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33 BEST Things to do in Sydney, Australia

33 BEST Things to do in Sydney, Australia

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There’s no denying that Sydney is an iconic city. In fact, it’s often mistaken as the capital of Australia (which is actually Canberra, just FYI).

With beautiful beaches, blue skies, a diverse food scene, and plenty of cultural attractions, it’s no wonder that Sydney is one of the most visited cities in the world. This safe and friendly city has an endless amount of things to offer visitors, and it’s the perfect place to start your Australian adventure.

We’ve visited Sydney countless times. In fact, Bailey even lived in Sydney for a while when she first arrived in Australia.

What’s amazing about Sydney is that, although it’s a very cosmopolitan city, there’s also plenty of nature to enjoy. The diversity of things to do and see here are incredible, which is perhaps why it regularly tops worldwide “best city” and “best quality of living” lists.

So, whether you’re a local looking for some weekend inspiration, or a visitor trying to make the most of your time in this spectacular city, we’ve got you covered. Here are 33 of the best things to do in Sydney, Australia.

The BEST Things to do in Sydney

1. Sydney Harbour Cruise

Bailey on a sunset cruise in Sydney Australia
So beautiful!
Dinner with a view from Journey Beyond Cruise Sydney, Australia
Photo credit: Journey Beyond Cruise Sydney

A Sydney Harbour cruise is 100% a must-do activity while you’re in Sydney – after all, its nickname is “the Harbour City!”

On a Sydney Harbour cruise, you’ll enjoy beautiful sights including the world-famous Opera House, Taronga Zoo, and the cliffs and wild bushland that make up the Sydney Harbour National Park.

There are plenty of different types of cruises to choose from, so you can really do Sydney Harbour your way. Lunch and dinner tours are popular, and you get to enjoy a meal while taking in the stunning scenery.

This lunch cruise offers guests à la carte options and seafood (something else that Sydney is well known for) as well as a selection of local beers and wines. As you enjoy your meal, you’ll drift down the harbour past landmarks like the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Luna Park, and more. Lasting 2.5 hours and costing $127 AUD per head, we think that this tour offers pretty good value for money.

Alternatively, this 2-hour dinner cruise begins in the early evening and includes live music alongside a 3-course dinner. You’ll watch the city light up as you cruise along and be able to take photos of famous landmarks at sunset. Whne I did this tour, I absolutely loved every second of it! This tour includes hotel pickup and dropoff to ensure that you don’t miss the boat and at $99 AUD per head, it’s very well priced, although alcoholic drinks do cost extra.

If you want an all-inclusive dinner cruise, then this option includes all of your food, coffee, and alcohol over the course of 3 hours. You’ll enjoy a great meal and enjoy a famous Sydney sunset over some of its most iconic sights.

2. Bondi to Coogee Walk

Bailey and her friend on the Bondi to Coogee walk in Sydney Australia
No walk in Sydney is more iconic!

This 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) walk between two of the most popular beaches in Sydney is a no-brainer while visiting the “harbor city!” The Bondi to Coogee Walk is easily one of the most spectacular coastal walks in the world. Passing by some of the prettiest (and busiest) beaches in Australia – Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly, and tiny Gordon’s Bay, this exceptionally photogenic walkway will take about 2 hours to do! 

It’s a relatively easy walk, but it’s worth noting that there are several sets of stairs and some steep uphill sections along the way! But that shouldn’t deter you – there are some benches and low walls along the walk where you can sit and take a breather before continuing. 

But, my favorite way to “rest” on this iconic walk is to pop down to one of the beaches for a refreshing swim and then dry off in the sun as I walk onto the next beach. And if you love Aussie coffee as much as I do, you’ll be delighted to learn that there are several awesome cafes just a short detour from the walkway in the areas of Bronte and Clovelly. 

If you happen to be in Sydney in late October/early November, you simply HAVE to do the Bondi to Coogee walk. That’s because, at this time of year, the famed (and free) Sculpture by the Sea exhibition takes place between Bondi and Tamarama Beach. Art lovers will be spoiled with over 100 different sculptures on display, and this exhibition is, in fact, the largest free sculpture exhibit in the world! 

3. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Bailey climbs the Sydney Harbour Bridge at night in Sydney, Australia
I did the climb at night because it was cheaper!

One of the most famous things to do in Sydney is to climb the Harbour Bridge and enjoy the stunning views of the city from the summit.

The bridge spans 503 meters (1650 feet) from the Sydney Harbour to the North Shore, and it’s one of the world’s longest steel-arch bridges. It was completed in 1932 and has since become an iconic symbol of Sydney. It’s often referred to as the “coat hanger” due to its unique shape.

You can walk across the bridge for free, but climbing the coat hanger arch is a truly unique experience.

The bridge climb is suitable for anyone with a basic fitness level, and you don’t need any prior climbing experience. Climbs take between 2.5-3.5 hours, depending on which option you choose – there are 4 options available, which are:

  • The Ultimate – a 3.5-hour climb that takes you across the whole “coat hanger” and to the summit for $348 AUD.
  • The Summit – a 3-hour climb to (you guessed it) the summit for between $268-$408 AUD, depending on the date and time of day you choose.
  • The Summit insider – a guided tour along the lower arch to the summit, which costs between $268-$374 AUD.
  • The Burrawa tour – which takes you along the Summit route and costs roughly the same. The difference is that this tour also teaches you all about the indigenous history of the Sydney Harbour area as you go and includes a $10-$20 AUD donation to Tribal Warrior, an Aboriginal nonprofit.

