’s huge transport system is probably the best option. 

Buses, Trains and Light Rails

The first thing you have to know about moving around in Sydney are Opal Cards. For further reference, if you’ve been to London before, they work just like Oyster Cards. Opal Cards work for buses and trains in Sydney in a tap on tap off system. You’ll first have to purchase a card which can be done from pretty much any corner store with an Opal Card sticker on the front windows, WHS bookshops, Newslink or at the Sydney Airport Terminal as soon as you land.   All you have to do is to recharge the card at any station or through the app, and you’ll be on your way. To save some money, you may want to purchase a Child/Youth Opal Card for your kid. Children from 4 to 16 years old pay a reduced fare. 

Uber and Ola

Car services such as Uber and Ola are bound to be more expensive than public transport. However, this is not always the case. Depending on the time of day, ordering a car service may save you more time when reaching farther places. For example, the Spit Bridge, Northern and Eastern beaches are reachable for the same price as on public transport. We always recommend that you first check car service rates before hopping on a bus or train to a destination more than 5 km away from you. It will let you see what’s more convenient in terms of time, comfort and budget. 

A good example is the form of transport from the airport to your hotel. There is a train line that takes you directly from the airport to Central station. But using it means you’ll have to pay a $12 flat fee on top of the charge for your destination. Although you may have to pay around $20 for a car service from the airport to your hotel, we strongly recommend this option. It’s not comfortable to travel through unknown streets and crowds in the CBD with heavy luggage, and children.

How Long to Stay in Sydney

If you’re wondering how much time to stay in Sydney is enough, the answer really depends on the type of holiday you want to have. Sydney has it all in the spectrum – from a colorful and chaotic city life to wonderful and almost unreal natural sceneries. It’s really up to you what you want to see and get out of the city!

If you’re interested in seeing the most popular landmarks like seeing a show at the Opera House, seeing the Harbour Bridge, the Royal Botanical Gardens, visit the famous Bondi Beach and Taronga Zoo, the truth is that you won’t need much time in Sydney. It would probably be possible to get through these attractions in about five to seven days. 

However, Sydney has a world of incredible nature walks, hikes, beaches, and landscapes definitely worth visiting with the family. Most of these wonderful places are found quite outside of the city and can take quite a while to reach. They will most likely end up being full-day trips. Although most of the walks and hikes can be done with children they can be rather tiring, even for adults. We truly advise you not to miss out on these trips, and try to blend them into your itinerary. In this way, you’ll truly experience the real side of Sydney. Not just touching on popular attractions.

Things to do in Sydney with Kids

Walking Circuit: Royal Botanical Gardens, Opera House and Harbor Bridge

When you think of Sydney, the first thing that will probably pop into your head is the iconic large, white Opera House overlooking the harbor. In real life, that’s exactly how it looks like. So this is our first recommendation of things to do in Sydney with kids. To witness this famous scene of the city by doing a walking circuit…with some fun pit stops on the way. 

Royal Botanical Gardens

The Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens

Start by getting the train to St James. This stop leads you to the top of the Royal Botanical Gardens. If you walk down from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, an incredible view of Sydney Harbour will slowly become visible. There are also beautiful giant trees, flowers, and plants that are pretty much only found in Australia. Your kids will have a lot of space to run around while discovering the unique Australian wilderness. Make sure to stay on the lookout for one of Australia’s national birds – the Kookaburra!

The Opera House

Visit the Opera House with kids in Sydney

As you walk down this amazing park, you’ll be able to see the Opera House from a distance. There are no entrance fees to the Gardens, so it may be a good idea to find a spot on the grass for a picnic while you admire Australia’s most famous building. You can easily reach the Opera House from the Gardens by following the trail. Once at the Opera House, it may be worth asking if there are any kid-friendly shows coming up. They also have a wonderful website showing everything you need to know about activities and performances for kids you can look at. The House has many venues and often shows dedicated to children. But it’s likely that they’re welcome and entertained in other performances too. For example, performances such as Cirque Stratosphere and SandSong would be excellent choices to see as a family. Otherwise, you could opt for one of their tours to see the great hall, the backstage area, and the restaurant. 

Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbor Bridge is a great activity for kids

You won’t need to look very far for the Harbour Bridge. It actually forms part of the iconic Opera House scenery. The Harbour Bridge is another of Sydney’s landmarks that you can not only admire from a distance but can actually climb to the top. The Bridge Climb is one of the best things to do in Sydney with kids. It’s packed with adrenaline and shows you Sydney from a very exciting angle. Make sure you read the rules and regulations first. Only kids from age 8 and measuring a minimum of 1.2 m can participate. Other than that, it’s an incredible experience that you should truly consider doing!

