The kids will jump out of bed and off the screens once they get wind of these ideas in and around Sydney these school holidays. We’ve selected 20 of the best outdoor options on offer, and a couple of outdoor-inspired options for those odd rainy days.
Kids vs wild
Learn how to survive the night through the art of campfire making, using only resources from the Park around you! Then take advantage of all your hard work by cosying up by the fire, making damper and stick bread.
Dates: 11 and 16 July
Age: 5-12 years
Where: Centennial Parklands
Learn to fence
Transport your child back to the sports of medieval times with a day of fencing and archery.
Experienced instructors from the Sydney Uni Archery Club will teach campers the basics of archery. The second half of the day will be learning fencing under the watchful eye of trained professionals, all equipment and protective clothing supplied.
Dates: 4 and 18 July
Where: Function Room, TAG Family Foundation Granstand, Oval No. 2
Go whale spotting
Each year, from May to November, more than 30,000 whales make their way along the Humpback Highway, a migration route from Antarctica to the Pacific that runs along the coast of NSW. There are excellent vantage points in Sydney and whale-watching cruises out on the water where you can see these giants of the deep at play. See the Wild About Whales website and app for the top 10 whale watching spots in NSW national parks, including Sydney. Or take a whale watching cruise with EcoTreasures.
Grow a veggie patch
Get outside, get dirty and get green with one of Eden Garden’s holiday programs. Workshops include games, craft and garden activities, such as teaching your kids how to grow their own veggie patch or pot up a plant to take home.
Dates: 8 July for pot decorating and planting workshop, other events from 8-12 July.
Where: 307 Lane Cove Road (corner of Fontenoy Road), Macquarie Park
Hop on a ferry
Hands up whose parents took them on a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly every holidays?
Take the kids on a nostalgic or first-time adventure passing Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, Bradleys Head, South Head, Manly North Head, Dobroyd Head and ending at Manly Cove.
Eat at one of the many cafes or do the Manly to Spit Bridge walk and the Manly North Head circuit track.
Dates: All holidays
Where: Circular Quay, Sydney
Cost: Adults return $18.20, children (4-15) $11.30, family (2 adults, 2 kids) $60.40
Website: Sydney ferry trips
Visit New Caledonia
Circular Quay will be transformed into an island beach village for four days and nights as part of the city’s Bastille Festival.
Sip on a coconut cocktail, sample prawns and pineapple skewers bury your toes in the sand and watch fire twirlers do their thing. The kids will enjoy playing Coconut Pétanque – a unique take on the French game of pétanque. There will also be a giant treasure hunt around Circular Quay and the Rocks with prizes galore.
Dates: 11-14 July
Where: Circular Quay, Sydney
Take a tree adventure
Get the kids outside in the fresh air, ZipKid could be what you are after. Sessions last for two hours and parents must stay onsite. With two locations in Shoalhaven Zoo in Nowra and Grose River at the foot of the Blue Mountains — places will book up fast so get your tickets now!
Dates: Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the holidays
Play a spot of water polo
Throw the kids in the pool at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre and let them gain some serious polo skills. This 1.5 hour clinic is just one of the activities in a jam-packed school holiday schedule at the Park.
Dates: 17 July
Age: Participants must be able to swim 25m independently and unaided
Where: Aquatic Centre, Olympic Boulevard Sydney Olympic Park
Animal birthday party
Up to four kids aged between 3-15 can enter the Featherdale Wildlife Park for free with a full paying adult until July 31. Come down and celebrate the Park’s 47th birthday from July 20-21 with face painting and cake.
You’ll also get a chance to meet Archer the Koala mascot and loads of furry and friendly animals.
Dates: Until July 31
Where: 217 Kildare Rd, Doonside
Cost: $32 for adults
Discover Aboriginal rock art
Head over to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and take a short walk to check out the Aboriginal rock art and engravings at Red Hands cave. It’s one of the country’s most famous Aboriginal heritage sites. There’s a picnic area nearby so pack lunch and make a day of it.
Where: Enter the park at Bobbin Head Road, North Turramurra
Cost: $12 per vehicle per day
Do some fence weaving (yes it’s a thing)
Extend the design of CPAC’s garden in this fence weaving workshop. Using colourful fabrics kids will work alongside a facilitator to weave and create a beautiful design. It’s part of The Way Out West Festival, celebrating young people’s curiosity and imagination, in partnership with some of Australia’s leading artists.
