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6 BEST Sightseeing Tours in Sydney +What to Know BEFORE Booking

6 BEST Sightseeing Tours in Sydney +What to Know BEFORE Booking

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Sydney is a huge city with a lot to see, from world-famous sights like the Opera House and Bondi Beach to historic neighborhoods and beautiful bays. So if you’re unsure where to start, then we recommend a sightseeing tour! 

A sightseeing tour is a great way to get your bearings in Sydney and explore. It’s also a fantastic way to make sure that you don’t miss out on any of the must-visit sights in Sydney. And if you’re only visiting Sydney for one day, it’s a great way to maximize your time!

Millions of tourists visit Sydney every year, so it should come as no surprise that competition is fierce among sightseeing tours. We spend a ton of time in Sydney and Bailey even lived here for a while, so we take plenty of tours here and have rounded up the best of the best below. Plus, we’ve provided all of the info that you need to know before choosing one. 

Our Top Choices

The Story of Sydney tour is our favorite Sydney sightseeing tour because you get to learn so much about the city by seeing its most significant landmarks. It’s a half-day tour, so it’s perfect if you’re short on time, and it covers all of the must-see sights, including the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

Having said that, this private day tour is the most comprehensive of the bunch, as it’s a full-day tour so you get to see even more of Sydney! It’s a private tour which means you can tailor the itinerary to your interests, and it’s not too expensive if you’ve got a larger group.

1. Are sightseeing tours in Sydney worth it?

Bailey poses for a photo with the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a tour of the Sydney Opera House
You get amazing views on the tour!

Yes! Sydney is a big city, and it can feel a bit overwhelming at first, so a sightseeing tour is a great way to get acquainted with your new surroundings. We often take sightseeing tours when we arrive in a new city, to help us to learn what’s what. We definitely think that it’s worth taking one in a city like Sydney, where there’s a ton to see.

Plus, going on a sightseeing tour is a great way to learn a lot about Sydney’s history and modern-day culture. Having a local guide is also an excellent way to get some recommendations on what to eat, see, and do for the rest of your time here. 

You can even get unguided hop-on, hop-off tours where you won’t have a person showing you around, but you get commentary on the bus, so they’re still really informative. Trust me, you definitely won’t see as much of Sydney without a sightseeing tour! 

2. What places should the best sightseeing tours in Sydney visit? 

Bailey out the front of the Sydney Opera House
I was so excited!
Bailey poses for a photo with the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Opera House

The world-famous Opera House barely needs an introduction! It’s an iconic symbol of Sydney and an absolute must-see while you’re here.

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair is a sandstone rock that was cut into the shape of a bench by convicts for the wife of the governor of New South Wales. Elizabeth Macquarie loved to sit here and gaze out at Sydney Harbour, and we can see why – it’s an amazing viewpoint!

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach is one of the most iconic beaches in the world. Its beauty attracts surfers, celebrities, and movie makers in droves, so it’s a must-visit while you’re in Sydney.

Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour is a buzzing entertainment area with tons of restaurants, shops, and attractions – not to mention beautiful views. There’s so much to do here, including riding on the ferris wheel, visiting the aquarium, and taking a stroll through the Chinese Friendship Garden.

The Rocks

The Rocks was the city’s first neighborhood, and it’s one of our favorite places to visit in Sydney. It’s got a super interesting (and sometimes dark) history, lots of historic pubs, and some of the oldest homes in Australia. Plus, you get amazing views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House as you stroll around its old cobbled streets.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

This steel arch bridge is one of the most famous in the world! The Sydney Harbour Bridge is an iconic image of Australia, and you get amazing views of the Sydney Harbour to the east as you walk across. 

Manly Beach

Manly Beach is our favorite part of Sydney to go and hang out in. It’s home to a huge, beautiful beach with lots of opportunities to sunbathe, snorkel, and swim. There are also tons of fantastic shops and cafes to explore.

Watsons Bay

Watsons Bay is an idyllic seaside village at the tip of the South Head peninsula. It’s the perfect place to swim, eat delicious seafood, and enjoy some scenic walks. 

3. Can you visit these places without a tour?

View of Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia
View of Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia

Yes, there are so many places in Sydney that you can visit on your own, so don’t worry too much if the tour you choose doesn’t visit one of the above locations.

However, we think it’s worth doing a sightseeing tour because you just can’t visit as many of these places independently in a single day. Sydney is a big, busy city, so without a locally designed tour, you’ll run into all sorts of issues trying to visit lots of attractions in one day! 

We recommend booking a tour that will allow you to tick off lots of your must-see places, and then you can use the rest of your time in the city to do the remaining on your own, or book a tour that focuses on a specific place, such as a walking tour in Sydney that focuses on The Rocks.

