Sydney is one of the biggest cities in Australia and the capital of New South Wales. It's best known for its harbourfront area with tons of shopping, dining and sightseeing opportunities. A holiday here offers a wealth of opportunities for family fun and kid-friendly enjoyment, from animal experiences and relaxing on beaches to theme parks, museums, art galleries and even taking a high tea. Whatever you want to do on your family holiday, you'll find it here. Check out some exciting and fun kids' activities in Sydney to make any family holiday a worthwhile memory-making experience.
See animals on land and under the sea
1. See Aussie animals at the Taronga Zoo
The Taronga Zoo opened its doors in 1906 and since then has entertained and educated millions of people while teaching visitors about the importance of our ecology and animal care. The zoo is home to over 4,000 animals representing some 350-plus species. It's one of the largest zoos in Australia, and the animals are displayed in their natural habitats among themed exhibits like Wild Australia, the Great Southern Oceans, an aviary, Reptile World, the Savannah, the Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Gorilla Forest, Asian Elephants and even exhibits for sun bears and giant tortoises. You can also see animal talks and shows or ride a sky safari.
2. Witness the entire undersea world at SEA LIFE
From sharks to coral reefs, the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium is a gigantic aquarium highlighting the undersea life of Australia. You can see grey nurse sharks and giant manta rays swimming right over your head as you walk through an undersea tunnel, as well as brightly coloured tropical fish, turtles, jellyfish and more. You can also visit themed galleries with different kinds of sea life, including South Coast Shipwreck, Dugong Island, Sydney Harbour, Penguin Expedition, Shark Walk and Shark Valley and the Great Barrier Reef regions. The attractions are all incredibly kid friendly, and they even offer an Ultimate Kids Pass for discounted admission to the aquarium and several other attractions across the city.
3. Go snorkelling at Shelly Beach
Shelly Beach is located in the Manly suburb, part of the Cabbage Tree Bay protected nature reserve and a popular space not just to relax with sun and sand, but to go snorkelling in waters that reach a depth of about 12 metres and view more than 160 species of fish within the reserve. These include the common sea dragon, elegant wrasse and black cod, all of which are threatened or protected species. In addition to snorkelling, you can take a walk around the bush track to see various species of bird and land animals as well as capture amazing views of the Head and beaches all around you.
Explore cultural and educational sites
4. Take a walk back in time at Cockatoo Island
Cockatoo Island is one of many islands in Sydney Harbour, and one that's perhaps the best option for things to do for kids in Sydney. This island lets you view the history of Sydney, especially in the days when Australia was a convict's colony. The Convict Trail, one of the more popular attractions, takes you all across the island, teaching about its storied past and offering interactive activities that take you through history. You'll find plenty of open space for kids to play, and you can relax and grab a beverage or meal and one of the cafes. Be careful, however; some of the island is a wetland that isn't fenced off.
5. Head for the Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House, located in the Circular Quay area, is a hub of culture, activity and fun. You can take a special kids' tour of the opera house, known for its massive sails and incredible scale. It's an architectural wonder and an operating entertainment venue where you can see unforgettable live shows with astounding effects and production values. The kids' program alone offers performances like the Storytime Ballet, which puts an entirely new spin on classic children's stories. Kids will get to play games, engage in interactive activities and even dress up in real stage costumes. By the time kids are done with their tour, they'll be experts in all things opera.
6. Walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge
The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge is colloquially called 'the coat hanger' by locals. It's best known, perhaps, for the Bridge Climb experience where families with kids at least 8 years old can tackle a safe and thrilling climb to the peak of the bridge. It's a highlight of any list of kids' activities in Sydney and an adventure you'll never forget. To better capture the memory, you get to take a photo at the summit of the climb. If you're not into heights, you can still enjoy the bridge, which is also an iconic pedestrian walkway offering panoramic views of the city, the Rocks and Milsons Point.
7. Explore natural history at the Australian Museum
The Australian Museum in Sydney is a heritage-listed site and the oldest museum in the nation. It's located in the heart of the city centre in the central business district. It's also among the oldest natural history museums in the entire world and is internationally renowned for its natural history and anthropology efforts. Of course, when it comes to kids' activities in Sydney, the dinosaurs are sure to be at the top of the list, but the museum also offers an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection, collections related to the Pacific and other world cultures and areas related to the study of a wide variety of animals, from bugs to mammals.
8. Climb the Sydney Tower Eye for astonishing views
The Sydney Tower Eye's crowning golden globe offers an observation deck that rises 250 metres above the city and provides a view not just of the city centre, but of kilometres of landscape in every direction. This structure, among the tallest in the region, offers not just panoramic photo opportunities, but an Observation Deck restaurant where you can enjoy a great meal with this amazing view. Even better, the Eye is just steps away from a massive shopping centre, so after you enjoy the view, you can get your shop on with an afternoon of wonderful big brand-name and boutique shops.
