Australia continues to top the travel wish list of many people around the world. When you consider the country’s fabulous mix of stunning coastal cities, friendly people, and intriguing animals; it’s no surprise. Don’t let the long haul flight deter you from taking the time to explore this incredible country with your children!
My boys and I in the Shark Tunnel at Sydney’s Oceanworld Aquarium
Having lived in Sydney for five years, I was able to indulge my tacky tourist leanings as well as discover the best parts of the city as a local. While it’s difficult to narrow down my personal top spots of this sparkling harbor-side city, the following areas are fun for all members of the family.
This small area of the city is where the first European settlers landed in 1788. Back then the convicts and their guards set up camp on the outcrop of bare sandstone rocks, hence the name. The Rocks is essentially the site around which the rest of the city expanded. This is the perfect place to introduce your children to the history of Sydney – from its earliest Aboriginal inhabitants, to the first settlement of British convicts.
The sandstone buildings and cobblestone walkways are hard to resist. My son loved being bounced to sleep in his stroller as we strolled along the narrow streets. On weekends you can take advantage of the popular open air markets which have a mix of local art, tourist tchotchkes, and homemade food items.
Arguably the busiest area for tourists and locals alike, Circular Quay is the hub where you can take that quintessential Sydney picture postcard snap. The Quay itself is the central docking point for the harbor’s extensive ferry system. When the sun is out, there is electricity in the air here that can’t be beat. On one side of the quay you can frame yourself for a photo in front of the Sydney Opera House and, as you make your way to the opposite end, you can take another with the iconic Harbor Bridge as your backdrop.
My husband and I on at one end of Circular Quay with the famous Sydney Opera House behind us
Unlike The Rocks, Circular Quay couldn’t be more modern, but it is no less fascinating. If your kids are up for a break, take advantage of the bar area underneath the Opera House and relax with a glass of Australian wine (and a cup of juice).
The Royal Botanic Gardens
A trip to the park is always a hit with the children but at Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, the adults can have a bit of fun, too! The expansive green lawn next the water is perfect for picnics. The meandering paths lead to the gardens, which are dense with over 7,000 types of plants from around the world.
You can take a guided tour, but our family loves simply wandering through, following whichever path strikes our fancy. Be sure to take along some bread to feed the ducks and Ibis around the central pond. Look up and you might even spot a tree virtually dripping with flying foxes (Aussie speak for bats).
A visit to Australia is not complete without an introduction to the Taronga Zoo. Its hillside harbor location enhances your animal encounter. The best way to get there, or at least the most enjoyable, is via ferry, which takes less than 15 minutes. Obvious must-see exhibits for non-natives are the koalas, Tasmanian devils, and platypuses; meanwhile the Asian elephant sanctuary is popular amongst locals.
My personal top-spot-to-beat-all-others is this popular suburb in the Northern Beaches. It’s worth taking an entire day to explore Manly Beach with the whole family. Another ferry ride awaits; this time you’ll take a 30-minute mini cruise from the downtown area to the far corner of the harbor.
Manly Beach on a typical stunning Sydney day
Only a few meters walk from the Ferry Wharf, you’ll discover Oceanworld, an aquarium with interactive exhibits and Shark Tunnel. Opposite the wharf, you’ll find The Corso, a wide pedestrian-only strip that stretches from the harbor to the beach. Strolling along here, you can soak up the laid back vibe of this beachside and browse a tempting array of restaurants and shops.
The main beach itself is clean and very family-friendly with safe swim areas marked off with red and yellow flags. If you’re looking to escape to an area for even your youngest traveler to delight in the waves, there is a beautiful paved walk from the southern end of the beach to Shelly Beach, which rewards you with a flat grassy area next to soft sand and mini-waves.
Whatever you decide to do during your visit, you’re sure to leave wanting more time in Sydney.
What’s on your Australian travel wish list? Let us know in the comments!
Anjanette Morton is a passionate traveler who has lived and worked in the U.S., Italy, U.K., and Australia. She currently lives in Las Vegas with her husband, Kelvin, and two little boys, Max (age five) and Milo (age three). She is (im)patiently biding her time until they move back to Australia permanently. She is a freelance writer and blogger concentrating on travel, parenting, relationships, personal development, and more.