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13 Free Family-Friendly Things to Do in Sydney

From beautiful beaches and harbourside parks to fantastic free museums, these are some of the best free attractions and activities in Sydney for families

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A father and his daughter at the Vivid Sydney festival. Image: Destination NSW

With its stunning natural landscapes, iconic landmarks and vibrant atmosphere, Sydney is up there with the best cities in the world. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, discovering the best free experiences in the NSW capital will create unforgettable memories for the whole family.

1. The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Image: Destination NSW
Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Image: Destination NSW

Pack a picnic blanket and head to The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney to enjoy this natural wonderland by the harbour. See ducks swimming around the pond, meander through the Rainforest Walk and Oriental Garden and marvel at an ancient Wollemi pine. Free guided walks of the 416-hectare parkland are held at 10.30 am daily and last for 1.5 hours.

2. Hit the beach

Visit famous Bondi Beach on the Bondi to Manly Walk. Image: Destination NSW
Visit famous Bondi Beach on the Bondi to Manly Walk. Image: Destination NSW

Sydney is home to more than 100 beaches, so there are plenty to choose from! The world-famous crescent-shaped Bondi Beach must be visited at least once, but there are also equally beautiful stretches of sand nearby. You can also jump on a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly and stroll along the Corso to the beach before walking along the path to Shelly Beach and back.

3. Sydney Olympic Park

A family playing soccer during a picnic at Bicentennial Park at Sydney Olympic Park. Image: Destination NSW
A family playing soccer during a picnic at Bicentennial Park at Sydney Olympic Park. Image: Destination NSW

The legacy of the 2000 Olympic Games lives on at Sydney Olympic Park, in the city’s western suburbs. Explore the beautiful parklands, cycle along scenic paths, explore mangrove boardwalks and challenge yourselves on the kids’ adventure playground. You can also see the Olympic Cauldron and catch a free event or festival if you’re lucky (or plan well!).

4. Darling Harbour

An aerial view of Darling Harbour. Image: Destination NSW
An aerial view of Darling Harbour. Image: Destination NSW

This harbourside playground is a fantastic place to spend a day with kids. In the heart of Darling Quarter, Darling Harbour Children’s Playground has a 21-metre-long flying fox, an eight-metre-long mega-slide and seemingly endless climbing nets. Neighbouring Tumbalong Park has another epic playground, including a large water play area with pumps, fountains, slides, swings, a sandpit, a flying fox, and climbing ropes.

5. The Australian Museum

A family exploring the Australian Museum in Sydney. Image: Destination NSW
A family exploring the Australian Museum in Sydney. Image: Destination NSW

Kids will love seeing real dinosaur skeletons and life-size models at this fantastic museum. Its collections include scientific specimens of animals, fossils and minerals, as well as cultural objects such as Egyptian sculptures, ghost net art by Indigenous artists, and the Hawaiian Feather Cape presented to explorer Captain James Cook in 1778.

6. Circular Quay

A busker performing at Circular Quay in Sydney. Image: Destination NSW
A busker performing at Circular Quay in Sydney. Image: Destination NSW

On a sunny day, there’s no place you’d rather be than wandering around Circular Quay, taking in the views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and ferries gliding back and forth to the ferry wharves as you are entertained by buskers, with the sound of seagulls squabbling for chips nearby.

7. Vivid Sydney Light Walk

A family enjoying Vivid Sydney. Image: Destination NSW
A family enjoying Vivid Sydney. Image: Destination NSW

Sydney boasts a plethora of events and festivals throughout the year, but the most spectacular and family-friendly would have to be this celebration of lights, music, food and ideas that take place in May and June each year. See the incredible art installations and 3D light projections on the free Light Walk, which weaves for more than eight kilometres through the city.

8. Powerhouse Museum

The Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. Image: Destination NSW
The Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. Image: Destination NSW

See a steam locomotive, a model of the Strasbourg astronomical clock and fascinating historical artefacts at this contemporary museum in inner-city Ultimo, which celebrates everything art, fashion, science, technology, innovation and design. It has both permanent exhibitions and changing temporary exhibitions and displays.

9. Bondi to Bronte Walk

A family doing the Bondi to Bronte Walk. Image: Destination NSW
A family doing the Bondi to Bronte Walk. Image: Destination NSW

Weave along the coastal cliffs from North Bondi to Waverley Cemetery on this pretty two-kilometre-long walk. It’s great at any time of year, but particularly enjoyable when the Sculptures by the Sea exhibition takes place in September/October, with the works of more than 100 artists from Australia and around the world on display along part of the route.

10. Barangaroo Reserve

A family at Barangaroo Reserve. Image: Destination NSW
A family at Barangaroo Reserve. Image: Destination NSW

Named after a powerful Indigenous leader of the Eora Nation at the time of European colonisation, this former industrial site has been transformed into a six-hectare park on the harbour foreshore. Designed with more than 10,000 sandstone blocks, it’s a perfect place for a picnic. You can walk or cycle along the Wulugul Walk and climb up to Stargazer Lawn to see the terraced native gardens.

11. Auburn Botanic Gardens

A family at Auburn Botanic Gardens in Sydney. Image: Destination NSW
A family at Auburn Botanic Gardens in Sydney. Image: Destination NSW

With a lovely picnic area with barbecues and a playground, a scented garden, a sunken rose garden, lakes with fish and ducks, a bird aviary and a native and rainforest garden, there’s plenty to keep the whole family happy on a visit to this lovely attraction, around 40 minutes drive west of the city.

12. Royal National Park

Wattamolla in The Royal National Park. Image: Destination NSW
Wattamolla in The Royal National Park. Image: Destination NSW

Head south and venture into the wilderness of the Royal National Park, which was established in 1879 and is the world’s second-oldest national park, after Yellowstone National Park in the US. Around 40 minutes’ drive from the city, the 150 square kilometre park has some excellent walking trails and pristine beaches crying out to be discovered.

13. The Rocks

People dancing at The Rocks Market. Image: Destination NSW
People dancing at The Rocks Market. Image: Destination NSW

Wander through cobblestone streets learning about Australia’s past in Sydney’s historic precinct, The Rocks. Pop into the free Rocks Discovery Museum, which is housed in three buildings dating back to 1844 and has an engaging virtual tour for kids. Visit on the weekend to soak up the vibe of the colourful The Rocks markets, with live music, food stalls and arts and crafts for sale.

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