101 Things to do in Sydney – Parks & Playgrounds edition

I see the questions a lot what are you doing today or I have relatives coming where should we take them or what’s the best park to go to etc? So I thought I’d put to a sort of beginners guide to Sydney. Two years in Sydney has let me scratch the surface of all the fun stuff to do here but let me add right off the bat that I am typically very bound by public transit so there are large chunks of the city/suburbs I’ve just never gotten to. Which means you may not see the park you love or place you think is a MUST see on my lists but please by all means add comments below the article so others can use that info. This isn’t the end all be all Sydney list but it’s a great place to start if you’re new to the area, have guests coming or are just stuck for ideas on new places to try. I’ve realized I need to break this into a couple posts or it’ll be miles long, so in this post I’m gonna focus on the thing most parents want, a great playground and a good water play area.
The biggest piece of advice I can give everyone here is get off your own peninsula and out of your own comfort zone and do it everyday or at least pretty darned often. Yes there may be a bridge or a peninsula or two between you and some of these places but that shouldn’t stop you from exploring them.

Inner West (yes I know I’ve likely stretched the definition of Inner West a bit):

Elkington
Elkington Park

[admp_one_third] [/admp_one_third][admp_two_third_last]Elkington Park – Balmain – Great fenced playground, one large structure with a couple slides, climbing net etc, also a spinner, and teeter totter, all on fake turf ideal for ages 3-6. Also several swings, and a great climbing structure outside the fencing for the bigger kids so they don’t plow down the littles. Elkington has sits on a tip of the peninsula with beautiful views, lots of great areas of walking and some beautiful old gum trees and figs that provide shade. It’s got bathrooms as well. [/admp_two_third_last]
Constellation Park – Rozelle – Combined park of soft play and mulch along the Bay Run. This park has a couple of great slides built into a soft played hill along with a flying fox, huge climbing net, net swing, spinner, infant swing and one big kid swing as well as a big sand pit and faucet to create rivers/messes. The biggest down side of this park is it’s only partially fenced so be aware for kids who might be bolters. There are restrooms near the oval down below the park.

Pirrama Park
Pirrama Park

[admp_two_third]Pirrama Park – Pyrmont – This is one of our favourites, you can easily come spend most of a day here. Right at the tip of Pyrmont overlooking the harbor, straight down Harris street is this great water play and regular park. The water play consists of two long rows of fountains that shoot arches out over a free run area. Near by is a massive sandpit with some shade and a digger. There is also a handicapped accessible roundabout, a small slide and tunnel, wooden xylophone, some swings and a huge climbing structure that the big kids all love. There are a few bbqs near the water and bathrooms right by the park. There’s also a cafe next to the park but heads up they are cash only, if you walk a bit further there’s another cafe that takes credit cards. This one is all mulch, sand and concrete so just be aware if you are a mulch hater ;)[/admp_two_third][admp_one_third_last] [/admp_one_third_last]

Bridgewater Park
Bridgewater Park

[admp_one_third][/admp_one_third][admp_two_third_last]Bridgewater Park – Rozelle – I’m pretty sure this park is Rozelle’s best kept secret. It’s rarely got many people at it but it’s a beautiful little playground on the Bay Run looking across at Birkenhead. It’s a fully fenced playground that’s primarily soft played with a small sand area mixed in. It’s got a couple of regular swings, infant swing and large net swing. In addition it’s got a small round about, a play structure for bigger kids with a slide and a smaller separate structure for the little ones as well as a boat where they can pretend to sail the seven seas over a sand filled “beach”. It faces out onto a large grassy area that is an off lead area for dogs but again you don’t see many people down here so it’s a great place to play ball with the kids as well. This park is probably best for the 1-6 year old crowd. You can get to the park either by continuing past the Iron Cove Bridge on the Bay Run or from the neighborhoods by going down the side streets to the giant sign at the end of the roundabout that says Balmain Shores Apartments, behind the sign is a ramp or stairs that lead down to the park. There aren’t any restrooms near the park, the closest are back under the bridge near the oval. However there are bbqs and covered picnic tables. [/admp_two_third_last]
Hippo Park – Leichhardt – Fully fenced park directly off The Bay Run and easy parking near by with coffee available at Le Montague next to the parking. This has a large fenced area that encompasses a soft played area with a large play structure, teeter totter, spinners, a hippo of course, 6 swings (infant and regular), a enormous pendulum swing (net swing but with a fun 360 degree swing to it) as well as a large gum tree area that the big kids love to explore and play in. The only real issue this park has is shade can be hard to come by and the big kid’s play set feeds directly into the little kids set via an interconnected climbing bit so it’s not great for the under 3 crowd without close supervision.
Petersham Park – Petersham – I’ll be honest we haven’t gotten to go play at Petersham yet but it’s on my list of things to do before we go. We have however driven past and it looks fabulous. It’s again one of those amazing gorgeous sprawling old parks lined with old growth trees. It’s got tons of character and a pretty great (and new) playground to boot. It’s a large soft played playground with equipment that looks to span a pretty good age range. Again it’s set into the park so even though it isn’t fenced (?) it is far enough away from roads not to worry. Bathrooms are available, but shade did look to be a bit of an issue the day I went by around noon so just bring the sun screen with.
Darrel Jackson Gardens – Surry Hills – This is another fabulous fenced park surrounded by lots of green space right in the middle of a pretty great suburb. It’s got soft play and equipment galore as well as bathrooms near by and is well shaded. Be aware though it gets really busy after school since it is in fact right next to the local primary school. So go during the day on a weekday if you can.
Livy’s Place – Five Dock – Livy’s Place, is both amazing and well… not. It’s amazing because it’s a great fully fenced playground that’s primarily soft played for kids of all abilities and disabilities that allows them to play in a way few parks do. It has a fully motorized handicapped accessible large round about that kids love. As well it has slides, a large climbing net, a well shaded sand pit, lots of great bush and green areas all fenced for the kids to explore. There’s a scooter path inside the fencing as well as another around the outside. There are spinners, a foot bridge, and a few other odd and end items. There are bathrooms and a small cafe right next to the playground. It’s fairly well shaded though parts can get really hot on a sunny day. Now the reason I said it’s not so awesome. There are A LOT of really bad sight lines in this park. Kids just sort of disappear behind a large concrete barrier that runs around the entire roundabout that is pretty much in the center of the park. Meaning if you want to see your kids while you stand in one area it can be really hard. That roundabout is also a bit of a blessing and a curse. It’s great if your kids are old enough to understand they need to stay on once it’s moving or dexterous enough to hop on and off but more than a few lips have been busted and heads bruised in poorly planned attempts to exit/enter by littles when it’s going. So absolutely go and enjoy this place but do it knowing it likely won’t be the most relaxing time you’ve had at a park.

