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Sydney with Kids: 12 Top Things to Do

Written by Karen Hastings
Updated Jul 26, 2022

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One of the world's most beautiful cities, Sydney is crammed with things to do with kids. Near the city center, the waterfront pedestrian precinct of Darling Harbour features a dizzying array of kid-friendly attractions, including an aquarium, IMAX theaters, and harbor jet boat rides.

Enjoying the view over Palm Beach in Sydney's Northern Beaches
Enjoying the view over Palm Beach in Sydney's Northern Beaches

Hop aboard a ferry to see the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge from a new perspective. Better still, older kids can climb to the top of the bridge for spectacular harbor views, and kids of all ages can zoom to the top of Sydney Tower, the city's tallest building.

A short ferry ride from the CBD, kids can come face to face with a friendly cast of animals at Taronga Zoo, explore interactive exhibits at world-class museums, and ride a Ferris wheel at a 1930s-style amusement park. Horseback riding, trapeze lessons, "Rapid River" pools, and beaches round out all the fun.

Depending on the timing of your visit, the city hosts a fun calendar of festivals and events; favorites are the Royal Easter Show in March and the Festival of Sydney in January. For more ideas, read our list of the top things to do in Sydney with kids.

1. Spend a Day at Darling Harbour

View from Darling Harbor
View from Darling Harbor

If you're looking for things to do in the city with kids, it's hard to beat Darling Harbour. It's a one-stop wonderland of kid-friendly fun, about a 10-minute walk from the city center. In addition to shops, restaurants, exhibitions, and entertainment venues, this waterfront pedestrian precinct packs in a ton of family-friendly attractions.

Traveling with little wildlife lovers? At WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, you can journey through Australia's different ecosystems, or head to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium to see the world's largest collection of Australian marine creatures, including the platypus and dugong.

If museums are your, stop by the Australian National Maritime Museum. Here, kids can learn about Australia's seafaring history and board a replica of Captain Cook's ship, the HMS Endeavor. Madame Tussaud's is another fun stop for kids and adults alike.

Cafés and shops in Darling Harbour
Cafés and shops in Darling Harbour | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Other top tourist attractions in Darling Harbour are the 9D theater and IMAX theater with the world's largest cinema screen, as well as Laser Skirmish, bowling, harbor jet boat rides, simulated flights, and racing car adventures.

Looking for more things to do with toddlers in Sydney? Make a beeline for Darling Harbour's Caterpillar Lane interactive play area, with digital displays, climbing equipment, a soft toy play area, and light projection games. Little ones will also love the water park, and the playground with swings, slides, sandpits, and ziplines.

After all the excitement, take the kids for a peaceful stroll through the Chinese Garden of Friendship, replete with willows and koi ponds.

2. Come Face to Face with Kangaroos at Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo with a view of the Sydney skyline
Taronga Zoo with a view of the Sydney skyline

Overlooking Sydney Harbour, Taronga is a zoo with a spectacular view. Kids love the collection of more than 4,000 animals here, including native Aussie wildlife, such as kangaroos, emus, bilbies, and koalas, as well as exotic species like lions, tigers, black rhinos, lemurs, Asian elephants, and western lowland gorillas.

When little legs get tired from wandering around all the exhibits, you can relax and enjoy some of the live shows, including the popular free-flight bird show and seal show. For a bird's-eye view of the animals, hop aboard the Sky Safari, or tire the kids out at the Wild Ropes climbing course with suspension bridges and ziplines.

Another kid-focused exhibit is Backyard to Bush with a playground and water-play area, interactive displays, a farmyard barn, and a garden filled with fragrant plants.

For an extra fee, budding zoologists can also enjoy close-up encounters with some of the animals, such as reptiles and giraffes, which you can book upon arrival.

Buses to the zoo depart from Wynyard in the city center. Even better, kids will love catching a ferry from Circular Quay (about 12 minutes).

