Hey, you are coming to visit our beautiful harbour city with your children, that’s great. You will be so welcome!
You’re wondering what the best Sydney attractions are for you and your family? Let us show you around!
Here you’ll find our list of top things to do in Sydney, the activities and attractions unique to our harbour city.
Of course there are many, many more fun things to do in Sydney, but you need to start with the best of the best. Here it is.
Top 25 Things To Do in Sydney With Kids
1. Taronga Zoo: Meet Aussie Animals
Hop on the ferry at Circular Quay to visit Taronga Zoo which is usually rated No.1 of all Sydney attractions for kids. The magnificent Harbourside setting is breathtaking, these zoo animals have the best views in Sydney. There are many special features of Taronga Zoo, the Asiatic elephants, the terrific animal talks and shows. (My kids love the birds and the seals best.)
Families with kids of all ages will enjoy this classic Sydney family day out. The zoo is one of the best things to see in Sydney, a visit never disappoints.
Just beware of boiling hot days as the zoo is set on a slope and walking up hill with kids can be tough. There is a sky safari which can take you from the bottom, where the ferry comes in, up to the top from where you can meander down hill, taking in all the interesting exhibitions and animals.
Taronga Zoo Sydney
Bradleys Head Road, Mosman
Opening hours: 9.30am – 5pm every day of the year
Getting there: Take a ferry from Circular Quay, or use the large pay car park if driving
2. Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay: Walk and Explore
Circular Quay is a thriving hub of activity and movement. Ferries come and go from all over the harbour and there are always buskers there too. You need to hang on to the kids’ hands as it can be busy and even a bit scary for kids at peak hours.
There are cafes and restaurants where you can watch the world bustle by. The Museum of Contemporary Art is there and Customs House with its replica of the city, exhibitions and events as well as places to eat and drink.
But the main event is the Sydney Opera House, of course. It’s massive sails pull visitors towards it. You will be amazed by its size and how well it sits within the Harbour scene.
Visitors can do all sorts of things at the Opera House, most popular being to walk around it then walk up and down the massive flights of steps at the forecourt. Many folks will then walk on to visit the Royal Botanic Gardens.
However, stay a while, you can buy tickets for shows and also explore the Opera House on a tour. Plan ahead by checking out what’s on using the excellent Sydney Opera House website here.
3. Sydney Harbour Bridge: Climb or Walk Over
Sydney Harbour Bridge, which we locals affectionately refer to as the coat hanger, is the city’s second icon, after Sydney Opera House.
Families with children aged x and over might like to take part in an organised (and very safe, but thrilling) climb right to the top of the bridge. This is very expensive, a very special treat and one of the most iconic of Sydney adventures. It’s number one on the list of adventurous things to do in Sydney, that’s for sure.
You can walk across the Harbour Bridge very easily. It’s a breathtaking walk, either from the city to the north or from Milsons Point on the north side back to The Rocks.
You can pay a small fee to climb up the pylon and see an exhibition about the bridge. It’s very interesting and the views from here are spectacular.
If you are staying in the city, start from there and cross to the north side where there are some great kid-friendly options. You could visit Luna Park, have a swim at North Sydney Olympic Pool, eat at one of Kirribilli’s many cafes and restaurants or enjoy the fenced playgound at Bradfield Park, on the corner of Fitzroy and Alfred Streets.
If the family can be well-behaved then lunch at Ripples Cafe by North Sydney Olympic Pool will be a delight.
If you’d like a longer walk continue past Luna Park and into Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden at Lavender Bay.
4. Luna Park Amusement Park: Rides and Thrills
Luna Park is just north of the Harbour Bridge and the huge beaming face that visitors walk through is a well-known Sydney landmark.
Put Luna Park on your Sydney to do list if you and the kids love ferris wheels, merry go rounds, dodgem cars and more modern fairground attractions too. Luna Park does have a lot of vintage charm, with plenty to do for young children as well as school aged kids and teens.
There are some rides for preschoolers, the red rides are for children from 85cm – 105cm height, the green rides for kids from 106cm – 129cm and the yellow rides are for everyone 130cm+.
Luna Park Sydney
Opening hours: These vary by season, and on some days the entire park is closed for functions so you must check ahead on the website
Getting there: Come by ferry from Circular Quay to Milsons Point. Milsons Point train station is a 10 minute walk away. Many buses go to Milsons Point too. There is pay car parking. The entrance is on Paul Street, off Alfred Street South – it’s not cheap but it makes life much easier.