You’ll be kitted out in a jumpsuit, safety harness, and gloves before being given a comprehensive safety briefing. If you have a fear of heights, the staff will help you to overcome this so that you can enjoy the views from the top.

There are reduced rates for children aged 8-15 on all of the climbs, and they need to be at least 1.2 meters tall and accompanied by an adult.

If you also want to save some money, it is considerably cheaper to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the evenings when it is dark. This is exactly what Bailey did, and she loved it! You can enjoy the city lights and climbing in the dark is that much more thrilling.

Once you’re at the summit, you’ll be able to see amazing views of the harbour, the Opera House, and even as far as the Blue Mountains on a clear day. It’s expensive, but it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

4. Take a free walking tour

walking tour at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, Australia
Photo credit: I’m Free Tours Sydney

When I’m visiting a new city, I always try to scope out a free walking tour. I find them to be a great way to see and learn about a new city in a relaxed setting. They’re also a great way to meet new people.

Well, I was delighted to learn about I’m Free Walking Tours while I was visiting Sydney! They operate in any weather and offer two daily walking tours of the top sights in Sydney CBD and The Rocks – the first tour is at 10:30 am and the second at 6 pm. 

Their tours are 3 hours long and are quite in-depth for a free walking tour. I recommend doing this tour on your first full day in Sydney so that you can get a feel for the city! The tour will also help you to get your bearings so that you can easily find your way around the downtown area during the rest of your time in Sydney. 

The guides are so friendly and are a fountain of knowledge on Sydney – so be sure to ask them any questions you may have. You will need to book your space on this particular tour in advance, and even though the tour is free, tipping your guide is highly recommended (and pretty much expected, so bring cash!) 

5. Go on a scenic flight

View from a scenic flight of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia
What a view!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that we LOVE scenic flights, and a helicopter ride over Sydney is one of the coolest things you can do in the city.

You’ll not only enjoy aerial views of the Sydney Harbour – including the bridge and Opera House – but also of the city’s gorgeous coastline. Seeing Sydney from the air is an unforgettable experience, and it’s one of the best ways to get a true sense of the city’s size and layout.

This helicopter tour is a great way to learn more about the city, as you’ll enjoy commentary from your pilot as you fly over different landmarks. Prices start at $238 AUD for a 20-minute flight, including hotel pickup and drop-off if necessary.

6. Relax at the Beach

Bailey takes a selfie at Bondi Beach
I love Bondi!
Bondi Beach, Sydney Australia
It can get busy, though!

Sydney’s beaches are famous across the world; I think pretty much everyone is familiar with Bondi Beach – which has to be one of the most recognizable beaches worldwide. But, thanks to TV shows like Home & Away, Palm Beach, an hour’s drive from the CBD, is quickly becoming a popular spot to hang out too. 

In fact, there are so many awesome beaches in Sydney that I found it difficult to narrow it down to just a few of my favorites. I’ve included some in the bustling Eastern Suburbs and some in the quieter Northern Beaches region, so there’s a beach for everyone listed here! Make sure to visit a few of them during your time in Sydney! 

Bondi Beach

I can’t make a list of the best beaches in Sydney and not include  Bondi Beach! Many tourists visit Sydney specifically to check out this iconic stretch of golden sand. It’s also one of the closest beaches to the CBD, and that fact, combined with the success of the Bondi Rescue TV show, means this is one of the busiest beaches in all of Australia! So, get here early if you want to nab a spot on the sand, especially at weekends.

There are heaps of stores, cafes, and restaurants on the road opposite the beach and if you want to pick up some unique souvenirs, come here on a Sunday to check out the local market!  

Palm Beach

Next up is Palm Beach, which I mentioned above – it sits on the peninsula between Broken Bay and Pittwater, and the water here is crystal-clear and calm! And because it’s situated over an hour’s drive from downtown, it’s never too busy here!

Spend your day relaxing with a good book on the golden sand here, or explore one of the nearby hiking trails. Plus, be sure to check out the Palm Beach Rockpool!

Bronte Beach

Bronte Beach is one of the closest beaches to Bondi, and it’s essentially a smaller version of its more famous neighbor. In fact, it’s on Bronte where you’re most likely to meet locals and where Bailey and I always hang out when we are in Sydney.

The waves here are ideal for surfing, although the water here can be a little too rough at times to swim. There’s also the free Bronte Baths saltwater swimming pool here that’s definitely worth checking out! 

Freshwater Beach

Known as the birthplace of Australian surfing, Freshwater Beach is the place to come if you’re keen to test out your surfing skills! The waves here are pretty consistent, and it’s a scenic beach, too, considering it’s nestled in between tall cliffs. It tends to be quieter than the beaches in the Eastern Suburbs, and there are lots of Cafes and restaurants nearby.

Manly Beach

Hop on the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly to reach the stunning Manly Beach. Spend the full day here because not only is Manly home to an epic beach, but it also has loads of stores, Cafes, and restaurants – there’s also a lovely walk you can take from Manly beach to Shelly beach!

Manly beach is also a popular surfing spot, and there are plenty of surf schools dotted along the beach where you can book a lesson or simply rent a board (if you’ve surfed before.) 

