If your kids love marine animals, take them to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium in Sydney. How can you not love a place where a dugong winks at you, a shark stares you down and a little penguin makes you laugh?
Welcome to underwater life with all of its fascinating inhabitants. With a series of glass viewing tunnels, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour is a must-do family attraction. It allows you to descend underwater and view marine creatures up close. It’s the perfect indoor venue to introduce kids to sea life without getting wet. We recently visited SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium and recommend it as a family day out.
The Aquarium winds through nine zones including the Penguin Expedition, Sydney Harbour and Dugong Island, and Shark Valley and features over 13,000 animals from 700 different species.
One of our favourites is South Coast Shipwreck featuring the antics of little penguins. By crouching down, we get to see their activities both above and below the water as they take turns diving and swimming through the water.
We laugh as we watch a penguin perform an awkward belly flop into the water after being unceremoniously bumped by a fellow penguin.
There are better relations between the sea life at Dugong Island with sting rays, a dugong and other fish swimming peacefully together.
Here we watch the graceful dugong glide through the water. It’s a beautiful creature whom we learn is more closely related to elephants than to cows or dolphins.
The dugong’s name is Pig and he glides back and forth observing people observing him. As we look closely, it appears that Pig is smiling and then we swear he winks at us. Pig then swims off to play with a witch’s hat that he’s found.
As we walk back up the ramp to Dugong Island Boardwalk, we spot the keepers feeding food to sting rays.
Speaking of lunch, the next exhibition is the Shark Valley. Once again you’ll have to go down a series of ramps to access a tunnel walk-through where it appears the sharks are also looking forward to their next feed.
Shark Valley brings visitors face to face with these magnificent and much-maligned creatures.
This is the highlight of our visit as we are completely surrounded by water on all sides. Sharks glide by, one after another while stingrays and schools of fish swim along unconcerned.
My daughter shrinks back from the glass when the sharks approach giving us cold stares. The rays are friendlier flattening themselves against the glass tunnels to get a closer look at us. It’s not clear who is observing whom more.
At the next exhibit, we spot penguins, lots of them in fact. These are a different species than the little penguins we spotted earlier.
If you want to get up close and personal, you can line up for the Penguin Expedition Boat Ride, which gets you close to a colony of King and Gentoo Penguins. The Boat Ride is FREE with your general admission ticket to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium!
However, on the day we visit, there is a 30-minute wait so we decide to skip it as you can still walk through Penguin Expedition and view the King and Gentoo Penguins through the large viewing windows surrounding the display.
It’s then onto the Discovery Rockpool. This is a popular exhibit for families as you can roll up your sleeves and stick your hands in the water. You’ll be able to see and touch sea stars, shark eggs, shells, sea urchins and more
One of the brand new exhibits is Day and Night on the Reef. Set entirely on the reef, it recreates what life on a coral reef is over 24 hours of the day.
It’s remarkable to see what creatures appear in the day and those that emerge in the middle of the night. The bioluminescence is especially cool to see in the dark.
This new exhibit uses state-of-the-art technology to deliver a totally unique, interactive experience and is the largest Great Barrier Reef exhibit in the world!
Before we exit SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, we find a spot at the Reef Theatre to contemplate and observe marine life. Here we join other patrons in silence watching the graceful sea creatures glide by in their watery surrounds. We’re lucky enough to see a giant sea turtle come up close to say hello.
We marvel at how different species, small and large coexist in the world’s oceans and vow to return again to Sydney Aquarium.
It’s a great day out and there are so many family-friendly features of Sydney Aquarium. Fun interactive stations are located throughout the centre keeping kids completely engrossed.
There are buttons to press, sounds to hear, things to feel and creatures to peer at.
Tips for visiting SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
- Purchase your admission ticket ahead of time and select a date and time that you wish to enter SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. If you are visiting with an Annual Pass or have a ticket with no date attached to it then you will need to book a time slot before visiting.
- Note it can be busy on weekends and during school holidays. If you want a quieter experience, visit on a weekday and during school terms.
- If you’re planning to come to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium by car, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium offers all guests cheap parking rates at several car parks in central Sydney.
- If you are planning to use public transit to get to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, it’s a short walk from Town Hall or Wynyard stations. You can also catch a ferry. Public ferry services to Darling Harbour depart from Circular Quay Wharf 5 about every half an hour. If you are coming by light rail, exit the light rail from either the Convention Centre or Pyrmont Bay stations.
- Get your photo taken when you first enter. Your admission price includes Digi Photo Pass with 8 digital photos included.
- Toilets are located at the entry of the attraction and after the Penguin expedition (which is almost at the end). Go before you enter SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. Here is the attraction map which shows where everything is.
- Depending on the age of your kids, plan for a visit of between 90 minutes to 2 hours. You can easily stay longer as there are tons to see.
- If you plan to see more Merlin Attractions like Madame Tussauds Sydney, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and Sydney Tower Eye, buy a Combo pass or opt for a Merlin Annual Pass. A Merlin Annual Pass gives you unlimited access to 10 attractions in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Auckland. You can use your Parents NSW Voucher to purchase an day pass or Annual Pass.
- If you get hungry, there is a small snack shack at Dugong Boardwalk or if you can wait, there is a larger cafe at the exit.
- There are currently no feeds and talks operating inside the aquarium. However, you can watch pre-recorded talks, feeds and behind-the-scenes footage to discover more about the creatures before or after your visit to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium.
Disclosure: Newy with Kids received complimentary admission for review purposes. However, all opinions are our own.
In 2012, Reena founded Newy with Kids to share information about family-friendly Newcastle. Originally from Canada, she had no idea about what to do with her toddler and after searching unsuccessfully for a local family guide, decided to start her own. Since that time, both the toddler and Newy with Kids have grown keeping Reena busy. If you see her out and about, say hi.