For most parents, the average Monday-to-Friday routine is filled with hurried school runs and packed lunches, juggling footy practice and music lessons, feeding hungry mouths and negotiating bedtimes. So, when the holidays roll around, it’s time to unplug, de-stress, and enjoy quality time with the fam. Sydneysiders are spoilt for choice, with great activities for kids, child-friendly pools, superb parks and fun walks, all within the city limits. But should you fancy an escape further afield, family adventures in the great outdoors are just a car ride away.
Family-friendly road trips near Sydney
A trip through the gum trees of Sydney’s mountainous neighbour can be more than just a scenic drive. Head up the A32 and you can stop off at the high-ropes of Trees Adventure Groves River Park in Yarramundi, before heading on to see the natural wonders of Wentworth Falls and the Three Sisters in Katoomba. Motor on another hour around the Megalong Valley, and you’ll find epic stalactites in the Jenolan Caves, the world’s oldest underground caverns. There you can explore on a self-guided tour, one of the more physical adventure tours, or if you and the kids are brave enough, the blood-curdling ghost tour.
Beach holidays are an Australian speciality, and you’ll find plenty of salty spay on the South Coast. There is, however, a whole lot more to discover besides sand along this stretch of NSW. After cruising the Princes Highway through Dharawal National Park, a short drive inland from Lake Illawarra will bring you to the fun-filled waters of the Jamberoo Action Park. You can also explore the lush canopies near the Minnamurra River at Illawarra Treetop Adventures. Head on to Berry, and you can treat the kids to handcrafted lollies at the Treat Factory, which also runs children’s chocolate making classes during the school hols.
If your little ones are water babies, it’s likely surfing is a weekend staple. Once they’ve got the hang of tamer waves, the breakers of the Northern Beaches are perfect for intermediate surfers. Make a day of it by taking a leisurely drive to the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, where you can park up and enjoy one of the child-friendly bush walks, such as the easy stroll of the America Bay track or the Gibberagong walking track near Bobbin Head (where there are cafés and an excellent playground). Our favourite family-friendly seafront is Palm Beach, at the northernmost end of the hourglass peninsula, where you can also visit the historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse.
Just three hours south of the city is a true slice of paradise that Sydneysiders of every age adore. With over 90km of natural beaches, there’s more shoreline on offer than you can shake a snorkel at. But if we had to choose, Moona Moona Creek (don’t forget to jump off the bridge), Huskisson or Collingwood would be our top picks. Make the most of your wheels and explore all the natural wonders of this blissfully unspoilt region, in particular, Booderee National Park. And be sure to keep a weather eye on the ocean: this area is famed for its whale and dolphin watching.
If you want to turn a day trip into a weekender, you can’t go wrong with a spot of camping. Head north of Sydney and enjoy the scenic route through Ku-ring-gai Chase and Brisbane Water National Parks (check out the nearby Somersby Falls if you can), before swinging back through Gosford and on to Bouddi. At Putty Beach campgrounds you can access well-maintained shower and toilet facilities, communal barbecues, drinking water and picnic areas. You’ll also be a stone’s throw from the beach, where the waters are clear, calm and perfect for youngsters.