4. What are the best sightseeing tours in Sydney?

Story of Sydney Tour

Bailey walks the Rocks in Sydney, Australia
Cute streets in The Rocks!
Bondi Beach, Sydney Australia
Busy day at Bondi!

If you want to join a group tour, then we think the Story of Sydney tour is the best of the bunch! It’s a half-day tour that will give you a fantastic overview of Sydney’s history and culture. 

After meeting up with your guide, you’ll visit iconic landmarks like the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, Mrs Macqaurie’s Chair, and Bondi Beach as well as visiting lots of different areas to get a real feel for the city’s character. 

Your guide will teach you all about Sydney’s history as you discover different areas, from Circular Quay where the First Fleet landed back in 1788, to Kings Cross, which was Sydney’s red light district. You’ll also visit The Rocks, the waterfront playground that is Darling Harbour, and Chinatown. 

You’ll be driven around in a Mercedes van but we also love the fact that there are some walking portions of the tour, such as a coastal stroll in Watsons Bay.

We think that this tour really gives you a fantastic snapshot of Sydney in just 4 hours. Even though there’s a lot to see and do in that time, it doesn’t feel too rushed – it’s an excellent introduction to the city. 

The guides are also super interesting and really know their stuff. They tell fun stories about Sydney and some of the eccentric characters who shaped the city, so it’s not a dry history tour. It’s super engaging and will even keep kids entertained! 

You can book this tour online for $160 AUD for adults. It leaves at around 8:30 am, so you can spend your morning getting your bearings in Sydney, and then you’ve got the afternoon to explore at your leisure, once you have a better understanding of the place. 

Morning or Afternoon Half-Day Sydney City Sightseeing Tour

Bailey poses for a photo while on a walking tour through Darling Harbour, Sydney
Darling Harbour!
Bailey out the front of the Chicnese Garden near Darling Harbour in Sydney as she walks the city on a tour
Chinese Gardens!

This half-day sightseeing tour is a pretty budget-friendly activity in Sydney and a great way to tick off all the top sights. You’ll start with a visit to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to take in amazing views of the Sydney Harbour, and then travel through the affluent Eastern Suburbs, stopping for photos along the way at various viewpoints.

After that, you get around half an hour to hang out at Bondi Beach, before driving through Centennial Park and learning all about how important it is to Sydneysiders, who love to hang out and exercise here. 

You also get to travel through the Victorian neighborhood of Paddington and take a walk through glitzy Darling Harbour. You can then choose to end the tour in Darling Harbour or The Rocks, which are both awesome areas of the city to explore by yourself.

We think that this tour is a fantastic introduction to Sydney and a great way to tick off many of the most famous places. You can choose to go in the morning or the afternoon, so it’s really easy to work into your itinerary, and you can’t beat the price! You can reserve this tour for $135 AUD.

Related Read: Once you’ve seen the city’s highlights, take a day trip from Sydney to visit the Blue Mountains or spot dolphins in Jervis Bay.

Half-Day Private Tour with Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach

Bailey on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia
Bailey on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia
Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia
Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

If you’d prefer a private tour, then we think that this half-day private tour is a fantastic option. We really like the fact that it shows you a good balance of urban landmarks, like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, with Sydney’s beautiful coastline. Although of course, since it’s a private tour, you can always tailor it to your interests!

You’ll stop at the Opera House and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, while learning all about areas like Circular Quay, Kings Cross, and Double Bay from your local guide as you drive through them. Then, you get some time to chill out in beautiful Watsons Bay, and you’ll visit Bondi Beach so that you get a feel for Sydney’s buzzing beach culture. 

The guides on this tour are super friendly and will share with you what it’s like to be a local in this huge city, as well as teach you all about its fascinating history. Since it’s a private tour, you get a lot of personal attention from your guide and can make sure that all of your burning questions about Sydney are answered! 

You can choose to do this tour in the morning or afternoon, and the price per person does vary according to the size of your group and the time of year you’re visiting. If you’ve got two people, it costs $370 AUD each, while the price is $145 AUD per person for a group of 6.

If you’re looking for a private sightseeing tour, then we think booking this tour is a great option especially if you don’t have long to spend in Sydney

Morning or Afternoon Highlights Tour in Sydney with a Local Guide

Bailey enjoys the view from Mrs Macquarie's Chair in Sydney of the opera house and harbour bridge
Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
Dawes Point Park in the Rocks that we visited on a walking tour of the city
Dawes Point Park in The Rocks

One thing that we love about this Sydney highlights tour is that it’s a small group experience, with no more than 10 people. It’s perfect if you don’t have the budget for a private tour, but still want a more personal guided tour of all of the most famous places and landmarks in Sydney. We also think it would be a great option for solo travelers looking to make new friends along the way. 

