Visiting cities typically characterized as traffic-clogged, dense and hectic, it’s easy to balk at the idea of mixing an unknown urban destination with kids. However, harborside, fresh-air-swept Sydney is an exception that feels like it puts families first.
Studded with emerald green parks and playgrounds, Sydney is exploding at its water-sewn seams with kid-friendly activities. It serves up a coveted mix of bucket-list icons, world-class museums, rich cultural activities and free attractions, including over 100 beaches. Paired with its “no worries, mate” vibes, Sydney is a must-visit destination for any family unit.
Is Sydney good for kids?
Sydney is synonymous with sand, sea and sun. It’s also stroller-friendly. The friendly attitude towards children is reflected in its abundance of public amenities; most parks feature restrooms, shelter from the sun, play areas and water fountains.
Breastfeeding in public is widely accepted and navigating your way through neighborhoods is made easy, thanks to a public transport system that accommodates baby buggies with elevators, ramps and wide doorways.
Even pubs can be surprisingly kid-friendly in Sydney, with some featuring dedicated family eating areas and playgrounds to keep young ones entertained. You won’t have trouble feeding your crew, with everything from Japanese sushi to weekend sausage sizzles (barbecued sausages in bread) at beachside surf clubs.
Educative explorations include learning more about the traditional custodians of the land – the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation – and early colonists at the Rocks, where Susannah Place Museum depicts working-class life over 150 years. Adrenaline activities include climbing to the top of the Harbour Bridge, or screaming on new rides at the much-loved Luna Park (established in 1935, it was most recently upgraded in 2021).
Many of Sydney’s best activities are free and ideal for families on a budget, like visiting the Royal National Park, one of the world’s oldest national parks.
Where are the best areas in Sydney for kids?
Darling Harbour is a one-stop entertainment shop. Start your day by having breakfast with koalas at Wild Life Sydney Zoo, then side stroke next door to Sea Life Sydney Aquarium to help prepare a dugong its lunch, or clamber into a submarine at the National Maritime Museum. Just next door is Tumbalong Park Playground, one of Sydney’s best with a flying fox, climbing ropes, a splash park for hot days and multiple coffee options within a froth flick.
For beaches, catch a ferry to Manly or head to Bondi for coastal walks and photo-worthy views.
For something different though, walk north over the Harbour Bridge to discover under-the-radar family gems, such as Maccallum Seawater Pool. Fed by the ocean waters, it has stellar harbor views with the Sirius St playground nearby.
Roughly 3km (1.8 miles) further on, you’ll find the Sub Base Platypus. A former torpedo factory recently turned into a recreation area, it features a maritime-theme playground and shaded barbecue facilities. Meanwhile, incredible cafes like parkside The Flying Bear (housed within a sailing shed) ensure no one gets hangry before you visit the exciting tunnels of the Coal Loader, a heritage-listed former industrial site.
The best things to do in Sydney with babies and toddlers
With multiple national parks set on its outskirts, a visit to Sydney isn’t limited to strolling city streets. Less than 15km (9 miles) from the city center, Lane Cove National Park is perfect for baby backpacking on short hikes. Meanwhile, toddlers will love the laughing kookaburras, colorful lorikeets, paddling pool and river fun (with cabins available) at Discovery Parks – Lane Cove.
Other bite-sized hikes include Trumper Park’s regenerating bushland in the ritzy neighborhood of Paddington. Or take the stroller-friendly Blackwattle Bay Park track, starting with gelato at Forest Lodge Tramsheds (with top-notch Harold Holt Playground found adjacent) and ending at Sydney Fish Markets for fish ‘n’ chips.
Rock-a-bye-baby in a rock pool
Dip into over 30 rock pools stretching from Palm Beach to South Cronulla. Each is completely unique; whether convict-hewn from stone, barricaded by boulders, freeform, or with swimming lanes.
Near Bondi is McIver’s Ladies Baths in Coogee, Sydney’s last women-only rock pool popular with new mothers. Nearby, the sheltered Bogey Hole – a semi-enclosed rockpool at the southern end of Bronte Beach – is ideal for tiny tots. However, the ultimate rock pool for the youngest in your party is Fairy Bower Rockpool at Manly. Built in 1929, it’s a hop from the ferry wharf and flat waters of Manly Cove, where a shaded grassy area is kind to crawling babes.
The best things to do in Sydney with young children
Sydney’s playgrounds aren’t just limited to a set of swings and a slide; creative parks can be found across the city. Favorites include The Ian Potter Children’s Wild Play Garden at Centennial Parklands. This nature-based playground features a tip-to-toe drenching splash park, bamboo forest, treehouse, and tunnels that run through the native banksia bushes.
Sydney Park Playground in Alexandria has slides built into the hillside and rocket-like climbing nets. It’s just a 20-minute walk to the Grounds of Alexandria, a wonderland of greenery with a sprawling cafe, coffee roastery and an animal farm, where kids can observe residents such as the pig “KB” (Kevin Bacon).
Honorable mention goes to the Blues Point Reserve Playground on McMahons Point, which has the best Harbour Bridge view in Sydney.
Despite its city status, it’s not hard to encounter wildlife in Sydney. Ring-tailed possums and Australian brushturkeys can be spotted in public parks and a flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos resides in King’s Cross.
In the twilight hours around Centennial Park, look up: this is when the local colony of flying-foxes (a type of fruit bat) takes flight. No matter where you are, you’ll spot one of Sydney’s beloved/hated “bin chickens” (Australian white ibises) hunting for a snack.
For an experience that will blow the collective family mind, it’s glamping at Taronga Zoo in the Roar and Snore tents or at the new, upmarket Wildlife Retreat. Waking up with a koala or kangaroo at the window is an Australia-only lifetime memory waiting to be made.
Visit a free museum or art gallery
The Museum of Contemporary Art has regular programming for kids (called ARTplay days), while the Australian Museum’s spectacular dinosaur collection is always a roaring hit with kids. Best of all, both are free (and air-conditioned; a savior on hot days).
Also costing nada is the interactive Powerhouse Museum, where kids discover science, fashion, design and technology through activities like playing with electromagnets. Alternatively, join a family tour for stargazing at the Sydney Observatory. If you time your visit right, you may be fortunate enough to participate in an Aboriginal astronomy workshop by Wiradjuri astronomer Kirsten Banks.