Cabarita Park
Cabarita Park

[admp_two_third]Cabarita Park – Cabarita (near Breakfast Point) – This park is right next to the ferry stop at Cabarita so it’s a great adventure to take with the kids to grab a ferry over and then enjoy a day here. It’s another huge park land that has lots of trees, several picnic shelters, a huge old gazebo and best of an enormous playground that is REALLY well shaded with sail clothes. There’s a large and fairly complex climbing structure, big climbing tower with a slippery dip out of it, five swings (two infant), a fun spinner that allows 4 people at once, a triple bouncer (sort of a teeter totter?), and two smaller slides built into a soft played hill. The entire playground is sand but it seems pretty clean and well maintained. There is a second smaller (older) playground near by that’s fenced if you have toddlers and don’t feel like taking on the bigger park. There’s a fair bit of parking and plenty to do but obviously weekends get busy so if you can take the ferry do. [/admp_two_third][admp_one_third_last] [/admp_one_third_last]

City

Darling Harbour

[admp_one_third][/admp_one_third][admp_two_third_last]Darling Harbour Park – Obviously unless you live under a rock you’ve heard of this park. It’s probably the gem of Sydney. The water play alone is fabulous with rivers, damns, various ways to divert streams and learn about how water flows. There are pumps and water falls at the top that then flow into the “rivers”, a water screw, a huge water wheel that kids can turn and of course the classic and large splash pad. In addition to all that there’s a great water table area for the toddlers to play with as well for a quieter (and perhaps slightly dryer) experience with water. The rest of the park is equally fabulous with a slide that goes directly into the large sandpit and diggers there as well. There’s a enormous slippery dip that has a climbing/rope wall up to it that is at least 4 kids wide with large tunnels running underneath the structure. There’s a flying fox, net swing, regular swings and a large climbing nets. It’s pretty much heaven for kids of all ages. But it obviously gets insane on the weekends so go on a weekday if you can. There’s a cafe right in the middle of the playground as well as various restaurants around of course. Bathrooms/changing rooms are readily available at the top end of the park (near the carousel).[/admp_two_third_last]

Outer Inner West:

Putney Park – Putney – So what I love about this park is it’s really two parks in one. Everyone knows about the popular bit of Putney Park. You know the bit with the huge tube slide that’s like 3 stories tall with a million stairs that will keep the big kids busy forever and the water play area that’s got the two wadding pools connected by a rock “stream”, and the climbing frame down below in the sand. But did you know about the secret second playground? If you go to Putney and walk out along the foreshore towards the tip of the peninsula you will see hidden back in the woods a whole second playground. That playground has an enormous old school slippery dip, a smaller modern kiddy playground perfect for the 1-4 year group, spinners, swings, a teeter totter and a climbing structure. All of the equipment is still very new and every time we’ve been we are one of maybe 2-3 people there while the other half of the park is packed full. It’s a great excuse to get my daughter out of the water and doing something different when it’s time for a change.

