Best of Sydney's historical adventures for kids

Excitement building: School holiday adventures for history loving kids.
Excitement building: School holiday adventures for history loving kids.  Photo: Getty

Do your kids fancy themselves little explorers? Do they like to imagine what it was like for Captain James Cook at sea? Or the Aborigines as they faced invasion? Just because school is out doesn't mean they need to starve their inner history buff. Our city is full of historical gems just waiting to be discovered by curious kids.

The hardest part is narrowing down the hit list and we have done the work for you with our top five history adventures for families to embark on over the winter break in Sydney.

Don't delay. Grab your school holiday planner, and mark down the details for a trip back in time.

ELIZABETH FARM

Give kids a taste of colonial homestead life with a visit to Elizabeth Farm, the home Australia's wool industry pioneers, John Macarthur and his wife Elizabeth shared with their seven children during the early 1800s.

ElizabethFarm

The 'access all areas' museum gives you free reign to explore Australia's oldest homestead. Cosy up in front of the drawing room fire, test out the bed, marvel at the cobble-stone kitchen and then head outdoors to play one of the many colonial games on offer, including knuckles, quoits, hoop and stick, cup and ball, and croquet. Kids can roam free through the re-created 1830s garden while you relax with a homemade Devonshire tea.

  • Time: Open daily during NSW public school holidays, 10:30am-3:30pm
  • Cost: Adult $8, Child/Concession $4, Family $17
  • Tours: Free guided tours depart hourly from the tearooms between 11am and 2pm.
  • Contact: sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/elizabeth-farm or phone +61 2 9635 9488
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FORT DENISON

If firing cannons, climbing towers and exploring a former convict execution site sound more exciting to your kids than visiting a colonial homestead, Fort Denison is the place for you. Catch a ferry from Circular Quay to the small island and explore the colourful history of the once-penal-site-turned-fort.

FortDenison

Your kids will be kept enthralled with tales of war ships and foreign threats of attack as they climb Martello Tower, built to help protect Sydney Harbour from invasion during the 1940-50s. Make sure you're there for the 1 o'clock firing of the cannon and check out the colonial artefacts in the island's museum.

  • Time: Open daily during NSW public school holidays, 10:30am-3:30pm
  • Tours: Guided daily at 11.00am, 12:15pm, 1:45pm and 2:45pm
  • Cost: Adults $15.50, Concession $14.50, Children $13.50, Family $40.00 (plus cost of ferry)
  • Contact: www.fortdenison.com.au or phone +61 2 9361 5208

QUARANTINE STATION, MANLY

For those who like the spookier things in life, a visit to Manly's Quarantine Station is in order. As the darkness settles over the headland, kids - young and old - can embark on a guided walking tour of the most haunted site in Sydney. The eerie setting makes for the perfect backdrop to a historical adventure that takes you beyond the grave.

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Over 500 people were struck down by deadly diseases at the Quarantine Station during 1833 and 1984. It is said that victims of the Bubonic Plague, Spanish Influenza, Smallpox and Typhus, still haunt its walls. Kids can hear the tales of paranormal activities firsthand, as they join others on the hunt for the station's ghosts. For the committed among us, you can even spend the night inside one of their most haunted buildings.

  • Time: Ghost Trackers tour operates Friday and Saturday nights 6pm-8pm or 7pm-9pm
  • Tours: Ghost Trackers – (5 years and over) 2 hour walking tour
  • Cost: Adults $36, Child (5-16 years) $28, Concession $32, Family $120
  • Contact: www.quarantinestation.com.au/Ghost-Tours/ghost-trackers.html or phone +61 2 9466 1551
  • Tips: Bring your own torch and camera

HORNBY LIGHTHOUSE, WATSON'S BAY

If haunted headlands are a little too much for you and the kids to handle, catch a ferry to Watson's Bay and marvel at the historic Hornby Lighthouse in Sydney Harbour National Park instead.

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Built in 1858, set up high at South Head, the iconic red and white striped lighthouse not only offers magnificent views of Sydney Harbour but is also an ideal spot for whale watching in winter.

Walk the easy coastal track from Camp Cove at Watson's Bay, along the South Head heritage trail. Make sure you stop to take in the historic gun emplacements before you reach the lighthouse but don't linger with littlies too long at Lady Bay Beach unless you're prepared to have a talk about naked bathing.

End the morning with a seafood lunch at Doyles – a historical gem in its own right, it set up shop on the beachfront in 1885.

THE HMB ENDEAVOR, AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM

Does your child dream of sailing the seven seas in search of foreign lands? While they might be a little young to undertake such a feat just yet, they can step aboard Captain James Cook's HMB Endeavor replica for an up close look at what life was like for the Captain during his epic 1768-71 world voyage.

HMB Endeavor

Listen to the history behind the voyage as you climb, crouch and navigate through the confined spaces of this grand vessel. Kids can even see the Great Cabin where Cook worked and dined alongside famous botanist Joseph Banks.

  • Time: Open most days from 9:30am with last boarding at 4:10pm.
  • Cost: Adults $27, Child (4-15 years)/Concession $16, Child under 4 free, Family $70
  • Contact: www.anmm.gov.au/whats-on/vessels/hmb-endeavour or phone +61 2 9298 3777
  • Tips: Children must be over 90cm and be accompanied by an adult. Flat, enclosed shoes recommended.