Can't get enough of all the animals in one day? Reserve a room for you and your budding zoologists at the Wildlife Retreat at Taronga. This new eco-retreat on the zoo grounds gives you perks like guided wildlife tours, after-hours viewings of some of the animals, complimentary zoo access, and more.

Address: Bradleys Head Road, Mosman, New South Wales

Official site: http://taronga.org.au/taronga-zoo

3. Ride a Roller Coaster at Luna Park Sydney

Ride a Roller Coaster at Luna Park Sydney
Ride a Roller Coaster at Luna Park Sydney

Luna Park's slogan is "Just for fun," and this iconic 1930s amusement park delivers on this promise for kids of all ages. You can't miss the entrance. The giant Luna Park laughing face on the north shore of Sydney Harbour looms large in the memories of generations of Sydney kids, and today some of the park's older buildings sit on the State Heritage Register.

There's something for everyone here. Little ones will love attractions like the restored Ferris wheel, the carousel, Freaky Frogs, and the Mirror Maze. Older kids love the Wild Mouse roller coaster, the Rotor, Devil's Drop, and Tango Train. Coney Island is always a favorite, too.

Sideshow games, dodgem cars, and cotton candy (fairy floss in Australia) add to the festive old-time atmosphere. Ticket prices are based on the height of your child, as this will determine the appropriate rides. Parents take note, though: Entry to the park is free if you plan to sit out; a bonus if you're vertigo-challenged.

Luna Park also offers another bonus for parents: Beautiful views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House as you hop between all the rides.

Address: 1 Olympic Drive, Milsons Point, New South Wales

Official site: http://www.lunaparksydney.com/

4. Learn to Surf at Sydney's Beaches

Surf lessons
Surf lessons | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Are your kids adventurous water lovers? What better way to keep them entertained than with a surf lesson. Sydney's beautiful beaches offer surf breaks to suit all abilities. No matter what the weather or the wind direction, you can usually find a slice of coast with some surfable waves.

Lessons are the best way to get the kids hanging 10. Wondering where to go for the best surf schools? Manly Surf School is a long-running favorite for kids of all ages and skill levels,

Let's Go Surfing also runs a popular surf school at Maroubra and Bondi, and Cronulla Surfing Academy offers lessons on Sydney's south side. All these schools have expert instructors, and provide the board and wetsuits – if needed.

5. Zoom to the Top of the Sydney Tower Eye

Sydney Tower Eye
Sydney Tower Eye | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

At Sydney Tower Eye, kids can zoom up to the top of the city's tallest building and see spectacular 360-degree views of the city. At 309-meters high, this distinctive spire-topped tower offers panoramic views all the way to Blue Mountains National Park. You'll see it rising above the city center, atop Centrepoint shopping mall.

Tickets include a 4D cinematic tour of the city, with special effects, as well as access to the observation deck. Here, kids can see Sydney landmarks with the high-powered binoculars and learn all about them at the interactive touch-screen panels.

For an extra fee, kids aged eight years and older can try the exhilarating SKYWALK. This outdoor glass platform, perches 260 meters above the city (more than twice the height of the harbor bridge), but they must don a special suit and harness and be accompanied by an adult.

After your adventure, you can refuel at one of the tower's revolving restaurants or the café.

Address: 100 Market Street, Sydney, New South Wales

Official site: http://www.sydneytowereye.com.au/

6. Climb or Cruise by the Sydney Harbour Bridge

View of Sydney Harbour Bridge
View of Sydney Harbour Bridge

A trip to Sydney with kids isn't complete without a close-up view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the water. Hop aboard a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, Mosman, or Taronga Zoo to view the 134-meter-high bridge from the harbor.

This is a great excursion for budding photographers. Catching a ferry from Luna Park or McMahons Point takes you directly beneath the bridge for close-up views. For a more historical experience, you can also hop aboard an 1850s-style tall ship.

Climbers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Climbers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Children eight years and older, and taller than 120 centimeters have another exciting option: They can climb the bridge on a guided ascent. Included in the climb is a prep talk, safety gear, a photo at the summit, and fascinating stories about the history of the bridge during the climb.

