How to make the most of 30 hours in Sydney with primary aged children. Exploring Sea Life, Darling Harbour, Wild Life Sydney Zoo, Madame Tussaud's, Opera House and the Botanic Gardens
We were heading to Australia for a family wedding with our 3 primary school age children, so we extended our time by a few days either side and decided to pack in as much as we can, who knows when we will be back, right?
We landed in Sydney after being up since 4am and hit the ground running, literally. Our plan of attack was to keep our little ones moving to avoid the inevitable crash as long as we can.
As we went from plane, to train, to taxi, to hotel, we dropped our bags off and jumped back onto another train to “start” our day.
We headed straight down to Darling Harbour. We had booked all our adventures online before we travelled, which saved a heap of money but did mean we were committed to these times come rain or shine, so we were glad to see the weather gods be in our favour with blue skies and warm sun.
First up we went to explore Sea Life aquarium. From the minute we walked in, the kids were mesmerised by the different animals Australia has to offer. We saw platypus, sea turtles, HUGE sharks, and the family favourite, the Dugong named Pig. We went on a boat ride through the penguin enclosure where you get to experience the sub-zero temps and an up-close look at the animals. There were heaps of interactive exhibits the kids loved and it was an easy stroll for those of us starting to tire.
Next up was Wild Life Sydney zoo, thankfully right next door. Again, the instant up close encounters with animals they have never seen, blew the kids minds. There were Tasmanian devils playing and chasing each other, kangaroos laying in the sun, koalas sleeping in trees. All very Aussie things that the kids were absolutely lapping up.
Our final adventure for the day was Madame Tussauds wax museum. We were almost not going to do this one. By this stage it was mid-afternoon, we had all been up since 4am and to be honest, we didn’t think the kids would get it, or enjoy it. Man, were we wrong.
After the initial confusion of what they were seeing, they were ecstatic to see their fav celebrities, superheroes and historical figures in “real life”. We were all shocked by how tall most people were and how crazy accurate the people (?) were.
Now, it was clear the crash was closing in, so we caught the train back to the hotel, showered, ate and all passed out by 7pm.
Day 2 was started by a 3am wake up (Aussie time, so in context it was expected from my normal 5am riser). A friend had given us the best advice for this time, which was to have breakfast food in the hotel room, and headphones for the kids. So, while they ate and watched movies with headphones on, us adults could get a couple more hours shut eye.
By 7am we were all up and rearing to go. We caught the train down to Circular Key. Shout out to the public transport in Sydney. It was so easy and cheap to jump on the subway and go anywhere.
As we walked around the waterfront, up to the opera house, it was warm, sunny and peaceful. Surrounded by businessman on their way to work, people out on their morning runs, and dog walkers with coffees in hand, it was very apparent we were the only ones with kids out at this time of day, hearing their laughter and screams echo through basin, bouncing off the skyscrapers around us.
The kids were blown away by the scale of everything, the buildings were so tall, the bridge was so huge, and the Opera House was mind blowing. I didn’t expect them to appreciate architecture at all, but they were all in awe of that building.
We headed into the Sydney botanic gardens. When Chris and I were here last (16 years ago), there were bats hanging in all the trees and we had been telling the kids all about them in the lead up to the trip. Unfortunately, we learnt that the bats had been moved on from the gardens as they were damaging the trees, but we still got our fair share of wildlife. What seemed like hundreds of cockatoos swooped all around us, squawking and chattering so loud we couldn’t hear each other. Golden orb spiders in large apartment like webs strung between trees and jumping fish in the central pond.
We bribed the kids with ice-cream to make the walk back to circular key just in time to catch the ferry to our next experience.
Luna Park! This iconic theme park, tucked under the Sydney harbour bridge and surround by apartments (literally – their windows are right next to the roller coaster!) was amazing. Again, we had booked in advance which saved heaps on the ticket price and made it fast to get in at the gate. We were there as it opened and could smell the candyfloss and popcorn as we entered.
The whole park feels like you’ve stepped back in time to the 1930s. There was a mix of old-fashioned rides and modern thrill rides to suit all tastes and ages. While my 9-year-old was all about the rollercoasters and huge drop rides, our younger two loved the dodgems and carousel. There are far too many rides to list here but just know, there truly is something for everyone and definitely enough for a whole days entertainment. A highlight for me was an area called Coney Island. This is full of original 1930s style games and rides. Big wooden slides, mirror mazes, moving bridges and a spinning wooden ride that our kids absolutely loved.
After we were all worn out it was time to go, our time in Sydney was up. Time to ferry, train, get bags from hotel, train, then another train 2 hours north to our next destination.
Sydney, it was fast and full on but we all absolutely loved the 30 hours we spent with you.
This Getting Lost post is written by our wonderful Jo McDermott – Getting Lost Operations manager and also the best sister ever!