We get it. Long-haul flights with kids are not the most relaxing way to start your vacation. But once you’ve touched down, you’ll find that Sydney — with its great weather, delicious food and beaches galore — is totally worth the journey. Here’s how to make the most of your time in the beautiful outdoorsy city.
What to do
Sydney is synonymous with the beach, and there are so many to choose from, you could go to a different one every day of your trip. Bondi Beach is the most famous; if it’s not swimming weather, do the Bondi-to-Bronte cliff walk, which takes you past three highly Instagrammable beaches. Alternatively, take the ferry from the city to Manly beach on the North Shore, where you can learn to surf, cycle along the promenade and ride the waterpark slides.
Also accessible by ferry is Taronga Zoo, where kids can get up close and personal with koalas, wombats, Tasmanian devils and other cool animals. You can even stay after hours for a night safari and sleepover at the zoo’s glampsite.
Pedestrian-friendly Darling Harbour has tons of entertainment concentrated in one area, including an aquarium, a wildlife park, an Imax theater, a working 19th-century carousel and the beautiful Chinese gardens. Don’t miss Tumbalong Park with its deck chairs, umbrellas and fountains to splash around in.
When you need an indoor activity, both the science-focused Powerhouse Museum and the venerable Australian Museum offer loads of kids programming — plus free entry for under 16s. And once you’ve taken the obligatory photo in front of the iconic Sydney Opera House, head inside for special performances and tours geared toward younger visitors.
Where to sleep
Many hotels — including the Hilton, Four Seasons, Novotel and Radisson properties — will let children stay in their parents’ rooms at no additional cost. But if you want some space to yourself (you are on vacation after all) then check out Swissotel‘s dedicated kids rooms with toys, games and tyke-appropriate toiletries and minibar snacks. You can even book a nanny through the hotel while you head to the heated outdoor pool or the spa. If you’d prefer self-catering accommodation, consider an Airbnb or a serviced apartment, such as Adina, Metro, Bondi 38 or Fraser Suites.
Where to eat
Sydneysiders spend a lot of time at cafés, so don’t be surprised to see young children sipping babycinos (steamed milk with a dusting of chocolate powder) alongside their parents. Most cafés offer kid menus, and many have outdoor space or dedicated play areas, including Shuk in Bondi, Three Williams in Redfern, Bitton Gourmet in Alexandria and Clover Cafe in Annandale. Free-range tots can run wild in the playgrounds adjacent to Queens Park Shed in Randwick and the Grounds Keeper Cafe in Ryde while remaining within view of the dining area.
Older kids will love the vegetable garden and chicken coop at farm-to-table restaurant Acre Eatery in Camperdown. Coffee roastery and all-day cafe The Grounds of Alexandria also has “chooks” (aka chickens) as well as a resident pig named Kevin Bacon; plus the extensive patio area has lots of fun nooks and crannies to explore. Pubs like The Henson in Marrickville and the beachside Coogee Pavilion keep anklebiters entertained with giant board games, ball pits and climbing walls, while adults enjoy a grown-up drink or two. Speaking of which, here’s an insider tip: Australians don’t drink Foster’s — try a Carlton or a VB instead.