What To Do In Sydney When Your Parents Are Visiting

Are you wondering what to do in Sydney when your parents are visiting? Trying to find things to do with your parents in Sydney might take a bit more imagination than you think. There’s only so many times you can take them to the Sydney Opera House or to Bondi Beach so we’re here to help you plan a trip to Sydney with your parents.

Things To Do Around Sydney Harbour

For most parents, Australia’s iconic location of Sydney Harbour will be where the majority of the action will take place. But there’s much more to do than to just walk around Circular Quay. Here’s our top things to do in Sydney Harbour.

1. Circular Quay to Watsons Bay

hop on hop off

The Hop on Hop off service is a fantastic way to spend the day. A 24hr pass will cost $46 per person but the best part is you can also include tourist attractions (1 attraction extra is $11) as well such as the Explorer Bus, Taronga Zoo, Sydney Tower Eye, The Wildlife Zoo and Manly Sea Life Sanctuary.

I’ve been on this boat service to Fort Denison, Shark Island and then stopping off at Watson’s Bay. You could have lunch on Fort Denison or/and go for the famous Fish & Chips at Doyles in Watsons Bay.


Lunch/dinner at Fort Denison has the best views of Sydney Harbour


Fish & Chips at Doyles, Watson’s Bay

2. Boat ride to Manly


This is a genius way to spend next to nothing on a great boat ride and you’ll get to visit one of Australia’s iconic beaches as well! Once in Manly, I suggest you walking the coastal track to Shelly Beach (15 mins max) and drop into The Boathouse for a drink or a meal. It’s a great place!

3. Walk Around Botanic Gardens

botanic gardens sydney

Once you’ve shown your parents the Opera House, take a walk up to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair (you can get a cab to there if they’re not up for walking) and then wander into the Botanic Gardens stopping off at the beautiful The Botanic Restaurant for lunch.

4. See a show at the Sydney Opera House

If there’s one place you should take your parent to, go and see a show at The Opera House. To find out what’s on, click here.

5. Take A Seaplane to Jonah’s or Cottage Point

Sydney Seaplanes

If I had to choose only one thing to do with my loved ones, it would be hands down a seaplane ride over Sydney Harbour and to either Cottage Point of Jonah’s for lunch. It is absolutely spectacular and easily the best thing I have done in Sydney.

I have been to both restaurants and they are exceptionally good. You’ll loop around the harbour twice before returning to Rose bay. For lunch and a return flight is about $500 per person, a definite must, must do!!! See here for more info.

6. Sydney Harbour From The Other Side Of The Bridge

wendy's secret garden

For someone who lives on the other side of the bridge, I very much recommend taking the train to Milson’s Point to see the harbour from the other side. There’s a beautiful walk on the water next to Luna Park over to Wendy’s Secret Garden.

If your parents love a bit of gardening, they will love this place. It’s one of the best secret gems in the city!! A local to the area, Wendy built this garden herself in memory of her husband. It is absolutely stunning! You could always take the rent’s on the big wheel afterwards! To find the best places to eat in the area, click here.

7. Rest of The Best – What To Do Around Sydney Harbour

Bridge Climb – plan your climb at twilight in time for the Wednesday night fireworks which take place on the harbour. That’s a two for one and extra brownie points! Also, the climb itself isn’t scary. It’s taken at a very slow pace and there are lots of breaks. I took my 70 year old boyfriend’s mum on it and she was totally fine.

The Rocks Weekend Market – A tourist haven for gifts to take home. Also check out Paddy’s Market in China Town (Thurs-Sun) for gifts.

The Rocks free walking tours – see here for more info.

Outdoor cinema – St George Open Air Cinema is the most spectacular outdoor cinema in the world with a direct view of Sydney harbour! Unfortunately it only takes place between January – February.

Saturday night darling harbour fireworks – Great to wander down to Darling Harbour to catch the fireworks! See here for more info.

8. For When It’s Too Hot

If you’re parents are visiting in the Australian summer, they’ll more than likely find it REALLY hot let alone very humid. Until they climatise, you’ll have to think about taking them to places they can feel comfortable in, ie aircon unless you get them up early in the morning or late at night.

Aircon Places

Sydney aqaurium

OK so it’s too hot but your parents want to still get out and see some places. The best option for this is to go to Sydney’s best aircon spots which will also work if it’s raining as well. This will tick off a lot of the tourist attractions such as the Aquarium and The world’s largest Imax cinema. Easy!

  9. Go for a long lunch

Another good idea is to take the rents out for a long lunch at one of Sydney’s best spots. I’d suggest either Quay, Cafe Sydney, 360 at Sydney Tower or the rooftop cafe at the MCA for views of Sydney Harbour or why not splash the boat out and go to Sydney’s top restaurant Tetsuya’s. Another locals favourite is The Grounds Of Alexandria. Pick a weekday to miss the crowds as your family will love this place!

10. Sydney Harbour Lunch Cruise

Sydney harbour cruise

This is a great way to spend the afternoon in aircon. You’ll have 2-3 hours sailing around Sydney harbour with a 3 course meal. Prices start from $69 per person with Captain Cook Cruises. To look at other cruises offering lunch or dinner click here.