7. Day trip to the Blue Mountains

Scenic view at the Blue Mountains Three Sister in Sydney, Australia

The Blue Mountains is a beautiful wilderness area where you can enjoy hiking, bushwalking, and exploring the charming local towns. It’s about an hour’s drive from Sydney and it makes for a great day trip or even a weekend getaway. The largest town in the area is Katoomba, which is where you’ll find the famous Three Sisters rock formation.

Here are some of the best things to do and see when you visit the Blue Mountains:

Three Sisters

One of the top attractions in the Blue Mountains is the Three Sisters, a unique rock formation that’s best seen from Echo Point.

There is a legend that says three Aboriginal sisters fell in love with three brothers from a rival tribe, causing a battle. The tribe’s elder turned the sisters to stone to protect them from harm, and after he was killed during the fighting they were stuck that way forever.

You can get to Echo Point lookout to see this amazing natural wonder via the scenic railway or on the Three Sisters walk, which is fairly easy, although a little steep in places.

Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls is just 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) from Katoomba, and the track from the town’s picnic area to the top of its 100-meter-high waterfall is one of the most popular walks in the Blue Mountains.

It’s a steep but doable 1.4 km (0.9 miles) return trip that takes you past several lookout points until you reach Fletchers’ Lookout, from which you’ll see Wentworth Falls in all their glory. You’ll also go past Jamison Creek and the Jamison Valley on your way back, which are both very beautiful.

Scenic World

If you want to see the Blue Mountains from a different perspective, Scenic World is the place to go. It’s a tourist park with a ton of things to do, the most popular of which is the Skyway, which takes you past the Three Sisters and Katoomba Falls, a segmented and often-overlooked waterfall.

The Scenic Railway is also pretty popular, as it’s the world’s steepest passenger railway. It descends 510 meters, and it’s a pretty exhilarating experience whether you’re a kid or a grown-up. There’s also a scenic cableway which descends into the Jamison Valley.

How to get to Blue Mountains

If you want to visit the Blue Mountains independently, then renting a car and driving is the easiest way to do it. It’s 78 kilometers (48 miles) west of Sydney, and the drive is pretty straightforward. It’s best to drive to Katoomba first, since it’s close to all of the attractions we’ve listed above. You can also easily book a hotel in Katoomba.

Alternatively, you can book a day tour from Sydney to Blue Mountains to take all of the hassle out of planning your own trip. This particular tour lasts 11 hours, so it’s a full-day experience, and for $250 AUD, it includes pickup from Sydney Harbour (or select hotels in the city center), all of your entry fees, and a chef-prepared lunch.

You’ll also visit Featherdale Wildlife Park on your way back to Sydney to get up close to Australian animals including koalas, kangaroos, and quokkas – oh my!

8. Tour the Sydney Opera House

Bailey at the Sydney Opera House
This was a highlight for sure!
Bailey out the front of the Sydney Opera House
I was so excited!

The Sydney Opera House is one of the world’s most famous buildings – so much so that it really needs no introduction.

You can get a look at the opera house and wander the outside for free, but it also hosts many amazing shows. In fact, around 8 million people visit the Sydney Opera House each year to enjoy its world-class performances.

Going to see an opera performance is really the quintessential Sydney Opera House experience, but there are also Broadway musicals, Aboriginal dance shows, ballets, and more.

If you’re not too fussy about what kind of show you see, this tour is an easy and convenient option and you can book your tickets well in advance to ensure that you don’t miss out. Alternatively, you can head to the “what’s on” page to see which performances are taking place in the next 30 days and find one that you’d like to see.

A tour of the Opera House is also a fantastic experience to see behind the scenes of this famous landmark. Your guide will regale you with stories about the building and its history, and you’ll get to see areas that are usually closed off to the public.

9. Enjoy live music at Opera Bar

Opera Bar Sydney
One of the best bars in Sydney! Photo credit: Opera Bar Sydney

One of my favorite bars in the world is the spectacularly situated Opera Bar in Circular Quay. Yep, as the name suggests, this huge bar is situated beneath the iconic Opera House and boasts unbelievable views of not only the Opera House but of Harbour Bridge and most of Sydney Harbour too.

And besides the fact it has the best views of any bar I’ve ever been to, there’s also free live music here every night and on weekend afternoons.

It’s a popular spot with tourists, but you’re also likely to meet many locals here enjoying an after-work drink. As you can imagine, this place can get very busy, so either make a reservation or get here early (i.e., before 5 pm!)

It’s worth noting that drinks here are on the pricey side, with cocktails varying in price from $9-$20 AUD range. But I say, the views and live music make the drinks worth it! 

10. Go whale watching 

Humpback whale watching in Sydney, Australia
Did you know that you can see whales in Sydney?!

Sydney’s whale watching season lasts for five months each year, from May to November. Each year, over 20,000 humpback whales migrate to the Great Barrier Reef, with numbers peaking in June and July. If you’re in Sydney during this time, a whale watching tour is a must! 

You’ll head out past the famous Sydney Harbour and see the beautiful Watsons Bay as you head out to open waters to see humpback whales breaching, and hopefully, some dolphins swimming past, too.

