Planning a vacation for the parents is all about picking the right place with the right pace 😉 Here are 13 things to do in Sydney and Surrounds that the folks will love. Find out at the end of the post how you can save S$20 on your airfare to Sydney!
I attribute my love of travelling to my parents. They’d make efforts to take the family on overseas trips at least once a year just because we kids would bug them non-stop for a holiday.
Now that I am more independent financially, I am able to bring my parents somewhere I know they would enjoy. And I have found just the perfect destination — Sydney and New South Wales (NSW).
This guide lists 13 handpicked activities and experiences that you and your parents will enjoy together.
Things to See
1) Arts and performances
Photo credit: Destination NSW
Happening this year from 22nd May to 13th June, Vivid Sydney is an annual festival of light, music, and ideas that sees installations by local and international artists projected on the iconic Sydney Opera House and on buildings around the city. The impressive art installations will awe even the most stoic Asian Dad. 🤩
Throughout the year, numerous arts festivals, installations and performances are put up around Sydney city as well.
2) Come close to incredible wildlife at nature reserves
Australia is known for its many endemic wildlife species such as the kangaroo, platypus, quoll, and
drop bear koala. There are many institutions and wildlife reserves in Sydney and NSW that provide a safe space for the animals while allowing people to learn more about animal conservation.
In Sydney, Taronga Zoo, Featherdale Wildlife Park, and the newly opened Sydney Zoo are three notable wildlife sanctuaries that house many of Austalia’s fauna and will be perfect stops for you to come up close and personal with some of Australia’s native wildlife.
Photo credit: @jennleayr
If you and your parents are more adventurous, how about a camel riding experience on Birubi Beach in Port Stephens? From AU$30/pax, you will get to ride on a camel along the sand dunes of Port Stephens for 20 minutes.
Other than camel riding on the beach, you can also experience guided horse riding through the forests of Glenworth Valley. The highlight of your stay at Glenworth Valley will start at 4:30PM, when dozens of horses are let out to roam free daily around the forests of Glenworth Valley.
3) Witness the hearty local atmosphere at farmers markets
Every Saturday morning, farmers markets come alive around Sydney and NSW, with locals setting up stalls selling fresh produce, cooked food, beverages, handcrafted items and so. There are several farmers markets happening on Saturdays in Sydney, but if you only have time to visit one, I highly recommend Carriageworks Farmers Market for their fresh seasonal local produce. Your parents will definitely love this place.
Photo credit: @carriageworksfarmersmarket via Instagram
Paddy’s Market is located near Sydney’s Chinatown and is open every Wednesday to Sunday from 10AM to 6PM. It is not a farmers market per se but Paddy’s Market has almost any and everything you can imagine finding in a bazaar — from dried and fresh produce to souvenirs and clothes.
Photo credit: Sydney Vegan Market
If your family is very environmentally conscious, a visit to the Sydney Vegan Market is highly recommended! The market opens on the third Sunday of every month and you can expect to find things that are plant-based and vegan, both food and products!
4) Flowers galore and more
Photo credit: Edward Howard
Spring is one of the best seasons to visit Sydney and NSW when days are mostly bright and sunny but still cooling. Accompanying the beautiful weather is the blooming of flora. Between mid-October to mid-November each year, blooming Jacaranda trees paint the streets of Sydney in a dreamy shade of purple. Some of the best viewing spots are the Royal Botanic Gardens, McDougall Street in Kirribilli, and suburban streets of Glebe.
Photo credit: Destination NSW. Auburn Botanic Gardens
If you miss the cherry blossom season in Japan, there’s still a chance to catch them in August… in Sydney! Every August, the Auburn Botanic Gardens in Sydney organises the annual ticketed Hanami festival for goers to view about 1,700 cherry blossom trees in full bloom.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons. Paper daisies at The Australian Botanic Garden.
An hour’s drive from Sydney city is The Australian Botanic Garden in Mount Annan, famous for their sea of paper daisies that go into full bloom every September to November. These colourful flowers are native to Western Australia and are rarely seen outside the state.
Things to Do
1) Go on shopping dates with Mum and score sweet deals
Photo credit: Destination NSW
Sydney may not seem like a shopping destination at first glance but for repeat visitors, you’ll know just how much of a shopper’s paradise Sydney can be. My mum, a.k.a the household’s Minister of Finance, knows just where to get the sweetest deals in Sydney. The Birkenhead Point Brand Outlet has 162 stores offering discounts up to 70% off and carries premium brands such as Bally, Coach, Michael Kors, and Armani Outlet.
Birkenhead also has a Guest Services Lounge that offers complimentary light refreshments and charging pods, just in case you need to deposit Dad somewhere while you and mum go wild shopping. 😛
2) Scour thrift shops for pre-loved vintage items as old as Dad
Photo credit: @dustdarlinghurst via Instagram
It could be an old-person thing, but my Dad loves to look through piles of secondhand items at vintage stores. Good for him though, as Sydney has quite a few thrift and vintage stores where one man’s junk is another’s (my father’s, specifically) treasures. For antiquity and oddities, Dust at Darlinghurst is a must-visit.
