Last month, my family visited Sydney, Australia for a 3-day stopover on our way to New Zealand. We had no expectations for our visit, as our primary goal was to rid ourselves of jetlag and get acclimated to the new time zone before moving onto New Zealand. However, visiting Sydney, Australia with kids far exceeded our expectations. The city is full of kid-friendly activities and is easy to navigate.
The first thing we did in Sydney after checking into our hotel was take in the fantastic views in the Circular Quay area. Thankfully, our hotel’s rooftop provided spectacular views of both the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Our kids normally aren’t so impressed with city views. But, the views at Circular Quay are so iconic and featured in so many movies that even our kids were speechless. Staring at the Sydney Opera House when it’s right across the harbor is surreal.
Seeing kangaroos and koalas was a priority for all of us. At Circular Quay, we hopped on a ferry that took us straight to Taronga Zoo. Upon exiting the boat, we took the sky ride up to the zoo entrance.
At the zoo entrance, we purchased tickets for the koala encounter. We paid about $20 USD for a private session including printed photos for up to four people. Since we are a family of five, we had to buy two sessions in order for all of us to have the private koala encounter. But still, at $40, I thought it was a bargain. At the Taronga Zoo koala encounter, we could get as close to the koalas as we wanted, but we weren’t allowed to touch or hold them.
We prioritized the sections that featured native Australian animals. The zoo sits on a hill, so we gradually made our way down the hill toward the exit.
Taronga Zoo has a playground and a few interactive features that my kids loved. Aside from the koalas, my favorite part about visiting the zoo was the spectacular view of Sydney across the water. Floating by the opera house twice on the water in one afternoon was spectacular.
Sydney Opera House Tour
One morning, my 8-year-old daughter and I toured the inside of the Sydney Opera House. The tour was a little over an hour long, and we wore headsets to hear our tour guide. Even though my daughter was the only kid in our tour group, she did fantastic and liked it just as much as I did.
We enjoyed learning about the history of the place as well as seeing colors and lines of the six theatres inside. The story of how it was designed and why it took so long to build is really fascinating. If you have a kid that is interested in theatre or architecture, touring the inside of the Sydney Opera House is a must-do.
Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout
While my daughter and I toured the Sydney Opera House, my husband and sons climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout. It has 200 stairs to get to the top along with three levels of exhibits that explain the history and construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The cost is much cheaper than climbing the outside of the bridge via BridgeClimb Sydney (too scary for us!), and there are no age or height requirements.
One afternoon, we took a ferry from Circular Quay over to Darling Harbour. We wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel, but when we arrived we learned it is no longer there. Despite the light rain, there was still a lot to do as a family in Darling Harbour.
After grabbing a bite to eat, we decided to tour the Australian National Maritime Museum. The museum has six ships outside to explore as well as a large inside building.
We started with the outside ships and hopped on the two tall ships followed by the submarine and navy ship. Each ship had volunteers on board that talked to us about the ship’s history. It was fun exploring each area of the ships to see the galleys, sleeping bunks and everything in between.
Before we knew it, we had explored the ships for a few hours and the museum was about to close. We didn’t even get to the main building! I recommend allowing four to five hours for just this museum alone.
Even though we only had three days in Sydney, we wanted to visit “the bush”. A day trip to the Blue Mountains was the best way to accomplish that.
I decided to book a tour for our trip to the Blue Mountains to make it easy, even though we could have taken a train followed by shuttle buses. I ended up booking the “Breakfast with Kangaroos” tour with Blue Mountains Day Tours. I was really hoping to see those kangaroos in the wild. Nine times out of ten, the tour groups see wild kangaroos at the campground.
As luck would have it, we were the one time out of ten that didn’t see any kangaroos! It had been raining, which our guides think contributed to them hiding. But nonetheless, we had a great outdoor breakfast on the barbeque followed by a visit to Scenic World.
As a group, we rode a sky cable down the side of the mountain and walked through a rain forest.
Then, we rode an incline train back up the mountain and stopped for lunch.
Finally, we rode a cable car across a valley to another peak to get a good look at the Three Sisters.
This private tour was our most expensive excursion on our two-week vacation. However, the price included both breakfast and lunch, and we got to skip the lines at Scenic World. We experienced a lot in one day, and it was nice to hit the “easy button” to see the Blue Mountains.
Featherdale Wildlife Park
As part of our Blue Mountains tour, we had over two hours to spend at Featherdale Wildlife Park at the end of the day. This ended up being one of the highlights of our trip to Sydney because we got to feed and interact with kangaroos.
Featherdale has kangaroo food for purchase for a few dollars. When we entered the first kangaroo area, we all flipped out with excitement. The little kangaroos were so cute and gentle. Some of the kangaroos seemed a bit full by the late afternoon and didn’t want any more food.
While I was speaking to one of the employees, she mentioned that there are actually four kangaroo areas in the park, and we should try our luck in the other areas. She was right, as the last kangaroo area had the tallest and hungriest kangaroos.
We spent the majority of time with the kangaroos, but the park had many other Australian animals to visit. This park also had a private koala viewing that allowed folks to actually touch the koalas.
Overall Impressions of Sydney, Australia with Kids
We enjoyed visiting Sydney much more than we anticipated. Since we stayed in the Circular Quay area (see my hotel review here), getting around the city was a breeze by walking and using the public ferries. I appreciated how most attractions still considered my 15-year-old a “kid” to qualify for lower admission prices, which isn’t usually the case back home.
Have you visited Sydney, Australia with kids? What were your favorite activities?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.