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Five fun family rainy-day activities in Sydney: Sassy Mama Jane gives us the local’s lowdown

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Sydney is synonymous with water – the famous harbour, gorgeous beaches and some of the most picturesque public swimming pools in the world (try North Sydney Pool or Andrew Boy Charlton for a great day with the kids). However, none of this helps much when it is bucketing down because when it rains in Sydney, it pours, and often doesn’t let up for days!

No one wants to be stuck in an (expensive!) hotel room with the kiddos bouncing off the walls because it’s too wet to hang out at Bondi, or cruise around Darling Harbour, so as a Sydney native, here are my top picks to keep you entertained and sane when it’s wet.

sydney aquarium

1. Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

Fancy feeding a shark? How about something a little tamer (and with less teeth!) like a penguin? Got budding marine biologists in your party who want to learn about platypus, stingrays or dugongs? At Sydney Aquarium, you can walk under the water in Sydney Harbour, (just be glad you aren’t actually in the Harbour – from personal experience, I can say swimming in it is GROSS!); catch glass-bottomed boats; listen to talks about different creatures; and in 2013 the Aquarium is celebrating Turtle Fest, so you can learn about turtle conservation too.

In fact, even if it’s not raining, the aquarium is great for all ages. Little ones will be mesmerised by all the animals and fish; older kids will love learning more about all the animals and water creatures, and parents will feel both smug and interested because: a) the kids are being educated, despite being on holiday, and b) it’s actually pretty cool! If you have kids, the Sydney aquarium is a must-see… raining or not.

Where: The city side of Darling Harbour

Cost: It’s not a cheap day out, but you can save up to 30% if you pre-book your tickets online. Family tickets cost from AU$60.00, adults from AU$26.00, kids from AU$15.40.

How to get there: Depending on where you are coming from, that may be part of the fun! You can walk, or catch any combination of the light rail / monorail / train / bus / ferry / taxi or simply drive! Check out the location details here.

More info:

Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre

2. Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre

Having been stuck in a hotel room with energy to burn, I can confirm there is nowhere better than the Aquatic Centre at Sydney Olympic Park to really run the troops ragged. Apart from the lap and diving pools that you would expect, there are water slides, a water playground, whirlpool and even a “swirl ride” featuring Alice in Wonderland-style giant teacups! If you forgot your swimmers and would rather stay dry, there’s indoor rock climbing, flying foxes and even a hall of fame for sports trivia buffs. There is water fun suitable for all ages – from toddlers upwards. This is a great outing for parents too – assuming your kids are old enough, you can get yourself a coffee and newspaper and sit in the stands reminiscing about all those Olympians in their little Speedos who’ve swum there before you!

Where: Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush Bay

Cost: After burning a hole in your wallet at the aquarium, this is a lot more affordable. Spectators cost just AU$3.50, kids and students with photo ID AU$6, Adults AU$7 or AU$24 for a family of four.

How to get there: The easiest way is by train to Sydney Olympic Park from Central or Town Hall. Alternatively, parking is available, check the website for details.

More info:

Powerhouse museum

3. The Powerhouse Museum

I remember visiting this museum on my year 6 school excursion and thinking it was awesome! The Powerhouse Museum is chock-full of interactive exhibits that get the kids involved in science. While little ones will enjoy pressing lots of buttons, hearing things whir and just getting involved, primary-aged children and above will get the most out of the experience. Don’t be fooled the name – this isn’t an ordinary museum, but is incredibly interactive and innovative and older kids especially will love it. Do check out the website before you go as there are heaps of cool events throughout the year; for example the upcoming “writer overnighter” sounds just too cool for school – you get to camp out in the museum, meet an Australian kids author, write and even and get published! An amazing experience for any budding writer, scientist or inventor.

Where: 500 Harris Street, Ultimo

Cost: Adults AU$12, Children AU$6, Family of four AU$30

How to get there: There are multiple places to walk from, but in the rain your best bet is a train or bus to Central, then catch the 501 bus from Railway Square which stops opposite the museum.

More info:


4. Museum of Contemporary Art

It may sound funny recommending an Art Museum to take your kids to, but the MCA is worth checking out. Newly renovated and set in what must be one of Sydney’s best locations, the artworks and installations will engage all ages. If you check the website, there are a ton of activities for kids from babies to school age to get involved with – the gallery hosts ArtPlay, Art Safari and even Baby Art several days each week. And if it’s all just a bit too much culture, the food, views, and chilled out atmosphere of the MCA café will take the edge off. Definitely a memorable holiday experience!

Where: 140 George Street, the Rocks

Cost: General Admission is free! (In what is now one of the world’s most expensive cities, it is amazing to find something that will not break the bank.) Special exhibitions may have an entry fee.

How to get there: Either take the train to Circular Quay, and then it’s a very short walk, or take a bus along George Street to Circular Quay.

More details:


5. Westfield Bondi Junction

Ladies, if you like a bit of bling, you are cultured out, exhausted, and it still won’t stop raining, head into this dry and comfortable Bondi Junction shopping mall. Now, I know you didn’t come on holidays just to shop (not entirely anyway), and that this stop is not entirely for the kids, but everyone needs a break sometimes, and I guarantee that everyone will be happy for a little while! Apart from the usual department stores, high end boutiques and bargain shops, two food courts (one a little more glam with great views and even an oyster bar), a yum cha restaurant (Sydney speak for dim sum if you are already missing HK!); there is a cinema, cafes, nail salons (and cheaper than in Hong Kong I might add!) and everything else that you would expect in a large shopping mall. There are even two pet shops to coo over the puppies and kittens. There are free strollers available for use, “kiddy cruisers”, reserved parking for those with prams, lots of kids stores and changing rooms to make it an easier day out.

Maybe it’s a little crass to recommend you spend your precious vacation time in a shopping mall, but it’s easy, it’s fun, and although the layout is very confusing, it’s not a bad day out. It is easy to get lost in here, but if you are going to get lost somewhere, it may as well be a (dry!) mall with decent coffee, baby change rooms and shoe shops. Another tip, on a steamy hot day, it’s also one of the best places to hang out and get some air-conditioned relief, though be aware you won’t be the only one with this idea, and it will likely be especially busy!

Where: Bondi Junction:

Cost: Free – that’s until you start buying “souvenirs”…

How to get there: From the city, either a train from Central to Bondi Junction, or a 333 or 380 bus from Elizabeth Street. Note, if you do get the bus, the vast majority of buses from the city are prepay only – tickets are available from convenience stores and a small number of ticket outlets.

More info:


UntitledIronman, multiple marathoner, corporate lawyer, and mum of one, Jane grew up in a small coastal town in Australia. Not ever wanting to be too far from a beach, she recently moved south to Hong Kong after a 2-year stint in Shanghai. When she’s not running – either round and round a track or after a toddler – Jane studies Chinese, cooks for friends, and does crafts. This year she plans to break 3 hours in the marathon, and to finally finish the quilt that she started for her son’s first Christmas…

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