This whale watching tour is a half-day experience that includes either breakfast or lunch, depending on the time you choose, and a guarantee, so if you don’t spot any whales you’ll get to repeat the whole experience for free. You’ll learn all about the whales via live commentary, as well as several other fascinating Australian marine animals.

It’s definitely one of the best tours in Sydney!

Related Read: Head over to Exmouth in Western Australia to swim with whale sharks – it’s a bucket-list experience for most people.

11. Enjoy the Art Gallery of NSW

Inside the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, Australia
Inside the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, Australia

Would you believe that it’s free to enter the Art Gallery of NSW, one of the best art galleries in Sydney and one which attracts over a million visitors annually? Spread over five levels, this is one of the most popular places to view art in Australia. It’s located a 15-minute walk from the CBD and overlooks Sydney Harbor.  

Here, you can view a huge collection of Australian art, including one of the biggest collections of Aboriginal art in the country. As well as that, you can view an extensive collection of British Victorian art, 15th Century European Renaissance artwork, and late 20th Century American art! 

It’s also one of the leading centers for Asian art in the Southern Hemisphere with artists from Japan, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Iran on display here.

Pop by on Wednesday evenings after 10 pm for Art After Hours and get a taste of Sydney art culture with music, live performances, and even celebrity talks!

The art gallery is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm (besides Wednesdays when it’s open until late!) Try to join one of the free guided tours when you stop by.

12. Head to the top of the Sydney Tower Eye

View from Sydney Tower Eye in Sydney, Australia
That view!

The Sydney Tower Eye is the tallest structure in Sydney, and it offers 360-degree views of the city from its observation deck, which is 250 meters (820 feet) tall.

The observation deck is indoors and has binoculars for you to survey the cityscape, plus interactive displays that tell you all about the landmarks that you can see. There’s also a 4D cinema experience which is included in your ticket price.

But the Sydney Tower Eye is home to more than just a viewpoint – in addition to visiting the observation deck, you can do a 60-minute outdoor Skywalk over Sydney’s central business district (CBD). You’ll enjoy panoramic views and on a clear day, you can see as far as the Blue Mountains! And don’t worry – you’ll be safely harnessed the entire time.

There’s also a revolving restaurant, Infinity, on the 88th floor of the tower where you can enjoy a gourmet meal while taking in the views, with no work involved! They serve French-Australian fusion cuisine for lunch from 12 am to 2 pm, or 5 pm to 9 pm for dinner every day.

If you just want to visit the observation deck, tickets cost $25 AUD per adult, or $18.40 for children aged 3-15, and the experience lasts for around 1.5 hours.

The observation deck and skywalk costs $60 AUD. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the indoor observation deck before and after your skywalk, and you’ll be accompanied by a guide the whole time.

And if you want to enjoy the SkyFeast at Infinity, you can choose between either a 2-4 course à la carte meal, or a 5- or 6-course set menu. The à la carte experience costs $90-145 AUD for adults and $40 AUD for children aged 3-12. Meanwhile, the signature set menu option costs $210 AUD for adults or $40 AUD for kids, and guarantees you window seating. It’s a splurge, but one that’s well worth it!

13. Enjoy a cocktail at Uncle Mings

A cocktail at Uncle Mings
Photo credit: Uncle Mings
Drinks at Uncle Mings in Sydney Australia
Photo credit: Uncle Mings

Uncle Mings is an uber-cool bar located in the heart of Sydney CBD that serves delicious dumplings, carefully curated cocktails, sake, and Japanese whisky. It’s a hidden underground spot that was inspired by opium dens, so believe us when we say it’s edgy!

There’s limited capacity, and it’s possible to make a booking for up to 8 people, but the majority of spots are held open for walk-ins. The bar is mainly designed for small groups of 2-4 people, so this isn’t a place for large groups, but it’s an excellent spot for cocktails with a few close friends.

Their specialty cocktails really are amazing, and you can even get teapots of select cocktails to share! If you get a little peckish, don’t pass up on their dumplings – they are so tasty!

14. Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens

scenery at Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia
Such a beautiful place to walk!

Green-fingered tourists will love visiting the colorful and impeccably-kept Royal Botanic Gardens, which are located just a 5-minute walk from downtown Sydney. Within this 30-hectare (74-acre) garden, you will see a wide range of plants and flowers – from succulents to herbs, as well as a tropical greenhouse. 

Spend a few hours here wandering the many different plant species, and my top tip is to pack a picnic and take shade under a tree for a break from the hot Sydney sun. There’s also a free self-guided walking tour that you can do here, and it is put together by the garden’s passionate volunteers! 

The Royal Botanic Gardens hosts many events and workshops throughout the year – be sure to check out their event page before you visit. You can also purchase plants from here if you wish! 

The gardens open daily from 7 am, and the closing time depends on the season – if you’re visiting in the winter, make note the gardens typically close around 5:30 pm, while in the summer, they’re open later until 8 pm. Entry to gardens is typically free, they only charge for special ticketed events.

15. Taronga Zoo

Giragffe at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia
The giraffes are so cool!

Taronga Zoo is one of Australia’s leading zoos, and it’s located just a short ferry ride from Sydney CBD. The zoo is home to over 350 species, and more than 5,000 animals in total, from Asian elephants to gorillas and red kangaroos.

It sits right on the harborside, so it offers beautiful views, and the grounds themselves are lovely to explore.

There are also plenty of cafes around, and there are also picnic areas if you want to bring your own food with you.