Photo credit: Destination NSW. Stalls at the Glebe Markets on a Saturday morning.
Glebe Markets, one of Sydney’s most vibrant markets, is a treasure trove where locals sell their pre-loved items from furniture to clothing, as well as handmade crafts and art pieces. They’re open 10AM – 4PM every Saturday.
You can also check out any Vinnies shop in the city for thrift finds! Run by the people behind St. Vincent de Paul Society, profits of pre-loved items purchased from Vinnies will go to charities and the underprivileged in Australia.
3) Bring Dad and Mum along for scenic strolls within the city
Photo credit: Maurice van Creij
In Singapore, people walk like they have wheels in their shoes. Sometimes, it’s nice to slow down the pace, especially when you’re on vacation… with the folks. You don’t have to look far for peaceful nature walks in Sydney. There are neat green spaces within the city to take a breather and have nice long strolls at.
Barangaroo Reserve. Photo credit: Wikipedia user – Wpcpey
Just a short walk away from The Rocks is Barangaroo Reserve, a waterfront park with walking and cycling paths, plenty of resting spots and great views of the Sydney Harbour.
Bondi to Bronte coastal walk
For coastal walks that aren’t too far away from the city, there’s the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk that stretches for 2.5km along the Bondi Beach. The walking path is well-paved and is enjoyed by all ages. If time permits, take the longer but even more scenic Bondi to Coogee coastal walk (6km).
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons. Royal National Park.
Again, if you folks are more active and enjoy great nature, the Royal National Park is a nice place for treks and bushwalks. Some easy to moderate level trails include the Wattamolla to Eagle Rock and Curracurrong Falls, Jibbon Beach Loop Track, and Karloo Walking Track.
4) Go glamping with the family
Photo credit: Simple Pleasures Camping Co.
Parents enjoy nothing more than simple quality bonding time with their children, especially grown ones who spend less time at home. The answer to a simple bonding session would be glam camping with the family. Take a break from the city and chill out at one of the stylish camping sites around Sydney and NSW.
Photo credit: @timeoutsydney via Instagram
Paperbark Camp in Jervis Bay is one such glamping spot. Get closer to nature in style and comfort — the luxury safari canvas tents are well-furnished with beds, lighting, insect screening and even an open-air ensuite bathroom with hot shower.
Photo credit: Destination NSW
A short ferry ride from Sydney is Cockatoo Island, a UNESCO heritage site that has waterfront campsites with BBQ facilities and overlooks the Sydney Harbour. If your parents are animal lovers, they’ll love Taronga Zoo’s Roar and Snore, an overnight stay in safari-style tents within the zoo! But if you’re just looking for an authentic camping experience among the woods, Glenworth Valley is just the perfect pitstop in between Sydney and the Central Coast.
5) Pick fresh organic fruits at fruit farms
Photo credit: Destination NSW
Fruit picking is a hands-on activity that’s well-loved by people of all ages. Best of all? At the end of it, you’ll get to eat what you picked! Fruit farms Glenbernie Orchard and Cedar Creek Orchards are open for fruit picking with a small entrance fee.
Things to Eat
1) Satisfy mum’s cravings for Asian food
Photo credit: Destination NSW
What do Singaporeans miss the most when overseas? Singaporean food. If your mum is craving her Asian fix, fret not as there are many delightful Asian restaurants in Sydney and NSW.
On top of the list is Spice Alley, a hawker-style eatery in the heart of Sydney that sells Asian food at affordable prices. Think kopi-tiam with chicken rice and rendang, but in Sydney.
Photo credit: XOPP
In the Blue Mountains, Unique Patisserie is your answer when the Asian cravings hit. Besides selling tarts, mud cakes and meringues, their laksa, bak kut teh, and nasi lemak are known to be delectably authentic.
Read also: 3D2N Escape to the Blue Mountains
2) Indulge in the cafe lifestyle, Sydney-style
Cafes are a huge part of the Australian lifestyle. There’s one cafe everywhere you turn. Lazy afternoons are best-spent cafe-hopping, from the most Instagrammable ones to the neatly hidden ones, and even to the weird and quirky ones. If you only have time to visit one cafe, it would have to be The Grounds of Alexandria, where every corner looks like an Instagram heaven. Reconnect with your family over freshly roasted coffee and delightful pastries! There is a reason why it’s the most photographed food venue in Sydney.
Read also: 10 Must-Try Things to Eat in Sydney
3) Introduce them to mind-blowingly delicious healthy vegan food
Photo credit: @thecrumedia via Instagram
Australians are ahead of us in the vegan game and are exceptionally creative when it comes to vegan food.
Photo credit: @yullissurryhills via Instagram
It’s hence a great opportunity to introduce mind-blowingly delish vegan food in Sydney! Some of my personal favourite vegan dining places in Sydney are Bodhi for their traditional Cantonese yum cha-style dim sum, and Yulli’s for their creative twist of Asian-fusion dishes.
