Your go-to guide to Sydney’s best places to eat, sleep and top things to do with kids.
Where to eat in Sydney with kids
Sydneysiders are known for their love of eating out, and they don’t limit their choices to one type of cuisine. Sampling everything from Malaysian curries to fresh pasta dishes to sushi is as easy as flitting from one neighbourhood or suburb to the next.
Dine in or grab-and-go at this European food emporium, which serves fresh Italian-style food made with produce direct from the Bel & Brio farm. Coffee is from Bondi roasters Will & Co, and there’s freshly baked Italian pastries such as Sicilian cannoli, or savoury items such as bacon and egg brioche and bruschetta. The Marketplace stocks ready-made meals, too, so you can grab a fresh baguette and cold-pressed juice and head to the nearby waterfront lawns of Barangaroo to have brekkie with harbour views while the kids play.
Address: T3.01, 300 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo NSW 2000
The Boathouse Group’s roster of cafes and restaurants are the last word in casual Sydney dining vibes. Think beach and waterfront locations, bright and breezy interiors that have become an instantly identifiable hallmark (and one you can take home with you from The Boathouse Home) and classic menu fare such as ricotta hotcakes for breakfast and a bucket of prawns at lunch. If you can’t find the time on this trip to make it to the original Palm Beach café, choose from Shelly Beach, Balmoral Beach or the new Rose Bay venue.
Nothing speaks to parents more than a restaurant with space to play and Centennial Homestead, in the green heart of Centennial Parklands, has it in spades. With expansive lawns surrounding its wraparound deck, Centennial Homestead’s Kitchen offers a casual menu featuring garden-grown salads and cockle-warming dishes such as gnocchi and chicken pie. But even better are the picnic hampers, which you can enjoy anywhere in the parklands (pre-order only).
Address: 1 Grand Dr, Centennial Park NSW 2021
If a casual lunch by the sea is what you’re craving, the super-stylish Coogee Pavilion is a fantastic option. This lively Eastern Suburbs venue has a dedicated kids’ menu of dishes they all love (pizza, burgers, milkshakes) but the best bit is the huge play area at the back. While you eat your meal in (relative) peace, kids of all ages will have fun playing with the ping pong table, scrabble wall, giant Connect Four, Jenga – you name it, they have thought of it!
Address: 169 Dolphin St, Coogee NSW 2034
Sure, Bondi is home to some of the trendiest cafes in Sydney, but nothing beats some good ol’ fish and chips by the beach – and Bondi’s Best is a local favourite for its high quality seafood and top location. The menu features favourites such as beer-battered fish and crumbed calamari – in both adults and kids’ size servings – alongside sushi and sashimi and Japanese-style soups. From here it’s a short walk to the beach and North Bondi Children’s Pool, so the kids can enjoy a splash after lunch.
Address: 39-53 Campbell Parade, North Bondi NSW 2026
When you can’t get to Asia, Spice Alley brings it to you. This atmospheric laneway in the inner-city neighbourhood of Chippendale, a short walk from Central Station, is inspired by the hawker-style food markets of the East. It has a variety of Asian cuisines to choose from, meaning all fussy tastes are catered to – Singapore, Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, Cantonese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesian. Savour succulent Singaporean chilli prawns or a piping hot pho in the al fresco courtyard festooned with lanterns at night, and – bonus – it’s BYO!
Address: Kensington St, Chippendale NSW 2008
A place where kids eat free is a winner in our eyes. Fratelli Fresh is a Sydney institution with several restaurants across the city serving excellent Italian fare, and its Darling Harbour venue is a stand-out. Located underneath the International Convention Centre (ICC) near the bustling Darling Quarter (which has an awesome kids’ playground and a library), this large and lively restaurant has a range of stations serving up hand-tossed pizza, fresh pasta, rotisserie meats, and gelato. And, as we said, kids under 12 eat free every day.
The theatre of Teppanyaki is always a hit with kids and Sydney is home to a few great options. Ichiban Teppanyaki in Haymarket has been throwing food at its patrons for more than 20 years, and while the décor hasn’t really changed, you can always expect to have a good time. They also have a dedicated kids’ banquet menu.
Address: 355 Sussex St, Sydney NSW 2000
High tea is not all cucumber sandwiches and Earl Grey, with many places now catering to kids including the InterContinental hotel. Its kids’ high tea menu features Aussie-style treats – lamingtons, fairy bread, and, of course, fluffy scones with jam and cream. And they’re sure to jump at the chocolate and popcorn milkshake on offer! Hosted on the top floor of the hotel with views of the harbour and the Royal Botanic Garden, this is a sweet mummy-and-me day out.
Address: 117 Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000
For almost two decades Sydneysiders have lined up for Messina’s delicious made-from-scratch gelato, each store (from Bondi to Circular Quay to Surry Hills) with 40 flavours made with jersey milk from its very own dairy farm. Classics include Dulce De Leche, Macadamia Crunch, and Coconut and Lychee. It also makes sorbet and special limited flavours, and all the extra toppings – cookies, jams, brownies – are all made in-house too.
Where to stay in Sydney with kids
Why just visit the zoo when you can sleep there, too? While roar and snore does glamping proud, this luxe eco-retreat offers stylish rooms, delicious dining, a welcoming lounge with stunning views, and privileged access to the sanctuary, a purpose built space only accessible to guests to tour with keepers and get up close to everything from wallabies and echidnas to pademelons and koalas.