The zoo is also home to a cable car which takes you for a sky safari, during which you’ll see Asian elephants playing and squirrel monkeys exploring the trees as you glide overhead. A ride is included with your entry ticket. There’s also a free-flight bird show every day at 12 pm and 3 pm, which you should definitely try and see because it’s really incredible.

What’s awesome about this zoo it’s that it’s not-for-profit, so you know that every dollar you spend there goes towards a good cause. Taronga Zoo performs a lot of important research and has a team dedicated to reproductive science that helps species conservation, both in zoos and in the wild.

To get to the zoo, you can take the Sydney Ferry service from Circular Quay, which departs every half an hour and takes 12 minutes to get there. The hop-on, hop-off Captain Cook cruise service can also take you to the zoo from Circular Quay or Darling Harbour.

If you’d prefer to take the bus, you can catch the 100 from the Queen Victoria Building in the CBD, which leaves every 10 minutes.

Entry costs $51 AUD per adult and $30 AUD for children aged 4-15. You can book your tickets in advance online and travel there yourself, buy a ticket with the ferry included, or if you prefer you can take a guided tour.

This guided tour of the zoo is great for families. It gives you access to areas which are usually off-limits. You can meet hand-raised animals and take photos with them, and you’ll learn a lot about Australian wildlife along the way. Group sizes are limited to 6, so it’s a really personal experience. Then, after the tour, you’re free to explore the rest of the zoo to your heart’s content.

Related Read: For another really cool wildlife experience in Australia, think about going on a jumping crocodile cruise in Darwin.

16. Go skydiving

Sky Diving over Wollongong beach, Sydney Australia
Photo credit: Skydive Sydney-Wollongong

If you’re looking for an exhilarating experience in Sydney, then skydiving should be at the top of your list.

Tandem skydiving is available for both first-time jumpers and experienced skydivers, and you’ll get amazing views of the city alongside a huge adrenaline rush.

There are several skydiving operators in Sydney, but we recommend this experience over Wollongong beach. You’ll be jumping from a height of 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) and you’ll get around 60 seconds of freefall before your parachute is deployed.

After your parachute is deployed, you’ll float gently back down to earth for around 5 minutes, giving you plenty of time to take in the stunning views. You may even be able to spot whales and dolphins from the air!

Prices start from $435 AUD per person, and if you want to buy professional photos and videos of your experience, you’ll need to pay an additional fee.

17. Take in the view from the Pylon Lookout

View from the Pylon Lookout in Sydney, Australia
Pylon Lookout in Sydney

One of the best views of Sydney harbor can be enjoyed from the Pylon Lookout on Sydney Harbor Bridge. Yep, you may not know this, but you can actually climb to the top of one of the pylons on the bridge for 360-degree views of the city and harbor.

It’s worth noting that it’s quite a steep climb to the top, and to get there, you must climb up 200 steps!  

This pylon lookout was, in fact, the original lookout in the city and was constructed in the 1930s. Today, it houses a museum that contains original artifacts from its past, as well as a new virtual reality tour that offers fascinating facts about the pylon’s history! 

The Pylon Lookout is open every day from 10 am to 4 pm in the busier months (i.e., summer) and is usually only open at the weekends (from Friday-Sunday) in the winter. The entrance fee is cheap and cheerful at only $19 AUD per person.

18. Explore Cockatoo Island

The dock at Cockatoo Island in Sydney
The dock on Cockatoo Island in Sydney

Cockatoo Island offers a unique insight into Australia’s past. It’s located in Sydney Harbour, and it was used as a penal colony from 1839-1869. Later on, it was used as a reform school for girls. Life was cruel on the island for inmates of these establishments, and you can learn all about it by taking a guided tour.

The island was also used as a shipyard from 1857 onwards, and you can see evidence of this in the dry docks, slipways, and cranes which are still there today. During WWII, Cockatoo Island was also used to repair ships for the Royal Australian Navy.

Cockatoo Island is free to visit, and you can get there by taking an F3 or F8 ferry from Circular Quay or Barangaroo, which costs around $7.65 AUD per adult, or $3.80 AUD for kids. Once you arrive on the island, there’s a Visitor Center to help you plan your visit, and it’s open from 10 am until 3 pm, seven days per week.

Although visiting is free, there are several paid tours available that you can book via the official website. There’s a super scary ghost tour that takes place late at night for $47 AUD, or a Convict Precinct tour which teaches you all about the island’s prison and takes you through the mess hall, solitary confinement cells, and several other significant buildings.

In addition to exploring the island’s history, there are lots of fun things to do on Cockatoo Island. It’s a perfect picnicking spot, as you can enjoy beautiful views of the Sydney Harbour as you eat and relax. There’s also a giant chessboard, lawn games, and a basketball court.

You can even stay on Cockatoo Island if you want. There are several heritage houses and river view apartments available, as well as a campground if you prefer.

All in all, Cockatoo Island is a really fun day out, but it’s also a great chance to learn about an important, and sometimes shocking, part of Australia’s history.

19. Stroll the Spit to Manly Walk

The Manly Scenic Bridge walkway in Sydney, Australia
The best way to explore the coast!