9. Learn about indigenous history and culture
Those looking for fun things to do in Sydney for kids are sure to find plenty of amusement and education in exploring the Aboriginal culture of the region. You'll find a wide range of cultural experiences and tours to discover the rock art, dance performances and festivals to not just learn about indigenous history, but to become immersed in native culture and understand the roots of Australia in a truly unique and natural way. You can hear Dreamtime stories told by an Aboriginal shaman, experience a didgeridoo performance and learn about its history as a sacred instrument or witness a Diramu Aboriginal dance, among other exciting experiences.
10. Learn about the oldest suburb at Susannah Place Museum
Susannah Place consists of a former grocery store and workers' cottages that today serve as a heritage-listed and historic house museum in The Rocks, an inner-city suburb. At this museum, you can learn all about how the people of this area lived throughout history, and it's a relatable option for Sydney attractions for kids since the stories are those of regular people. The tour encompasses 4 buildings that were built in 1844 by Irish immigrants. Over a century and a half, these buildings housed more than 100 working-class families and saw vast changes in the surrounding city. Guided tours take about an hour, and kids under 5 get in free.
11. Explore the city's history at the Museum of Sydney
The Museum of Sydney opened its doors in 1995 and has a mission to tell the story of the city from its precolonial days through today. The major focus of the museum is storytelling, and you can enjoy multimedia presentations where actors portray past characters to spin tales both true and legendary. Aboriginal people also step in to explain their history and how their lives are different in contemporary times. Kids' activities in Sydney here include the Collectors' Chests, where they can explore drawers full of exhibits and treasures from the past, and subterranean excavations underneath a clear floor.
12. See old trains and toys at the Powerhouse Museum
The Powerhouse Museum is definitely one of the top indoor activities for kids in Sydney. This museum occupies 4 levels and a fast space. Kids here can see real live aeroplanes suspended from the ceiling, check out old train cars and head for the Little Wheels room, which displays 1,600 Matchbox cars, many rare and collectible. The museum has both permanent and temporary rotating exhibits, and it may take several visits to see everything there is to see. They even offer a permanent exhibit on the Wiggles. This is a good option for things to do with toddlers in Sydney due to the nature of the exhibits within, and entry is free.
13. Head back in time at the Hyde Park Barracks
The Hyde Park Barracks is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of Sydney that presents a living record of early colonial days on the continent. This museum goes back hundreds of years to the days when Australia was a penal colony, referred to locally as 'convict times'. Kids will learn what it was like living as a convict in those days. They can lay in authentic hammocks and see how life was lived in the early 19th century when the site first opened as a means to improve control and surveillance over convicts working on a local public building program. Over the years, the barracks also served as an asylum, a court of law and immigration depot and other functions.
14. See paintings and sculptures at the Art Gallery of NSW
The Art Gallery of New South Wales was founded as the New South Wales Wales Academy of Art in 1872, with its inaugural public exhibition held in 1874. It's a majestic complex of several structures, including the Vernon building, Captain Cook wing, a Bicentennial extension, an Asian Art Gallery and the Sydney Modern Project. Notable permanent collections include art of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, Asian art and important Australian art throughout the ages. In addition, the museum houses rotating temporary exhibits highlighting notable artists throughout history. It's a great option for Sydney attractions for kids, who will wonder at the paintings, sculpture and other media inside.
Experience beaches, pools and seashore adventure
15. Walk the shores of Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour has been called by locals 'the centre of Sydney fun'. Here, you can visit famed wax museums and themed maritime museums, have an up-close wildlife experience, head for a famous aquarium or walk elegant paths through immaculately tended Chinese gardens. You can board a Ferris wheel, head for the theatre for live entertainment and, every Saturday night, you can see fireworks shows. The Harbour is dotted with dozens of restaurants and cafes, and if you're looking for things to do with toddlers in Sydney, there's a massive playground where they can run, jump and climb. You can even find lodging right on the Harbour so that everything is within walking distance.
16. Take the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk begins at Bondi Beach, which unto itself is an iconic spot to visit. If the kids like a walk with stunning clifftop views of the sea and beaches below, it's a fantastic option for a kids' activity in Sydney. Along the way, you can stop at various beaches that offer playgrounds and rock pools, and at Bronte Beach, you'll find the Bogey Hole and a mini-train ride. You'll find sand, sun and surf and even swimming pools. You'll see towering sandstone cliffs, crashing waves and golden sand and experience the best of Aussie beach culture all along the way. If surfing excites you, this walk is a great place to see area surfers catch the waves and ride them in.