You’ll visit amazing viewpoints like Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Observatory Hill, and the Gap for beautiful panoramic views of Sydney. Plus famous sights like the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are along your route. We also love the fact that you get to enjoy a short guided walk from Rose Bay to Watsons Bay, and visit a replica of the Macquarie Lighthouse, which was the first one in Sydney! 

You’ll also visit Bondi Beach and pass through notable neighborhoods like Double Bay (which is nicknamed Double Pay because of its pricey, high-end shops), and unique areas like Darling Harbour and Barangaroo Reserve.

The guides on this tour are really friendly and chatty, and they really know how to create a welcoming atmosphere. The fact it’s a small group tour means you’re able to ask your guide plenty of questions, and you just get a more personal experience without having to fork out for a private tour.

The tour costs $147 AUD for adults, which is significantly less pricey than a private tour if you’re traveling solo or with just one or two other people. This tour is very popular and likely to sell out, so make sure you book your spot in advance here.

Private Sydney Full-Day Tour Including Sydney Opera House, Bondi and Manly

The tiles of the Sydney Opera House
It’s a magnificent building!
Bailey at Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia
At Manly Beach!

Last but certainly not least, we think this 8-hour private tour is the most comprehensive Sydney sightseeing tour of them all! 

This tour has a fantastic itinerary, and since it’s a full-day tour, you get to enjoy more time in your must-see places. You can visit all of the top landmarks, and then choose which neighborhoods you’d most like to explore, whether that’s historic and trendy Paddington or the flashy suburbs of Double Bay and Rose Bay. You can also ask your guide to take you around our favorite beach area, Manly!

You can also visit the city’s top viewpoints, like Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, the Gap, and Milson’s Point, and find out from your guide where Sydney locals really go to hang out. 

This tour is especially perfect if you don’t have long in Sydney and really want to experience the best of the city in just one day.

The price per person varies according to the size of your group, so if you’ve got 6 people, you’re looking at $200 AUD per person – not bad for a full-day private tour! This is truly the best way to make the most of Sydney in a single day. Book this private tour online here.

Related Read: To see even more of the city in a short time, you can see Sydney from above on a helicopter tour!

5. What is the best sightseeing cruise in Sydney?

Sydney Harbour Sightseeing Cruise Morning or Afternoon 

Daniel and Bailey pose for a photo on a Sydney Harbour cruise
We loved it!
Our Sydney Harbour cruise sails towards the Sydney Opera House
Oh Sydney you are beautiful!

We love Sydney sightseeing cruises, as you get to sit back, relax, and take in the views of the city. There’s no walking involved and it’s a great way to beat the heat during the summer! What sets this particular sightseeing cruise apart, though, is the fact it’s the only one available in Sydney that offers live commentary! 

If you choose a different sightseeing cruise without commentary, then you won’t learn what you’re looking at as you glide past, so while the views are nice, most other cruises are not a great way to learn about the city. However, this cruise gives you lots of context to what you’re seeing and teaches you all about Sydney’s history as you chill out and take in the sights.

You get great views of the city’s skyline from the water, and will see famous landmarks like the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the Botanic Gardens, and Luna Park. Plus, it only lasts for 1.5 hours so it’s a great way to see a lot in a short amount of time, without even having to rush! 

At just $45 AUD, this cruise is a budget-friendly way to enjoy some guided sightseeing. Kids under 5 can ride for free, so this is definitely a good option for families too.

6. Are sightseeing tours in Sydney seasonal? 

No, you can do them all year round. Just be prepared for the weather depending on the season. Bring jackets and layers during the winter, and plenty of water and sun protection during the summer! 

7. Should you tip your guide on a sightseeing tour in Sydney?

Daniel and Bailey in the shopping are at Manly Beach
In Manly!

Tipping isn’t required in Australia. However, you can always tip your guide with a bit of cash for a job well done – it’s a nice way to say thanks. As an Australian who has lived in Canada where there’s a big tipping culture, I like to tip back home when I get excellent service. If you feel the same, I recommend bringing some cash with you! 

Related Read: If you’re interested in combining food with sightseeing, there are lots of dinner cruises and lunch cruises to choose from in Sydney.

8. Why book on Viator?

Observatory Hill overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia
Observatory Hill overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia

All of the tours on our list are offered through Viator. This is a third-party booking site that’s owned by TripAdvisor and is actually among the top travel websites in the world. So don’t worry, Viator is legit!

We use Viator all the time and all over the world! When you book with Viator, you get to read reviews from travelers and you get some nice perks like the reserve now/pay later feature and free cancellation.

