One week in Sydney with kids
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After the 14-hour flight from Santiago, we arrived in the beautiful Sydney. It was love at first sight of the WHSmith’s for me. Dan had a harder time adjusting to life here, but regardless you can’t deny that Sydney is an impressive city.
It turns out that I have a real soft spot for coastal cities. Lima was in the poll position until we explored Sydney.
We arrived in Australia in late November, so just as summer was getting into full swing. The sun was shining was it wasn’t overly hot. However, it was while the fires were ravaging large parts of New South Wales and the smoke served as a constant reminder of the tragedy unfolding on our doorstep.
Our week in Sydney was fantastic though. The kids loved it and we found something new to do every day that kept us all entertained.
Day 1: Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Circular Quay and Darling Harbour
Sydney Harbour Bridge
After finally getting the kids to sleep at midnight the night before, we mustered up some energy thanks to the free breakfast and set out for some exploring.
To save money, we were staying a short tram ride out of the touristy bit of Sydney, but I couldn’t fault our location at all. The tram station was a short walk from our hotel and this trip made every day feel like a big adventure.
We took the tram to the last stop before the Sydney Harbour Bridge and walked across the bridge from North to South. Typically, the views from this bridge are stunning as you can see the Opera House as well as the estuary and harbour, but we did this on one of the smokiest days so the views weren’t the best.
The enjoyment was still there though. The feeling of “Oh my word! We are in Sydney!” Knowing that this would be the point on our trip when we were furthest away from home.
Sydney Opera House
After crossing the bridge (and a million selfies later), we walked around Circular Quay and towards the Opera House. You get this sense that you are the presence of a highly regarded tourist attraction as the shops and cafes in this area are stunning.
We both struggled at this point, Dan particularly, with the contrast between Sydney and parts of South America that we visited. People had a lot of money here and you could see it oozing out of the shops and restaurants.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Despite this, we took some more selfies, had an overpriced hot chocolate in the Guylian café and walked round to the Royal Botanic Gardens.
The kids loved it here. We saw a man with a parrot and the kids got to run around and climb in trees which felt like the first time in a long time. We didn’t stroll far but enjoyed the views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge across the water and the sense of warmth and comfort that came with being in Australia.
After deciding that this wasn’t enough adventuring for one day, we started to walk through the city. Warning: it is hillier than you expect. We managed to persuade the kids to do the journey with the promise of a park and an ice cream at the other end and they weren’t disappointed.
Darling Harbour is incredible. The children’s play area tops my list for best play areas around the world. Even as adults, Dan and I both enjoyed being there and wanted to go back.
There were swings and slides and climbing frame, but not normal versions of these but awesome ones. But they weren’t even the best bit. The best bit was the water play.
They had two water play areas. One was a system of flaps and sluices that you could use to block the flow of water through a course. You could paddle in or place a leaf and watch it flow through your course. Emily particularly loved this section.
The other water area was essentially a large paddling pool, with arches of water that shot out of the edge. Steppingstones run along the middle as an extra element of fun.
Our girls spent hours here getting all their clothes wet. Luckily, we had spares even if they weren’t the best combinations. But it was worth it for all the joy that we saw on our children’s faces. They loved it and it is my top recommendation for taking children in Sydney.
Day 2: The Rocks Market
The Rocks is a section of Sydney that lives at the Southern end of the Harbour Bridge. It is full of quirky shops and restaurants and when we were there a little Christmas alley way.
A couple of times a week, they host a market there and I was determined to check it out. Well, it turned out that this way our best day to go, so off we went.
There were loads of arts and crafts stalls which were a joy to look at because they were filled with Autralia themed works of art. Once again, I found myself facing the prospect of buying all the souvenirs and going home early.
A little further along the market and nearly under the bridge was the food sections and we were all excited about this.
I let the kids have Dutch pancakes and chocolate sauce for lunch, but paid an extra $2 for the strawberries to take the edge off my guilt.
The smell of BBQ was too hard to resist and I opted for the meat skewers. Despite having crocodile, emu and kangaroo on the menu, I opted for the rather more tame chicken, beef and lamb combo. It was totally delicious and I wanted more.
Dan want to try the Gozleme (a Turkish stuffed flatbread) but the queue was horrendously long. Instead, he opted for a Japanese savoury pancake called okonomiyaki, which seemed to do the trick.
With our stomachs full, we decided to head out in search of another park for a walk and a change of scenery. We found Hyde Park, which although significantly smaller than its London namesake, was still a pleasant place to spend the afternoon.
