Whenever we take a city trip with the kids we have a different schedule than when we’re traveling without them. Normally we get up at 8, have breakfast and then explore the city and don’t get back to our hotel or Airbnb until late in the evening. Not an ideal schedule for a kid. So what do we do when we explore a city as a family? I will tell you about our city trip to Sydney when our son was 12 and still an only child.
Sydney has so much to offer for young and old that everyone in the family will have a great time in Australia’s most visited city. That’s a promise!
We had three full days in Sydney. Meaning that we arrived late in the evening on the first day and went straight to bed, then had three days to roam around town and on the fifth day we were already on a plane to our next destination at six in the morning. Three full days is enough to visit all the highlights, but in hindsight it’s even better to do it in five or six. Our kid loves to travel and wants to do as many things as he can in a day so that he feels like he doesn’t miss out on anything. We are pretty much the same (not sure how our baby will develop, but if he needs a slower pace, then we will have to adapt to that). If you want to relax a bit during a city trip then you could use our schedule us a template and spread the activities out over four or five days.
Every evening we would discuss our program for the next day. We include our son in the decision making to make sure the day will be fun for everyone. Also it reduces his anxiety if he falls asleep knowing what tomorrow will bring. Not every kid needs that, but ours does, so we make sure that we take enough time for the planning part.
Our Airbnb was located right next to Bondi Beach. After we woke up we would look out of the window and spot people who were literally running to the sea barefoot, with a wetsuit on and board under their arms to catch some waves before heading out to work or school. In this neighborhood everything revolves around the beach. People would meet there to chill, run, swim and surf and it was crowded all day. And I’m not talking 25 degrees here. It was really chilly during our stay there. Around 15 to 18 degrees. I loved how everyone was so chill in this part of the city. I guess the healthy sea air and surfing/swimming before and after your daily schedule reduces your stress level. While they were starting their morning in the sea, we were having breakfast and after that it was off to the centre.
The first morning we took a bus that brought us to Circular Quay in twenty minutes. Circular Quay could be considered as the centre of everything in Sydney. Not only the buses stop there, but it’s also the main ferry terminal. It is in the heart of Sydney Cove, which is the founding place for the settlement of Australia. This is where you will find Sydney’s most favorite landmark, or actually one of Australia’s most famous landmarks: the architecturally stunning Sydney Opera House. Watching it from afar is impressive, but when you come closer you will see all the beautiful tiles and the way the sun reflects on them. It is beautiful. Unfortunately we weren’t able to see the inside, because there was a private event going on that lasted a few days. So, I can’t tell you anything about that. Our son was old enough to know the building from pictures he has seen. And of course he has seen Finding Nemo when he was younger and Dory and Marlin went to Sydney Harbour to find Nemo. That made it even more exciting for him to be there. Watch the movie with your kids right before you visit Sydney and that will certainly add to their enthusiasm when the visit the harbor and all its sights in real life. Maybe even watch Finding Dory after the first movie, but now I’m just fangirling.
Standing next to the opera house you get a good look at another sight that is known worldwide. The Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can get a real good look at it when you’re standing next to the Sydney Opera House. It is a really impressive bridge to see in real life. Maybe it’s partly because I’m interested in other cultures and have been for more than half of my life, so I’ve heard about this bridge countless of times and have also seen lots of pics of it. My youngest was also very impressed and kept taking pictures of it. We decided to walk up to the bridge and it is huge, especially when walking underneath it. You feel so incredibly small under all those tons of steel.
A nice attraction is that you can actually go up the bridge and walk above the cars driving beneath you. We didn’t do it, because it was very hot and it was around lunchtime, but if you’re interested a ticket sets you back about € 170 euro per adult and € 115 euro per child. It is supposed to be a real cool experience, so I will definitely do it if I ever come back to Sydney.
After checking out these to landmarks we visited The Rock. A nice artistic area in near proximity of Circular Quay. It gave us lots of Euro vibes. And coincidentally we sat down at a German restaurant with a nice terrace where we ordered our drinks and decided to stay for an early dinner. There are lots of restaurants in The Rock (with tourist prices, so be prepared to cough up some dough) to choose from. The early dinner was because of our teen. We always make sure to have a schedule that also allows him to have some downtime at the end of the day, either before or after dinner, in order for him to read a bit or play games on the iPad/iPhone. Choosing for an early dinner (17ish) allowed us to be home by 19.00 o’clock and that gave him enough time to relax before making a schedule together for tomorrow.
The second day consisted of three activities. The Sydney Tower Eye, the UTS Business School and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
First we went to the Sydney Tower Eye observation deck. It’s Sydney’s tallest structure to date and has a lot of names, but this is the one that’s most in use. We bought tickets to the Sydney Tower Eye observation deck to check out the city. This is something we love to do when in a city. We try to do it when we still have a few days left in a city, because you really get a good sense of direction when you’re staring down for a while. It is also an activity that most children love to do. It speaks to their imagination. It was a really nice day to start the day.