Another one of the best walks in Sydney is the lesser-known, but equally as stunning, Spit Bridge to Manly Walk. This walk is a little longer at 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) each way. Along the way, you’ll pass through the breathtaking Sydney Harbor National Park, which is home to Aboriginal rock art, Manly Cove, the Dobroyd Head lookout, before ending at Manly beach. 

It will take most people between 3 and 4 hours to complete, and it’s rated as moderate due to the variation in terrain – from stairs, sandy sections, a dirt track, and some paved road sections. There are plenty of places where you can sit and rest along the way, which you’ll likely need to do in the summer.

Also, if you plan to do this hike in the summer, ensure you pack water as there’s nowhere to stop and buy some along the way! In fact, during the summer, I recommend completing this hike in the late afternoon when it’s cooler, and that way, you can catch the ferry from Manly back into town at sunset! 

20. Wander Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour Sydney
I spent a ton of time wandering Darling Harbour!

Darling Harbour is like a playground for tourists and locals alike. There’s so much to see and do, you could easily spend a whole day here and not get bored. You’ve got major tourist attractions like Madame Tussauds and the SeaLife aquarium, as well as restaurants, bars, shops, and more.

Darling Harbour is known for its great views. You can stroll along the waterfront, admiring the harbour and all the boats. You can also walk across Pyrmont Bridge, which is one of the world’s oldest swing bridges and a major symbol of Australia’s industrial history.

Don’t miss the Chinese Garden of Friendship, either. It’s maintained by both Guangdong, in China, and the Australian state of New South Wales, and it represents the friendship between the two regions. The garden is a peaceful oasis in the midst of the city, and it has been carefully designed according to the principles of Taoism – especially the concept of Yin and Yang. You’ll find it between Darling Quarter and Darling Square, and entry costs $12 AUD per adult or $8 AUD for under 12s.

You should also visit Luminous, the world’s largest interactive light display. What’s cool about this is that after 6 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, creative control is handed over to the public and you can design your very own light show!

Darling Harbour is also home to some of Sydney’s best restaurants. Braza Churrascaria is an all-you-can-eat Brazilian-style barbecue that offers a really authentic experience. For something more casual, Toastiesmith is a super popular spot that serves up, you guessed it, amazing toasted sandwiches. It’s perfect for a quick bite!

If you’re feeling fancy, head to the not-so-creatively-named Champagne Bar for some bubbles. If you’d prefer cocktails, the Loft is a chic bar serving lots of specialty drinks.

21. Go on a wine tour in the Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley Vineyard in Sydney Australia
The Hunter Valley is gorgeous!

The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s most famous wine regions; in fact, it was one of the very first places in the country where grapes were planted in the early 19th century. It’s just over 3 hours away from Sydney and is home to over 150 wineries. The area is particularly noted for its Semillon grapes, which are used to make white wines like Riesling and White Burgundy.

There are lots of different ways to explore the Hunter Valley, but the best is via group tour because no one in your party has to play designated driver, which is always a bit of a buzzkill when you’re wine tasting!

This wine tasting tour takes you on three boutique cellar door tastings, as well as for a gourmet lunch – with an accompanying glass of wine, of course! You’ll also sample locally made sweet treats, like chocolate and fudge, as you go, and try some of the area’s organic vodkas and gins. Plus, you’ll be driven around in a Mercedes Benz for an extra touch of class and style.

Related Read: Another one of Australia’s famous wine regions is Margaret River in Western Australia – plan your visit!

22. Check out Luna Park

Luna park ferris wheel with a view of the harbor bridge in Sydney, Australia
Luna park ferris wheel with a view of the harbor bridge in Sydney, Australia

Ah, Luna Park is one of the most beautifully located amusement parks in the world. Situated on Sydney Harbor in the neighborhood of Milson’s Point – you probably recognize its iconic entrance (a clown’s face with an open mouth) from your social media feed!

The park was constructed back in 1935, and today it mixes the old with the new in a unique way – there are still some rides that were there in 1935 in the park today, although they have been updated! 

With four rollercoasters, the “hair-raiser” ride, where you will be dropped from a height of 50 meters, and the “rotor” ride, where you stick to the wall while the floor vanishes beneath you! You’re certainly in for a thrilling day at Luna Park. But there are also several family-friendly rides like the “freaky frog” and “cloud nine,” which guarantee fun for everyone!

Be sure to check out the retro Coney Island here, too – it is a great spot to take some cool photos! There are food trucks and a Cafe and restaurant here, too. 

I recommend purchasing a day pass online ahead of your visit; it costs $44 AUD for an all-you-can-ride pass if you book in advance, which is a big saving on the $75 AUD entrance fee they charge you on the day at the ticket office on-site!

Luna Park is open from Friday to Monday and closed from Tuesday to Thursday.

23. Go Jet boating

Jet Boating at Sydney harbor in Sydney Australia
Photo credit: Thunder Jet Boat Sydney

Another one for the adrenaline junkies! Jet boating is a super fun way to see Sydney from a different perspective. There’s nothing like speeding through the water, with the wind in your hair, as you take in all the sights of beautiful Sydney – including the Opera House and Taronga Zoo.

This particular tour will take you on a 30-minute ride from the Circular Quay through the Sydney Harbour and play music through a loudspeaker as you whizz past the city’s top landmarks.

The fast turns, twists, and fishtails will certainly get your heart pumping, especially since the boat travels at speeds of up to 47 miles (75 kilometers) per hour.