Dates: 10 and 11 July
Where: Powerhouse Casula
Skate and slide at the Winterlight Festival
Break out your warmest jackets and boots and head to Prince Alfred Square in Parramatta for Winterlight. The frosty 17-day festival offers all kinds of wintery fun, from glowing carnival rides to mulled wine, plus the all-important ice rink.
Dates: 5-21 July
Where: Prince Alfred Square, Parramatta
Cost: From $10
Petting zoo at Paddy’s
Get your kids out of the house and into the fresh air this winter break at Paddy’s Markets at Flemington.
Its free petting zoo on the 7th July is a great way to teach your children about fresh produce and farm animals. There will be goats, sheep, lambs, ducks and more. While you are here, keep the bigger kids busy with plenty of food and shopping.
Dates: 7 July 10am-1pm
Where: 250-318 Parramatta Rd Homebush
Website: Facebook event page
Hop on a train
A school holiday special – the Armory Express train takes children on a short ride on the heritage train around parts of the former Royal Australian Navy Armament Depot.
Travel through a tunnel and past a huge armament display including an Ikara missile all while completing an activity challenge. At $5 per person and running three times each weekday this one is a must do!
Dates: Weekdays during the holidays.
Where: Jamieson Street, Sydney Olympic Park
Cost: $5, children under 3 free if on an adult’s lap
Website: Armory Express Train
Be challenged at the zoo
See Sydney from new heights on Taronga Zoo Sydney’s exhilarating high ropes courses! Navigate suspension bridges, climbing walls, flying foxes and more against epic views of Sydney Harbour. You’ll swing, step and climb right above the Zoo itself. The course can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, dependent on the package (and how afraid you are of heights!).
Dates: Every day
Age: 8+ (3-8 years for the children’s courses)
Where: 250-318 Parramatta Rd Homebush
Cost: From $22 with 40% off for members who book and climb before 22 July.
Beach it at Bondi
Who says the beach is only for summer? Bondi will be transformed into Sydney’s winter playground by the sea with the 10th year of its Bondi Winter Magic program.
Go for a twirl on the pop-up ice skating rink or check out the spectacular view from the 22-metre ferris wheel, Bondi Vista.
Dates: Ferris wheel until 28 July, Ice rink until 21 July
Age: All, there’s lot to check out
Where: Bondi Pavilion, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach
Cost: From $12 for the ice skating, from $8 for the ferris wheel
Get on your bike
Head to Bicentennial Park with its 40 hectares of scenic parklands for a great place to go cycling or for a relaxing stroll. And there’s the cafe and playground for those who want to stay put. Hire a bike if you need one at Sydney Olympic Park has got you covered with bike hire as well.
Dates: Every day
Where: Bicentennial Drive, Sydney Olympic Park
Cost: Free or hire a bike from $10 per hour
Hot chocolate crawl
Go on the hunt for Sydney’s best hot chocolate. From Spanish-style hot choc at San Churro cafes to Belgium-style at Adora cafes, your Oliver Brown or Jamaica Blue outlets, Koko Black in the QVB and Strand Arcade, or rich Italian hot chocolate in Five Dock’s Cremeria de Luca.
Then with all that inspiration to draw on make amazing versions at home for your friends or relatives.
Want to venture a bit further?
Snow time in the Garden
At the Hunter Valley Gardens will be a winter wonderland for families, with an ice-skating rink, walk-through snow cave, a play zone to build your own snowman and ice tobogganing. There will also be a range of winter beverages and hearty winter fare to help keep you toasty and warm.
Dates: Until July 22
Where: 2090 Broke Rd, Pokolbin
Cost: Daily prices are $34 adult, $25 child and family passes from $88; more for rides
Raining? Go to the movies
Toy Story 4
Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes
The fourth installment of this extremely popular franchise sees all your favourite toys back on another quest. Bonnie has a new toy ‘Forky’ who joins the gang on their road trip to find Woody’s romantic interest, Bo Peep. You can expect tears and laughter as these long-lost friends discover how big the world can be for a toy.
The Secret Life of Pets 2
Running time: 1 hour 26 minutes
Max the terrier now must learn how to navigate life with a married owner and a new baby. Naturally, hilarity ensues, but there are also some sad moments. When the family takes a trip to the countryside, Max has numerous run-ins with the local population, but there is a happy ending.
The Lion King
Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes
Many parents will find it hard to pass up seeing this much anticipated CG-animated re-imagining of the 1994 Walt Disney classic The Lion King.
The voice over cast includes Seth Rogen, Beyonce Knowles, Donald Glover, John Oliver and James Earl Jones.