Standing at the top overlooking the sparkling harbor is an experience kids will remember forever. This exhilarating experience is one of Australia's top outdoor adventure for both older kids and adults.

7. Join a Junior Tour of the Opera House

View over Sydney Harbour to the Opera House
View over Sydney Harbour to the Opera House | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

When children think of Sydney, no doubt the Opera House comes to mind. But a visit to the Sydney Opera House doesn't have to be all about the adults. The venue hosts a fantastic kids program, with performances such as Storytime Ballet, children's musicals, and toddler-friendly shows.

In Australian school holidays, kids can join a Junior Tour of this architectural wonder, which was designed by the Danish architect Jørn Utzon. During the tour, kids become "Opera House experts" and enjoy interactive activities and games, dressing up in some of the performers' costumes, and learning about special features of the building.

Family packages are also available during school holidays and include a junior tour, discounted show tickets, and lunch at one of the family-friendly restaurants here.

Address: Bennelong Point, Sydney, New South Wales

8. Get Your Wiggles out at Sydney Olympic Park

Aerial view of Sydney Olympic Park
Aerial view of Sydney Olympic Park

Home of the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Sydney Olympic Park is probably the best place for kids in Western Sydney. It's only about 16 kilometers from the city center and offers an exciting schedule of family-friendly activities and events.

Is your child an aspiring acrobat? They can swing on a trapeze at the Circus Arts Flying Trapeze workshop, and somersault through the air with expert instructors.

Traveling with water babies? Head to the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre. Here, you'll find four indoor heated pools, a giant waterslide, and Rapid River ride. Little ones will love Splasher's Water Playground. Replete with dumping buckets, waterslides, and water cannons, this attraction is one of the most popular things to do with toddlers in Western Sydney.

Also here is an Archery Centre with courses for kids aged 10 years and older, and Laser Tag adds plenty of excitement during the Aussie school holidays.

Looking for fun on two (or three) wheels? Biking on the 35 kilometers of cycling pathways is another popular thing to do here with kids. You can tour the Olympic venues on a bike, as well as ride through parklands and mangroves along the Parramatta River. Three Bike Safari Circuits cater to kids ages five years and older, and more adventurous cyclists can try the BMX track and Mountain X Tracks. Bike rentals are available on-site, including dragsters, mountain bikes, tandems, and trikes.

During the Australian school holidays, vacation programs offer everything from pizza and pasta-making classes to sand art and writing workshops. Check the website for current activities and events.

Address: 8 Australia Avenue, Sydney Olympic Park, New South Wales

Official site: http://www.sydneyolympicpark.com.au/

9. Treat the Kids to High Tea

The Tea Room at the Queen Victoria Building
The Tea Room at the Queen Victoria Building | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Need a pick-me-up after a long morning of shopping or sightseeing with the kids? High tea is the perfect way to refuel, and you'll find plenty of elegant venues to host your kid-friendly experience.

One of the most popular and affordable places to visit for high tea is The Tea Room at the Queen Victoria Building, a heritage-listed building filled with boutique shops and restaurants. Your kids will feel like royalty perched upon a soft, velvet chair under crystal chandeliers in the Grand Ballroom. You'll find all the mouthwatering favorites here: scones with clotted cream, cucumber finger sandwiches, and 29 different teas, as well as plenty of petite and pretty sugar-laced treats for the kids.

Queen Victoria Building
Queen Victoria Building

Many Sydney hotels host special children's high teas. The Langham, Sydney pampers kids with themed high teas during Aussie school holidays, like The Tale of Mr. Rabbit afternoon tea. Feel like dressing up? Head to the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney for a Kids in the City High Tea, designed by kids for kids.

For breathtaking views of the Sydney Opera House, choose the posh Park Hyatt Sydney, with floor-to-ceiling windows. Kids will love watching the boats and ferries ply the sapphire-blue harbor.

