Visiting Sydney is both a blessing and a curse—want to know why? Because there is just too much to do! Even if you’re a Sydneysider, the sightseeing to-do list is still pretty long. And because it’s constantly evolving, there is always something new to see. Yes, living in such an amazing place can be tough. But don’t worry. We’ve rounded up the very best things to do in Sydney and sorted them by category. Just choose your favourite interest and get ready to experience the ultimate Sydney adventures!
Where to Stay in Sydney
The Rocks: If you love history with a side of adventure. This neighbourhood, where Sydney was first settled, has loads of walking tours and is the home base of the BridgeClimb.
Circular Quay: If you love being in the centre of it all. You’ll have close-up views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, plus easy access to the Botanic Garden, as well as Metro and ferry routes to just about anywhere.
Darling Harbour: If you’re travelling with family. You’ll be near all the kid-friendly attractions like SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, Powerhouse Museum and more. Convenience is Darling Harbour’s middle name.
Surry Hills: If you love the up-and-coming neighbourhoods. This area is artsy, yet unpretentious; stylish, yet a bit rough around the edges. If art galleries, brunch and the latest mixology are your thing, Surry Hills is for you.
Darlinghurst: If you love a little bit of everything. This area’s got top-notch restaurants and chilled-out cafes, laid-back lounges and up-till-dawn clubs. Plus, it’s just a quick bus ride from both Bondi and the CBD.
Potts Point: If you fancy yourself a sophisticated traveller. Potts Point is home to several hatted restaurants by the latest and greatest chefs, and there are plenty of nearby 4- and 5-star hotels to choose from.
Inner West: If you’re feeling bohemian. Urban “outposts” like Newtown, Enmore and Marrickville have so many farmers markets, thrift boutiques, cafes and theatres, you’ll never want to leave.
Bondi Beach: If you love the laid-back beach lifestyle. Surf, swim or just soak up the sun. Stroll the Bondi-to-Bronte Coastal Walk for spectacular views or kick back in a café. This is Sydney at its easygoing best.
Balmain: If you want to feel like a local. The small-town feel of Balmain attracts those who love village life. You’ll be just close enough to all the action of downtown Sydney, but feel like you’re worlds away.
Manly Beach: If you like to keep it casual. When you just want to wear thongs and boardies wherever you go, sip a cold one at a beachside café and enjoy some good vibes, Manly is here for you.
Fun Family Activities in Sydney
Whether you’ve got a couple of little ones in tow or are planning a day with the grandparents and grandkids, you’ll find loads of things to do in Sydney for families. Traditional standbys like the zoo and aquarium always delight young minds, but there’s even more going on here for those in the know.
Pal around with penguins at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. Waddle on over to the penguin exhibit to meet Steven, George and Genie, the resident gentoo penguins (they’ll be wearing their finest tuxedos, but you don’t have to). Get a glimpse of the most venomous fish on the planet (the stonefish) and learn the secrets of gentle dugongs—for instance, they are most closely related to elephants!
Ferry over to Taronga Zoo. Speaking of elephants, the ones at Taronga Zoo are named Cuddles and Gigi, and they can’t wait to meet the whole family. In fact, there are 350 types of animals waiting to meet you here. The fun starts before you even arrive—kids will love the boat ride across the harbour on the Sydney Explorer ferry.
Enjoy kid-centred culture with a day at the theatre. In Sydney, family attractions aren’t limited to the usual suspects. For example, who knew that your kids would love theatre? The Opera House offers family shows from dance to musicals, and you can save big with Kids Multipacks. Spend that extra cash at any of the on-site restaurants, which all have kids menus.
The Capitol Theatre hosts kid-friendly shows like Aladdin and Alice in Wonderland … and it’s right next door to the iconic meat-pie-and-hot-dog stand, Harry’s Café de Wheels. Kids love the Harry’s Cheese Dog—adults love the take-away style dining for antsy little ones.
Spend the day at Darling Harbour. Nearby Darling Harbour is chockablock with family activities. Watch the kids go ’round on the historic carousel, or join the fun yourself. There is also a huge playground where young ’uns can splash in the water zone, take on the Big Slide, or conquer the highest point, the Octanet. When tummies get rumbling, head north to Pancakes on the Rocks for crowd-pleasing pancakes and pizza.
