I begged Kirralee from Escape with Kids to write this guest post about Sydney with kids after reading about her adventures living in Australia with her family.
Insider’s Guide to Visiting Sydney with Kids
BY KIRRALEE BAKER
Visiting Sydney with kids is all about the water. It’s the glorious Sydney Harbour, sparkling in the sun, with the iconic Sydney Opera House sitting proudly beside it and the Sydney Harbour Bridge arching over it. May contain affiliate links.
And it’s the countless pristine sandy beaches on both the harbour and ocean shores, with weather that makes splashing in the water enticing for much of the year.
While Canberra is Australia’s capital city, Sydney is our biggest city and is truly spectacular.
Like many Sydneysiders we are not from Sydney – our careers brought us here.
But, as much as we adore our home town of Melbourne, in our 15 years here we have found much to love in Sydney.
It is visually stunning with a laidback vibe and plenty of opportunities to enjoy its fabulous outdoor lifestyle.
Travelling with kids is more fun when you can do a mix of sightseeing and relaxing, and
Sydney is the perfect destination for this.
Stay in the city for ultimate convenience to the sights or consider booking accommodation near a beach to live the life of a Sydneysider.
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Weather in Sydney
Summer (December-February) in Sydney is hot and humid with average daytime
temperatures of 26˚c/78˚F, while winter (June-August) enjoys mild daytime temperatures of 17˚c/63˚F.
The best time to visit Sydney is Autumn (March-May) or Spring (September-November), as the weather is not too hot for sightseeing, but warm enough for the beach.
Find out what to wear in Sydney for every season here.
Where to Stay in Sydney with Kids
For convenience the city is the best place to stay in Sydney.
You can catch the train from the airport and avoid the traffic. And you are centrally located to explore the city sights and take ferries from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo or Manly Beach.
The Circular Quay area of the city is the heart of sightseeing in Sydney. Home to visiting cruise ships, ferries bound for all over Sydney, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, The Rocks historic precinct and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Staying in The Rocks is the most attractive, village-like atmosphere in this area.
Quay West Suites in The Rocks has a great location and practical facilities for travelling with kids.
This is a 5 star apartment hotel, where you will have your own kitchen, laundry and
bedroom separate from the living area. The indoor pool is high in the sky with incredible views over the bridge and harbour.
We have stayed here overnight for the convenient location, but for a longer stay the kitchen and laundry would be invaluable.
Holiday Inn Old Sydney is a 3.5 star hotel in The Rocks, which gives you clean, comfortable accommodation within a heritage listed building.
The outdoor pool with harbour views on the roof will be a winner with the kids and the hotel is very welcoming of families, often offering family packages or kids stay and eat free deals.
Sydney Harbour YHA is a superbly located 3 star youth hostel in The Rocks. Their family rooms can accommodate up to 5 with a private bathroom and offer awesome value for such a central location.
There’s no pool here, but the rooftop terrace has stunning harbour views.
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Bondi Beach may be the more famous beach, but Manly has long been a hugely popular location for Australians to holiday, as well as a dream place to live.
Staying in Manly means surfing lessons, swimming or watching beach volleyball at the beach, talking walks along the waterfront stopping at a playground or for an ice-cream.
And when you can tear yourself away from this café-filled nirvana, it is a relaxing half hour ferry trip to Circular Quay in the city (the kids always love this!).
Growing up in Melbourne we loved to come to Sydney and stay in Manly in the summer holidays.
These days we’re lucky enough to live a short drive away and, even though it is a busy tourist destination, it is still much loved by locals.
Quest Manly is a 4 star apartment hotel with one and two bedroom apartments with their own kitchens and laundries. Its location is a very central and practical one.
Proximity to Manly Wharf means quick and easy trips to the city on the ferry and the smallish Manly Harbour Beach is across the road.
The main Manly Beach is a 10 minute walk down The Corso shopping and restaurant precinct. Parking is available at this hotel if you are considering hiring a car.
The 4 star Sebel Manly Beach is known for its excellent service and location.
Fronting the quieter end of Manly Beach, you couldn’t get a better location for a beach-focused trip than this.
There are hotel style rooms and apartments with kitchenettes, but I like the Family
Suite with two single beds in a separate bedroom and a queen size bed in the main living area.
Parking is available and there is an outdoor pool if you don’t feel like hitting the waves
across the road.
Things to do in Sydney
There’s so much to do in and around Sydney’s beautiful harbour that I suggest splitting your time between sightseeing and relaxing.
Choose around three essential sights to see and spend the rest of your time relaxing at a beach, playground, park or on the water.
That way you are truly experiencing Sydney, rather than ticking off a list.
Find my suggested 5 day Sydney itinerary here.
Essential sights in Sydney
SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
You could see a show or take a behind-the-scenes tour at the Sydney Opera House, but its iconic beauty is on the outside.
So take a wander around it, let the kids run up and down the Monumental Steps and grab a family selfie or two.
You will also get a fabulous view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from here.
SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE
Climbing the bridge is an absolutely incredible experience, but best suited to older kids (minimum age is 8 years, but I’m waiting until my youngest is at least 10, since it is so very expensive and the full climb takes 3.5 hours).
Climbing the 200 stairs to the Sydney Harbour Pylon Lookout in The Rocks is
a more kid-friendly alternative.
Or make a day of it and walk across the bridge (about 20 min), have lunch in the adorable village of Kirribilli, play under the bridge at Bradfield Park and catch the train back.
You could even visit Luna Park and take a ride on the Ferris Wheel while you’re over there.
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Taronga Zoo is a wonderful day out and an essential stop when visiting Sydney with kids.
Take the ferry from Circular Quay, catch the Sky Safari chairlift up to the top entrance and work your way down the hill back to the ferry terminal.
The harbour views are spectacular, the zoo environment is green and leafy, there’s native Australian animals as well as more exotic species and the seal and bird shows are very entertaining for kids.
Don’t miss taking the perfect photo at the giraffe exhibit with the harbour in the background. Those giraffes really do have the best view in town!
HOP ON HOP OFF BUS
HOHO buses are perfect for families to get an overview of a new city.
There’s two routes in Sydney, one around the city and one through the Eastern suburbs to Bondi Beach.
Darling Harbour can be either a sightseeing trip or a relaxing trip or both!
The zoo is a great alternative if you can’t get to Taronga, but the aquarium is the real superstar with incredible walk-through exhibits with sharks and sting rays swimming above your head.
If you’re looking to relax then head to the massive Darling Quarter playground and water play (perfect for a warm day!) or the tranquil Chinese Garden of Friendship.
SYDNEY TOWER EYE
Sydney Tower Eye is an easy sight to see when you don’t want to do too much walking.
Located in the centre of the city shopping precinct, you catch the lift up to this indoor observation deck. The views are brilliant and I’m always surprised by how much my kids enjoy it.
VISIT A MUSEUM OR GALLERY
If you fancy a bit of culture, there’s plenty of great museums and galleries to choose from in the city.
The Powerhouse Museum is a family favourite with its hands-on, interactive, kid-friendly exhibits.
My kids always love the interesting exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art or visit the Art Gallery of NSW, especially around August for the Archibald Prize for portraiture.
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Relaxing Things to do in Sydney
TAKE A SYDNEY HARBOUR FERRY TRIP
This is an essential thing to do in Sydney, but is very relaxing and easily achieved on the way to somewhere else.
Experiencing Sydney from the water is best on the older, slower ferries, but the modern fast ferries can be fun too.
Head to Manly, Luna Park or Taronga Zoo from Circular Quay.
EXPLORE THE ROCKS
The Rocks historic precinct is the oldest part of Sydney and is best enjoyed by wandering past the sandstone buildings and cobblestone streets.
There is an arts and crafts market here on weekends, The Rocks Discovery Museum for history buffs, a couple of very kid-friendly cafes and some atmospheric old pubs where kids are most welcome (see Where to Eat below).
HANG OUT AT THE BEACH
Take a surfing lesson, splash in the waves or sit on the sand with an ice cream.
Bondi Beach and Manly Beach are the most popular ocean beaches, with Manly being the most fun to get to on the ferry.
Watsons Bay is particularly good for kids as it is on the harbour rather than the ocean, so is very calm.
TAKE A COASTAL WALK
The Bondi to Bronte clifftop walk is breathtaking but there are steps so is not ideal with a stroller.
While not as impressive, the Manly to Shelly Beach walk is a very easy, flat, stroller-friendly walk.
VISIT A PARK OR PLAYGROUND
Darling Quarter playground at Darling Harbour (as mentioned above) is your best bet for a playground in the city. It is amazing!
The Royal Botanic Gardens and Hyde Park have plenty of space for running around or having a picnic.
My kids love the Archibald Fountain at Hyde Park and it is also where you will find our ANZAC Memorial (ANZAC = Australian & New Zealand Army Corps).
For more ideas of what to do in Sydney with kids, see my comprehensive list here.
Where to Eat in Sydney
In The Rocks we love The Tea Cosy for a Devonshire tea (English scones with jam and cream) in an historic building.
Pancakes on the Rocks is a favourite of the kids, while The Australian Hotel serves great pizzas.
Four Frogs Creperie at Circular Quay is a friendly, French café serving savoury and sweet crepes. The Nutella and banana crepe is our family’s favourite.
Jamie’s Italian further south in the city is also very family friendly.
Get some fresh fish and chips at Fishmongers Manly or take-away to eat by the beach from Manly Fish Market.
Benbry Burgers does a good burger or Bluewater Café is just across the
road from the beach.
Manly Wharf Hotel has a gorgeous position right on the water down the wharf end of Manly.
Eating ice cream is an essential thing to do at Manly Beach. Choose from Ben & Jerry’s or Royal Copenhagen for some delicious frozen goodness.