Weekend & School Holiday adventures with the kids can get expensive. With the cost of living rising, you might be looking for things to do with the kids around the North Shore that are completely and utterly FREE! Check out the best free things to do in Sydney…
Looking for some inspiration to have some fun with the family, but don’t want to spend lots of money? Don’t worry, we’ve got lots of ideas! With all these fun, free things to do right on our doorstep, you’re spoilt for choice.
Obviously you need to factor in costs like petrol, parking and snacks (but you can always BYO picnic or get public transport too!).
- Enjoy a day at the beaches
- Splash at a water park
- Head to a playground
- Visit some natural wonders
- Head to a museum
- Take off on a bushwalk
- Explore the neighbourhood
- Enjoy a picnic
- Feed the ducks
- Try snorkelling
- Go for a bike ride
- Let loose at a shopping centre
- Browse the local markets
Enjoy a day at the beach
Go to the beach! There’s no better way to spend a warm summer’s day than splashing along the shores of the beach – and we are certainly spoilt for choice! Whether you’re looking for a beach with a rockpool, so little kids can cool off in calm waters, or prefer something with a playground to expel some excess energy, we have them all.
All the beaches on the Northern Beaches are fantastic, but we especially love:
- Manly: has everything you need for a fun day out!
- The Northbridge Baths: this popular spot has a nice sandy beach within the bushland of Middle Harbour.
- Balmoral Beach: this is an amazing child-friendly beach with a playground, lots of cafes and a long promenade for riding.
- Clontarf Reserve: there is a lovely netted, calm swimming area for kids, huge playgrounds, plenty of grass, a cafe, toilets and more.
- Dee Why: there’s something for kids of all ages at Dee Why Beach, with two ocean pools (one for toddlers, the other a 50m lap pool), patrolled beach, two playgrounds and lots of cafes!
Have a splash at a water playground
Want to cool off, but not a fan of the beaches? Head along to a water playground instead. This is another free activity that will delight the kids for hours. With a mixture of buckets that tip on your head, fountains that spout, wading pools for splashing, taps and plenty more, kids won’t want to leave.
We have an incredible list of 17 water playgrounds in and around the North Shore, for you to plan the perfect ‘free’ day out (if you’re strong enough to withstand the constant begging for a ice-cream to cool down). From the new Warringa Street Oval Playground in Berowra, to the Darling Harbour Playground and Pirrama Park in Pyrmont to Walter Gors Park in Dee Why, there’s plenty of options around.
Take to kids to an amazing playground
Forget the water, and simply head to a good, old-fashioned playground for a spot of free fun. There’s nothing more exciting for the kids than checking out a brand-new playground they haven’t explored before.
Head to the new St Ives Village Green Playground with a huge twisty slide and the skate park next door. Let the kids loose at the amazing nature playground at Bobbin Head. You can even make a day of it and enjoy a bite to eat at the Waterside Bistro. Discover a hidden gem at Tunks Park in Cammeray, where you can enjoy an off-leash dog area, bush walk and fun playground. Head to Memory Park in Mosman for a huge climbing tower, slides, ropes course, monkey bars and more.
We are surrounded by so many amazing parks. If it’s shade that you’re after, we have a round-up of 15 playgrounds that fit the bill. If the kids love climbing, then be sure to visit one of these 6 adventure playgrounds around. Need coffee? We even have a list of the parks and playgrounds near coffee!
Or simply check out our list of the top 20 playgrounds on Sydney’s North Shore. You’re sure to find a new place to explore!
Visit a museum
There are lots of free museums you can visit for a little education and a lot of fun. The Museum of Contemporary Art is constantly changing with plenty of talented works to browse your way through.
The Rocks Discovery Museum takes you through Warrane (pre 1788), Colony (1788-1820), Port (1820-1900) and Transformations (1900 to present). It’s the perfect way to brush up on some history. Want more history? Then head to the Australian History Museum, or brush up on money at The Museum of Australian Currency Notes. You can also visit The Mint, where you can see the coining press shipped from England and plenty more.
Over in Manly, you will find the Manly Art Gallery and Museum showcasing lots of changing exhibitions.
Pick a museum each weekend and you will have plenty to keep the whole family busy, while learning lots along the way.
Explore the great outdoors with a bushwalk
Pop on those walking shoes and head into the great outdoors for a family adventure that won’t cost you a cent. Of course, it can hard to determine which bushwalking tracks are suited for kids, and which ones will end with you giving them a piggyback. To help you out, we have put together a round-up of the best child-friendly bushwalks on the North Shore.
Enjoy some spectacular views on a walk around Cremorne Point Foreshore. Discover some hidden creeks on the Sailors Bay Walking Track in Northbridge. The Little Bluegum Creek Track in Lindfield takes you through some rainforest, while Lisgar Gardens in Hornsby offers up some gorgeous flowers.
Explore the neighbourhood
Another great way to enjoy the day is to simply step out in your backyard and explore some of the places nearby. Whether you load the bikes up in the car for some riding fun, or simply head off to check out a new area, we have 10 outdoor spaces for you to explore on the North Shore.
Spend the day at Winnererremy Bay Park in Mona Vale – lunch at Flying Fox Cafe, ride bikes, enjoy the amazing playground and splash in the bay (pack swimmers & scooters!).