Make memories in Manly Beach. Active families can put the pedal to the sidewalk with Manly Bike Tours, which rents children’s bikes, trailers, and baby seats, too. If you’d rather let the kids tire themselves out, Manly Beach Surf N Slide is happy to entertain them while you sip coffee on the spectator deck. For a much-deserved dinner, drop into Ruby Lane, which has a well-priced kids menu and a patio filled with toys. That is, if the kids have any energy left.
Student Hot Spots in Sydney
Sydney is home to some of the country’s largest universities—there are five with enrolments over 30,000! So whether you’re a gap-year backpacker, a student yourself or just a Sydneysider looking for a party, you can count on a vibrant scene with all the things you love: cheap eats, good times, and plenty of culture.
Hang out at University of New South Wales. On-campus hotspot The Greenhouse hosts an eclectic calendar of live music, comedy shows, beerfests and more. Drama-lovers can see what’s on at Io Myers Studio, and athletes can test their cardio on the famously steep Basser Steps. It’s OK—you’ll need to work off all the pub grub you’re about to eat at popular student hangout The Regent.
Get a taste of café culture at University of Sydney. This uni is the second-largest in the country, and you’ll find plenty of cafés to fuel late-night study sessions for all those students. The undisputed champion among them is Ralph’s Café. If you can, meet the man himself—Ralph is something of a campus celebrity. By night, a trip to Sappho Books & Café is in order for dinner with live music amongst the cosy stacks.
Hunt for the best cheap eats. This mission will take you all over the city—and take your taste buds all over the world.
- Pho: Great Aunty Three in Surry Hills has quite the cult following for its pho dishes, and the banh mi won’t break the bank, either.
- Falafel: Even before Surry Hills was the hippest place to be, Fatima’s was serving up delicious falafel rolls on the cheap.
- Sushi: On level 1 of the Galeries shopping centre hides the city’s best “raw” deal: Sushi Hotaru, where it’s served up conveyor-belt-style.
- Vegan: Gigi’s Pizzeria—yes, you read that right. This Newtown joint recently switched to cheese-free and non-dairy pizzas, and they are a must-try.
- Carbs: Alright, so “carbs” isn’t a real food category, but we couldn’t leave out the Spanish bocadillos at Encasa Deli in the CBD. Just try them. You’ll see.
Discover your new favourite bar. The Whitehouse, on the UNSW campus, is known for its awesome Friday happy hour, where you’ll find $17 jugs all day long. For late-night partying, head to the Haymarket neighbourhood, where you’ll find the legendary Scubar (yes, it’s in the basement of a hostel, and yes, they have crab-racing). Down the street is Side Bar, with beer pong contests and drink specials made for student budgets.
Recover with some beach yoga. After a wild night, start the day off right. Yoga By the Sea lives up to its name, with drop-in, oceanfront classes in Bondi Beach. Afterward, head to Trio Café for more beach views along with Nutella French toast that will have you feeling better than ever.
Romantic Things to Do in Sydney
Sunsets over the Sydney skyline. Secluded beaches that feel like they’re all your own. Sunset dinner cruises on the world’s most famous harbour. In Sydney, experiences for couples are never far—if only you know where to look.
Dine at the top romantic restaurants. Two of the best are located right in Circular Quay. The Sydney Cove Oyster Bar’s candlelit, harbourside patio is sure to spark as much romance as the oysters they serve. Across the bay, Guylian Belgian Chocolate Café works its magic, as well.
Elsewhere in the city, the dining is just as amorous. The French accents and cosy fireplaces at Claire’s Kitchen at Le Salon, in Surry Hills, will win over any date. And in Potts Point, dark and mysterious wine bar Monopole is busy winning every award ever, including 2 Chef Hats and the Wine List of the Year 2017.
Relax on a hidden beach. Collins Beach, nestled on the western side of Manly with idyllic views across the Sydney Heads, is the perfect place to take it all in—and still be close to plenty of action at nearby Manly Beach. In Double Bay, Redleaf Beach is home to Murray Rose Pool with its picturesque circular pier, where you can sit to gaze out at the boats.
