Ultimate guide to things to do in Sydney with kids

They call it the Emerald City, and it certainly does glimmer with glitz, glamour and some good old family fun. What’s not to love? Some of Australia’s richest history, best-loved beaches and most recognizable icons sit in Sydney, as well as some of its most stunning gardens and best food.

Its location also means Sydney is a great home base for exploring some of the most amazing regions of New South Wales. Head to the Central Coast, Hunter Valley or even the Blue Mountains for a weekend away.

The glittering Sydney Harbour makes it easy to see why they nickname it the 'Emerald City.' Credit: Shutterstock

Sydney was the first spot colonized by the British when they entered, home to sandstone buildings and convict stories dating back to the First Fleet. The Rocks, the Museum of Sydney and the Australian Museum tell many a local tale. Even more importantly, Sydney’s lands and waterways have belonged to the many peoples of the Eora nation for numerous millennia. Modern and ancient Indigenous cultures are shared in spots such as the Art Gallery of NSWBarangaroo walkway and Kuring-gai National Park, where you can see rock carvings made many years ago.

Read more: Top 11 family bush walks in Sydney

Get your postcard snaps against the most renowned of Sydney’s backdrops. See a show under the sails of the iconic Sydney Opera House or go for a swim at world-famous Bondi Beach. Climb the Harbour Bridge or perch with a picnic on Observatory Hill.

Darling Harbour is a great base for a family Sydney stay. It is alive with atmosphere and bursting with attractions such as the Powerhouse MuseumSEA LIFE Sydney AquariumWild Life Sydney ZooMadame Tussauds and the Australian National Maritime Museum. 

The Manly ferry can carry over 1,100 people each journey. Credit: Fiona Stace

Ride the Sydney Ferry to one of Sydney’s great harbourside suburbs or to Cockatoo Island. Here, the kids can explore spooky convict prisons and rusting cranes. Then, catch the ferry north for all the fun of the fair at Luna Park and the incredible Taronga Zoo. And visit iconic Manly for fish and chips on the beach, or to grab a surf lesson from a pro.

Top 10 things to do in Sydney

From sparkling Sydney Harbor to iconic architecture and beautiful beaches, there’s so many must dos in Sydney. Here are ten of our favourites.

  1. Learn to surf like a pro at Manly Beach.
  2. Snap a selfie with a celebrity at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.
  3. Take the Bondi to Bronte walk to soak up the views.
  4. Visit Taronga, the zoo with the world’s best view.
  5. Climb up the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the best views of the city.
  6. Unlash your inner lunatic at Luna Park.
  7. Walk through a tunnel of sharks at SEALIFE Sydney Aquarium.
  8. Spend a night under canvas at Cockatoo Island.
  9. Ride the Sydney Harbour ferry across the harbour.
  10. Down periscope on a submarine at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Things to do in Sydney with...

Bouddi National Park bushwalks Shutterstock
The stunning coastal walk in Bouddi National Park. Credit: Shutterstock

Best time for families to visit Sydney

Sydney is a glorious destination for families all year round. The city lies in a temperate zone so while the climate can be variable, it is generally free from extremes. The warmest weather falls between December to February and the coolest from June to August when you will need to rug up, especially in the evenings and early mornings.

With its dazzling Harbour and excess of attractions, Sydney is a popular family destination all year around so you will need to book well ahead to secure the best accommodation for your crew. For pleasant weather, more affordable prices and smaller crowds, the shoulder seasons of March to May and September to November are ideal. If you are on a budget consider visiting during winter as you will find much better deals. It’s worth noting though that in late May and early June, the Vivid Festival sees the city bursting with visitors, so accommodation needs to be booked way in advance. New Year’s Eve, with the famous Sydney fireworks, is another very popular time of year. Expect big crowds in town.

Sydney puts on a fireworks show like no other for New Year's Credit: Shutterstock/mroz

Where to eat with kids in Sydney

Sydney is one of the world’s great cultural melting pots, with more than a third of its residents born overseas and more than 250 different languages spoken. This diversity shines through in an almost inexhaustible variety of food experiences that are accessible to kids.  Start with Chinatown for yum cha lunch at The Marigold in Haymarket and wander over the Pitt St to explore Thai Town and Korea Town. Jump on a train at Central to Cabramatta and take a walking food tour of the fabulous Vietnamese restaurants and takeaways. Take a bus to Leichhardt for some famous Italian.

Visit the Sydney Fish Markets for the freshest seafood, pack a picnic to enjoy one of Sydney’s beautiful parks or take a ferry across the Harbour for fish and chips on Manly Beach.

While there are plenty of places that offer kid friendly menus, a kid-friendly vibe can be harder to find.  The Grounds is café culture at its family friendly best. A sanctuary of sustainable locally roasted coffee, fresh organic food and friendly service in a heritage listed factory space, you’ll also find a pretty spacious courtyard with lemonade stalls, an animal farm and kids enclosed play area.

So much to see and do in Darling Harbour, including a weekly fireworks show! Credit: Family Travel

Best things to do for free in Sydney

  • From expansive parks and playgrounds to world class museums and harbourside walks, Sydney offers plenty of free fun for families. Head to one of Sydney’s abundant beaches to paddle in the ocean or swim in an ocean pool.
  • Take the Bondi to Bronte Coastal walk, or take a stroll or scooter around the Sydney Harbour Foreshore to Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney’s newest Harbour side park.
  • Let the kids splash, climb, slide and play at The Kids playground at Darling Quarter. Pack a picnic and take a stroll through the stunning Royal Botanic Garden and the Domain. While you are there, stop to feed the ducks and soak up the stunning Sydney Harbour views.
  • For a hit of culture, you can view the incredible collection of artworks at the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, or visit The Rocks Discovery Museum to learn about Sydney’s convict past.
What’s on?

Best annual events in Sydney

January – Sydney Festival

Enjoy a three-week cultural extravaganza of music, theatre, art, circus and family fun.

February – Sydney Chinese New Year Festival

Celebrate the largest Lunar New Year celebration outside of Asia with markets, Dragon Boat Races, a Twilight Parade and fireworks.

free Sydney events

April – Sydney Royal Easter Show

From animal shows and craft displays to stadium spectaculars and showbags, the kids will love Sydney’s biggest show.

May/June – Vivid Sydney

Sydney’s most glittering festival brings together stunning light installations, music performances and creative ideas.

August – City 2 Surf

The City 2 Surf attracts thousands of fit families for the 14-kilometre run or walk from Hyde Park to Bondi Beach.

October – Art & About Sydney

Get creative at this month-long festival celebration of art and performance.

Dec – New Year’s Eve

Sydney Harbour’s New Year’s Eve fireworks spectacular is the best in the world and an unmissable delight for families.

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