You’ll never run out of activities to enjoy in Sydney. The city centre is rammed with things to do and places to see, from the excellent Art Gallery of NSW to the Royal Botanic Garden. But if you and the family want to enjoy open spaces and a touch of nature, it’s a great idea to hire a rental car and explore some of the suburbs and beaches further afield. Here are a few ideas for creating fun family days out around Sydney.
It can be a long drive in the rental car from Sydney’s CBD to the furthest point on the Northern Beaches. It will take you about 75 minutes to get there, but once you do, it’s like heaven. You’ll appreciate the beautiful setting and the break from the bustle, while the kids will love spending a day on the sand and splashing in the water.
Before that happens, take them for a walk to Barrenjoey Lighthouse and tell them they can’t be any further north and still be in Sydney. The views are incredible, and, during the winter months, you’ll often see whales on their migration along the coast.
Don’t forget to fill the car with sand buckets and spades, sunscreen, and beach towels. There are plenty of places to swim up here. Look for the flags out the front of the North Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club or head to the south end of the beach where there’s a lovely calm rock pool. On the opposite side of the peninsula on which Palmy, as the locals call it, is located is Pittwater. Along the shoreline are boat houses, jetties, and small beaches where people try their hand at stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking.
A rental car comes in very handy if you want to take your active family to Penrith, an hour west of Sydney and almost like a city in itself. Perhaps it’s because there’s more space out here, but there are a lot of adventurous activities in which to take part.
If you and the kids have ever wondered what it’s like to climb a rock wall, head to the Climbing Centre. The first time you go, you’ll need to do a quick lesson on safety and belaying, but after that you book a session, hire the gear, and climb for as long as you like. There are lots of different walls, for all levels and ages of climbers, including kids as young as three.
Want to get outside? Head to Aqua Golf, where you hit the floating ball over a glassy lake and, hopefully, into one of the floating targets. Some are as close as 10 metres away and you win a prize if you hit a hole in one. Just buy a bucket of balls, grab some clubs and getting driving.
If you want to get even closer to the water, rent kayaks from Horizon Line and head out onto the Nepean River. If you’ve got smaller kids with you, there are double kayaks (pop them in front so you can keep an eye on them), but there are also single versions, which will make teenagers happy. The waters are calm, and you can paddle along the banks, looking for birds in the trees.
Your kids might not remember the night Cathy Freeman won gold at the Sydney Olympics, but you probably do. Now, Sydney Olympic Park – it’s about a 40-minute drive from Sydney City – has been transformed into a huge playground, where all sorts of sports and activities are on offer.
Head to the Aquatic Centre for swimming, saunas, water slides and the incredible Splasher’s Playground. They can learn how to hit a target at a private lesson at the Archery Centre. Otherwise take a walk and check out the public art designed for the site. There are more than 50 pieces relating to the early industrial uses of the area, the Olympic Games, and the new creative community.
If you want to commune with nature, that’s possible too. There are 430 hectares of parkland, making this one of the largest urban parks in Australia. Stroll walkways and boardwalks taking in wetlands, creeks, and mangroves where you’ll spot colourful waterbirds. Frog Walk will take you past significant habitats for endangered green and golden bell frogs.
If you don’t want to drive all the way to Palm Beach, but the whole family wants to spend the day at the beach, it’s worth steering clear of some of the more popular spots. Obviously, they’re lovely, but it can be hard to find a park for your rental car and there’s nothing more annoying than driving in circles waiting for someone to leave.
Malabar is half an hour’s drive from the city and is located just south of far more popular spots like Coogee and Maroubra. The beach is protected by headlands, so the water is often calm and suitable for swimming and snorkelling. If you’re not comfortable in the ocean, there’s also the Malabar Ocean Pool, where locals have been swimming since the 1890s. It has spectacular views of Long Bay and the surrounding headlands.
Once the kids have had enough of the water, there’s a big playground behind the beach complete with picnic area, electric barbecues, and undercover tables.
Make the most of your visit to Sydney by hiring a rental car so exploring is even easier.