5. Royal Botanic Garden: Picnics and Walks
For gentle charm, botanical delights and world class harbour views, a walk in the Royal National Park is a must. There is plenty of space, a great deal of interesting flora plus the delightful Calyx building which houses exhibitions and shows.
This is one of the best places to visit in Sydney for families who love to walk and explore. Those with an interest in history and fascination with Australian flora will love it too.
There are several places to enjoy a meal, snack or just a drink in the gardens too. We like the kiosk for kids meals, or the lovely Calyx cafe when we have time to sit down for longer.
You can walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens on your way from the Opera House to the Art Gallery of NSW, passing Mrs Macquaries Chair and enjoying one of the most famous views in Sydney from there.
Garden lovers will find many free activities on offer and there are always activities for children in school holidays.
If you love to swim you will find the Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton Pool set on the side of Woolloomooloo Bay before the Art Gallery, a wonderful place to cool off, splash and do laps, with a great cafe too.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Mrs Macquaries Rd, Sydney NSW 2000
Opening hours: The RBG opens at 7am each morning and closes between 5pm and 8pm depending on the season.
You can enter the Royal Botanic Gardens from the Sydney Opera House Forecourt area and also from Macquarie Street. There are 30 hectares of garden to explore, and a terrific exhibition space with cafe called the Calyx.
Getting there: By car, best places to try are along Mrs Macquaries Road where there is meter parking. But public transport and by foot are best.
6. Visit The Australian Museum
Sydney’s pre-eminent museum is a great mix of the old and the new. There are plenty of traditional museum exhibits, all sorts of flora and fauna of interest. There are also modern exhibits with technologies to enhance a family visit.
If you are a museum buff then this is one of your must do things in Sydney. You will learn so much about Sydney and about Australia as a whole. Kids will adore the hands-on activities and the breadth of things to do.
There’s a special area for the under fives too, plus a fantastic cafe with sweeping city views.
1 William St, Sydney NSW 2010
Open: 9.30am – 5pm every day except Christmas Day
7. Sydney Tower Eye: Enjoy the Views
Older kids and teens will find the golden globe that is Sydney Tower Eye one of the most fun places in Sydney to visit. You take a lift up to the Observation Deck 250 metres above the city centre, then gaze over miles and miles of the city spreading out in all directions.
Sydney Tower is the tallest structure in Sydney. You can enjoy meals on the Observation Deck or just enjoy the views.
Sydney Tower Eye soars over a huge shopping centre, so combine with a shopping trip and your teens will be overjoyed.
Sydney Tower Eye
Level 5 Westfield Sydney
Corner of Pitt St and Market St
Sydney, NSW 2000
8. Darling Harbour: Spend the Whole Day (and Night!)
Look, there are so many things to do at Darling Harbour. People call it the centre of all Sydney fun. You can visit Sydney Aquarium, Sydney WILDlife, Madame Tussauds, The National Maritime Museum, the Powerhouse Museum and the Chinese Gardens.
There is a ferris wheel, a theatre too, plus fireworks each Saturday night and all sorts of other entertainment.
There are dozens of cafes and restaurants and then, the best thing of all if you have little kids, the playground at Darling Quarter – see it’s own entry below.
Many families choose to stay at Darling Harbour and so can simply walk from their hotel or apartment. It’s also easy to walk into Darling Harbour from the city, just go via King Street or Market Street.
If coming from further afield you can catch buses and be dropped at Darling Harbour or catch the ferry from Circular Quay.
Parking: There are several car parks and these can be quite affordable especially if you have your ticket stamped at one of the museums here or you visit at weekends. Check out:
Darling Quarter Car Park – great for the playground
To read much more about Darling Harbour and to find out what events are current check out the Darling Harbour website here.
9. Take the Ferry to Manly
Taking the ferry to Manly is a great way to see Sydney Harbour and you end up at a very family-friendly destination. Manly Wharf is a hub of cafes, restaurants and shops, and just outside you’ll find a lovely netted and sheltered harbour beach, with a water slides park along to the west end, Manly Surf’n’Slide.
Or cross the road and walk along the (at places slightly seedy) Corso and come to Manly’s famous surf beaches, with the huge pines towering above.
You can enjoy a long walk along the seafront here, all the way to Queenscliff to the north. Or have a splash between the flags at the south end, known as South Steyne and then follow the walkway south to sheltered Shelly Beach. You pass the most gorgeous small rock pool on the way, the delightful Fairy Bower, and yes, there is a cafe there too.