Blaxland Reserve
Blaxland Reserve

[admp_two_third]Blaxland Reserve – This park is amazing, however fair warning parking sucks. It’s unlimited all day which is great but it’s also terrible because people come and stay for the whole day so finding a space on a nice day can be a nightmare. Blaxlands has so much going on it’s hard to even describe. It awesome for scootering since it’s got some great paths through the park, there’s a water play area that is unlike anything I’ve seen here with jets shooting out of the ground and the walls surrounding it. But on a hot day it can be a bit mad because there are just SOO many kids. There’s a huge 3 story “tree” house that the big kids can climb up and down, a kiosk for food and bathrooms in a couple spots in the park. In addition there’s this crazy sprawling madness of soft played hills and valleys that have in each part different activities. Flying foxes, a giant log swing, a huge climbing net, tunnels, a large bank of swings, tunnel slide and regular slide built into the side of the hills, climbing walls to get back up to them etc. There’s also an entire separate playground that’s just crazy climbing net structures that is well covered by shade nets, however the rest of the playground is definitely lacking in shade so bring ALL the sunscreen. There are umbrellas throughout the park to set up picnics under or to watch the kids from but the actual play areas are full sun. There’s also the Newington Armory that’s open on the weekends for exploring as well. I have sort of a love hate feeling on this one. It’s such an amazing park and absolutely a place you can go for a full day but it’s also crazy busy and I feel pretty tired by the time we are done there. It’s also not a good park with young kids under 5 since very little is designed with small kids in mind and very much built for the 5-12 year old crowd. So setting your toddler down for a play in the water play could very well end in tears. Just something to keep in mind if you have little ones in tow.[/admp_two_third][admp_one_third_last][/admp_one_third_last]
Ryde Park – Just below the Ryde Oval is a playground that’s fully soft played, centered in the main park and surrounded by open fields for playing ball etc. The park has a climbing/play structure for older kids with spinners attached, a net swing, a small swing for the toddlers, a teeter totter and a smaller play structure for the younger kids (1-4). The park has dappled shade and restrooms at the ready. The only real downside for this park is for the swing loving kids there isn’t a proper swing set to be found. The best part of this park though is the cafe that overlooks it, called The Grounds Keeper Cafe. It’s an open air cafe that’s divided from the playground by a fountain on one side but directly feeds into it otherwise. It’s crazy busy over the school holidays, seriously don’t bother, and weekends you definitely want a reservation but weekdays it’s a bit quieter and a great place to meet a friend if you’ve got kids in that 4-5 year old range. They can play in the park while you watch from the cafe sipping a coffee waiting for the food.

North Shore:

Lagoon Park – Manly/Queens Cliff – This is one of my other favorite parks in Sydney. It’s at the end of Manly/Queens Cliff Beaches tucked away across the road in a beautiful Reserve called Lagoon Reserve. The reserve itself is a great place to take kids biking or scootering or to just get out and explore. What makes this park so great is it doesn’t try to cram all the needs of kids 0-8 into one interconnected play structure. It has various play areas for each age group. There’s a small/short play structure for the very little kids (crawlers, early walkers), a couple meters away is a structure better for the 1-3 age group, further on is another for the older kids, there’s a climbing net and sand pit as well as a cool ferry boat they can captain and a “race car”. The park is pretty well shaded and has clear sight lines through out as well as being fully fenced and primarily soft played making it pretty idea if you have kids of various ages you need to keep track of. There are bathrooms nearby and I think a bbq.
St. Leonard’s Park – North Sydney – This was the first park I ever went to in Sydney and it has a special place in my heart for that reason. It’s got a cute little playground that’s not fenced but is sort of walled off and it’s also set way in the center of the park, which is enormous, so even if your kid makes a run for it you’ll catch them well before they hit a road. The playground has a couple swings, a musical area (kettle drums, xylophone, bells), a sand pit with diggers and other stuff, a roundabout, a teeter totter, a great play structure that’s perfect for the 4-6 year old set and a decent sized climbing net. The playground is set underneath the trees so shade really isn’t an issue. Next to the playground are bathrooms and a bbq. The draw for me to St. Leonard’s park is quite simply it’s a huge beautiful green space. It’s full of gorgeous old trees and just has tons of character.

Clontarf
Clontarf

[admp_one_third][/admp_one_third][admp_two_third_last]Clontarf Park – Clontarf – This playground is fully sanded and doesn’t have fencing but is a part of the Manly scenic walk and is surrounded by a sizable park, has beautiful views of middle harbor and a lovely little cafe right next to it. The park has several different structures for various ages. There’s a large “boat” that has a small climber on it leading to a slide as well as some good hiding spots, there’s a sand play structure and then a large climbing/play structure that’s pretty new by the looks of it with a slide. I’m not 100% certain on bathrooms but am pretty sure they were there.[/admp_two_third_last]
I hope all of these give you some great new ideas for places to explore. There are so many amazing playgrounds and parks in Sydney, get out and find a new one to make your favorite.

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