10. Horseback Ride at Centennial Parklands

Centennial Parklands
Centennial Parklands

Looking for a fun day out for the young equestrian in your family? Centennial Park, about 10 minutes from the city center, is one of the world's only urban parklands with riding facilities. It's a great spot for a slice of nature and a quick trot in the city.

The park is home to 210 stables and five riding schools, with lessons customized for your children's age and skill level. All the equipment is provided. First-time riders can book a pony ride to ease into the experience.

Are horses not for you? The park is also home to well-maintained cycling paths for kids who prefer to ride a bike. Plus you'll find the fantastic nature-based Ian Potter Children's Wild Play Garden here, with a treehouse, slides, and a magical bamboo forest.

After all your adventures, you can relax with a picnic under the large trees, or head to one of the excellent cafés or kiosks.

Official site: https://www.centennialparklands.com.au/

11. Enjoy a Picnic at the Royal Botanic Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Fragrant frangipanis, flocks of wild cockatoos, fountains, and magnificent views of Sydney Harbour – what's not to love? The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is a sensory feast for pint-sized green thumbs. It's also the perfect place to visit for a picnic, with rolling green lawns and glorious water views.

Kids can spark their senses with all the vibrant scents, colors, and textures. Inhale the aroma of rosemary and sage at the herb garden, taste Australian bush tucker on an Aboriginal heritage tour, smell the roses, and feel a feathery fern. If little legs are tired, you can hop aboard the Choo Choo Express for a 25-minute tour around the gardens.

School holidays bring even more fun. Kids can sign up for everything from Ghostly Garden adventures and outdoor theatrical performances to Aboriginal bush tucker tours.

After you've explored the gardens, stroll down to Mrs. Macquarie's Chair for one of the best views of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Address: Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney, New South Wales

Official site: https://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/

12. Build a Sand Castle at Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach
Balmoral Beach

Wondering where to take kids for fun at the beach? You'll be spoilt for choice. Sydney is famous for its beautiful beaches, and Balmoral, on the north side of the city, is one of the most kid-friendly beaches in Sydney.

Since this is a harbor beach, the water is calm and perfect for pint-sized paddlers, and netted pools provide peace of mind. Kids can snorkel, learn to sail, dig in the sand, or kayak in the calm waters.

If you want to explore the area with older kids, you can follow the easy walking trail from Balmoral Beach to Chowder Bay with beautiful views of Sydney Harbour and the headlands, or you can walk the footbridge to Rocky Point.

Take a picnic lunch or relax at one of the cafés along the Esplanade. Parking can be a challenge here, so it's a good idea to arrive earlier in the day.

Where to Stay in Sydney with Kids

Luxury Hotels:

  • Stylish and elegant, The Langham, Sydney offers spacious rooms, as well as one- and two-bedroom suites, so families can spread out. Kids love the high tea and the indoor heated pool with a star-spangled ceiling.
  • For even more space, choose the Meriton Suites World Tower, Sydney. Its two- and three-bedroom suites are more than three times as large as an average hotel room and come with gourmet kitchens, living and dining space, and in-room laundry amenities.
  • If you want to be near all the family-friendly attractions of Darling Harbour, the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour overlooks this family hot spot, with fantastic views from the rooms and infinity pool.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • In the heart of the city, the boutique Zara Tower Hotel - Luxury Suites and Apartments welcomes families with friendly staff and large suites and apartments with fully-equipped kitchens.
  • Another boutique hotel, The Grace Hotel Sydney sits in a convenient central location, a short walk from Darling Harbour and the Queen Victoria Building, and the Meriton Suites Kent Street, Sydney is a home away from home, steps from Darling Harbour. The spacious apartments come with full kitchens, in-room laundry facilities, and wonderful views.

Budget Hotels:

  • The Sydney Harbour YHA also has family rooms, and the rooftop deck with spectacular city views is worth the stay alone.
  • Smack bang in the middle of Darling Harbour, the bed-and-breakfast-style Woolbrokers Hotel offers family rooms that accommodate up to eight people.

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