Stroll through the Chinese Friendship Garden. It’s more secluded than the popular Royal Botanic Garden, with plenty of places to hide amongst the weeping willows. Sydney Picnic Co. will deliver a gourmet picnic right to your door; for something sweet, grab a cone from N2 Extreme Gelato across the street.
Gaze at the stars at Sydney Observatory. The stars in your special someone’s eyes aren’t the only ones worth looking at. Watch the sun set, then name a star for your sweetheart as you explore the night sky. Head to the nearby Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel for a nightcap—it’s Sydney’s oldest continually licensed hotel, lasting almost as long as your love will.
Sail away on Sydney Harbour. If you came up with ten fun things to do in Sydney for couples, we bet half would involve the harbour—and it’s easy to see why. Gliding along on a tall ship or a luxurious yacht, dining on canapés and hors d’œuvres as the sun sets over the skyline … this is surely as romantic as it gets.
See it all on a helicopter tour. A couple that adventures together, stays together. One of the most exhilarating Sydney activities for couples is a flight over Sydney Harbour—sure to create lasting memories for those who like a little adrenaline in their activities.
A Foodie’s Guide to Sydney
Some people sightsee; you eat your way through a city. If you require memorable food experiences, Sydney is an open buffet, waiting for you to dig in and take a bite. Savour international fare, enjoy the freshest, locally sourced ingredients, and sample some seasonal specialities.
Try a new twist on the classic “dinner and the theatre”. Remember those romantic evenings when you and your better half would have a fancy dinner, then take in a performance? Well, this isn’t quite that. For starters, you don’t need a date, and, in this twist, dinner comes second. You’ll start off with a 1-hour guided walking tour of the iconic Sydney Opera House, where you’ll learn about the incredible engineering behind its architecture. Follow that up with a 3-course tasting plate prepared by one of the city’s top chefs—this is one of the premier gourmet food tours in Sydney!
Find the city’s hidden hot spots. The best way to eat like a local is to live like a local. And, with a walking food tour in Sydney, you can do just that. Let your local guide lead you to the places where Sydneysiders go to get away from all the tourists. Each tour can be different from the last, so you never know what you’ll find. Falafel on Lime Street? Sushi on Sussex? Specialty pizza on the Promenade? One thing is certain: count on it being a foodie frenzy!
Snack seasonally. If you want the freshest ingredients, you go straight to the source. For foodies, that means the farmers market. You could nearly fill out an entire week’s worth of meals with what you can pick up at some of the city’s best neighbourhood markets.
- On Saturdays, start your weekend off with a stop at the award-winning Eveleigh Market, bright and early in the morning.
- On Sundays, the laid-back, eclectic Marrickville Organic Farmers Market offers a wide assortment of some of the best organic baked goods in town.
- On Wednesdays, the Moore Park Produce Market takes place between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm, and makes for a delicious mid-week treat.
Tantalise your taste buds with farm-to-fork dining. Who likes a side of carbon footprint with their steak? Not you, mate! Some of Sydney’s best chefs are finding their inspiration in locally sourced ingredients. Chiswick in Woollahra has its own kitchen garden, where tonight’s salad was still growing this morning. Part cellar-door tasting room, part inventive eatery, Nomad in Surry Hills passionately fuses flavours of the Mediterranean with local Australian ingredients. And, for farm-to-fork fare with a view, make a reservation at Altitude, an award-winning establishment in The Rocks. Its honey comes from nine beehives on the roof—it doesn’t get much more local than that!
Take a tour of Asia. Typically, when you think about eating in Chinatown, you think dim sum and fried rice. But in Sydney’s Chinatown, you can take a tasting tour across all of Southeast Asia in just a few city blocks. The Eating World food court can be a one-stop-shop: Slurp up some ramen at Gumshara, cure a hangover with a giant Chinese pancake from Red Charcoal BBQ, and devour a mouth-watering Malaysian meal at Mamak. Or, you could do it all in one fell swoop with a Chinatown walking tour.
Sydney for Adventure Seekers
Does the thought of an afternoon at the museum give you claustrophobia? Would you rather travel by bike or foot instead of car or bus? Are you more at home surfing a killer wave than surfing the web? If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, you’ll be happy to know that Sydney adventure activities will make any outdoor enthusiast’s pulse pound with excitement.
