Top 5 Ways for Families to see a Different Side to Sydney with the Harbour Trust

The Harbour Trust’s visitor destinations in Sydney are a great source of exploration for kids and parents due to their natural beauty, fascinating stories and incredible landmarks. We're talking massive cranes, underground tunnels and a 200-year-old lighthouse, to name but a few!

North Head Sanctuary (Manly), Sub Base Platypus (North Sydney), Macquarie Lightstation (Vaucluse) and the precincts of Headland Park (Mosman) are amongst the extraordinary places protected by the Harbour Trust. They also look after Cockatoo Island / Wareamah, which is both a former shipyard and convict gaol. In fact, the island’s Convict Site is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List with 10 other convict sites nationwide!

Up for adventure? Here are five of the best experiences families can have across the Harbour Trust’s destinations.

Top 5 Ways To See a Different Side of Sydney With The Harbour Trust

1. An Island Staycation

Harbour Trust Island Staycation
The perfect getaway for Sydney families, Cockatoo Island is waiting to be explored.

Want an island vacation… without leaving Sydney? Catch the ferry to Cockatoo Island! Bordered by landscaped gardens and offering sweeping harbour views, the island’s houses and apartments marry authentic heritage character with modern amenities.

Meanwhile, the nearby campground is an opportunity to unwind with your family on the waterfront and watch the sun set and rise on Sydney Harbour. The ‘BYO tent’ option is ideal for seasoned campers or families on a budget. For a hassle-free stay, go for the camping package – it includes a pre-erected tent with room to sleep two adults plus two small children. 

With a range of accommodation options, safe to say there's something for everyone on Cockatoo Island, and it offers a super unique way to experience the city you love. 

2. Unwind on Mosman's Waterfront

Mosman Waterfront
There is so much natural beauty to enjoy on Mosman's gorgeous waterfront.

A stunning retreat on the Mosman shoreline, Chowder Bay is a popular destination for families and receives seasonal visits from penguins, seals and whales, so keep your eyes peeled. Attractions include charming eateries and a coastal track leading to Taronga Zoo. Plus, nearby Clifton Gardens is an idyllic picnic spot with a beach and play equipment!

3. Enjoy Live Music with Sunset Sessions

Harbour Trust Sunset Sessions
Family fun doesn't come much better than the Harbour Trust's Sunset Sessions!

Seeking a cruisy way to spend Saturday evening with the family? Book tickets for Sunset Sessions at Cockatoo Island and enjoy live music by a diverse lineup of homegrown performers, including First Nations and LGBTQIA+ artists. As talented musicians hit the stage at Biloela Lawn on the upper island, you’ll be able to enjoy breathtaking harbour views together with food and refreshments, including picnic-style grazing boxes. Sunset Sessions run Saturday evenings (5 pm to 8 pm) until 1 April. Tickets are only $35, and best of all? If you’re attending with kids (12 and under)… they’re free!

4. Connect with Nature on Manly's Peninsula

Harbour Trust Manly
Stunning views all around on Manly's idyllic peninsula! 

The easiest way to experience the natural splendour of North Head Sanctuary in Manly is to embark on the Sanctuary Loop. A circuit trail of the entire park can be completed in under two hours at a relaxed pace, so kids won’t get too tuckered out. Highlights include beautiful bushland, diverse birdlife and exceptional coastal views from the Third Quarantine Cemetery, overlooking Sydney Harbour and the city skyline.

If you’re visiting on a weekend, pop into Bandicoot Heaven. This volunteer-operated visitor centre is a great way for kids to learn about North Head Sanctuary’s wildlife and flora, including its endangered population of Long-nosed Bandicoots.

5.  Explore Historic Sydney with a Tour Guide

Harbour Trust History
Learn more about your city with the Harbour Trust's guided history tours.

The Harbour Trust runs tours of historic military fortifications, including underground bunkers, at Georges Heights and North Head Sanctuary. This is a great way for families to explore buildings rarely opened to the public and walk in the footsteps of the men and women who once defended Sydney’s coastline.

The Harbour Trust also offers a range of all-ages tours at Cockatoo Island. These guided history tours present a unique opportunity to journey to the island’s convict and maritime eras and become acquainted with a colourful cast of real-life characters.

Bonus! Stuck at Home? Don't Worry

Top 5 ways for families to see a different side to Sydney
Even if you're not out and about in the city, the Harbour Trust has you covered with online exhibitions.

The Harbour Trust has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to launch a series of free online exhibitions about their beloved destinations. The kids will love ‘Iron Giants – The Heritage Cranes of Cockatoo Island’, which showcases the towering cranes of Cockatoo Island. Meanwhile, history-loving parents will enjoy ‘The Secret Military History of Manly’s North Fort Plotting Room’. The most recent addition, ‘Hollo’s Harbour Reflections’, features vibrant oil pastel drawings by Nick Hollo, a celebrated artist who has spent 20+ years capturing what makes the Harbour Trust’s destinations so special.

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