We are so lucky as New Zealanders to visit Australia so freely; and, as a family very lucky to have special family friends in Sydney! We checked out flights to get us to Asia, and grabbed the opportunity for a few days in Sydney with the goal of spending time with our friends, AND… seeing a kangaroo or two!
FUN FACT: When I was eight years old I wrote to Air New Zealand to ask about flying to Sydney to visit my godmother and family. I don’t think I got much of a discount, but a treasured letter of encouragement in return; and spent the summer colouring in chunks of a big aeroplane poster as I did jobs to earn the money for my own flight, until I had counted up (and coloured in the whole plane)… A pretty cool story for my first unaccompanied adventure!
Australia Reptile Park
It’s true… the allure of seeing kangaroos and koala’s was one of our biggest drawcards for Australia. We wanted to see them up close!
The Australian Reptile Park was perfect for an Aussie day out to do just that. We toyed with the idea of visiting Tarongo Zoo and knew we would see a few Australian icons there, but found out about the Reptile Park instead, which is home to more than 50 species of reptiles, PLUS all of the non-reptile Australian icons we knew about to, and more!
It is set in beautiful surrounding, located in a natural bush setting, and is really hands-on as far as a zoo goes. We watched a great reptile show, seeing the zookeepers interact with and introduce different snakes, tortoises, lizards, and alligators, and especially enjoyed chatting to one of the zookeepers that was holding a baby Tasmanian devil!
The kids were fascinated with the indoor reptile and spider attractions, and it was certainly interesting to learn about ‘milking’ spiders and snakes… The Reptile Park is the sole supplier of a variety of venoms, which is used for all snake and funnel-web anti-venom in Australia. We did not know anything about THAT before!
It is really well set up for families with shaded picnic tables, playgrounds, drinking fountains, and a small cafe.
The easiest way to reach the Reptile Park is by car. It is just under 60 minutes north of outer Sydney and south of Newcastle on the M1 Freeway, located at Somersby on the Pacific Highway.
Circular Quay and the Rocks Market
Circular Quay is the main ferry terminal in Sydney Harbour, and a focal point for visitors to the city. We visited in the weekend and the throb of activity was energising; both in the morning and at sunset when the golden hour lights up the iconic Opera House on the eastern side of the harbour.
The waterfront is dotted with pockets of outdoor eateries and small park areas that are perfect to stop in and take it all in. You can see the Harbour Bridge and Opera house from all different vantage points around the harbour. We made our way further around towards The Rocks and the amazing weekend market, buzzing almost literally under the Harbour Bridge. We found all kinds of beautiful stalls and wandered up and down checking the whole place out, and enjoyed dinner one evening in the market Eat Street. Check it out!
Walking the Harbour Bridge
It was an awesome feeling (and an awesomely cool sea breeze!) walking across the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge! As far as a must-do Sydney attraction with kids, I reckon this is right up there! It is a free walk, on the eastern side of the bridge, with some of the best views of the stunning Sydney Harbour.
The walk is safe, and exciting, with an enclosed pedestrian walkway with just enough of a gap at chest height to peek out and take photos as you go. We entered the Harbour Bridge Walk from the Rocks Market down below, via steps up from Cumberland Street. It’s easy to find and a great spot to take in the harbour activity from!
North Bondi, South Bondi and Watsons Bay
The one place I didn’t document with a photograph, but wish I had, was Watsons Bay. I far too busy enjoying fish and chips under the shade of a palm tree whilst watching the kids play in the small waves!
We spent a morning wandering Bondi Beach and started part way along the coastal walkway towards Bronte. It was pretty amazing to see on a weekend, with literally rows and rows of local kids in surf clubs out learning to surf and practising surf-life saving. The rock pools at the end of the beach were another iconic sight for us to check out in person, but overall Bondi is definitely the place of the beautiful people! We ended up settling for lunch on the beach at Watson’s Bay and would highly recommend this little spot for a more low key, yet equally as stunning, beach choice.
Where we stayed
We stayed in a hostel on George Street, in Sydney’s vibrant suburb of Haymarket. Location-wise, we would definitely recommend George Street for a fabulous location to explore Sydney from. It is only 20 minutes by taxi from the airport, and George Street has a brand new light-rail electric tram system running up and down from Circular Quay to Randwick.
It otherwise takes 30-40 minutes to walk from the Chinatown end of George Street to Circular Quay (with kids), but its an easy and interesting walk taking in the bustle of downtown Sydney.
From the airport to Haymarket we used a taxi from the taxi stand just outside International Arrivals. It was straightforward, and quick, and cost us $40 AUS.
Getting around downtown Sydney we walked, though if you aren’t on quite such an boy-energy-burning mission as us then I would recommend taking a ride of the new light rail which stops multiple times up and down George Street on the way to Circular Quay!