A Sydney icon, located in the shadow of the famous Harbour Bridge, Luna Park has been a bastion of fun for all the family since its opening in 1935.

American entrepreneur Herman Philips bought the idea – based on New York’s Coney Island – to Australia back in 1912 when he opened Melbourne’s Luna Park, and then Adelaide’s at Glenelg in 1930. Sydney’s was the third Luna Park, and is today Australia’s most famous and an entry on the Sydney Heritage Register.

The broad smiling face and whirlwind of rides belies the dramas that have unfolded beneath these arches throughout the Park’s history – there have been fires, fatalities, terminated leases and public protests. But in 1999, a 40-year lease was finally agreed so that these days it is in pristinely renovated retro condition.

A relatively small fun park – you only need a half hour or so to walk through if you’re not stopping for any of the rides or a bite to eat – the incredibly convenient location makes it a brilliant stop-off on a day around Sydney’s inner harbour

Tucked almost beneath the northern end of Sydney Harbour Bridge, rides include the Pirates Revenge water roller coaster, the Wild Mouse roller coaster, a Ferris Wheel, Whirly Wheel, Devil’s Drop, Rotor and Tumble Bug as well as gentler options including a Carousel, Wonky Walk, Mirror Maze and  Coney Island with all its traditional amusement alleys such as the mirrors, slides and ‘barrels of fun’. Rides come in three sizes: those for under 105cm (minimum height 85cm); those for 106-129cm; and those for over 130cm.

Why go: Even if you don’t want to ride any of the attractions, this spot has some of the city’s most photogenic views across the harbour with the Bridge and the Opera House panoramically framed – a great spot to get that ‘family in Sydney’ shot. As entry is free, there really is no reason not to drop in for a quick visit on your way around the harbour.

Who is it best for: Ages five plus when it comes to rides; all ages when it comes to a fun walk through for the views and ambience. Be aware that if you are with children in the middle school ages who do want to go on the rides, the accompanying adult ticket is almost as expensive as the full price ticket.

Top tip: Catching a ferry to Luna Park is the most picturesque and fun way to arrive, and with regular Luna Park services to and from Circular Quay, simply jump aboard at Wharf 5 (week days) and Wharf 4 (weekends and public holidays). If you time your visit for the evening, we highly recommend you follow up with some of our While You’re In The Area suggestions for fish and chips and a dip in the pool next door. If you are going during a school holiday period, try to book tickets online in the morning rather than wait in queues when you get there.

Facilities: There are places to eat on the go – Coney Island Cafe and Lighthouse Cafe – as well as sit down spots at Fish N Sips and The Deck. There are lockers, as well as parking in the streets around the park (if it is busy, head over to the Kirribilli side – under the arches of the Harbour Bridge for some alternative on-street parking).

Highlights for kids: The rides, the nostalgic retro feel, the candy floss, the views, the ferry ride and the fact that you can drop in and have a little taste of the attractions rather than committing to an entire day.

While you’re in The Area: Stop in Kirribilli Village (an easy walk under the arch of the Harbour Bridge) for fish and chips and have a picnic there on the lawns beneath the Bridge. If it’s a hot day, pack your bathing suit for a dip at the next-door-neighbour North Sydney Pool, which you can have free entry to with your Luna Park Unlimited Day Pass wristband.