The idea of touring Sydney might seem intimidating with small children. My insiders guide to the city will make it both easy and enjoyable. I lived in Sydney for almost four years and my little girl was born there, which only increased my love for this city. It’s a great place to live and a great holiday destination.
You can find the usual lists of things to do and see in every travel guide – if you are looking for a different kind of travel guide, I recommend The Slow Guide.
In this post, I’ve tried to include the more hidden gems and little tips and tricks which make exploring this great city with a (little) kid a bit easier.
They are three general points I want to mention:
- A lots of streets run through several suburbs/villages. If you look up their location or ask for the way/ask a taxi driver to drive you there, always include the village/suburb!
- Public transport: even the train and bus system is pretty good, some train stations are rather old, which means no lift or escalator! Always check the maps if you’re taking a pram/stroller. The majority of buses are also a bit old, which means there are usually approx three steps to get on and off and no place to put a pram. I therefore recommend taking a sling/carrier for your little one.
- Most of the shopping malls have parents room for nappy changing and breastfeeding. The majority of them offer a little play area to keep the older sibling entertain while you take care of the little one. At the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre there are several Parent Rooms, one of them is located behind a Lush store (Level 2). Depending if you love or hate their strong scented soaps you either search or avoid it.
So first up are some sights and events:
One of the reasons a lot of people love Sydney are the beaches. Sydney offers several beaches inside and outside the harbor, some of them a bit better equipped for kids then others. Always swim between the flags (that’s where the lifeguards watch out) and be aware of sun safety!
- Bondi Beach is very popular with teens and twens, however the beach has NO shade in any form!
- Coogee Beach has a nice, shady playground next to the beach, and if your kids are a bit older it can be the starting point of the Coogee to Bondi walk which runs along the coast line (approx 5km one way).
- The smaller, inner harbour Shark Beach (don’t worry it has a shark net!) is surrounded by Nielsen Park with large fig trees, which offer plenty of shade and usually doesn’t have any waves. Toilets and water taps are available near the beach and The Beach House provides breakfast, snacks, lunches and ice cream, if you have forgotten your pick nick.
- Balmoral Beach, north of the harbor, is a long beach, popular with families, with the café/restaurant Bathers Pavilion close by.
Opera House – ok, that’s not a hidden gem ;-). If you weren’t able to organize a babysitter and enjoy a performance in the Opera House, you can still see this great building through a tour. They are offered in several languages and there is even a Kids Discovery Tour. Keep in mind that you can’t take a pram with you!
Darling Harbour – also a well know attraction. What makes it suitable for kids are(besides the well known Aquarium) the little train that circuits it and the playground between the Chinese Garden and the Sydney Visitor Centre.
Fish Market – A visit to the Fish Market can be a bit daunting for kids: it’s usually really crowded and the bulk of dead fishes is also not everybody’s cup of tea. If it gets too busy inside, there are tables with sunshades on the water side of the building, where kids can watch the coming and going of boats and birds. If you cross Prymont Bridge Road at the back of the building you’ll find Wentworth Park, which provides shade for a pick nick and lots of place to run around.
Sculpture by the sea – if you want to add a little bit of culture to your stay without visiting a dark and boring museum the annual Sculpture by the sea exhibition may be something for you. Hold every November, this free open air event on the coast line from Bondi Beach to Bronte Beach exhibits contemporary art in a fun and nondaunting way.
However there are three things to keep in mind: 1st the path is rather bumpy with several steps so watch your and your little ones steps and don’t take a pram/stroller; 2nd plan your way of transportation as you don’t want to carry your kid all the way back to get back to your car (I rather sit down in a coffee shop or at the beach with the kids and let my significant other get the car 😉 – or you go by bus) and 3rd it get’s rather crowed on the weekends.
Sydney Festival – Another free, and very popular event (not only for families) are the concerts in The Domain during the Sydney Festival. Held in January on three Saturdays the festival usually includes a symphonic concert, an opera and a jazz concert in the park close to the Botanical Garden. You can have a leisurely pick nick in the afternoon before and during the performance and nobody will shout “shhh!” when the kids are running around. Depending on the age of your kids it may be good to look for a spot near the toilets and close by a fence so you can be easily found, as the number of visitors can easily reach 85 000!
Restaurants and cafes will be included in the next post! If you can recommend a great experience for families, please let me know and comment!