Let the kids have a play, enjoy a picnic in the shade or buy some snacks from the kiosk. Then enjoy a snorkel and don’t forget to wave to the fishies.
There are also lovely places to eat in Manly, lots of very healthy choices as well as fish and chip shops and ice cream parlours.
10. Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
Bondi is an iconic beach in itself. And there’s also the fab walk to Bronte and on to Coogee, if the children are the walking type and not likely to go wild and leap off the cliffs. This coastal path makes the most gorgeous walk, and it’s not too long.
Bronte Beach is the most lovely spot for children, with a terrific playground, great rock pool and the ‘Bogey Hole’ plus a little train for extra mini-thrills.
There’s also a wonderful pool at Bondi Beach, read about Bondi Icebergs Pool here.
Read more about this walk on the Sydney Coast Walks website here, where you can also buy a handy PDF map.
11. SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium : Sharks to Coral Reefs
This is a huge aquarium and one well worth visiting. Your kids will be thrilled to walk through the perspex tunnels with grey nurse sharks and massive rays gliding over their heads.
There are several different areas within the Aquarium including South Coast Shipwreck, Sydney Harbour (my fave), Dugong Island, Shark Walk and Shark Valley, Penguin Expedition and Great Barrier Reef.
I never ever get to spend as much time as I would like reading all the information, my kids tend to whizz excitedly from one exhibit to the another. Must get there alone!
SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
1-5 Wheat Rd, Sydney NSW 2000
Open: Generally 10am – 6pm, with last entry at 5pm, all year. However please check the website as times do vary by season and if special events are on
Tickets: It’s cheapest and easiest to buy tickets direct on the website, There are many offers to combine the Aquarium with other attractions and save on entry.
Getting there: The Aquarium is a short walk from the centre of Sydney. Walk down Market Street or King Street into Darling Harbour and you will see it. Town Hall is the nearest train station and bus stops are in King Street and Market Street. The Aquarium is a stop on the Big Bus Sydney route.
12. Visit Shark Beach at Nielsen Park
Shark Beach at Nielsen Park is the easiest netted harbour beach to visit if you are staying in the centre of Sydney. This is a beautiful spot with swooping views over the harbour, a great cafe by the beach and plenty of space to play both on the beach and on the reserve around it. The reserve has many huge fig trees around the three large picnic areas.
Sydney’s harbour beaches are calm most of the time, with no surf like the ocean beaches. There are no lifeguards however, so you do need to keep a very close eye on the kids.
Why Shark Beach? I am guessing it’s because the people who named it in early colonial times saw lots of sharks here. Why the shark net? Well, that’s to keep out sharks!
Seriously though, there are sharks in Sydney Harbour and people have been attacked in recent years, but rarely. There have been no fatalities in Sydney Harbour since 1963.
You can climb up the steps to Bottle and Glass Point at the east side to enjoy really wonderful views.
The Nielsen waterfront restaurant in Nielsen Park has a kiosk which serves drinks, ice creams and food to most beach lovers. You can also sit inside and enjoy the modern Italian cuisine.
Fig Tree Road, off Greycliffe Avenue
Parking: There is a car park near the beach. It gets very busy on warm weekends though.
Bus: Yes, bus stop by Nielsen Park. Check the Tripview app or visit Transport Info here.
13. Explore Indigenous Sydney
Visitors to Sydney can experience many aspects of indigenous culture and history, yes I still feel there is a long way to go in this area of tourism. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Aboriginal Heritage Tour at the Royal Botanic Gardens each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. An Aboriginal guide explains the history of the local indigenous people and their use of plans as food and medicine. Learn more here.
The Rocks Dreaming Tours departs from Cadmans Cottage at 10.30am daily, read more here.
Indigenous tours and experiences: find a current list on the Sydney.com website here.
See rock engravings in Sydney Harbour National Park at Dobroyd Head Balgowlah Heights. Read all the information on the National Park and Wildlife website here.
You will see lots of interesting exhibits and hear indigenous stories at the Australian Museum and the Museum of Sydney.
Check to see whether the Blak Markets are on during your stay. These markets are a showcase for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people to sell arts and crafts, plus you can enjoy great food and many workshops. The website is also on online store for arts and crafts.
Read my article and see more photos of the Blak Markets here.
The Wilderness and Aboriginal Explorer Tour involves bus and boat trips and shows you some really fascinating indigenous sites. The tour is run by Sydney Outback. I have done that one and wrote about it here.