It’s just a leisurely 10-kilometre stroll, no biggie. We hope you packed your gym shoes. The three- to four-hour Manly to Spit Bridge Coastal Walk is one of the most spectacular scenic city tours you could imagine. Make your way from Manly Beach to Spit Bridge along harbourside footpaths, bushland trails, and a few pedestrian promenades. Refuel with a light lunch at Balance Thai or Bijolias by the bridge.
Head for higher ground. Urban adventures are great, but the true outdoor enthusiast needs to get away from town to really be in their element. Some of the most popular adventure tours in Sydney take you to the UNESCO-listed Blue Mountains National Park. From Eagle Hawk Lookout, you’ll enjoy an expansive view of the picturesque Jamison Valley. There are even options that take you into the subterranean world of the Jenolan Caves (that still counts as outdoors, right?) or introduce you to some new furry friends at Featherdale Wildlife Park.
Surf’s up, mate! You didn’t think you’d spend time in Sydney and not try to catch some waves, did ya? If you’re a true ripper, you’ll want to show your skills off at Bondi or Manly Beaches. Consider yourself to be one step above shark-bait? You may be better off at South Curl Curl. It’s less crowded there, and you can grab lunch at the Penny Lane Café after you’ve shredded a few sets.
Kick it into a higher gear. Why view the city by tour bus when you can pedal your way through town? Sydney Cycleways offers a self-guided city tour map, and they’ll even hook you up with a rental. Feeling more adventurous than a flat-surface spin around Sydney? The Wylde Mountain Bike Trail may be more your speed.
Conquer your fears. All of those other outdoor things to do in Sydney are all well and good for the weekend warrior. But you’re a true thrill-seeker, right? Well, what’s more thrilling than swimming with some sharks and then jumping from a plane? The Sydney Shark Dive Experience puts you face-to-face with the fearsome predators—cage free—in the SEA LIFE Oceanarium. And you can put that GoPro to work with a tandem skydiving adventure where you’ll experience a 60-second freefall before your parachute opens, followed by a full 5 minutes of silent serenity as you float back down to Mother Earth.
Cultural Attractions in Sydney
Sydney is so much more than surf breaks, bridge climbs, and brew pubs (although those are pretty cool). There are a host of neighbourhoods, museums, and historical places in Sydney where you can learn about all the things that make this city unique. Treat your senses to these culture-filled activities.
Visit Sydney’s past, today. If you look past the upscale boutiques, trendy bistros, and inviting cellar doors in The Rocks, you’ll glimpse into the city’s storied past. Down a pint (or three) at the Fortune of War, Sydney’s oldest pub. It’s been serving Australian soldiers—and the general public—since 1828.
While we can’t promise that you’ll make contact with the “other side”, there are ghost tours where you can visit haunted homes in the neighbourhood. But it’s not all historical houses and well-visited watering holes. Some of today’s liveliest events take place in The Rocks, including the enormous Vino Paradiso wine festival and loads of Australia Day festivities.
Spend the day at Waradah Aboriginal Centre. One of the most popular cultural activities near Sydney lies 100 kilometres west in the quaint mountain town of Katoomba. At Waradah Aboriginal Centre, you can see award-winning dance performances, discover the story of the digeridoo, and take home one-of-a-kind native art from the gallery. Plus, the Blue Mountains, one of Australia’s most amazing natural wonders, are right next door. That’s two birds with one boomerang, mate.
Explore Southeast Asia … without leaving town. Include plenty of culture while sampling delicious flavours from all over Asia when you take a stroll through Chinatown. With so many different cuisines, you can “visit” a different country for every meal.
- China: Find the best steamed buns this side of Beijing at Ho’s Dim Sum Kitchen—and get caught up in the frenzy of a lion or dragon dance if you visit around the Lunar New Year or other important Chinese holidays.
- Japan: Sample some sushi and wash it down with sake at Wagaya on Harbour Street. Or, grab a bento box to go from Takumi and picnic in the Garden of Friendship on Pier Street, complete with after-dinner tea in the teahouse.