Day 3: Shopping in Sydney
It felt weird walking around in our shorts and T-shirt whilst looking at all the Christmas decorations in the streets of Sydney. In our heads, we knew that Christmas was coming but this did feel rather odd.
Shopping also highlighted this more as their windows were full of Christmas displays. We half expected the displays to depict warmer versions of Christmas, but they were the familiar snowy scenes that we get in the UK.
Our travels through South America had left us in need of a few supplies, so we decided to spend our third day doing a spot of shopping.
We grabbed some new sunglasses for me as they were fast becoming the number one consumable item of the trip. The girls were in need of sunhats as we had finally adjusted to the idea that we were having the longest summer of our lives.
I grabbed some new flip flops too, after my previous pair had given up on me in the middle Lima. Ultimately, this led to hopping down the street and pretending to ignore the strange looks I was receiving.
New flip flops, sunnies and sun hats we felt much better prepared for our sunny Christmas break in Australia.
Day 4: Customs House Library and The Rocks Market Part 2
We felt a bit lost about what to do on this day. Exhaustion had set in and the weather was not the best so we opted for just a mooch around.
Our aimless wandering took us to the neighbourhood on the west side of the bridge. It was a mostly residential area but we found a little play area for the kids and Emily made a friend.
Afterwards we headed back towards Circular Quay and discovered that The Rocks Market was back on. Plus, it was even better than before with stalls that went right under the bridge.
We treated ourselves to some more food, which included the gozleme that Dan had wanted before and a glass of fresh lemonade. We sat and ate under the bridge where there were a few lawn games set out for the kids.
Refuelled once gain we carried on our walk towards the Quay. Our plan had been to find a library and we knew that there was one nearby in Customs House.
Customs House acts as a public space. You can have meetings there and learn about the history of the building. The library is on the upper levels. But the most impressive part is what is on the ground floor.
Under a glass panel beneath your feet is a model of Sydney. It is incredible and huge. We didn’t know it was there, so it was a great surprise to find it. The kids loved stomping around and pretending they were giants.
Day 5: Balmoral Beach
Finally, our first beach in Australia and it was exciting. We picked this beach rather than the more obvious Bondi Beach based on recommendations from locals. It did not disappoint.
We had to take a bust to get there from our hotel, but the bus took us straight to the beach. It was clear as soon as we arrived that we had made a good choice.
Balmoral Beach is a perfect little cove split into two with a rocky jetty in the middle. We chose to sit on the norther side of the jetty to get a bit of protection from the sun.
There is a good section of sandy beach and the cove means that the waves are smaller so perfect for the kids. We all had a good swim (I opted to swim across the cove which was gorgeous).
By far the best part of this beach are the rockpools. The rocky edges of the coves are perfect for looking for fish and crabs. We spent a good couple of hours climbing the rocks and hunting for any creatures that would stand still long enough.
After our swimming and rock pooling adventures, the sun decided to hide behind a could and we got a little chilly. Luckily, there was a little café in the pavilion up ahead called “Bathers” so I popped in for drinks.
Three hot chocolates and a latte later we were sufficiently warmed up but in need of food. Therefore, we decided that it was probably time to head back.
Day 6: Sealife Aquarium Sydney
“P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney” pops into your head as soon as you arrive in Sydney. Well, it did for us. Along with shouting “mine, mine, mine” at every passing seagull, we found ourselves repeating this phase a lot.
Therefore, we decided that we should probably make the effort to actually find Nemo while we were there, and the best place to look was in the aquarium.
These tickets were a big purchase for us. We generally avoid paying for big ticket items like this, but we wanted to see Nemo while we were in Sydney so it was unavoidable.
There was lots of great marine life to see in the aquarium including our favourite clownfish. With everything from sharks to turtles and even an animal I hadn’t heard of before called a dugong, it makes for a fab day out.
My favourite part was a simulation of bioluminescent plankton on a beach. There are a few places in the world where you swim in the sea at night and the water lights up, and this was a recreation of that. The kids loved running backwards and forwards across this “beach” and watching the floor light up beneath them.
Day 7: Playing in the park and a flight to the Gold Coast
On our last day in Sydney, our flight was scheduled for 6pm so we had a few hours to kill between checking out of our hotel and heading to the airport.
Luckily, where we were staying in St. Leonard’s, there was a fantastic play area. We let the kids play there for a few hours. I popped to the IGA for some lunch and we had a picnic in the park.
One of my favourite things about Australia is that they like to put electric BBQs in their public spaces. This park had one and I was so tempted to buy some sausages and fire it up.
Eventually, we had to drag ourselves away from the park and head to off to catch our flight. We were sad to leave Sydney but we knew that it was only the start of our Australia adventures.
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