Ride your bikes around Narrabeen Lake. This is one of the best toddler activities on the Northern Beaches and gets rid of plenty of energy too!
There’s lots to explore at Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Gardens – pram-friendly walks along cement pathways through beautiful bushland, more advanced bushwalks, a big playground, picnic tables, toilets, free parking, and just so much space for your children to run and play.
Swain Gardens is three hectares of expansive gardens for children to explore and enjoy. Toilets and barbecues are making this a great spot to enjoy a picnic lunch and relax while your little ones roll with the magic of the gardens. Find out more about Swain Gardens.
Head to our list for more inspiration!
Enjoy a picnic by the water
Nothing beats a picnic in your local park! It’s simple, it’s easy and you can get the kids involved. Let them raid your cupboards for snacks and even get cooking in the morning to make some baked goods to take along.
See if you have a park near you that you can walk (or ride to), or check out our list above and pick one you can drive to. Don’t forget to pack the picnic blanket! The kids will love sitting down to snack on all the goodies they packed, and you can relax as they run off all their extra energy. The perfect way to spend the weekend.
Looking for some great picnic spots with a view? Here are 10 fabulous picnic spots around Sydney’s North Shore for you to roll out the picnic rug and enjoy a relaxing, fun-filled day by the water.
Feed the ducks
Reminiscent of your childhood days, why not slow the pace down a little and take the kids on an adventure to feed the ducks. We have a round-up of 8 spots here on the North Shore where there’s a good chance of finding some ducks (no promises though!).
Our handy list also takes you through what to do (and what not to do) when it comes to feeding ducks in our local area, including what they actually eat. Hint: it’s NOT bread! Instead, load up on oats, rice, grapes, frozen peas or corn, birdseed and more.
Going to the beach is one thing, but did you know there are plenty of spots nearby where you can actually dive under the water to see lots of marine life and coral. How cool is that! All you need is a snorkel (and flippers help) and you’re good to go.
Here are five of the best snorkelling spots near the Northern Beaches in Sydney for you to explore with your head underwater. From the crystal waters of Cabbage Tree Bay to the stunning Fisherman’s Beach, the kids will love comparing notes on all the amazing coral and marine life they spot beneath the depths of the water.
Go for a bike ride
Go for a bike ride! There are so many tracks around the North Shore, that you can load up the car, or simply ride there from home (depending on distance) and check out one of these spots.
For a little thrill and adventure, check out Jubes Mountain Bike Park in Wahroonga where you can pedal down a race track, practice jumps or develop your off-road skills. And after the adrenaline rush, head to the nearby children’s playground to recover!
If you’re looking for something a little more lowkey for the younger kids, you can come check out these bike and scooter paths for kids around the North Shore. Kids can learn new tricks (maybe it’s time to take those training wheels off?) and go for a spin, while you sit back with a watchful eye.
If you’re looking for more adventure, then take off on the Hornsby Mountain Bike Trail, the Warrimoo Track in St Ives Chase, Brightmore Reserve, Grosvenor Track in Wahroonga, or The Perimeter Trail in Ku-ring-gai Chase.
Let loose at a shopping play centre
If all else fails and it’s a rainy day, load the kids up and take them to a shopping centre to make use of their free playgrounds to expel some of that energy. Luckily, most of the bigger shopping centres are built with families in mind, and have a play zone to allow kids to let off some steam. Here’s your ultimate list of North Shore shopping centres with free kids’ play areas, including HomeHQ, Artarmon, Westfield Chatswood, Belrose SuperCentre, Warriewood Square and more.
Head to the markets (for a browse)
If you can manage to keep your wallet inside your pocket for a spot of ‘window shopping’ the local markets are a great way to get the family out and about on the weekend, enjoying that community feel. You can browse your way through all the handmade goodies, fashion and gifts and maybe make some notes for upcoming birthdays, so you have present ideas at the ready.
Check out the Turramurra Fresh Produce and Gourmet Market or Organic Food Market, St Ives Showground and stock up on some of your weekly necessities (doesn’t count as spending money if it’s for your weekly shop, right?). The kids will love helping pick out the food and may even be more inclined to taste the veggies. Mosman Farmers Market will delight with organic good and artisan gourmet produce.
Visit Chatswood Mall Market where you will find Japanese, Malaysian, Greek and more. The perfect Friday night dinner option! Plus, there are plenty of local handmade markets in Lindfield, Gordon, Crows Nest and more.
Here’s our North Shore market guide so you can plan a spot of window shopping this weekend.
Visit some natural wonders
Pack your camera, load the kids in the car and get ready to hit the road. We have so many incredible natural wonders just a skip and hop from the North Shore, if you don’t mind a road trip! It’s the perfect way to spend a day, while making plenty of memories in the process.
Check out the incredible network of waves at Caves Beach, and explore Deep Cave Bay and the stunning pink interiors. Stockton Beach in Port Stephens has been the site of several shipwrecks and aircraft crash sites over the years! But that isn’t the reason you visit – it’s for the amazing beach sand dunes. Tucked away between Jamberoo and Robertson in Budderoo National Park, you’ll find an array of incredibly scenic walks that lead to plenty of lookouts and swimming spots.
Feeling inspired? Check out our list of Natural Wonders in NSW.