11. Swimming

bondi icebergs

If your parents like to swim, there are many beaches and ocean pools they can take a dip in. I’d suggest the following calm, flat watered beaches such as: Shelly Beach (Manly), Balmoral Beach, Clovelly Beach and Camp Cove, as well as the famous Bondi Icebergs pool (perfect for some food afterwards), Coogee’s Wiley’s Baths and Cremorne’s Maccallum Pool.

12. Hop on Hop off Bus ride around the city and Bondi beach

City Sightseeing Sydney MCW Super Metrobus 427

A good thing about this is your parents can sit inside with the aircon! I’ve been on this bus and it’s pretty awesome. Even if you’ve lived in the city for a long time, you’ll learn all about Sydney.

Did you know Hyde Park used to be a horse racing track? Yep, this is what I learnt on the tour! It’s also a great perspective of seeing the sights of Sydney being on a double decker bus and it goes to Bondi as well! For more info click here.

13. Gelato Messina


Head over to the world’s best gelato to cool you down then wander through Surry Hills afterwards.

For the Active Parents

Now we’ve covered the harbour and when it’s too hot, what else is there to do in Sydney?

14. Bondi to Bronte/Coogee Walk


You’ve probably seen this one advertised a lot and there’s a reason why; this walk is one of the most beautiful walks in Sydney. Located right on the coast, your parents will be stopping at every moment to take photos. Bondi – Bronte is 3km each way and if you’re parents are quite active then they could try the Bondi – Coogee walk which is 11km return. Finish off at Bondi Icebergs for dinner.

15. Kayaking Sydney Harbour


You can join a tour for $125 for 4 hours of kayaking around Sydney Harbour with lunch included.  What a great way to spend the day! See here for more details.

 Outside of Sydney

You’ve seen as much as possible in Sydney and it’s time to venture out. Here are my top picks of places to visit all within a maximum 3 hour drive of Sydney. If you don’t have a car, you can always hire one from Go Get. Easy!

16. Palm Beach (1 hour north of Sydney)


Palm Beach is absolutely beautiful! There are plenty of places to stop off on the drive up there. I recommend Deewhy to Girdlers Grind for an acai bowl then onto Bigola beach for a coffee right on the beach. It’s stunning there.

Drive right up to Palm Beach and walk up to the lighthouse to see this view. On the way back down stop off at The Boathouse for lunch before going onto Avalon beach to spot the crew filming the long running series of Home & Away. You can also jump on a boat at Palm Beach for a nice boat ride to the nearby Basin where you can do a bit of a hike or just go for a swim and a walk around.

17. The Royal National Park

The Garier beach

The Royal National Park is absolutely stunning and just a 30 minute drive south of Sydney. As soon as you enter into the park (It’s around $12 per car entry) you’ll come to Audley which has a cafe, restaurant and rowing boats to hire out. This is a great stop.

Then venture on to The Garie for the most beautiful almost deserted beach in Sydney! Drive on further out of the park and you’ll come to Stanwell Tops, an amazing lookout point.

Stop off at The Scarborough Hotel for lunch/dinner and sit out at the back in the beautiful beer garden on the cliffs.

18. The Blue Mountains


The Blue Mountains based an hour and a half drive west of Sydney are spectacular and very popular with tourists. I absolutely love it there so its peace and quietness. If your parents are into hiking, there are loads to do but most people come to visit the 3 Sisters in the main town of Katoomba.

I would also recommend visiting Leura and trying out some of the cafes, there – it’s gorgeous not forgetting Jenolan Caves which are mind blowing! I’ve written a post all about this part of Sydney, see here for more details!

 19. Jervis Bay & Berry

Jervis Bay is well known for having some of the best beaches in the world based in Booderre National Park. Best of all, it’s only a 3 hour drive south of Sydney. It’s definitely worth a visit there! On your way down, stop off a Berry, it’s a gorgeous little town well known to attract foodies.

20. Nelson Bay, Newcastle & The Hunter Valley


Newcastle is just a 2 hour drive of Sydney. Stop off at Mereweather Beach which easily rivals th beaches of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Just one hour further up the coast and you’ll come to Nelson Bay, which houses a harbour bigger than Sydney.

We hired our own little boat for a few hours ($85 for 2 hours). It’s just stunning sitting there in the boat, watching the dolphins pass you by. and you’re guaranteed to see dolphins too!!

Then you can go up to the Hunter Valley which is a wino’s dream. Here you can do a tour and go round to all the vineyards trying out the wine on offer.

21. A few days out of Sydney

If your parents are staying for a few weeks, why not venture out of Sydney and fly to another part of the country? With super cheap flights with Jetstar or Tiger Air, you can fly to Melbourne for $50 each way. Also Noosa, Port Douglas an Hamilton Island are all perfect family spots to spend a good few days in.

Is there anything else I’ve missed out? This guide is perfect for those of you who’s parents are coming over to visit Sydney or for those of you who are visiting Sydney for the first time with your parents.

If you need anymore advice, please let me know in the comments below!

What to do in Sydney when your parents are visiting