17. Relax on the sands of Shark Beach
Shark Beach is part of Nielsen Park and offers a netted harbour beach just minutes from the Sydney city centre. It's a gorgeous and iconic beach with fantastic harbour views and a beachside cafe where you can grab a drink or meal while you relax. The waters here are calm with no surf whatsoever, but if you're looking for things to do with kids in Sydney, it's worth noting that there aren't any lifeguards on duty, so be careful in that regard. It's also named for the fact that sharks have been seen in the harbour (hence the nets). Not far away is a waterfront restaurant that serves ice cream, drinks and food, including fantastic modern Italian cuisine. Some of the best views can be found at Bottle and Glass Point, accessible by stairs from the beach.
18. Take a surfing lesson and ride the waves
Surfing culture is huge in Australia, and Sydney is, in many ways, an epicentre of it all. You can take surfing lessons at many of the local beaches, but among the most popular is Bondi Beach. Surfing lessons can be booked for the entire family in which experienced, expert surf instructors will teach you the basics of surfing. If you have a large family or larger group you may need to break up – on average, instructors take groups of 5 students at most to give the most personalised instructions. Even if you're an experienced surfer, you might find you'll learn some new techniques here, but if you've never gotten onto a surfboard before, this is a great option for things to do for kids in Sydney to get started.
Theme parks, botanical gardens and other adventures
19. Get a thrill at Luna Park amusement park
Let's face it: few things are as fun or exciting for kids' activities in Sydney as heading for an old-fashioned amusement park, and at Luna Park, you'll get all the thrills and adventure you can handle. This iconic amusement park draws hundreds of thousands of people every year to tackle thrill rides like the Sledgehammer, rollercoasters like the New Big Dipper, Boomerang, Wild Mouse and Little Nipper or family rides like Cloud Nine, Silly Sub, and, of course, the classic carousel. You can even explore classic attractions at the Coney Island section, like the Mirror Maze, Joy Wheel, Wonky Walk and slides. You can also play games and eat loads of classic theme park snacks.
20. Take a cruise on Sydney Harbour
If you want to get out on the waters and see Sydney from the bay, you'll find tons of opportunities for cruises on Sydney Harbour, but as far as things to do with kids in Sydney go, the Tall Ships option may be the best, as it lets them feel like they're on an authentic pirate or privateer ship in the High Age of Sail. On these cruises, you'll have an expert local guide who will point out areas of interest and give you stories and information about the history of Sydney's marine legacy. You'll get great photo opportunities and, at the right time of year, you might even get the chance to do some whale watching.
21. Splash and play at Darling Quarter Playground
When it comes to free kids' activities in Sydney, there's nothing like an amazing playground where kids can burn off all that excess energy. The Darling Quarter playground offers tons of features for them to enjoy, from jungle gyms to climb and swing to water features like splashing fountains and river runs, so be sure to have the kids wear their bathers and bring a change of clothes. Surrounding the playground, you'll find several restaurants and footpath cafes to relax and have a meal, and there's a snack kiosk for light fare right in the playground itself.
22. Walk the paths of the Royal Botanic Garden
If you're looking for kids' activities in Sydney of a gentler, more charming nature, a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens may be exactly what you need. The paths between the colourful native and exotic flora surrounding the Calyx building, which hosts shows and exhibitions, are an enchanting place to explore a fairy-tale landscape. Within the gardens themselves, you can grab a meal or snack at one of several eateries, including a kiosk that serves kids' meals. The facility also hosts constant programs and activities, many of which are geared for and targeted towards children. You can also find a public swimming pool here to help you cool off from the heat.
23. Fly on the trapeze at Sydney Olympic Park
Sydney Olympic Park was the home of the 2000 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, and it's one of the most fun and exciting places for kids' activities in Sydney. Just minutes from the city centre, it offers a wide range of family-friendly events and fun. Kids can try their skills at being acrobats by swinging on the flying trapeze. They can head for the Aquatic Centre with its gigantic waterslide and whitewater rapids ride. Splasher's Water Playground is the section for little tykes, making this a great stop for things to do with toddlers in Sydney. Kids can shoot archery, go cycling or BMX biking or take part in kid-centric programs all summer long.
24. Go horseback riding at Centennial Parklands
Most kids love to go horseback riding, and the Centennial Park area just 10 minutes away from the city centre allows them to get on horseback and take riding lessons that are customised to their age and skill. If the kids have never before been on a horse, you can rent a pony for them to try it out on a gentle ride. You can book lessons so kids can learn the ins and outs, or you can try any of the other activities here, like walking the labyrinth or cycling along the bicycle paths. You can even head to one of the local restaurants for a sit-down meal.