- Vietnam: Discover a new level of knowledge along with your noodles at Saigon Pho on Sussex Street. Didn’t quite reach enlightenment? Pick up some incense and a book on meditation at Leung Wai Kee Buddhist Craft & Joss Sticks Trading Company.
Get dressed to the nines. What list of things to do in Sydney would be complete without a tour of the iconic Opera House? Even better, there’s a tour that also includes a performance by the world-class Symphony Orchestra, one of the premier Sydney cultural events. If you prefer to see an opera performance, that can also be arranged, along with red-carpet treatment and a delectable post-show dinner at Bennelong Restaurant. You might want to trade your jumpers for a tux or evening gown for this one!
Make your way to some must-see museums. You may not have time to do your own research on Australia’s history and culture. That’s what makes a trip to the museum so enticing—all of the hard work has been done for you. You just need to show up and learn.
The nation’s oldest, the Australian Museum focuses on the continent’s natural history and anthropology, while the Powerhouse Museum has everything from Egyptian mummies to a hands-on discovery zone for kids of all ages. If you prefer a more modern approach, check out the engaging exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art or the avant-garde vibe at Carriageworks.
Sydney on a Budget
Who said you need to spend money to have a good time in Sydney? Some of the best memories are made simply by strolling along city streets, relaxing in a park, or finding a great deal on lunch for the entire crew. With so many free things to do in Sydney, your only challenge will be fitting them all in.
Enjoy a walkabout workout. Take advantage of Sydney’s incredible weather with a free walking city tour. Tour companies like I’m Free Sydney and Free Tours Sydney take you past all of the popular attractions, such as St. Mary’s Cathedral and Town Hall—as well as some off-the-beaten-path hidden gems. Remember, while the price may be free, it’s considered courteous to tip your guide.
Find some curated culture. Some of the best free activities in Sydney are found indoors—and we’re not talking about watching the telly at your hotel. The Art Gallery of New South Wales and Museum of Contemporary Art both offer free admission. You’ll have your choice of works from classic European masters to modern Australian innovators. For a family-friendly experience, take the kids to The Rocks Discovery Museum, where you’ll learn about the compelling history of one of the world’s most unique neighbourhoods.
Trade the hustle and bustle for a sanctuary of calm. Even though Sydney is full of interesting architecture and exciting attractions, sometimes it’s nice to slow things down a little and enjoy an afternoon in the park.
The Royal Botanic Garden is one of the most popular places to visit in Sydney for free, offering exquisitely manicured landscapes, guided walks, and even plant sales from the nursery. And then there’s Centennial Park in the city’s east, which has everything from a produce market to interactive history lessons for the kiddos. Most importantly, both parks have plenty of benches where you can simply sit back and watch the world pass by.
Dig in to delicious deals. Sometimes, the most expensive part of a getaway can be paying for your meals. Well, thanks to these mouth-watering options, you can keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket where it belongs.
- Darlinghurst: Savour slow-cooked pork and sweet potato wedges at Mr. Crackles.
- Bondi Beach: Stay true to tradition with a stop at The Chip Shop for some fried haddock and mushy pea chips.
- Anywhere: Follow your nose to a food truck. Find the deliciousness in Moore Park or the area around Pier One in The Rocks; top picks include South American street food from Caminito and the Aussie classic Jafe Jaffles. Who can resist a sandwich called the “David Jafflehoff”? Not us.
Make your friends jealous. Looking for what to do in Sydney for free? You probably have your phone in your pocket, right? In fact, if you stopped by any of the places to eat in the previous section, you probably snapped off a few photos of your plate for your Instagram account. Well, how about turning the camera on yourself and taking a few selfies around town? Make a game of who can take the best photo on your walkabout tour. The spires of St. Mary’s Cathedral and the steps of Town Hall make great backgrounds for your new profile picture. And the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge are definitely photo-worthy. Say “cheese”!
Sydney for Luxury Travellers
Whether you surround yourself with the finer things in life on the regular or simply like to treat yourself from time to time, you appreciate the way extravagant adventures make you feel. Well, you can pamper yourself from sunup to sundown with all the luxury experiences Sydney has to offer.
