One of the best things about Sydney is the amount of green space, some of it really close to the city centre. One of those spaces is the Centennial Parklands. With a huge variety of things to do, here’s why this is the best park in Sydney.
About the Centennial Parklands
The Centennial Parklands are much more than just some grass, trees and a lake or two. The largest urban parklands in the Southern Hemisphere, it encompasses three main areas, Centennial Park, Moore Park and Queens Park, making it a total of 360 hectares about 5km from the centre of Sydney. Over 30 million people flock to the area every year.
Each of the three parks has a distinct personality. Centennial Park is just like you imagine a park to be. Lots of open space, walking trails, trees, gardens and ponds. Moore Park includes sporting grounds, the equestrian centre, and also the Entertainment Quarter (fondly called just the “EQ”), which has entertainment venues, restaurants and cafes, shopping, markets and more. Queens Park is the smallest section, comprising of playing fields and playgrounds and an area or rare banksia scrub.
Getting to the Centennial Parklands
There are a few different public transport options to get to the Centennial Parklands, depending on where you are coming from and which part of the parklands you want to go to. From the CBD, the best way to get to Centennial Parklands is to catch with the T2/T3 tram and get off at the Moore Park stop. From there it’s a short walk to the Entertainment Quarter, and entrance points to Centennial Park and the main Moore Park fields – the golf courses!
If you are driving, there is plenty of free parking throughout the parklands. Centennial Park in particular has roads all through it to get closer to your preferred location. There is also a paid, multi-story carpark in the Entertainment Quarter, convenient to any events happening there.
Things to do in the Centennial Parklands, Sydney
Here are just a few ideas for things to do in Centennial Park, Moore Park and Queens Park.
Clock up those 10000 Steps!
There are so many different areas to walk or jog in that you could choose a different path each day of the week. Take the main paths dedicated just for walkers or venture further afield. Some of the lesser paths make it feel like you are right out in the countryside rather than minutes from the city centre.
For a bit more of a challenge, take part in the weekly Parkrun – a free 5km event that happens all around the world. You do not need to run, but can walk the distance too. See all the details here.
Take a Bike Ride
There are all sorts of bike riders in Centennial Park. Some look like they are in training for the Tour de France, others are out for a casual jaunt. There are dedicated bike lanes on all of the main roads through the park, so ensure to stay on those paths and not the ones for the walkers or the horses.
Bring your own bike for your ride, or hire one from the Centennial Park Cycles shop. Here there are a variety of bikes, from single, tandem, even pedal cars that are kind of like a golf cart, so all the family can ride.
Centennial Park is a great spot to start your kids off riding too. There’s a dedicated Learners Cycleway area that has a mini road system especially to teach kids about the road rules and bike safety.
Brush up your Golf Skills
Part of Moore Park is a full 18 hole golf course, perfect for the golf-lovers to get their fix! Or perhaps a casual round will be a fun way to clock up the daily exercise. Tee times can be easily booked on line in advance in preparation for your visit.
If a whole round of golf is too much, or you would just like to practice your swing, Moore Park is also home to a fantastic driving range. Open from 6am (except Mondays where they open at 10am) until 10:30pm, there is plenty of time to brush up on your game. There are also chipping and putting greens available to practice on too.
Learn to Ride a Horse
Right next to the Entertainment Quarter is the Centennial Parklands Equestrian Centre. The centre houses multiple riding schools and other facilities and can provide all sorts of hire riding activities. Kids and adults alike are catered for, from pony rides at a party in the park, a full lesson or a casual ride. Check out the Eastside Riding Academy for more details.
Note: During my visit the Equestrian Centre was closed due to Covid. Hopefully it is open again soon.
Do a Fitness Class
Every time I have walked through the park I’ve seen fitness classes. They have ranged from gruelling boot camp-style classes to tai chi and yoga. Book a class to get your day started right, even if you are on holidays.
Alternatively, look out for some of the fitness equipment available throughout the parks and use it to your advantage.
Attend an Event or join in an Activity at the EQ
Both the Hordern Pavilion and the Royal Hall of Industries are part of the Entertainment Quarter, and they both hold various exhibitions, concerts and events. During my visit, there was a fabulous Van Gogh exhibit on at the Royal Hall of Industries, and a concert by Tash Sultana is advertised as the first after Covid stopped these events.
Check out the current art exhibitions at the Art T Gallery.
The EQ also has other activities such as bowling and a movie theatre, both of which are back running now. There is also a skiing and snowboarding simulator experience at Off-Piste which looks like so much fun.
Centennial Park events include lots of sporting events such as marathons, the Moonlight Cinema in summer,
Please ensure you learn all the new rules associated with Covid and social distancing before attending any events.
Eat Sydney’s Famous Watermelon Cake
Have you tried Sydney’s famous watermelon cake? An instagrammer’s dream, the Watermelon Cake is made by Black Star Pastry. There are a few locations around Sydney, but conveniently, there is one located in the EQ. This cake not only looks good, but tastes delicious too. It’s made from vanilla sponge, cream, strawberries on top, and of course the main ingredient, a slice of watermelon. The perfect refreshing cake for a warm Sydney day.