24. Learn to surf

Learn how to surf at Sydney Australia
Photo credit: LETS GO SURFING

Sydney is a surfer city, and if you’re visiting in the summer, you absolutely have to try your hand at catching some waves. 

There are plenty of great beginner beaches in Sydney, including Manly beach, Palm beach, and the north and south corners of Maroubra beach. 

You’ll usually find lots of surf shops where you can rent boards around these beaches. Aloha Surf at Manly beach is a bit of a Sydney institution, having been in business for over 30 years.

Of course, for the quintessential Sydney surfing experience, there’s no better place to learn than the world-famous Bondi beach. The northern end of the beach is perfect for beginners, and there are plenty of rental shops in the area. Surf Republik offers boards starting from $35 AUD for 4 hours. 

If you want a surf lesson on Bondi beach, this 2-hour session will teach you all of the basics and give you the confidence you need to practice independently. The $99 AUD price tag includes your instruction, surfboard, wetsuit, rash vest, sunscreen, and storage for your valuables while you’re in the water. Group sizes are limited to 5 people, so you can ensure that you’ll receive plenty of help and attention from your teacher.

Related Read: Surfing is also one of the best things to do in Perth, Australia.

25. Take a walk through Royal National Park

Magnificent landscape with ocean and cliffs at the Royal National Park in Sydney, Australia
Sydney is all about the coast!

Would you believe that Royal National Park on the outskirts of Sydney CBD is the second oldest National Park in the world (the first is Yellowstone National Park in the U.S.!) This park is huge at 100 kilometers (62 miles) and boasts dramatic windswept cliffs, walking tracks through coastal rainforest gullies, and stunning, secluded beaches.

No matter what time of year you visit, you’re sure to have a good time, and what’s great too is that it’s equally as pretty in every season. For example, in the spring, the park is abundant with colorful wildflowers, while in the summer, Garie beach is a spectacular spot to relax. In the winter, I love to walk the Coast Track, which takes you from Bundeena to Otford, because along the way, you may be lucky enough to see whales in the water below! 

Because the park is so big and there’s so much to do here, I recommend spending a full day here or staying a few nights at one of the campsites within the park! Camping fees range from $35-55 AUD a night, depending on the site you book.

It’s important to note that if you drive here, you will need to pay a fee of $12 AUD per vehicle. 

26. Join the Sydney Harbour hop-on-hop-off cruise

Harbour cruise with on-board commentary from Captain Cook Cruises at Sydney Australia
Photo credit: Captain Cook Cruises

A hop-on, hop-off cruise is an amazing way to see Sydney, especially as you can tailor the experience to your own interests and needs. Whether you want to stay on board the entire time or hop off and explore different areas in depth, it’s entirely up to you! There’s also on board commentary, so you’ll learn lots of interesting facts and information about Sydney as you go.

You can choose between a 1- or 2-day ticket, although note that the 2-day ticket must be used on 2 consecutive days. Some of the main points of interest include Taronga Zoo, Shark Island, Watsons Bay, and Clifton Gardens.

It’s an easy, and fun way to get around Sydney for your holiday!

27. Enjoy a meal at Quay Restaurant

The view of the Sydney Opera House from Quay Restaurant Sydney
Photo credit: Quay Restaurant Sydney
Food and wine at Quay restaurant Sydney
Photo credit: Quay Restaurant Sydney

Quay is one of Sydney’s best-loved restaurants. All of the dishes are inspired by the vast and varied landscapes of Australia, from the Outback to the Great Barrier Reef, and all of the ingredients are locally sourced. It’s a gourmet experience, but one that’s understated and comfortable, rather than over-the-top.

You can choose between a 6- or 8-course menu, which costs $210 AUD and $340 AUD respectively. Highlights include the bone marrow noodles, pig jowl confit, and native marron roe. Wine pairings are available for an additional fee.

This is definitely one of the top dining experiences in Sydney and something not to miss if you’re a foodie!

28. Drink your way around the city on a historic pub tour

Small Mouth Vodka from Daves Pub Tours in Sydney Australia
Photo credit: Dave’s Travel Group

Sydney is home to plenty of historic pubs and taverns, many of which date back to the early days of European settlement – and if there’s one thing Aussies know how to do, it’s drink.

Some of the city’s best pubs include the Fortune of War, Harts Pub, and the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, all of which can be found in the Rocks neighborhood. This is the city’s oldest neighborhood and is home to some of its most significant colonial-era buildings.

You can explore the area on your own, or you can join a pub tour to meet fellow travelers and hear interesting historical facts and fun stories about the area and its pubs from your guide. This tour will take you to 4 of the Rocks’ best pubs and includes a drink in each one, so it’s also a great chance to try some local brews and get a feel for Sydney’s pub culture.

29. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art

View of the Museum of Contemporary Art building in Sydney, Australia

The Museum of Contemporary Art enjoys a prime position overlooking Circular Quay, and it houses over 4,000 works by Australian artists! There are various art forms on display in the museum, but it has a strong focus on photography, painting, and sculptures specifically! It also displays many works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. 

What’s great too is that it’s completely free to enter – so it’s a brilliant free thing to do in Sydney

You can wander the museum on your own or join one of the free guided tours. Depending on the time you visit, you should be okay to join a guided tour without booking, but during weekends or school holidays, you should book in advance! 