Let someone else do the driving. Sure, you could pile everyone in a car and head out to see some of the most impressive sights in and around Sydney. Or, you could let a professional guide get behind the wheel as you embark on a 3-day combination tour that will take you to the Blue Mountains, Featherdale Wildlife Park, Hunter Valley, Sydney Harbour, and Bondi Beach. During the Hunter Valley leg of the tour, you’ll taste some of Australia’s most tempting varietals, and enjoy a gourmet lunch. Every stop along the way will put you close to some trendy boutiques for a quick dose of retail therapy, if needed.
Pretend you’re a famous performer. Sydney Opera House tours are an incredibly popular attraction in town. But, did you know that there’s a special backstage tour that treats you like you are a performer about to take the stage at the iconic cultural venue? You’ll have access to restricted areas, get a behind-the-scenes sneak peek into rehearsal spaces and dressing rooms, and then enjoy a gourmet breakfast in the green room—the spot where the likes of Pavarotti, Baryshnikov, Ella Fitzgerald, and the Foo Fighters relaxed before delivering their epic performances.
Why rent a jet ski when you can sail on a yacht? One of the premier Sydney Harbour luxe charters, the America’s Cup Sailing Experience puts the salty mist and refreshing breeze in your face on an exhilarating tour around the city’s coastline. If you have the urge, you can pitch in and help out the crew—you might even get lucky and they’ll let you take the helm. Or, you can simply sit back and enjoy the scenery as you float around the harbour.
Drive a supercar through the Hunter Valley. Sometimes, the most luxurious gifts you can give yourself are experiences—like the Supercar Drive and Dine from the folks at Prancing Horse. Slip behind the wheel of a turbo-charged Ferrari or Lamborghini and hit the road for a 150-kilometre drive through Hunter Valley wine country. Follow up your pulse-pounding joyride with an amazing meal at Muse Kitchen at Keith Tulloch Winery or Muse Restaurant at Hungerford Hill Winery.
Fly and Dine. If speed isn’t your thing, you could take a city tour in the clouds on one of Sydney Seaplanes’ amphibious aircrafts. You’ll fly past the city’s most iconic sights like the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, over the area’s beautiful beaches, and around the majestic harbour. Your pilot will then land and deliver you to a nearby waterside fine-dining eatery, where you will enjoy a gourmet lunch before heading back to the wild blue yonder for your return trip home.
Shop ’til you drop. Sydney certainly holds its own in the ritzy retail fashion world thanks to its luxury boutiques. George Street has top names that will be welcomed in any upscale wardrobe. In the Queen Victoria Building (aka QVB), you’ll find a well-appointed retail wonderland where you can shop for anything from accessories to one-of-a-kind evening gowns. Gents will love the nearby Strand Arcade, where more menswear retailers are located.
The Intersection in Paddington is another mecca for marvy market-goers. Known as the home of Australian fashion, the boutiques here deliver a total luxury shopping experience. Rub elbows with celebrities in Rachel Gilbert, where stars like Heidi Klum and Taylor Swift go for their latest looks. The flagship store of womenswear label sass & bide is found here, too. Pick up some of their distinguished denim or amazing accoutrements before their NYC store opens and everyone else starts wearing them.
Go all-in on gourmet gastronomy. It’s the little things that count. Quite often, true luxury is found in the smallest details. Nowhere is this more evident than in the divine dishes that get plated in some of Sydney’s preeminent eateries.
- Potts Point: Gastro Park is producing degustation tasting courses that border on perfection, as evidenced by their 2-Hat designation from the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.
- Circular Quay: The Bridge Room was recently awarded a third Hat, in no small part thanks to their collaborations with Sydney’s premier providers.
- Darlinghurst: In an effort to disrupt the pub-grub craze, Bar Brosé has reinvented the trend with an awarding-winning menu that earned them the Best Bar Food crown by the Good Food Guide Awards.
- The Rocks: Year after year, Quay takes out top gongs for best restaurant, and there’s a reason why. It’s the ultimate fine dining experience, set to the stunning backdrop of the harbour.
Live Like a Local
We’ve asked some of Sydney’s top travel bloggers to recommend their favourite attractions and activities. Find some hidden gems and unexpected fun with these local things to do in Sydney.
