Sydney, Australia: The World’s Most Child-Friendly City
I touched town in Sydney for the first time ever a 5-month pregnant, expatriate wife on a two-year assignment. I was instantly mesmerized by the wide, open spaces and the warmth of the local people. But it was only when I gave birth to my son that I learned just how family-friendly this city is.
Sydney is one of the most cosmopolitan places on the planet, with world-class restaurants, its own unique couture scene and an international and diverse people. But what it also has is a culture deeply rooted in family and a “work to live” attitude that ensures time for the good things in life: beaches and barbeques. Even luxury in Sydney is understated, so as not to draw away from what it is intended for—enjoyment rather than unnecessary ostentation.
Babies in Sydney are called “bubbies” or “bubs” and are seen everywhere: in high chairs at restaurants, in baby carriers downtown, and frolicking on blankets in parks and at beaches. Baby supplies are easily available in every supermarket (Coles and Woolworths being the largest ones) and pharmacies such as Pulse will stock items such as pacifiers, teethers, formula and breast pads. You may not find the variety in Australia that you find in America but be assured that the Aussies take their baby health seriously. You will see words like “organic” or “BPA-free” associated with most every baby product.
Similarly with shopping for kids, the products are great quality and have a unique, Aussie flavor. Favorite kids brands include Bonds (undergarments), Seafolly (swimwear), Gumboots (trendy everyday wear), Seed (upscale clothing and accessories) and of course, world-famous UGGs. The children’s section of Australian department stores David Jones (Neiman Marcus equivalent) and Myers (Macy’s equivalent) also carry a great selection of local and international brands. Note: Aussies are not big into online shopping so you will find the websites of many of these brands surprisingly underdeveloped.
Here are some of my favorite things to do with kids in Sydney:
- Pack a picnic and head to the Royal Botanical Gardens for outstanding views of the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Sydney harbor. Delight the kids with a visit to the fruit bats, Sydney’s least aesthetically pleasing but definitely amongst the most interesting sites.
- Spend an afternoon in one of Sydney’s gorgeous harbour beaches, popular with the local families for their shallow and calm waters
- Catch the Saturday Paddington Markets for a great atmosphere, local designers and indigenous crafts.
- Hang out at the Sydney Aquarium for a glimpse of all the fascinating creatures that hang out on the great barrier reef, a completely different ecosystem from anything found on the Northern hemisphere.
- Go on a whale-watching expedition that will take you beyond the Sydney harbor into the wide, open Pacific ocean, Nemo style!
Dining with the kids in Sydney is easy as pie (of which they eat a lot). Most places have a pretty casual vibe and will serve up a pasta or fish-n-chips for the pint-sized patrons. Sydney’s “3-Hat” restaurants (equivalent to Michelin 5-Star) are the most exclusive and are probably best visited whilst the bubs are tucked into bed. But other than that, Sydney’s gastronomic delights do not discriminate by age or eating habits! And you must try the confectionary, Australia’s little secret and the best pastries I have eaten outside of France.
One doesn’t go to Sydney for history, but rather for lifestyle. When you and your family are chowing down on an organic free-range scramble and freshly-squeezed orange juice before taking a bike-ride around Bondi beach, followed by a swim and a gelato, greeting like-minded folks around you with a friendly “G’day” (yes, they say that), you can’t imagine you would want to be anywhere else. And you won’t.
Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan is the founder of Momaboard.com, a global community of parents who travel with their kids featuring international city guides from New Delhi and New York and general travel tips. Kaamna’s 2 year old has been to 13 countries and counting.