Rock climbing, giant Scrabble, flying foxes – there are pubs in Sydney that have amazing facilities for children, because the days of your local watering hole being an exclusive, blokey hideout are long gone. Not only are there pubs embracing inclusivity and actively welcome families with kids, but they're broadening their appeal across the board with better food, and more diverse entertainment. These are our favourite local pubs that don’t shun parents for bringing their toddlers or their tweens.
Go here for: the dedicated kids play room
At one of the most family-friendly watering holes in the Inner West there’s a rumpus room with a mini climbing wall, swinging ropes, and hideouts. While the little ones are burning their energy in there, you can sit in the sunny beer garden, secure in the knowledge that you can have a salmon ceviche poke bowl, or a classic steak and chips for lunch while your small human can choose from a dedicated kids menu. Got older hatchlings? There's an arcade room too.
Go here for the: Rock climbing
This Ettamogah Hotel complex is more theme park than pub. The cartoonish main building houses a function room, bar and bistro, while out back there’s a fenced-in play gym, reputed to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. A small jumping castle operates daily unless it’s raining. There are arcade games everywhere, and – the pièce de résistance – a full-scale rock climbing wall. Daily activities are held during school holidays ranging from magic shows and Lego parties to something called the ‘Slime and Bubbles Show’. Kids eat free on Thursday nights, when they also enjoy free rock climbing.
Go here for the: Flying fox
The Greystanes has two massive, fenced-off playgrounds where the little people can cavort safely while the bigger ones imbibe schooners of quotidian beer or bottles of vino that all stay prudently under $28. The little tackers can lose themselves inside the five-storey undercover play maze. Next door, meanwhile, is a veritable paddock boasting gumtrees, a kind of spinning donut and an elaborate flying fox that propels the brave-hearted on a ten-metre flight. On weekends, they’ve got a jumping castle installed (weather permitting). There’s also a dedicated ice-cream counter and a slushie machine. At this rate they’ll have to start advertising themselves as ‘adult friendly’.
Go here for the: Giant Scrabble
Our winner of Time Out’s Family-Friendly Award for 2017 is a wonderland both for kids and their parents. Undercover games area the Kiosk has upside-down seaplanes on the ceiling, a giant Scrabble board, ping-pong tables and a basketball hoop. On Sundays that mini-bowling alley hosts kids’ entertainment. There are so many dining precincts here that you’re bound to find something for any fussy eater, be it pizza, burgers or seafood. There are plenty of nooks and crannies for kids to explore, and the nearby Pittwater walking tracks are great for family adventures.
Go here for the: Pirate maze
Their glassed-in kids’ playroom has a padded play maze in a pirates-slash-tropical island theme. It’s divided into two sections – one for two- to four-year-olds and one for their rowdier five- to ten-year-old playmates – and nobody can get out without passing through the one exit, so it’s easy to keep tabs on them. On a Sunday, cartoons play silently on big screens while, out on the terrace, there’s a bouncy castle that wobbles like a fat man laughing when tykes are hopping around inside it. The HPH had a slick revamp some years ago and boasts a neutral modern design with lots of olive, charcoal and dark wood, and everything is spotlessly clean.
Go here for: Parks and beaches right next door
Watsons Bay Hotel is also an extremely family-friendly venue. Location alone makes this an excellent spot to bring the next generation: the pub fronts onto the gentle shores of the harbour on one side and a rolling green park on the other. But it’s the dedicated kids’ activities, events and on-site café serving kid-friendly fare that really marks this venue out as somewhere your child-toting friends are not just tolerated, but welcomed. Don’t believe us? Last school holidays they hosted cookie-making classes, petting zoos and a pirate day, complete with face painting and treasure hunts – these guys are totally cool with the underage set.
Go here for: Giant games
The Pav has a very broad scope. It's the kind of place that can have a regular blow dry bar two days a week, serve a lot of high end fare like freshly shucked oysters, and then right in beside it put a kid's menu and a spacious games arena with giant magnetic scrabble, ping pong, and a mini cinema. Downstairs is where the most family-friendly action can be found, while upstairs is more for party times in the sun with cocktails. And the best bit for people bringing their children? The beach is metres away so if they're too feral to keep indoors any longer you can head to tthe sands of Coogee.
Go here for the: Pub dinners
Ten years ago, this heritage pub was one of the most violent in NSW. The Mean Fiddler worked hard to clean up its act; then in 2014 its owners gave it a multimillion-dollar refresh. The bandages fell away to reveal the Fiddler, still huge but an undeniably elegant place to eat and drink; the best, we daresay, for miles around. Plus, if you're sick of losing your chips to your little seagulls in training, they have a killer special where kids eat free on Saturdays through Mondays with th epurchase of any main meal after 4pm. Add in a fenced-off mini-park for them and expensive but excellent pub staples like pizza, burgers, steaks and a wine list dominated by South Australian drops for the parents and you've got everyone covered.
Go here for the: Bouncy castle
The Ranch Hotel is northwest Sydney’s prime corral for kids, and it does things on a scale that is truly Texan. On a Sunday it’s wall-to-wall family lunches, kids’ parties, face painting and superhero special guests. There’s a staffed Arts and Crafts corner, a jumping castle in the courtyard, a colouring-in competition that can win parents a $50 hotel voucher, and a separate wing that can be booked for big, big parties. If you’re over 65 you get access to a seniors’ menu that includes a $9.90 roast. Hats off the Ranch for keeping that ol’ circle of life turning.
Go here for: Hops Playland
When you have the same amount of space as a standard Chippendale block you can do whatever you damn well please. This enormous venue has the space to not only brew their own beers on site, but also cater to the full range of age brackets. Brought your ankle biters with you? Here they have a dedicated kids club called Hops playland, with a jungle gym, arcade games, colouring in station and a super-soft play area for really tiny humans. They even host kids birthday parties.
Go here for: the Reptile Guy
This expansive pub in the southern suburbs understands that you just want to kick back over a drink and some chat on a Sunday. And if you and your friends also have kids in tow, the Taren Point Hotel will shoulder the burden of distracting your progeny to buy you some R&R between noon and 3pm. They recruit the Reptile Guy to bring his tame animal friends in for a meet and greet with snakes and lizards; there's face painting and balloons; and they've got a fresh Astro-turfed play area with ping pong tables for bigger kids.