When Hong Kong’s grey skies have you down, it’s time to start planning a trip to Sydney. The sky is blue, the food is fresh and there is an inexhaustible number of outdoor activities to restore your Vitamin D levels and get everyone out and active.
We took the overnight flight, arriving around 7 am. That first day is mighty painful and requires frequent coffee and ice cream stops. But if you can make it through the whole day, the jet lag is easy. With a three-hour time difference, the kids wake up LATE — heaven.
Upon landing, we took a maxi-taxi (minivan or people-mover for a family of 5+) to the Park Hyatt hotel where we could shower and change in the early arrivals lounge. Even with the relatively weak Aussie Dollar, this hotel is pricey. We used Hyatt points (saved over four years!) for three nights with two connecting rooms at this extraordinary hotel in the perfect location. It is a most excellent way to use Hyatt points! Of course, there are loads of other options across the spectrum as well.
We spent a few days sightseeing in Sydney and then headed out of the city to explore. Having been to the ever-popular Blue Mountains on a trip before, we opted to rent a car and drive two hours south to the Southern Highlands area, where we rented a farmhouse. We swam in a waterfall near Carrington Falls, toasted marshmallows, stargazed, attempted to see the glow worms (go before sunset!), sampled the local pubs, and explored the countryside.
After three nights inland, we headed back to Sydney for a few days in the sun at Bondi Beach. Bondi is the a perfect base for sampling Sydney’s finest seashores. Whiling away the day at Clovelly, Coogee, and Bondi beaches — jumping the waves, people watching, and eating in the cafes — you start thinking: How could I maneuver a move here and why would anyone ever leave?
What To Do
- Walk along the cliffs from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach (about two hours), stopping along the way at the Tamarama beach cafe to refuel. Clovelly beach is a great spot for a refreshing dip in the water when everyone is getting hot and sticky and asking “are we there yet?” When you arrive at Coogee beach, make haste for Coogee Pavilion — you can’t miss it as you descend into Coogee.
- Taronga Zoo has got to be one of the best zoos in the world. Take the 12-min ferry over and hop on the cable car up to the top. Meander your way down while admiring the views and animals. Avoid the food court and stop for lunch at The View Restaurant where you can eat a proper lunch and have a glass of wine while overlooking the harbor.
- Rouse everyone early and walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge (~20 min) before the heat gets too intense. After crossing the bridge, turn right and convince everyone to walk another 10-15 minutes into Kirribilli for breakfast at Axil’s Coffee Co right on the water. After much-needed coffee and breakfast, take the ferry back to Circular Quay.
- Watch rocky candy made from scratch right in front of you at Sticky in The Rocks; you will be amazed how they create the designs! You can sample the creations and stock up on sweets that will keep everyone going.
- Centennial Park Cycles hire bicycles (available in all sizes including tag-a-longs, training wheels, and child seats) and ride around the 3.5km Grand Drive loop. The cycle hire is located next to the Children’s Learners Cycleway — a perfect loop for the beginner rider to practice safe from cars and objects to crash into! The Centennial Park Cafe is next door to the bike shop and the ideal post-bike-ride lunch spot.
- Let’s Go Surfing offers private and group surf lessons for kids and adults; check online for specials and the weekend drop-in lesson for reduced rates.
- The Westfield Bondi Junction shopping mall is a good rainy day option or when you have had a bit too much time in the sun. There is a cinema as well as great shopping including a Target, Pottery Barn Kids, Williams-Sonoma, Seed, Cotton On Kids, Apple, and many restaurants.
- Darling Quarter is Sydney’s newest area (near Darling Harbour) with a fantastic modern playground circled by cafes and shops. My kids loved the water area where you can control the dam via water switches and gates. It is also near the Powerhouse Museum — Australia’s largest museum with a range of design, science and technology interactive exhibits for kids; free entry for kids 16 and under so why not?
- Take the ferry over to Watson’s Bay and have lunch at Doyle’s on the Beach. Walk through Robertson Park up to the viewpoint. From there, start the coastal walk to the mouth of the Sydney Harbour with impressive views, steep cliffs, and crashing waves.
- Shop the market in The Rocks held every Saturday and Sunday for trinkets and souvenirs; have breakfast at The Fine Food Store.
Where to Stay:
- Park Hyatt Sydney is arguably the best hotel in Sydney with its stunning harbor front location and small-hotel feel. It is a short walk to the ferries at Circular Quay and next to the shops and restaurants in The Rocks. There is even a small, heated rooftop pool. It is very pricey though; save up some Hyatt Points!
- Pullman Quay Grandy Sydney Harbour offers one and two-bedroom apartment style suites overlooking the harbour and is a hop, skip and a jump from the Opera House; comfortably fit the whole family with the added bonus of a kitchenette.
- Royal Farmstay is less than two hours south of Sydney in the Southern Highlands. There are sheep, alpaca, chickens, geese and a guinea pig that you can attempt to feed. Unfortunately, a fox had recently made dinner out of the chickens and the replacement hens had not begun to lay eggs yet. But, usually, you can collect eggs for your breakfast!
- Adina Apartment Hotel Bondi Beach is just two blocks from Bondi Beach with one and two bedroom serviced apartments. The kitchenettes are perfect for making toast in the morning for early risers. Although there are a variety of dining options literally at the base of the hotel. The Harris Farm Market (similar to a Whole Foods) is the perfect place to pick up fresh fruit and bread for breakfast. There is also a washer and drier that come in very handy for washing all of those chocolate gelato-stained clothes!
- For more accommodation options with stunning views of Sydney’s iconic attractions, check out HotelsCombined’s top 28 Sydney Hotels With Perfect Harbour Views – The Ultimate Guide.
Where to Eat
- Coogee Pavilion was transformed in 2014 into a restaurant, bar, market, and play zone that somehow manages to appeal to families and young hipsters. There is a games area towards the back of the ground floor with ping pong tables, Scrabble wall and a toy area for wee little ones. The sunset roof deck is over 18 unfortunately, but maybe you can come back if you can hire a babysitter!
- Bills is next door to the Adina apartment hotel in Bondi Beach and serves Australian food in a relaxed but urban-cool setting; order the scrambled eggs and hotcakes for breakfast.
- Gelato Messina (Bondi Beach and various locations) offers forty flavors of delicious and unique gelato using no artificial colors or flavors; my favorite — key lime pie.
Axil’s Coffee Co is a cafe right on Kirribilli wharf serving brunch and coffee. While not exactly kid friendly, there are a couple of menu options such as the banana bread with ricotta.
- Doyle’s on the Beach at Watson’s Bay has fresh seafood right on the water. There is a more casual takeaway shop as well right as you come off the ferry.
Pancakes on the Rocks was a hit with the kids and is a good spot for breakfast your first morning when everyone is feeling very tired!
My Top Tips:
- Sunscreen! The sun is so intense! Of course, they sell it readily there but pack a lot with you as well
- If you are there during the hot summer months, hit the beach after 4 pm to avoid the hottest part of the day. It is still warm enough to swim but you won’t feel like your skin is baking!
- Uber: An easy way to get around Sydney
- Avoid Australian school holidays
- Pick up an Opal card (similar to an Octopus card) for easy payment on the buses and ferries
- You only pay for one child on ferries and buses! Much appreciated by families with a lot of kids.
- Eat gelato at least once a day! Sydney seems to love gelato – there is a Gelateria on every corner it seems
- Request a taxi with car seats or take the bus!
- Spray tan and get bikini-fit before you go – these Aussies look good on the beach!