Sydney with Kids: 11 Top Things to Do

Written by Karen Hastings
Dec 23, 2019

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

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, while 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.

Finally, if you plan to explore the city on a Sunday with the kids, check out the good-value Family Funday Sunday fares, which offer unlimited travel on most public transport routes throughout the city. For more ideas, read our list of the top things to do in Sydney with kids.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

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.

In addition to shops, restaurants, exhibitions, and entertainment venues, this waterfront pedestrian precinct, about a 10-minute walk from the city center, is packed with family-friendly attractions. Highlights include the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, which takes you on a journey through Australia's different ecosystems; SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, with the world's largest collection of Australian marine creatures, including the platypus and dugong; Madame Tussaud's; and the Australian National Maritime Museum, where kids can learn about Australia's seafaring history and board a replica of Captain Cook's ship, the HMS Endeavor.

Other top tourist attractions here 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.

Little ones will love the playground with swings, slides, sandpits, and ziplines, as well as the water park, and if you're looking for more things to do with toddlers in Sydney, make a beeline for Darling Harbour's new Caterpillar Lane interactive play area with digital displays, climbing equipment, a soft toy play area, and light projection games.

After all the excitement, you can 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).

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

"Just for fun" is the slogan of this iconic 1930s amusement park, which sits on the north shore of Sydney Harbour, and it delivers on this promise for kids of all ages.

Overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, the park reopened in 2004 after a rocky history, with revamped rides and new additions, and some of its buildings now sit on the State Heritage Register.

Little ones will love attractions like the restored Ferris wheel, the carousel, the Whirly Wheel, and the Mirror Maze. Older kids love the Wild Mouse rollercoaster, the Rotor, Devil's Drop, and Tango Train, and Coney Island is always a favorite.

Sideshow games, dodgem cars, and cotton candy add to the festive old-time atmosphere. Ticket prices are based on the height of your child, as this will determine the appropriate rides, but entry to the park is free if you plan to sit out; a bonus for vertigo-challenged parents.

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

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

4. Build a Sand Castle at Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach
Balmoral Beach

Sydney is famous for its beautiful beaches, and Balmoral, on the north side of the city, is one of the most kid-friendly of all the city's golden shores.

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.

5. Zoom to the Top of the Sydney Tower Eye

Zoom to the top of the Sydney Tower Eye
Zoom to the top of the Sydney Tower Eye

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 in the city center, above the Centrepoint shopping mall, offers panoramic views all the way to Blue Mountains National Park.

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

For an extra fee, kids aged eight years and older can try the exhilarating SKYWALK, an outdoor glass platform perched 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 Harbor Bridge

Climb or Cruise by the Sydney Harbor Bridge
Climb or Cruise by the Sydney Harbor Bridge

A trip to Sydney isn't complete without a close-up view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, one of the city's icons. A great way to see this 134-meter-high engineering feat with young kids is to hop aboard a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, Mosman, or Taronga Zoo and view the bridge from the harbor.

Catching a ferry from Luna Park or McMahons Point takes you directly beneath the bridge, and for a more historical experience, you can also hop aboard an 1850s-style tall ship.

Children eight years and older, and taller than 120 centimeters have another exciting option: They can climb the bridge on a guided ascent, one of Australia's top outdoor adventures. 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.

7. Join a Junior Tour of the Opera House

Join a Junior Tour of the Opera House
Join a Junior Tour of the Opera House

When children think of Sydney, no doubt the Opera House comes to mind, but a visit here 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.

Location: Bennelong Point, Sydney, New South Wales

8. Swim, Bike & Soar on a Trapeze at Sydney Olympic Park

Trapeze at Sydney Olympic Park
Trapeze at Sydney Olympic Park | Mark Setchell / photo modified

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.

Aspiring acrobats can swing on a trapeze at the Circus Arts Flying Trapeze workshop, and somersault through the air with expert instructors.

The Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre here is also excellent, with four indoor heated pools, a giant water slide, and Rapid River ride. Little ones will love Splasher's Water Playground. Replete with dumping buckets, water slides, 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, Kids in the Park is a fun-filled school vacation program with 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

Queen Victoria Building
Queen Victoria Building

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 options 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.

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, and the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour presents a Parisian high tea themed around the children's book, Claris, The Chicest Mouse in Paris–kids will even receive a souvenir gift bag. 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

One of the world's only urban parklands with riding facilities, Centennial Park, about 10 minutes from the city center, is a fun venue for young equestrians. 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.

The park is also home to well-maintained cycling paths for kids who prefer to ride a bike rather than a horse, and you'll also 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 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.

On Thursdays, the Dandy Lions program treats parents and kids up to five years old to a morning of gardening, storytelling, nature-themed crafts, walking tours, and music, and on the last Friday of every month, kids can feed crickets to carnivorous plants at the Plants with Bite experience.

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/

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

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