First published on 3 Apr 2012. Updated on 16 Apr 2012.
Sydney’s weather and landscape means that many of the best things to do are outside in the sun and air. And these are some of our favourites for getting out and about – and your suggestions for other great outdoor activities are enthusiastically welcomed in the comments.
It’s obvious, but we’d be remiss to leave it out. Well-maintained paths great for strollers, little parks and grounds for picnics, and a children’s zoo for petting. Also, you know, there are quite a lot of animals.
It’s held in Glebe Primary School every Saturday, and thus there’s a perfect-sized playground to play on as well as a large grassed area for running around in, away from the maze of stalls.
The park’s very nice, as is the pond (complete with ducks) but the best thing for kids is the bike path which boasts with signs and signals, just like real streets (minus the traffic).
Yes, there’s a lot of actual stuff in Darling Harbour – the Carousel, IMAX, the little train that runs along the wharves and en route to the Aquarium and Wildlife World – but it also boasts a great adventure playground, complete with water features for summer cool-off fun.
You know there are parks, but did you know it’s also got one of the world’s only urban riding facilities? There’s five riding schools, 210 stables, and complete equipment hire.
Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre
While most of the clientele are either working it in the gym or hitting laps in the Olympic sized pool, there’s a kids pool in the complex and a huge amount of noodles, kickboards and other playthings available for splashing around. The Centre also offers swimming classes for kids: details at the site.
Chinese Gardens of Friendship
It’s a place of tranquility and peace, but it does offer dress-ups and photographs in traditional Chinese garb, for big and little kids alike. There are also a surprisingly large amount of water dragons living happily in there, in the middle of the city, as well as more deliberately-added beasts like koi and turtles.
If you’re in the inner west you’re pretty much honour-bound to attend a home game by the Newtown Jets, and Henson Park is surprisingly well-suited for families. It never gets seriously crowded, there’s great picnic spots, and the eastern side of the park has a steep hill perfect for rolling down.
Ryde Aquatic Centre
Like Ian Thorpe, it’s mainly folks getting their fitness on, but there’s also great kids pools, a wave pool and – best of all – a free waterslide. You’ll want to read that again: a free waterslide.
Aside from the many, many reserves, parklands and playing fields, Olympic Park is home to the school holiday Kids in the Park programme which offers over one hundred activities to keep the small ones active and engaged.
Aside from the many interesting nooks and crannies around the Addison Road centre, like Reverse Garbage (perfect for grabbing supplies for art and craft projects) and the Addison Road Gallery, there’s stalls with fresh fruit and veges, lots of delicious foods of every nationality, toy and book stalls, and – most importantly – a bouncy castle.
Head up to the west end of the park– away from the pond and the huge open play areas – and you'll find a playground complete with flying fox. And it's close enough to Sydney Uni that you might just be able to instill a subconcious higher education = fun message in there. Hey, it's good to start early.
Royal Botanic Gardens
With paths made for prams, running through some of the gorgeous manicured landscapes in Australia (and alongside the Harbour, of course), there are also regular activities in the park – and the vast expanse of the Domain will exhaust even the most eager around-runner.
The Harbour’s retro amusement park offer children’s parties, with a private room, food and rides, although not every ride is young-age-appropriate. However there’s a good mix of entertainments on offer – and it’s the perfect place to squeal, which kids always love.
Steel Park waterplay park
It’s only open during the warmer months, from October to March, but this brilliant initiative on the bank of the Cooks River in Marrickville is both hilariously fun – with sprinklers, sprays and fountains – and a great way of explaining the water cycle. Education in which you spray water at your sister: now that’s learning!
Iron Cove Bay Walking Trail
It’s a loop around Iron Cove, taking in beaches, mangroves, beautiful historical buildings and the harbour – and it’s flat all the way around, perfect for prams, bikes and little legs.