The kids will see this perfectly positioned property, which opened just over a year ago, as a pool with a hotel attached, so impressive is its size and rooftop location. You will appreciate the stylish rooms, dining options and access to the CBD and Chinatown.
The A by Adina brand makes no compromise in style in order to provide family-friendly amenities – think of it as your own super-sleek Sydney apartment with city views without crazy Sydney property prices. Book a two-bedroom apartment to get separate lounge and dining areas and a full kitchen and laundry.
Housed in a heritage building close to Darling Harbour and the Maritime and Powerhouse museums, rooms here are packed with character and colour, with exposed brick and bright murals. Then there’s the free stuff: all-day snacks, all-inclusive minibar, loot bag, wi-fi and self-serve laundry.
If you are going to stay outside the Sydney CBD, then do so in Bondi. The QT brand prioritises fun while still providing great service, with this beachside outpost offering spacious rooms (book the Atrium or Gould suites, which have kitchenettes and washer/dryers), bicycles and surfboards to borrow and a laidback vibe throughout.
Located in the heart of the city on Kent Street, the suites here are spacious and sleek and come with kitchen facilities. The kids will love the funky, futuristic design by architect Koichi Takada which reaches full wow factor with the indoor pool which has an ‘ice cave’ theme.
Family friendly can also mean fancy, something Fraser Suites Sydney attests to. Designed by award-winning architect Sir Norman Foster, this city property provides five-star hotel facilities (including a big indoor pool) with the convenience of apartment living. The skyline views are pretty fancy too.
What to do in Sydney with kids
Festivals and events
Rug up warm and head into the city for an evening spent mouth-agape at Sydney’s technicolour winter light festival. You’ll all be wowed by the clever and colourful 3D projections that transform some of the city’s most iconic spots.
22 September – 3 October
Watch one of Roald Dahl’s most beloved characters come to life on stage in Shake & Stir Theatre Co.’s performance of Fantastic Mr Fox. This audio-visual extravaganza, suitable for cubs five years and up, sees live actors interact with artfully realised animations.
21 October – 7 November
Sydney’s annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition makes for a memorable family day out full of fresh air and creativity. For over two weeks in spring, the coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama beaches is transformed into an open-air art gallery that’s easy on little legs and studded with fun, inventive sculptures to gawp at along the way. Each year, without fail, artists deliver the weird and wonderful, often underpinned by an important environmental message.
8 October – 1 May
There’s always something fascinating on at the Powerhouse Museum and this intriguing show is no exception. Trace the evolution of the smart car from the emergence of microcars in 1950s Europe to the popularity of Australia’s own Goggomobil Dart and Zeta Runabout, and learn about the future of electric and hybrid smart cars.
Dates for the diary:
- Until 11 July Brickman Cities Powered By Lego City Sydney Tower Eye
- 23 and 24 September Flower Scientist For A Day Workshop Royal Botanic Garden
- 8–17 October Sydney Craft Week various venues
- 8–21 December Grug By Windmill Theatre Company Sydney Opera House
Take a day trip
Find mountain views, empty beaches, farm-gate trails, and remote wilderness just a stone’s throw from Sydney.
The Blue Mountains start an hour from the city, and are easily reached by train, which snakes through cute towns and pristine bushland (the whole place is part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park) as it climbs to the hub of Katoomba. Stop here on the land of the Dharug and Gundungurra peoples to see the Three Sisters and learn the Dreamtime story of siblings Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo, shout a coo-ee at Echo Point and ride the vertiginous Scenic Railway, Skyway or Cableway into and over the lush Jamison Valley.
The Illawarra town of Kiama is less than two hours’ drive from Sydney but its laid-back vibe is a world away. Visitors throng to the natural wonder of the Blowhole to watch water shoot up in the air, but the Little Blow Hole, a 40-minute walk away along the coast, is less crowded and more consistent and showy than its big cousin.
An easy 1.5-hour drive from the city, past charming towns like Richmond and Kurrajong (all part of the Hawkesbury region), is the hamlet of Bilpin. It’s all about apples here; visit one of the family-run orchards to pick your own fruit, before grabbing a table on the grass at Hillbilly Cider for wood-fired pizzas and cider, and popping into the iconic Fruit Bowl for a Pink Lady apple pie for the journey back.
Take a journey back in time to the quaint historic Southern Highlands village of Berrima, with its sandstone buildings and tree-shaded green, for a day of browsing the shops (the Lolly Swagman will be a hit), navigating the hedge maze at the grand Harper’s Mansion and staying up late for a ghost tour of the historic Courthouse, said to be one of the most haunted buildings in the country.
Great Mackerel Beach
The Northern Beaches hamlet of Great Mackerel Beach, which sits within Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, boasts an unspoilt beach, lush vegetation and cute wildlife that suggest beach days of old. There is no road access so a trip to the beach comes with the added bonus of a 30-minute ferry ride from Palm Beach.
The seaside city of Newcastle, just north of the Central Coast and 2.5 hours by train from the city, has beaches to play on, ocean pools to swim in, lots of outdoor activities and walks, and wildlife galore at Blackbutt Reserve, filled with koalas, wombats, kangaroos and emus among others.