Bondi to Coogee Walk

Bondi Beach - an excellent and simple plan if you're wondering about things to do in Sydney with kids

One of Sydney’s most famous coastal walks is the Bondi to Coogee walk. It extends 6 km along the beautiful east coast of Sydney, showing you a total of five beaches. Bondi and Coogee are the two most famous beaches in Sydney, but Tamarama, Bronte, and Clovelly are three smaller, yet incredible beaches that you should definitely see. The 6 km go by quite quickly, but if you think your kids would rather enjoy a shorter walk, walking from Bondi to Bronte is very doable. Of course, you can start and stop the walk at any point since there are various bus services along the coast that would be able to take you back to the city or to Bondi Junction train station. This is a good plan if you’re looking for simple things to do in Sydney with kids. It guarantees fun and getting the kids exhausted by the end of the day.

Royal National Park

The Royal Natiopnal Park is a great day trip to do with kids in Sydney

The Royal National Park has numerous incredible hikes you can do with kids. Getting there with public transport is quite straightforward. Simply catch the train to Cronulla, and then catch the ferry to Bundeena. In this hike, you’ll see breathtaking views of the ocean, cliffs, and beaches; especially Marley beach.  Dolphins make appearances quite often so make sure to stay alert!

We recommend going to the Wattamolla picnic area. It has to be one of the best-hidden gems of the Royal National Park! It’s a common space for families to visit because of the beautiful lagoon for swimming and snorkeling, and bushwalks. The lagoon is very shallow and calm, so it’s perfect for children to splash around. There are also BBQ facilities and toilets, so it’s a very comfortable space to spend the day with kids. We strongly suggest that you rent a car for the day to come see this place – car rentals are quite affordable in Australia, and it will definitely be worth it.

Museum of Sydney

The Museum of Sydney is a great way to keep kids busy

Located in Circular Quay, the Museum of Sydney is one of the best things to do in Sydney with kids for an exclusive opportunity to see how Sydney came to be what it is today. At the museum, there tend to be exhibitions made especially for kids with engaging educational activities, as well as family-directed events. They also have incredible displays explaining the complicated history between the First Australians and the colonizers. Through art, they do their best to interpret and explain this intricate and marking time. 

There are family passes that include the tickets of two adults and two children. Otherwise, if your child is younger than three, they can enter for free! There is a range of different languages that their museum guides come in, but the best part about this museum is the MoS kid’s guide available at the front information desk. It will keep the kids entertained, and try to explain historical events in ways that are easier to understand!

Luna Park 

View of Luna Park from the ferry. Nothing beats Luna Park for a day of fun as a family in Sydney

Across from Sydney Harbour in Milsons Point you can find Luna Park. Luna Park is so much more than a theme park. Fabulously designed by Martin Sharp, this is the oldest amusement park in Sydney that’s been working since 1935. Before you think that this would be an attraction that’s only attractive to children, Luna Park is actually quite enjoyed by adults. The music, rides, and colors make up quite a nostalgic atmosphere. It makes watching your kids go on the rides and enjoy themselves a heart-warming experience. 

Kids above 1.30 m tall can ride any of the games, while younger kids can only go on certain rides. Nevertheless, there are more than enough rides for the whole family to enjoy. It’s certainly one of the best things to do in Sydney with the kids for a treat during the afternoon. We recommend leaving the park in the early evening, to make sure you catch the sunset on your way back to the city with the ferry. You’ll have the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in front of you with a beautiful backdrop! 

Manley Four Beaches Walk

Four Beaches Walk in Manly is great to do with kids

Not many people know this, but Manley actually has four beaches. Most Manly visitors tend to stay on the main beach just off the high street. But the best of this Sydney suburb lies beyond that. One of the best things to do in Sydney with kids is the Manly Four Beaches Walk. Without stopping, it takes about an hour to get through to all of them. But we strongly suggest that you make pit stops in each of the beaches. 

The best way to go about this walk is to start on Manly Beach, continue to North Steyne Beach, then Queenscliff Beach, and finish in Shelly Beach. Each of the beaches has its own charm where you can see different things. For example, Manly Beach has many professional surfers and volleyball players that are super fun to look at. On the way to Shelly Beach, there are several natural rock pools children love to swim in. Shelly Beach itself has BBQ stations and a lovely cafe called Boathouse at Shelly Beach where you can enjoy lunch.

Explore Darling Harbour

View of Darling Harbor at night. Packed with child-friendly activities that even adults find entertaining

There are many things to see in Darling Harbour. In this lively harbor, you can find interesting things to do for the whole family. the SEA LIFE and WILDLIFE Sydney zoo and aquarium, the Chinese Friendship Garden, and the National Maritime Museum. There are also amazing firework displays that happen every Saturday at 9 pm which you can see while dining at one of the harbor’s great restaurants or cafés. It’s up to you how much time you want to spend at Darling Harbour – some find it entertaining enough to spend an entire half a day, and others would prefer to only go for an hour or so. Whatever you choose, you can be sure that you’ll be entertained!

Cockatoo Island

Visit Cockatoo Island with kids

Its name is pretty indicative of who populates this small island in Sydney. Although the sight of beautiful red-gums and cockatoos making an appearance on this UNESCO World Heritage Site looks almost magical, Cockatoo Island has a rather dark past. It used to be a prison during the mid-1800s, but it’s now open for the public to visit. We recommend going to the 45-minute Convict History Tour to learn about what it was like to live in the prison back in the day. It may seem like a mature subject, but children really enjoy getting to know this part of Sydney’s past. 