Multiple Attraction Passes
If you visit the Sydney Tower Eye observation deck, the WILD LIFE Zoo, Sea Life or Madame Tussauds you get the chance to buy multiple attraction passes, called the Sydney Big Ticket. The more attractions you want to visit, the more attractive the price will be. We bought tickets to see three attractions and thought it was definitely worth it. Because we went to Sydney in 2016 I went to the website of the Sydney Tower Eye observation deck to find the most recent (July 2019) prices for you . It is definitely worth buying the tickets online in advance, because then you will end up with an even bigger discount.
|Full Price (per adult)||Online Price (per adult)||Online Price (per child)|
|Visit 4 attractions||163 AUD||70 AUD||45 AUD|
|Visit 3 attractions||117 AUD||60 AUD||40 AUD|
|Visit 2 attractions||73 AUD||50 AUD||35 AUD|
|Visit 4 attractions + big bus||218 AUD||99 AUD||70 AUD|
Children under age 3 get to go in for free.
The second activity was an architecture fix. Mainly for the adults, but our teen is also very interested in architecture. Frank Gehry built the UTS Business School in the Broadway district. Don’t expect to find theatre here, this district is mainly focused on the university of technology and all their buildings. Not much else to see here, but our experience is that the buildings that Gehry designs are “funny” in the minds of a child.
After we had our architectural fix it was time to go back to Circular Quay. This time to visit a museum that is also very interesting to children, the Museum of Contemporary Art. Entrance is free and we saw lots of children who were really interested in everything the museum had to offer. Mainly ages 6 and up. You can easily spend two or three hours there (depending on how long your children are amused, I guess). We were there a little over two hours. After this museum visit we went back to our apartment to rest before dinner. If your kids are into fish it is highly recommended that you take one of the ferries from Circular Quay to one of the other small ferry ports, like Manly or Watsons Bay and have a great seafood dinner. Most of these restaurant offer batter-fried fish with fries (better known as fish and chips in the UK), no kid dislikes that, right? Being on the water while the sun sets is a fun experience for young and old, so that is an extra bonus. You can also lie on one of the small beaches there.
Disclaimer: this post promotes zoo’s and I have to say that after these visits I haven’t been to a zoo of any kind. I simply don’t want to spend money at places that keep animals in captivity. And my believe is that in lots of cases their living space is way too small. This doesn’t mean that I believe that zoo’s or aquariums necessarily treat animals badly, but in my lifetime I did see things that made me cringe. Animals need to roam freely in nature. The other side of the medal is that some animals that are on the verge of extinction are being kept in zoo’s which makes us believe and hope that this way they will survive and hopefully their numbers will grow again. So there are pro’s and con’s to visiting a zoo. That’s why I write about our experiences at both Sea Life and Wild Life Sydney Zoo. It is important to me to mention that at both of these places I didn’t see any signs of neglect.
Sea Life and the Wild Life Sydney Zoo are both located in Darling Harbour and the entrances are right next to each other. If interested you can also visit Madame Tussauds, also located next to the aquarium and zoo. I can’t tell you anything about this place and if it is worth your time, because we decided not to visit it.
We started the day by visiting Sea Life. We have been to other Sea Life’s in other countries, but this one was definitely the most impressive. The aquariums were huge! We saw lots of sharks in tanks that weren’t only next to us, but all around us. And not just sharks, but also (sting)rays and even dugongs. And don’t forget to check out the penguins. They are always a pleasure to watch. With all these large animals it is easy to forget the small aquariums, but you really shouldn’t. All the cute and colorful smaller fish are beautiful to watch and they’ll make you want to sit in front of the aquarium for hours on end. Of course Dory and Nemo are here too! We spend 2,5 hours at Sea Life before having lunch.
After lunch we were off to the Wild Life Sydney Zoo. This is a relatively small zoo, but you can spot Australia’s big five there. This big five consists of the Koala, Kangaroo, Crocodile, Wombat and the Platypus. We did see them all. And in the cafeteria we even saw lots of koala’s chilling and sleeping in trees carrying their babies.
The sole reason we even went to a zoo in the first place was because we didn’t have time to visit Rottnest Island when we were in Perth a month earlier and therefore didn’t get to see any Quokka’s. Seeing a Quokka was one of my sons biggest dreams and going to this zoo would give him a second chance. We saw a Quokka and even got a chance to pet him while a zoo keeper held onto Davy the Quokka. In hindsight I don’t think we should have taken part in the “feed and talk” that they offered. We also got to touch a python, a lizard and a kangaroo. I’m not sure if they enjoy that or even care, but I won’t do that another time.
We had our zoo fix for the day and ended our trip to Sydney by having a great dinner in the city. The next morning it was time to take off. We will be back, Sydney!