4) Buffet with a view
If you’re looking for an unforgettable meal experience within Sydney city, how does a buffet lunch on the tallest building in Sydney sound? The Sydney Tower Buffet Revolving Restaurant not only offers fantastic food choices but also unbeatable views of the city from atop. Mum and Dad will definitely find food to their liking as the buffet spread has over 50 dishes from various cuisines.
Suggested Itineraries Sydney & NSW
A) 1 Week Self Drive Itinerary: Sydney, Central Coast, Hunter Valley
Day 1: Pick up the rented car in Sydney and start driving (~1.5h) to the Central Coast. Watch the Pelican feeding that happens daily at The Entrance waterfront. If you’re visiting on a Saturday, there’s a small yet lively farmers market near the waterfront.
Day 3: Drive to the Hunter Valley, do a vineyard tour and taste the finest Shiraz in Australia. Stay for a night at the Hunter Valley Resort.
Day 4: Explore the Hunter Region before heading to Port Stephens. Try camel riding in Port Stephens before taking a 2.5-hour drive back to Sydney city. Satisfy Mum and Dad’s craving for Asian food at Spice Alley or XOPP at The Exchange for dinner.
Days 5: Day trip to Glenbernie Orchard or Cedar Creek Orchard for some fruit-picking fun with Dad and Mum! Visit the Royal National Park or The Australian Botanic Garden before making your way back to Sydney city.
Day 6: Visit gardens and beautiful flora around Sydney depending on the season of your visit. Take lunch at The Grounds of Alexandria, and visit Taronga Zoo to get up close to Australia’s native wildlife. Have Bodhi for dinner before ending the day with a late-night shopping spree at a local supermarket like Coles or Woolworths.
Day 7: Save the last day for shopping! Bring Mum to Birkenhead Point Brand Outlet centre for amazing cheap deals on branded goods, and then bring Dad to any Vinnies for surprising thrift finds! Pop by Paddy’s Market for a meal and then continue with the shopping. Make good use of your last day before leaving Sydney for home!
B) 1 Week No Car Itinerary
Day 1: Get an Opal card for easy travelling on the public transportation system in Sydney. Central Park, Newtown, and The Strand Arcade are some nice places to start off the holiday on a nice and slow pace.
Day 2: Visit Sydney’s city zoo, Taronga Zoo and get close to some of Australia’s endemic animals.
Day 3: Day trip to the Blue Mountains via the Blue Mountains Line transportation system, fares payable with the Opal card. Feeling peckish? Stop by Unique Patisserie in Katoomba for yummy Southeast Asian cuisine. Explore around the Blue Mountains and the iconic Three Sisters on a Hop-On Hop-Off Explorer Bus. For a more relaxing pace, stay a night around the Blue Mountains.
Day 4: Join a day trip to the Hunter Valley to visit vineyards that produce some of the finest wines in Australia. Tour picks-up and drops-off at Sydney city. Have an early night!
Day 5: Start your day early at one of the several weekend markets. Carriageworks Markets for food, Glebe Markets for garments and pre-loved items. Enjoy a chill day at your own pace. Places like the Royal National Park, The Rocks, Barangaroo Reserve, and Chinatown will be teeming with life during the weekends. Do a late-night supermarket run at Central Park with parents and buy snacks for tomorrow’s adventures!
Day 6: Utilising the Opal card, hop on a public ferry to Cockatoo Island and learn the history of the UNESCO heritage site that was once a prison island. Maximise usage of the Opal card on Sunday as transport fares are capped at AU$2.80 all-day. Next, visit Manly via another ferry ride, and take leisurely strolls along the beach. Indulge in both shopping and good fish & chips at Manly Corso. Catch the ferry back to Sydney CBD after sunset.
Day 7: Last-minute shopping in Sydney city at Birkenhead Point Brand Outlet before leaving Sydney for home.
Fly to Sydney with CheapTickets
When travelling with the folks, being as comfortable as possible is often a priority. But that can be a problem for millennials on a tight budget. For me, I turn to CheapTickets.sg to source for the lowest airfare among the full-service carriers with its simple filter search tool. This way, I can easily find airlines that cater to my needs while still keeping my budget in check.
From now till 31st March 2020, take S$20* off your Qantas flight from Singapore to Sydney when you book through CheapTickets.sg with the promo code <QANTAS20>! Qantas flies twice daily from Singapore to Sydney, and both flights arrive in the morning so you can start the day right away!
Take this opportunity to treat your parents to an enjoyable vacation to thank them for raising you to who you are today.
Also, don’t just stop there, you can also find your accommodation through CheapTickets.sg. Search through a wide variety of accommodation types from campsites at Cockatoo Island to cottages around the Blue Mountains. Plus! Earn an additional S$100*^ flight promo code for future bookings when you book both Qantas flights to Sydney and 3 nights’ accommodation in NSW on CheapTickets.sg on or before 31st March 2020.
*Discount is applicable only to the first 1000 bookings
*Discount not valid with any other promotional offer or discount
*Not valid on budget/low-cost airlines
*Other restrictions may apply
*^This promotion may not be used in conjunction with any other promotion including flight discounts codes.