All of the sightseeing tours in Sydney we’ve talked about offer free cancellation with a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. So if your plans change or the weather forecast doesn’t look great for a sightseeing tour, you can easily cancel and re-book.

Another advantage is getting to pay in whatever currency you choose. So if you want to pay in USD or CAD or a different currency, that’s no issue at all and you’ll avoid any international transaction fees.

Other Activities to do While You’re in Sydney

Bailey smiles at the camera while the helicopter pilot fly's over Sydney
So much fun!

Now that you’ve gotten your bearings in Sydney on a sightseeing tour, it’s time to dive into some other activities! Sydney is a city full of exciting things to do and see, so you’re going to want to fill your schedule while visiting this iconic city. Below are a few of our favorite activities that you should consider adding to your Sydney itinerary:

  • Helicopter Ride – Sydney is a beautiful city; there is just no doubt about it! But it’s even more stunning from the sky on a helicopter tour! We did this helicopter ride the last time we were in the city and it was incredible! We got the most amazing views of the bridge and Opera House, not to mention the beautiful coastline. And to top it off, we even saw whales!
  • Visit Manly Beach and/or Bondi Beach – There are some pretty amazing beaches right in Sydney, so you should definitely plan for a beach day (or three!). Manly Beach is one of our favorites and you can easily get there via the public ferry. Or, head to the famous Bondi Beach! Once there you can do the walk to Bronte or Coogee Beaches – they are both also stunning!
  • Day Trip to the Blue Mountains – The Blue Mountains is a beautiful wilderness area where you can enjoy hiking, waterfalls, mountain views, and charming local towns. It’s about an hour’s drive and makes for a great day trip from Sydney or even a weekend getaway. This Blue Mountains day full-day tour is our top choice as it includes a gourmet lunch, Scenic World, the wildlife park, as well as a cruise! Plus, the 3,400 5-star reviews are pretty reassuring that it’s an excellent tour!
  • Explore Darling Harbour – One of our favorite areas in Sydney is Darling Harbour. This trendy harbour features more restaurants, bars, and cafes than I can count! Plus, almost everything is waterfront! Here you can also enjoy the Chinese Garden of Friendship, walk across the Pyrmont Bridge, or visit other popular attractions like Madame Tussauds, the SeaLife aquarium, and Wildlife Sydney Zoo.

Where to Stay in Sydney

Get the best views of Sydney at Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, Australia
Photo credit: Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

With so many sights to see around Sydney, you’re going to need a place to stay. Luckily Sydney has a huge variety of accommodations to fit every budget. If you’re overwhelmed with where to start, check out our top picks for places to stay from luxury rooms to budget-friendly hostels. We’ve got you covered!

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney – $$$

For stunning views of Sydney Harbour and the iconic Opera House, book a room at the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney. You’ll have unobstructed views of the city from the comfort of your room. The hotel is located in the city center within the historic Rocks neighborhood – nice and close to lots of activities and restaurants.

Rooms here start at $400-$500 AUD per night and can be reserved with Booking.com.

Meriton Suites Kent Street Sydney – $$

Stay right in the heart of Sydney in a modern luxury apartment at Meriton Suites Kent Street. The suites are air-conditioned and have laundry facilities and either a kitchenette or full kitchen to make longer stays more comfortable. You’ll also have access to an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, and hot tub.

These full apartments are $230 AUD nightly when booked in advance with Booking.com.

Sydney Harbour YHA – $

For a hostel with a view, head to the rooftop terrace at the Sydney Harbour YHA. Located in the historic Rocks district, you’ll have amazing views of the harbor and be within walking distance of all the major sights. You can opt for a shared dorm room or a private room here. There’s a communal kitchen, TV lounge, billiards, and a 24/7 reception desk.

Dorm rooms are around $70 AUD nightly and private rooms are more around the $180 AUD mark. You can check for the best rates and book on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.com.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at the Sydney opera House, Sydney, Australia
Thanks for reading!

Sydney is such a fascinating city that exploring it on a sightseeing tour is both incredibly interesting and a great way to learn your way around. I especially love how a sightseeing tour can help you see the best of Sydney in a limited amount of time. We like to take sightseeing tours when we arrive in a new city, and think it’s really worth it for a city this big!

I hope you found this blog helpful! If you plan to explore more of the country after visiting Sydney, be sure to check out our other Australia blogs! I am an Aussie, so I have a good deal of insight into traveling around the country and even more fun things to do while you’re here. Here are a few of my favorites below!

12 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting the Sydney Tower Eye +Our Honest Review

12 Best Tours in Perth, Australia – from a Local!

Journey Beyond Cruise Sydney Review: Is it Worth it?