14. Snorkel at Shelly Beach
Shelly Beach is a small and sheltered beach close to the much larger Manly Beach. Of all the best snorkelling spots in Sydney, this is the easiest to access by public transport. Just hop on the ferry to Manly and walk along the promenade, it’s about 20 – 30 minutes from the ferry wharf.
Shelly Beach is very suitable for young snorkellers as there’s plenty to see, a nice gently shelving beach, generally calm waters plus there’s a cafe right there and space to run and rocks to explore too.
If you don’t have your own snorkel, mask and fins then you can rent or buy them at Dive Centre Manly at 10 Belgrave Street, Manly, or join one of their Snorkel Tours. Children aged 12+ can even learn to scuba dive here.
Learn more about snorkelling at Shelly Beach on this blog post here. My family has done this a lot and can highly recommend it. The sea life there is marvellous.
15. Learn to Surf
Even little kids can learn to surf. Manly Surf School teaches children aged 5+. Let’s Go Surfing at Bondi teaches children aged 7+.
This is an absolute classic Sydney activity for children and most especially for your teenagers visiting Sydney. I have written a very detailed post with top tips and lists of the best surf schools, so hop over to Surf Schools in Sydney here.
16. Darling Quarter Playground: Play and Splash
Sydney has so many amazing kids playgrounds and they are FREE – marvellous! Visitors to Sydney who stay in the city or Darling Harbour will find the massive playground at Darling Harbour is an excellent space to let the kids run and play and burn off some energy.
There is a lot of water play there, some lovely river runs and splashing fountains, so do take a swimming costume or a change of clothes.
There are several cafes and restaurants close to the playground, plus a kiosk serving drinks and snacks within the playground. The range of play equipment is huge and suits children from toddlers to teenagers.
The one drawback is that this playground gets SO busy at peak times, especially at the weekend. Get there early or late or during the week.
Darling Quarter Playground
Tumbalong Park, Darling Quarter, Darling Harbour
Read a detailed post with parking info etc here.
17. Susannah Place Museum
Address: 58–64 Gloucester Street, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW 2000
Phone: +61 2 9241 1893
Learn all about the daily lives of the ordinary citizens of Australia’s oldest suburb in this charming museum. This is a very popular museum with kids as it is all so relatable, being the stories of ordinary people.
Susannah Place Museum is open by guided tour only, with tours starting at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. Tours last for about an hour, children under five are free. It’s wise to book ahead on the website.
Getting there: The Museum is just a short 10 minute walk from Circular Quay and buses run nearby. The closest car park is at Quay West in Harrington Street. Book ahead with the promo code SLM for a discount (but it’s still pretty pricey.)
18. Museum Of Sydney: Stories of the City
Opened in 1995, the museum tells the city’s story from precolonial times to the present day. Storytelling is a major focus and there are several video installations where actors play the parts of characters from the past, spinning tales tall and true.
Aboriginal people explain their people’s history and discuss their contemporary lives in Sydney.
Especially interesting to children are the subterranean excavations under a clear perspex floor and the stainless steel Collectors’ Chests where they can pull out drawers to reveal small exhibits.
Museum of Sydney
On the Site of First Government House
Cnr Phillip and Bridge Streets Sydney 2000
Open: Daily 10am–5pm, except Christmas Day and Good Friday
19. Powerhouse Museum
The Powerhouse Museum is the very best of the central Sydney museums for children. It is a vast space, spread over four levels. Many of the regular exhibits will send children into transports of rapturous joy, particularly the old trains, suspended planes and the Little Wheels room with its 1600 Matchbox cars.
There are a variety of permanent and temporary exhibitions, more than can be taken in on a single visit. Young children are well catered for with activities and events for the littlest. Check the website to see what is on currently but rest assured that the permanent exhibitions are a joy for kids. There’s even a permanent Wiggles exhibition!
Children aged 16 and under can visit free.
500 Harris Street
Open: Daily 10am–5pm, except Christmas Day. Under fours free.
20. Hyde Park Barracks
Step inside Hyde Park Barracks and fall back hundreds of years into convict times. This is the best place in Sydney to learn the horrible history of Australia’s founding as a penal settlement.
Hyde Park Barracks is one of the Sydney Living Museums and you will definitely learn a great deal about the daily life of Sydney’s earliest settlers. Kids can also get a taste of living as a convict did, trying out hammocks and seeing how life was lived when the Barracks opened in 1819.
Address: Queens Square, Macquarie Street, Sydney NSW 200
Open: 10am – 5pm daily except Christmas Day and Good Friday
Getting there: Hyde Park Barracks is an easy walk from central Sydney, being at the top of Macquarie Street and close to Hyde Park itself and the Australian Museum.
