Five things to do with family in Sydney

The Emerald City has more events and activities on offer to entertain young folk than all the apps on your iPad combined. Let our local writer, photographer and mother-of-two show you round…

It’s known around the world for glorious sunshine and pristine surf – and that alone is all most kids need to have a great time (and most grown-ups too, for that matter). But when you add the plethora of parks, friendly locals and fabulous fresh food, Sydney truly stands out as a perfect family holiday destination.

And I should know. Growing up in one of Sydney’s most beautiful beachside suburbs, I might even prefer my old backyard to the cityscapes of Europe. And since returning home with two kids in tow, I wake every day to marvel at the Emerald City – a town geared for fun in the sun. Let me introduce you to a few local haunts that the little ones – and you – will love.

1. Best-kept harbourside secret: the Little Manly Beach Kiosk

I recommend all visits start with a ride on the Manly Ferry. A 30-minute trip that offers scrumptious treats at both ends (the Cioccolato Veronese gelato from Gelatissimo has to be sampled at least once), the journey takes in the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Taronga Zoo and offers a glimpse into the dazzling heart of the harbour.

At Manly Wharf, sidestep the tourist stampede down the Corso and head to Little Manly – an adorable, harbourside cove that is quite simply one of Sydney’s best-kept secret beaches. While adults grab coffee at Little Manly Beach Kiosk, kids are free to snorkel by the rocks, hit the swings or leap from the wooden pylons that circle the sea pool. And when they’ve finished their coffee, an exhilarating jump into crystal blue water might even tempt mum and dad too.

2. Private surfing lessons, Bondi Beach

For more adventurous mermaids and mermen, surfing at Bondi Beach is a must. Let’s Go Surfing offers group, private or family lessons which include soft foam boards, wetsuits and sunscreen, and all instructors hold certification in Senior First Aid and a Royal Life Saving Bronze Medallion – so you know you’re in safe hands. More than just fantastic exercise in the outdoors, there’s something magic about the look on kids’ faces as they get their first wobbly balance in the vanilla-white foam – so keep your camera primed and ready.

3. Horse riding in Centennial Park, Sydney

Got an animal lover in the family? They’ll adore a pony ride with Eastside Riding Academy at Centennial Park. A green oasis located east of Sydney Central, the 189 hectares of open space is my favourite place to unplug from the frenetic pace of the CBD (that’s the Central Business District). At Eastside Riding Academy, kids are welcome to book in for 30-minute, instructor-led pony rides that take in cute critters (keep eyes peeled for cockatoos, black swans and Willie Wagtails) and natural wonders (think magnificent Holm oaks and Norfolk Island pines). Parents should definitely take a stroll through the park – then duck off to collect some snacks in the nearby Moore Park Entertainment Quarter.

4. The Art Gallery, Sydney

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is the kind of grand, immersive space that never fails to nurture my creative side, and children are specifically catered for too, with free, printed art trail booklets that encourage them to explore works from both the permanent and visiting exhibitions. Tours for Tots welcomes mums and dads of three to five year olds, while kids aged three to 17 years can also book in for a range of hands-on art-making workshops. Each Sunday at 2.30pm the entrance court area hosts dramatic music and mime performances – oh, and I never leave without hitting the gift shop for stylish reminders of my favourite works.

5. Eveleigh Farmers' Market, Carriageworks, Sydney

Want to sample the best fruit and veggies grown in Sydney and its surrounds? Head to Eveleigh Farmers’ Market, held in the cavernous brick shed that was formerly a workshop for railway blacksmiths and is known to locals as Carriageworks. I’m obsessed with the handmade cheeses, artisan breads, boutique wines and wickedly good coffee, I can’t keep my partner away from the free tasters (salt and vinegar pistachios! raw honey!) and I love it when my little girl marvels at produce she’s never seen on supermarket shelves (black potatoes! goat pies!). In a word: yum.

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