Sydney Harbour Ferry. “When in Sydney hop on a ferry to visit its majestic harbour. One stop not to miss is Cockatoo Island to learn about Sydney’s historical heritage. And if you visit on a Sunday, you can tour the harbour by ferry for only $2.50 cap [with an Opal card].” – Michela, RockyTravel.net
Cockatoo Island. “One of my favourite places to bring visitors to in Sydney is Cockatoo Island in the middle of Sydney Harbour. A huge chunk of the harbour’s history is packed into this one small, UNESCO heritage island. Walk through the old jail, peer into underground silos, explore Dog Leg Tunnel, and learn about the island’s rich history along the way. The easiest way to get to Cockatoo Island is by public ferry from Circular Quay. Then, exploring Cockatoo Island is free of charge.” – Crystal, CastawayWithCrystal.com
Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk. “A well-known must-see in Sydney is the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, and whilst it is absolutely stunning, I would dedicate a whole day to walking the entire coastline from Maroubra to Watsons Bay. Make sure you take your swimmers with you as there are many take-your-breath-away ocean pools to break up the hike. My three favourites for more of a local vibe include Mahan pool, Ivor Rowe rock pool, and Wylie’s baths, and when you reach Bondi, no trip is complete without a swim in the iconic Icebergs pool. Once you arrive at Watsons Bay, get yourself a table at the famous Watsons Bay Hotel for a bite to eat and a well-earned beer to enjoy views of the Sydney Harbour skyline. It truly is magical!” – Annabel, LondonerInSydney.com
Middle Harbour Kayak. “One of the best and most unique ways to experience Sydney’s wonderfully beautiful harbour is to harness your inner sea pirate and sign up for a kayak tour. Gliding through the glassy waters of Middle Harbour, you get to meet loads of fish and bird life, see some ridiculously expensive waterfront houses, learn lots of history about the area, and come face-to-face with nature so beautiful it could make a grown man weep.” – Kim, EatPlayLoveTravel.com.au
Coffee With a View. “I recommend catching the ferry from Circular Quay to Kirribilli Wharf, which includes spectacular views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Sit down at Celsius Coffee Co. inside the wharf for delicious coffee, a feast made from Sydney’s freshest produce, and stunning water views. After brunch, walk around the quiet, leafy suburb or catch the ferry back to explore more of the city.” – Maadhi, MyPrettySydney.com
Palm Beach. “A stay in Sydney is only complete if you make the trip up to Palm Beach. Not only is this Northern Beaches suburb well known to TV fans worldwide as ‘Summer Bay’, it is also one of the most beautiful spots in Sydney. At its northernmost point, make the 20-minute climb to Barrenjoey Lighthouse for some dramatic 360 degree views which include the Central Coast, Broken Bay, the Palm Beach Peninsula, and Pittwater. Afterwards, reward yourself with a casual lunch at The Boathouse. It’s a long day trip but absolutely worth it!” – Silke, HappinessAndThings.com
Featherdale Wildlife Park. “Featherdale Wildlife Park is the chance to get up close and personal with native Australian animals, and this is Sydney’s ultimate hands-on wildlife experience. With over 1,700 mammals, birds, and reptiles, you can cuddle koalas, hand-feed kangaroos and wallabies, and meet Ngukurr, the park’s resident saltwater crocodile. An easy drive from the city centre, plan to spend the good part of a day here if you’re travelling from Sydney. You’ll need a couple of hours to get there and back and at least two hours in the park itself.” – Mike, WakingUpWild.com
Beach Skydive. “The drop zone for Sydney’s only beach skydive is located in Wollongong, just one hour south of Sydney CBD (they provide free return bus transfers every day of the week). Jumping directly over North Wollongong beach from up to 14,000 feet, those who choose to skydive here experience the ultimate thrill of freefall at over 200 km/hour for up to an insane 60 seconds, and then float under canopy for 5–7 minutes, soaking up spectacular views of the southern beaches, Royal National Park, Illawarra, Sydney, and Wollongong. The coastal waters are so clear that whales and dolphins are frequently spotted from the air!” – Meg, MappingMegan.com
Museum of Contemporary Art. “When in Sydney, be sure to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art in The Rocks, where you can enjoy exhibitions by acclaimed Australian and international artists. Once you have seen it all, head upstairs to the MCA Cafe for lunch or a pick-me-up coffee and dessert. The view will take your breath away.” – Amalia, AmaliaLoves.com
Cafes! “You should definitely experience all of the great cafes Sydney has to offer! Some of my favourites include Cre Asion in the CBD for its amazing food and matcha lattes, Trio in Bondi for the breakfast burrito and great views, and trendy Jackie’s Cafe in Paddington for a pit-stop in between shopping on Oxford Street.” – Andrea, LeatherAndLattes.com
Top 5 Must-Do Activities
The votes are in, and people love Sydney! We’ve compiled some of our most-booked activities, along with rave reviews from those who have experienced them. It never hurts to go with the tried and true, and many of the best things to do in Sydney deserve all the accolades that are showered upon them. Here are five little playbooks for making a day out of the top attractions.
Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb. The Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb is an attractive challenge to urban thrill-seekers. We recommend ordering a hamper from Pop Up Picnic, then having a pre-climb lunch in the park as you gaze up at the giant jungle gym. Then it’s time to ready your resolve and meet up with your group for the epic climb. After taking in impressive views of the skyline and beyond, regroup and refresh with a dip in the North Sydney Olympic Pool. If you’re still itching for excitement, the rides over at Luna Park will help to keep the adrenaline pumping.
“Outstanding. A once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you’re ever in Sydney, you must do the Harbour BridgeClimb.”
Blue Mountains Wildlife Tour. To really experience one of the top things to do in Sydney, you’ve got to head out into the wilderness. This guided tour will introduce you to the wonderful landscapes and wildlife in Australia’s famous Blue Mountains. Stroll down quaint village streets lined with boutiques and bakeries before you soar up the Scenic Railway and walk through the treetops on the Skyway for impressive views of Katoomba Falls and the Three Sisters rock formation. Finally, befriend adorable Aussie animals like wombats and koalas before returning to Sydney with loads of new photos for your Instagram.
“This tour has so much packed into it! You start by getting breakfast and hanging out in a cute little village, then go to Scenic World in the mountains where you see the rainforest. After that you meet some wildlife at Featherdale Wildlife Park. Very worth it!”
Sydney Opera House Guided Walking Tour. You’ve conquered your fear of heights and spent some time with Mother Nature. Now, it’s time for some culture. The Sydney Opera House is easily one of the best places to visit in Sydney, and this 1-hour walking tour will cover all of its most fascinating facts. Visit behind-the-scenes areas that the general public can’t go, and hear all the secrets of this world-famous building from your expert tour guide. Then, treat yourself to an award-winning post-theatre dinner at Bennelong Restaurant and Bar, where you’ll feast on a delicious meal crafted with Australia’s best ingredients.
“Excellent tour. Well worth the cost. Fabulous building!”
Sydney and Bondi Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour. Face it, you’ve always wanted to ride around on the top of one of those double-decker buses. Here’s your chance, mate! See all the best that Sydney and Bondi Beach have to offer with this hop-on-hop-off bus tour. Along the way, you’ll see the Sydney Opera House (of course), the Royal Botanic Garden, and Rose Bay. Plus, you’ll drive through Kings Cross, Chinatown, and Hyde Park. You’re bound to get hungry by the time you reach Bondi. Have a snack and some tea—and pick up a book for the beach—at Gertrude & Alice Café Bookstore, enjoy casual drinks at the beachfront Bucket List, or live it up in the lap of luxury at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar.
“Great service. Buses were very punctual and never had to wait much longer than 10 minutes. The Bondi Beach loop is a must if you are visiting Sydney.”
Whale Watching Cruise with Lunch. Hit the open seas and see humongous humpback whales up-close and personal on this popular whale watching cruise. Start off with a tour of Sydney Harbour as you make your way to the open Pacific. Once you reach prime viewing waters, you’ll be served a barbeque lunch, after which your guide will tell you all about the whale’s migration patterns and how to identify them. After you get back to Sydney, head to Fish at The Rocks for a seafood dinner fit for a sailor. If you’re still yearning for more seaside adventure, a visit to Sydney Harbour National Park may be in order. It’s a whale of a good time!
“Wonderful day out. Great food, great people, and a brill day. Would happily go with them again.”