Parking: The Domain parking station offers a discount to Hyde Park Barracks visitors and is just 10 minutes away. You need to pre-book a bay and use the promo code SLM.
21. Art Gallery of NSW
Art Gallery Road, The Domain
Open: 10am – 5pm daily except Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Sydney’s largest and best gallery, the Art Gallery of NSW is a vast space set in a beautiful park with delightful views over Woolloomooloo Bay.
The gallery has huge collections of Australian and international art works. There are exhibitions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, and interesting tours are offered.
The gallery is free to visitors, most special exhibitions are free too though some do have a charge. There are some free tours and activities for children and families.
There is a casual cafe at the gallery which has kids menus and gives young diners crayons and paper to start their own art works. There is also a fine dining restaurant at the gallery.
22. Cockatoo Island
There are many islands in Sydney Harbour, and several can be visited by the public. The best one for families though is definitely Cockatoo Island.
There are so many places to explore on the island, and so much to learn about Sydney’s history both in convict times and beyond. Start at the visitor centre where you can pick up maps and treasure hunt activities for the kids. The Convict Trail is great for children, taking you all over the island with plenty to read as well as lots of fresh air fun.
You can visit Cockatoo Island with prams and young kids, but do beware of the water which is often not fenced off. Maps show you the paths and trails which are accessible with prams.
Wear yourselves out then sit down at one of the cafes and let the kids play on the grass. This is a delightful spot to chill out too.
Find lots of photos and all the info you need to plan a day trip to Cockatoo Island on this long post.
23. Pirate Cruising on Sydney Harbour
There are dozens and dozens of different cruises to do on Sydney Harbour, but my kids have enjoyed the Pirate Cruise best of all. Run by Tall Ships Sydney, this is a 1.5 hour cruise aboard the tall ships Southern Swan or Soren Larsen. Both look just like 1850s pirate ships!
A swahbuckling captain gathers his junior crew and sets them to work as the ship sets sail. Older kids can pay a bit extra to climb high up the mast (with a safety rope!).
See more photos from our pirate ship cruise on this post.
24. Swim and Relax at a Harbour Pool
If you are a family who loves to swim then a splash and laps at one of Sydney’s pools on the Harbour is a must.
North Sydney Olympic Pool is one of the easiest to get to, being just over the Bridge and right beside Luna Park. There’s a 50m lap pool with the best Bridge and Harbour views, plus outdoor kids pool plus an indoor pool.
Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton Pool is on Mrs Macquaries Road close to the Royal Botanic Gardens and to the Art Gallery of NSW. Perched high above Woolloomooloo Bay it has exceptional views.
Both of these pools have great cafes beside them, so you can make a day of it.
Greenwich Baths is a marvellous spot for families with young children. This is a netted Harbour pool with lap boards and a gently sloping beach, plus space to play. There’s a cafe there and you do need to pay a small fee to enter.
Northbridge Baths is excellent for older kids and teenagers. A wide boardwalk encircles a huge netted baths, with grassy areas and beach. Great for jumping off. There’s no fee to enter but, tragically, no cafe.
25. Escape the City on a Day Trip
Sydney is a huge city and whilst there is PLENTY to do within the city limits, there are also wonderful things to do outwith the Sydney suburbs.
The city is surrounded by National Parks, to the north is Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, to the south is the Royal National Park and to the west lies the Blue Mountains with its National Park and many interesting towns and villages.
Visitors to Sydney might be best to take a guided tour with all travel, equipment and information included. There are dozens of these on offer, including very exciting and extravagant Blue Mountains by helicopter tours. (No, I’ve never done it but a friend has and said it was marvellous.)
Best place to look at the range of options is the Viator, check them out here.
There’s a day trip to Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park called Wilderness and Aboriginal Explorer Tour which involves bus and boat trips and shows you some really fascinating indigenous sites. I have done that one and wrote about it here.
Do also check out this post:
So there we go, now you know the best things to do in Sydney with kids! There are so many places to go in Sydney and so many wonderful Sydney activities.
What your family does will, of course, depend on what sorts of things you guys love to do. The ages of your kids also make a big difference.
There are great kids activities, Sydney has indoor ones, outdoors ones, free ones and super expensive ones too! There’s plenty for kids of all ages.
So this is just the start for you, 25 of the very best things, chosen by myself and my four kids.
Do you have a question? Just ask in the comments.
PS Why not download a 29 page PDF version of this article for only $1.99. Then you can print it out or keep it on a device to carry around with you.