There is a Convict Clues Challenge activity pack available for kids that serves as a self-guiding tool. It includes a pull-out map, and lets kids run around the ruins and in the mess hall. It’s an excellent way for kids to learn and have fun at the same time! 

If you’re feeling up for it, you can even camp or stay at a heritage house for the night; which is one of the most exciting things to do in Sydney with kids.

Surf Lessons in Bondi

The iconic rock pool in Bondi Beach

No matter where you are in Australia, you will eventually feel like joining in on the fun of surf culture. There are surf lessons available for the whole family at pretty much any beach, but if you want to make it the most memorable experience, you may want to go to Bondi.
The waves are very subtle and gentle for learning how to surf, and the instructors are very well prepared for those who have not had an encounter with a surfboard before. Children included! Let’s Go Surfing is one of the best companies that teach you how to surf. They offer all kinds of different packages and lesson plans for kids, and even private sessions of family lessons. This is among the most memorable things to do in Sydney with kids.

What To Eat In Sydney

Even though it’s not as loud as it may seem, Sydney has incredible gems of food you have to try during your stay. Being honest, discovering new types of food is one of the greatest things to do in Sydney with kids. From funky baked goods to traditional pub food, the list below offers some of the best things to eat in Sydney. Kids absolutely love each of these dishes, so brace yourself for a fuss-free holiday!

Make sure to check out our blog about the Best Kid Friendly Restaurants in Sydney. We dig in the best locations for your family to enjoy their meals; taking everyone’s needs into consideration.

Strawberry Watermelon Cake

Sydney's famous watermelon cake will make any child (and parents) happy

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Not until you try it. Newtown’s Black Star Pastry is famous for its strawberry watermelon cake…it’s often been claimed as the “one thing” you need to try when you’re in Sydney. Here’s a sneak peek: it’s got two layers of almond pastry, a layer of watermelon and a top layer of pistachio and strawberry. It’s one of the most delicious inventions there have ever been!

Fish and Chips

An iconic, kif-friendly meal in Sydney. Hassle-free as well!

You may think of fish and chips as a British thing, but we’d actually call it more of an Aussie thing. The fish is fried with a lot less oil here, and tend to offer a wide range of sauces that are too good to resist. We’d say the best places to eat fish and chips are on any of the beaches. They get their fish very fresh and is often caught that same morning. Manly and Coogee have some of the most incredible fish and chips shops; make sure to eat them by the beach! Most shops have kid menus where they offer perfectly sized fish or shrimp bites. To be honest, we’re likely to order kid menus as well since full-sized dishes are huge!

Chicken Parmi

A traditional chicken par is a no-brainer for kids in Sydney

If you go around to any of the Sydney pubs (usually called “Hotels”), you’ll see that their most famous dish is a traditional chicken parmy. You should try it at least once – along with a cold glass of Aussie beer for adults, and soda for kids. Most hotels have smaller dishes for kids, along with other kid-friendly options. To describe it briefly, a chicken parmy is breaded chicken breast bathed in tomato sauce and accompanied with either french fries or salad. May sound simple, but isn’t it true that the best things in life come in their utmost simplicity? Make sure to check out our post about the best kid-friendly restaurants in Sydney. We’ve written down a couple of hotels that serve this marvelous dish. They’ll ensure the best experience for you and your family.

Gelato

The perfect way to treat your kids in Sydney - gelato!

Again, you may think that gelato is an Italian thing. And don’t get us wrong, it definitely is. But Sydney has one of the best ice-cream shops with 40 unique and extravagantly delicious recipes you need to try. Messina takes its dedication to make people happy very seriously. No matter what ice cream flavors you choose, there is no doubt that you’ll walk out with a smile on your face – especially your children! The best part is that there are Messina ice cream shops in Syndey’s hotspots. This means you’ll be able to reach it at the end of a visit to any attraction to wrap your day up with a cherry on top…literally. Either way, eating ice-cream is among the most reliable things to do in Sydney with kids if you run out of ideas.

Meat Pies

Meat pies are a great snack for kids in Sydney

Meat pies are quite a sensation in the whole of Australia. You can get some for very cheap, or for elegant and gourmet ones for a higher price. The meat pie is an iconic culinary item in Australia; it has been in the culture for years and loved by the people. There are all kinds of meat pies; beef, chicken, lamb, or purely veggies. You can either eat meat pies as a snack or accompanied by salad or french fries to make it a whole meal. Kids love meat pies, so prepare yourself to eat a couple of them while you’re visiting Sydney!

Finally! You’ve come to the end of our guide to Sydney. Hopefully, you’ve got a better idea of all the things to do in Sydney with kids and the family. The activities and attractions were chosen based on giving the entire family a good and unforgettable experience of such a spirited city like Sydney. Let us know in the comments below what you thought of Australia’s largest city, what your favorite things to do were, or if we missed anything!

 

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