The Museum of Contemporary Art (aka the MCA) is open every day except Mondays and stays open late on Friday nights.

30. Visit Port Stephens

dolphin watching at Port Stephens in Sydney Australia

Port Stephens is a natural harbor where you can see turtles, dolphins, and a huge variety of birds. It’s about 2.5 hours away from Sydney and is home to gorgeous beaches, clear waters, amazing natural parks, and sand dunes.

The drive between Port Stephens and Sydney is pretty easy, and there’s loads to do there, both on land, and in the sea.

On land, you can try your hand at sandboarding or 4x4ing in the Stockton Sand Dunes. There are also plenty of walks and hikes to choose from, ranging from easy forest trails to more challenging coastal walks. On top of this, you can visit many of Port Stephens’ charming villages and sample farm fresh produce, locally made wine, and delicious ice cream.

Dolphin and whale-watching cruises are also popular, as are kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding trips. You can even go scuba diving or snorkeling in the Marine Park, which is teeming with colorful fish, coral reefs, and other marine life.

This tour from Sydney to Port Stephens includes a dolphin watching cruise, a 4WD tour, sandboarding on the dunes, a stop at Gan Gan Lookout for amazing views of the area, and a trip to Birubi beach for a swim. All in all, it gives you a well-rounded taste of what Port Stephens has to offer and is a great way to spend a day away from Sydney.

31. Watch an Aussie Rules football game

Aussie rules football game in Australia
Daniel and Bailey at a football game in Australia

Aussie Rules football is a fast and physical sport that’s popular in Australia. If you’re in Sydney during the footy season (which runs from March to September), watching a game is a great way to experience some of the local culture.

The Sydney Swans are the city’s team, and they play their home games at the Sydney Cricket Ground. A match lasts around 2.5 hours, including breaks, and it’s always a super exciting sport to watch, even if you’re not much of a sports fan and have no idea what the rules are!

32. Check out a market

Paddington Markets in Sydney, Australia
Photo credit: Paddington Markets

If you love shopping, then searching for unique clothing, jewelry, and other wares at a local Sydney market is likely right up your street! Luckily, there are heaps of markets in Sydney where you can “grab yourself a bargain,” as the locals say – from the famed Paddington Markets to the huge Paddys Market in Chinatown – you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in one of these awesome Sydney markets!

Paddington Markets

First up is  Paddington Markets, which is open every Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. In operation since the 1970s, the market has now grown to over 150 stalls selling everything from creative clothing and jewelry to candles, art, and so much more! It has a very hip/bohemian vibe, and there are lots of great food and coffee stalls here too! 

The Rocks Market

Set up along two of the oldest streets in Sydney – Playfair Street and George Street – the tourist-favorite Rocks Market is open every Saturday and Sunday. Here, you can buy everything from art, books, clothing, souvenirs, and gourmet street food. What’s cool too is that there are also some free classes and workshops as part of the market, such as yoga in the park!

Bondi Markets

Next is the Bondi Markets, which open every Sunday between 10 am and 4 pm. These markets have a very laidback vibe, and the stalls here sell everything from vintage clothing, retro furniture, fresh food, handmade jewelry, and even some original designer clothing. You never know, you might just buy something from the next big thing designer! 

Paddy’s Market

You can’t visit Chinatown in Sydney CBD and not pop into the famous Paddy’s Market! This huge indoor market offers everything from fresh seafood to fruit and vegetables and plenty of food stalls selling mostly Asian cuisine! You can also buy lots of cheap Sydney-themed souvenirs here! Paddy’s market is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 am – 6 pm. 

Sydney Fish Market

And finally, if you love fresh seafood, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Sydney Fish Market, which is situated at Blackwattle Bay, right on the Harbor. It’s the biggest fish market in the Southern Hemisphere, and here, you can buy fresh fish direct from the retailer to cook at home or head to one of the restaurants to try it.

Many of the restaurants will allow you to pick your fish or shellfish direct from the tanks and then cook it to order for you! Would you believe that over 100 species of seafood are for sale here? Sydney Fish Market is open every day from 7 am to 4 pm. 

33. Walk through Hyde Park

Tree lined walkway in Hyde Park in Sydney, Australia
Such a beautiful park!

Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in Sydney, and the oldest park in Australia. It’s named after Hyde Park in London, and it’s a great place to relax, take a walk, or have a picnic. 

The park is also home to the pool of reflection, which is dedicated to Anzac soldiers who, as well as the Archibald Fountain, a large fountain with a statue of Apollo surrounded by tortoises, dolphins, and horses.

The park is also a fantastic place to people-watch, as it’s always full of locals and tourists, and there’s always something going on. From buskers and street performers to festivals and pop-up markets, there’s always something to see and do in Hyde Park.

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 things to do in and 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 AUD per night.

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 $195 AUD nightly.

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 $45 AUD nightly.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a photo together at Bondi Beach in Sydney
Thanks for reading!

Sydney is such an incredible city. I’m sure you understand why we keep on visiting after reading this blog. From the vibrant culture to architecture to the great outdoors, it’s a place I’m sure you’ll love too.

Be sure to check out the rest of our Australia blogs including a few popular posts below:

The BEST Things to do in Darwin

Guide to Visiting Kakadu National Park

The BEST Margaret River Wine Tours

16 Things to Know about Swimming with Whale Sharks in Exmouth
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