Shop at the Markets
Markets are often held in the Showring area of the EQ. Every Wednesday and Saturday from 8am to 2pm is the Cambridge Markets, a farmer’s market filled with local produce and flowers. Visitors receive 2 hours free parking, so it’s easy to pop in and pick up some beautiful fresh items.
On the third Sunday of every month the Sydney Vegan markets are held in the same location from 9am to 4pm. With over 100 stalls, there’s plenty of shopping to be done, but if you prefer to just soak up the atmosphere, bring a picnic blanket, sit back and enjoy the entertainment instead. If you come early, there is a yoga class to start the day too.
Take a Tour or a Class
There are dozens of different tours available to take if you would like to learn a little more about the Centennial Parklands, the Aboriginal Culture of the local people, or the local wildlife. Some on offer that look really interesting include the Spotlight Prowl for Families, the Forest Bathing Walk – Shinrin Yoku, the Aboriginal Arts Class and the Bush Foods Picnic.
Check out the full list here and choose a tour or class to suit your interests.
Visit the Wild Play Garden with Your Kids
This is why Centennial Park is the best park in Sydney for kids! The Ian Potter Children’s Wild Play Garden looks absolutely fabulous. Unfortunately I cannot confirm how amazing it is because during my time in Sydney it was another victim of Covid and was temporarily closed. The above video shows some of the great play areas it contains though, and I think any kid would love to come here and check it out.
Meet a Friend for Coffee
There are a variety of places throughout the parklands to pick up a coffee or have a meal. In the Entertainment Quarter there are plenty of options, but you will also find then scattered through the other areas. Look out for a Queens Park Kitchen in Queens Park, and in Centennial Park, there are a few options. Wisteria is a great cafe for a morning coffee or a meal during the day. For a lighter lunch or snack, try the Greenhouse Café. Coffee on the run means stopping by the Spruce Goose Diner, or a second coffee van spotted in various other parts of the park.
Walk the Centennial Park Labyrinth
Located adjacent to Lachlan Swamp, the Centennial Park Labyrinth is a great place to walk away some of the stresses of life. Built based on the design from the Chartres Cathedral in France, walking the labyrinth is a time for contemplation and meditation. This activity is said to have therapeutic effects including exercising the right side of the brain and creating a calm state. Come along and try it out for yourself.
Pack a Picnic or Bring a BBQ
Why not make a day out of it and bring lunch when you visit? Perfect for family gatherings and parties, there is plenty of open space available to sit and enjoy a meal. Picnic tables are scattered throughout the parks, and there are eight free barbecues available to cook up a feast. For all the BBQ locations, as well as safety requirements see here.
Check out the Birthplace of Modern Australia
Right in the top corner of Centennial Park is the Belvedere Amphitheatre. This site, on a slight rise, overlooks the park of the park that held the Federation Ceremony on January 1st 1901 that saw Australia become the nation it is today. The first Prime Minister was sworn in here, as was the first Governor-General.
Now, the Belvedere Amphitheatre becomes the location of the Moonlight Cinema each summer, where visitors can enjoy movies under the stars with a picnic.
Visit Lachlan Swamp and the Largest Bat Colony in Sydney
The first time I approached Lachlan Swamp I thought the trees were filled with noisy cockatoos or parrots. It wasn’t until I looked up I realised the noise was actually bats. Thousands of Flying Foxes to be exact, the largest colony in Sydney. The Flying Foxes only began to call this area home in 2010, and it looks like they have now settled in well. If you visit the park early in the morning or in the evening, you will likely see them leaving or coming back to their roost as they search for food up to 30km away all around the Sydney area.
Pick up some Centennial Park Honey
Here’s a different souvenir from your time in Sydney – the unique flavour of honey from the bees in Centennial Park. While they get pollen from all over the area, they are particularly partial to the stand of Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub. This endangered tree is quite rare, so this honey has flavours not found anywhere else. To pick up a jar, visit the Parklands Office or Centennial Homestead.
With so much open space and forest-like areas, there are bound to be plenty of birds in the area so this is a perfect place to go birdwatching. Apparently over 100 different types of birds have been spotted in the parks so far. Grab the binoculars or camera and find a nice quiet spot to see what comes along.
I admit I am no bird expert, but during my visits I have spotted pelicans, swans, geese, ducks, cockatoos, kookaburras, pigeons, ibis, swamp hen, seagulls, magpies, ravens – and plenty more I can’t name.
Looking for Centennial Park Accommodation?
If you are looking to stay in a location close to Centennial Park, what could be closer than right inside the park itself? There are two cottages – the Ranger’s Cottage and the Superintendent’s Cottage – that have been restored and are now used for accommodation.
With so much to do, the Centennial Parklands are worth a visit during your time in Sydney.
Looking for more things to do in Sydney? Try these posts
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Head of the Bight Whale Watching
Things to do in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Alice Springs to Uluru on a Budget – Visiting the Red Centre, Australia
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.