Sydney❜s Top Places To Take The Kids When You Have Out Of Town Visitors
So you’ve got out-of-towners coming to visit you for the holidays. They’ve got kids, you’ve got kids. They’ve been to Sydney once or twice before and done all the big stuff like The Bridge, The Opera House, Centrepoint Tower (it will always be Centrepoint Tower to me) and the ferry to Manly, so what on earth can you do to keep active kids happy and eager adult visitors excited too?
Well Sydney is an absolutely amazing city and the ideas are endless, with so much to do and explore.
Here are some of our best outside-the-box places to take the kids when you have out-of-town visitors.
Go Back In Time
Sydney Living Museums is a collection of 12 museums and historic houses where you can deep dive into the extraordinary history of our city. Plus, there is loads of family fun to be had at these places. During school holidays, many of the houses have fascinating activities for the kids.
Vaucluse House (just down the road from Nielsen Park so a double win), Elizabeth Farm and Hyde Park Barracks are among our favourites but lcations are dotted across Sydney.
Talk To The Animals
While Sydney is home to the spectacular and world-class Taronga Zoo, there are a number of exciting animal parks that you might not have considered that offer a more intimate and up-close experience.
Take the road less travelled and visit Featherdale Sydney Wildlife Park to come face to face with world’s largest collection of Australian animals. They look after 2,200 resident animals and encourage close-up encounters with furry friends you’ve only seen at a distance. Their huge family of fauna includes Tasmanian devils, dingoes, echidnas, wombats, little penguins and a diverse collection of birds, plus a Ghost Bat & Bilby Nocturnal Exhibit, Farmyard Nursery and Reptilian Pavilion.
Symbio Wildlife Park is a short drive 45 minutes south of the city and is a sanctuary for tigers and cheetahs, lemurs, red pandas and Australian natives. They also offer fantastic behind the scenes tours including a memorable Keeper for a Day experience.
For more of the slinky, slithery kind, Australian Reptile Park is another hands-on zoo in a natural bush setting on the NSW Central Coast. Australian native animals roam the grounds and there are hundreds of exotic reptiles from around the world on show. They also host entertaining live shows, themed exhibits and behind the scenes tours.
They're creepy and they're cooky, mysterious and spooky. Sydney’s ghost tours will test your scare threshold while you hear some of the more colourful stories about our history.
The Q Station in Manly is a historic quarantine station with profound Aboriginal, natural and cultural significance. Despite being perched in the idyllic Sydney Harbour National Park it is one of Australia's most haunted sites with stories of paranormal activity throughout its past. They have a range of ghost tours through heritage buildings, the burial ground and empty pathways. You might even encounter ghosts lurking on site.
Another of Sydney Harbour's impressive historic sites, Cockatoo Island hosts Haunted History Night Tours that will lead you through the convict workshops and gaol, Dog Leg Tunnel and Biloela House. Discover the spine-chilling skeletons, secrets and scandals of this intriguing island as you explore atmospheric landmarks that bring history and mystery together.
Here are more of Sydney’s Best Ghost Tours.
Kids need space to run and they need plenty of room to do it in, and being in nature does wonder for everyone! Thankfully, Sydney has a number of glorious gardens that provide a breathtaking reprieve from the city.
A true hidden treasure in Sydney, Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Gardens is a quirky, mystical wonderland with something around every corner to delight children and adults. It is one of the best places in Sydney for families to explore, have a picnic and enjoy nature. The surprisingly large garden is lush and green with tree ferns, herbs, flowers, palm and fig trees and has amazing harbour views.
Auburn Botanic Gardens, also known as the The Japanese Gardens, has a magical wonderland of flora at every turn, especially during Cherry Blossom season. There is a reflective memorial pool, kids playground and a free wildlife park.
The incredibly iconic Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney is a must-visit haven for every out-of-towner, with stunning views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House and access to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Government House and Boy Charlton Pool. Within the heart of the Gardens, The Calyx is home to one of the largest green walls in the southern hemisphere and is a hub for exhibitions, events and workshops. A lesser known tip for the ship enthusiasts is, just prior to sunset, you can catch a navy ship in port doing a special sunset ceremony (bringing in the flags) from the gardens.
Further afield, the Australian Botanic Garden in Mount Annan boasts 416 hectares of Australian Native plant beauty. Throughout the year they hold various exhibitions and events, including a wonderful Carols in the Garden.
Another little slice if heaven on earth, the E.G. Waterhouse National Camellia Gardens has enchanting secret gardens full of waterways, walking paths and namesake Camellia’s. There is a terrific Alice in Wonderland play area and a teahouse that offers yummy scones and a Mad Hatters (high) tea party for the kids.
Take A Walk - Or A Ride
There is no better way to absorb the place you are visiting than to simply get amongst it. Sydney is blessed with so many terrific oasis-like parks in the middle of all the urban hustle and bustle. Take the kids’ scooters, bikes and kites and reconnect at some of these amazing locations:
Build sandcastles, go swimming in the shark-netted beach, dine in the stylish restaurant or picnic in the large picnic areas at Neilson Park in Vaucluse. You can aslo access the stunning Hermitage Foreshore Track.
Sydney Park at St Peters is a treasure trove of acticoty with an award winning bike park and a fantasic playground, plus walking tracks, wetlands, picnic areas, a cool café and a playing field.
Carss Bush Park is a wonderful parkland with an amazing all-abilities playground, plus a historical museum, sporting fields and café. There are walking tracks, a netted beach and exotic wildlife throughout.
The new Malabar Coastal Walk offers walks between Maroubra and Malabar beaches in Sydney's east with dramatic views of coastal rock platforms, sea cliffs and headlands. The area has an array of native wildflowers and wildlife as well as historical Aboriginal significance.
The iconic Centennial Park in the inner east offers a myriad of activities like duck feeding, walking tracks, horse rides, bike riding and playgrounds including the fantastic, nature-based Ian Potter Wild Play Garden, across 189-hectares of wide open spaces. There are grasslands, wodlands, ponds and vibrant gardens to explore, plus beautiful cafes, restaurants and picnic and BBQ areas.
The Goods Line in Ultimo is the site of an old freight railway corridor that first opened in 1855. Today, it’s half a kilometre wonderful shared bike path and walkway that runs from Central Station to Darling Harbour. There's a terrific water play area for the kids including sand pit, ping-pong tables, fitness bars, green space, a giant yellow table and funky study pods.
Sydney always was and always will be situated on Aboriginal land and Wulaba Track in Glades Bay Reserve (via York Street), Gladesville, is rich in well preserved Wallumedegal history with many traces of indigenous life still visible including hundreds of shells from meals, rock carvings and evidence of campsite tool making. It's a 2km round trip track that meanders through scrub, gum trees and mangroves (via the new metal boardwalk).
More Must See Places
Have you signed up to our newsletter? Join ellaslist to get the best family and kid-friendly events, venues, classes and things to do NEAR YOU!