Explore my City with guest blogger Leah from The Kid Bucket List
Sydney is an incredible city with a plethora of activities, attractions and sites awaiting families to explore. Long inhabited by Australian Aboriginals for at least 30,000 years, and then by Europeans from 1788, it is a city with a fascinating history, natural beauty and a diverse community that beckons visitors throughout the year.
Sydney has been my home for almost two decades and is the city that I am raising my children. Whilst we spend many of our evenings and weekends exploring the city and suburbs, we are yet to uncover all of its secrets but have found a few marvels that we would love to share with you.
Unique things to do in Sydney with Kids
For many first-time visitors to Sydney, the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Taronga Zoo, Bondi and the Blue Mountains are often the only items to feature on their itinerary. However, locals know that Sydney has so much more to offer.
Cockatoo Island is one of the 11 UNESCO convict sites of Australia and a fascinating place to explore with the kids. Accessible only by boat, it is FREE to visit and offers spectacular views across the harbour, a number of historic buildings to explore and even the opportunity to glamp! It’s also quite often the location for commercial and film shoots.
Ferry services fun to Cockatoo Island throughout the day. Hop on at Circular Quay for a meander across the harbour and along the river. Sunday is the best day to travel on Sydney public transport, with the Opal card capped at $2.60 for most card types (read more about Opal card fares here)
Known as the lungs of the city, Centennial Parklands is one of the world’s leading public parklands and a significant historic and social urban space. It was the recent film location for Peter Rabbit the movie and offers all kinds of delight when it comes to exploring with kids.
During the school holidays, kids can engage with a range of activities from bush school to pony riding. You could also hire a pedal car and ride around the park. There is a bevy of wildlife to spot as well from eels and fish in the water areas, to a wonderful array of birds.
At the top of our list right now is the Ian Potter Children’s Wild Play Garden which was only recently opened and encourages children to reconnect with nature. This does often lead to a little dirt under their fingernails and a huge smile on their face!
Bargo Dingo Sanctuary
Sydney is host to a number of wildlife parks and zoos, but one of the least known is the Bargo Dingo Sanctuary. Established over forty years ago, and the oldest sanctuary in Australia dedicated to the dingo, it is rare to see more than a handful of visitors throughout the day which provides you with the chance for an intimate and cosy encounter with these gorgeous animals.
It is a location that is best accessed by car.
Unknown to many locals, let alone visitors, is the Sydney Bus Museum in Leichhardt. Open on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month, this museum boasts Australia’s largest collection of historic double-decker buses. Included in your ticket is unlimited trips on one of the double-decker buses to the Queen Victoria Building, an iconic Sydney landmark in its own right
Sydney’s Blak Markets run eight times a year at La Perouse and Barangaroo. The markets are a micro business hub for indigenous businesses and provides an opportunity for visitors to explore indigenous history, food, art and dance. We love visiting to see the bush tucker demonstrations and to participate in the weaving workshops.
Sydney’s Main Attractions with Kids
Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is the place to head during the school holidays for Australia’s best theatre shows for kids. You can also explore the inner sanctum of the house with a Back of the House guided tour specifically designed for kids.
While the tours and shows can be a little pricey, the Opera House does have an incredible inclusion policy to make it more accessible to more Australians.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Like the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is an iconic Sydney landmark, beamed around the world every New Year’s eve and conjured up in the minds of most people when they think of the city. There’s no doubt that it is one of the places you *must* see when visiting Sydney. I also think it is one attraction you should climb – at least once.
There are three options available to you if you decide to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge:
1 You can simply take the pedestrian walk up onto the bridge and walk from the CBD across the bridge to North Sydney. It’s not really climbing it, but it is free and you will get an opportunity to look across the harbour.
2. Your second choice is the pylon climb. There’s a small fee to do this, but it ’s not an exhausting climb and you will have the opportunity to get reach the top of one of the Pylons at the end of the bridge.
3. The most incredible (and pricey) option is a Sydney BridgeClimb which requires at least an average level of fitness and climbers to be over the age of 8 years old.
The Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney offers dramatic scenery and breathtaking landscapes perfect for a day trip. If visiting for the first time, head to Scenic World where you can ride the steepest incline railway in the world and float on air in the skyway which takes you 270 metres above ancient ravines with the best views of Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters, and Jamison Valley stretching to the horizon. It’s open all year round, although we love visiting in autumn where the entire area becomes a pop of autumn colour hues.
At over 100 years of age, Taronga Zoo has won the hearts of many generations of visitors and locals and the chance to get up and close to some very special exotic and native animals. It also offers some of the most spectacular views over the harbour. Make a day of it, and catch a ferry across from Circular Quay, or expand your visit and join their Zoo Keeper for a day program.
The Botanic Gardens are over two hundred years old and is both the oldest scientific institution in Australia and one of the most important historic botanical institutions in the world. No visit will be the same as the last with the gardens offering free tours, Aboriginal heritage experiences, incredible garden displays, the Choo Choo express and activities galore for the kids to enjoy.
Based on New York’s Coney Island, Sydney’s Luna Park has been entertaining Sydneysiders for over 80 years. With spectacular views over the harbour, the kids will enjoy the array of amusement rides, sideshows and entertainment that is offered all year round. You can even pop next door to the North Sydney Olympic Pool for a swim in their heated pool.
The Darling Harbour precinct is one of the most exciting precincts for families boasting the Sydney Aquarium, the National Maritime Museum, Madame Tussauds, Wild Life Sydney Zoo, the Chinese Friendship Garden, Monkey Baa theatre and the Darling Harbour Quarter playground. It’s always a hub of activity and often has fireworks over the weekend evenings during the warmer months.
Annual festival and events
As the days get shorter and the weather begins to change in preparation for winter, Sydney comes alive with the annual Vivid festival. Celebrating its tenth year in 2018, the Vivid festival has spread to feature in numerous precincts across the delighting the locals and drawing numerous interstate and international visitors to the city.
For families, Vivid at Taronga Zoo continues to be one of the favourite precincts as the crowds are capped and it has been planned specifically with families in mind.
Running since Queen Victoria’s time, the Sydney Royal Easter Show has been a traditional annual pilgrimage for many Sydneysiders. Whilst the kids love the carnival aspect and showbags, parents will be delighted in exploring the animal exhibits, food pavilions and wood chopping. The show attracts around a million visitors through its gates every year and should not be missed.
Sydney tourist traps to avoid
For the most part, Sydney is an incredible city to visit with kids. There are numerous attractions and sites to explore, although there are a small handful of tourist traps that I recommend avoiding.
Paddy’s Market in Haymarket. It’s full of tacky, cheap knockoffs. After exploring the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, it doesn’t even compare! If you are after mass produced, offshore, poorly crafted souvenirs you will find them here, but I recommend searching out locally sourced items for your friends at home.
Opal shops. As a local Sydneysider, I find it incredible that there are so many opal shops in Sydney offering the “best price” on Australia’s precious stone. What many visitors don’t realise is that the Australian opal is actually found thousands of kilometres away. Before seeking out a precious stone, do your research so you know where the reputable stores are found.
Thanks once again to Leah for popping on to the Globetrotters blog and sharing an absolute wealth of information with us about Sydney – and Australia! She keeps coming up with fresh ideas and was most definitely one of our best sources in planning our own trip to Sydney this year – I hope you’ve found something new and inspirational to add to your kid bucket list too.
You can follow along with Leah and her family adventures here:
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Written by parents who live in the city they love; Get insider tips, must-see events and hidden gems from our guest bloggers, click here to learn more.
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© Our Globetrotters All Images © Leah Smileski ~ Kids Bucket List