Although Sydney is not the capital of Australia, the biggest city on the East Coast ranks as number one in travellers’ Australia bucket list. The iconic city views with the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are in all travel guides. But there is a lot more to discover there. Sydney is full of surprises, and you will never run out of things to do in Sydney. Read on to learn more about the best ones.
What to do and see in Sydney city
Things to do to explore Sydney Harbour
Sydney Harbour is the symbol of Sydney. The first Europeans chose the shore of this natural ria it to establish their first settlement on the Australian mainland. Nowadays, it is recognizable thanks to the famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge. There are many activities in Sydney organised to explore Sydney Harbour.
#1 Hop on a Helicopter Flight
The beauty of Sydney Harbour is best seen from the air. If you have the budget, the helicopter flight will leave you breathless.
#2 Climb the Harbour Bridge
If you are not scared of heights, you can climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. That’s another expensive activity but the unique experience will not only provide you adrenaline but will also offer you some of the best views of Sydney Harbour.
#3 Climb to the Pylon Lookout
The Pylon Lookout is not as famous and as impressive as the Harbour Bridge Climb, but it is an excellent cheaper alternative. Plus, on your way to the top, you will also visit a museum about the construction of the bridge.
#4 Go on a cruise
The most affordable and flexible way to cruise Sydney Harbour is to hop on and off of the ferries. The ferries are used as public transport by Sydney-siders, sometimes on an everyday basis. The Route F4 will take you all the way from Darling Harbour to Watson’s Bay, offering you the best views you can get of the harbour from the water.
You can also opt for a more intimate cruise by joining a smaller boat tour or even a sailing boat.
#5 Go for a shore walk
It would be too long to list all the trails around Sydney Harbour. If you want to take an easy stroll to admire the iconic city views, you should wander in the Botanical Garden, at least all the way to Macquarie’s Chair. Alternatively, the short walk from Cremorne Point to Robertsons Point offers a different angle with lovely city views. And if you don’t feel like walking more than five minutes, Milsons Point – right in front of Circular Quay on the other side of the Harbour Bridge – is a good choice.
#6 Sit for a coffee or a drink
There’s no need to make efforts to get some of the best views of Sydney Harbour. The rooftop of the Modern Art Museum has a restaurant with perfect views. In the heart of the city, the Sydney Tower hosts a perched bar on a rotating platform for a 380-degree experience. Those who don’t like heights may prefer the cafes next to the Luna Park, almost under the Harbour Bridge and opposite the Opera House.
Things to do at the beach
Sydney is home to another Australian icon: the beach and the surfers.
#7 Visit Bondi Beach
The one-kilometre-long beach may be Australia’s most famous beaches. In the Aboriginal language, Bondi means “water breaking over rocks”. They claim Bondi Surf Club, founded in 1907, was the world’s first surf lifesaving club. So no need to say that surfing is a favorite activity there. However, many visitors also go there to enjoy the dramatic coastline from foreshoreway corridor from Bondi to Coogee.
#8 Visit Manly
Manly is the second most popular beach and fun activities in Sydney. It’s easy to understand why as you go from the calm harbour on one side to the waves of the ocean on the other after a scenic ferry ride from the City. Manly is surprisingly a lovely place to see wildlife – especially birds. You’ll encounter a few cockatoos on the bay side, and even little penguins if you’re very lucky. You’re likely to hear Kookaburras laugh perched on a tree if you go to quieter zones. The water dragons are often spotted on the short walk to Shelly Beach. And once you get there. the Cabbage Tree Reserve is reputed for snorkelling and you may even see Port Jackson sharks.
#9 Visit the Northern Beaches
If the city is too busy for you and you need some fresh air, hop on a bus to the Northern Beaches. You will find stunning beaches, at least as beautiful as the famous Manly Beach and Bondi Beach, but without the crowds of tourists. If you can make it all the way to Palm Beach and the Barranjoey Lighthouse, you will get perfect coastal views on the ocean and the nearby national park.
Things to do to learn about History
No one travel to Australia with the main objective to learn about History. But isn’t it part of a trip to discover more about the past of the places we visit? Sydney is a great place for that as it’s where the first fleet of British ships settled.
#10 Visit the Rocks and its museum
Don’t miss the opportunity to have a peek at Aboriginal people’s history. They lived in Australia long before the first European arrived. The cohabitation between colons and indigenous people is not a happy story, but it’s nonetheless fascinating. The Rocks Discovery Museum retraces thousands of years of history in one of the most ancient areas in Sydney.
#11 Visit Cockatoo Island
This UNESCO world-heritage-listed island is right in the middle of Sydney Harbour, just a short ferry ride away from the City. The biggest island of the Harbour had an important place in Australia’s maritime and defence history. It’s a perfect place to learn about the colonial and convict history.
#12 Queen Victoria Building
The Queen Victoria Building has no equal in Australia. Both the exterior and the interior of the building are remarkable. The massive statue of Queen Victoria in front of the southern entrance is almost as impressive as the building. Make sure you allow time to look at the Great Australian Clock that illustrates 33 scenes from Australian history, seen from both Aboriginal and European perspectives.
#13 The Australian National Maritime Museum
The Australian National Maritime Museum is the only Australian federal museum outside of the capital city. It has seven main galleries plus four galleries for temporary exhibits and three museum ships. Visitors get the opportunity to learn a lot about the Australia history, including the discovery of Australia and the relationships between the Australian Aborigines and the water. The museum is located in the scenic Darling Harbour which also hosts many other popular attractions (the aquarium and Madame Tussauds just to name a few), restaurants and hotels.
Things to do outside of Sydney
If you have time, you can explore the region outside Sydney with a few day trips. Beautiful national parks, coastal towns and countryside surround Sydney. Some of the best day trips from Sydney are:
- The Blue Mountains
- The Royal National Park
- Ku-rin-gai Chase National Park
- The Hunter Valley
- Port Stephens and Nelson Bay
- Jervis Bay
Where to stay in Sydney
There are many fantastic places to stay around Sydney and catering to all different accommodations and price ranges. Here are a few suggestions based on the top ratings from TripAdvisor stays in the city.
Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbor – Modern and luxurious with wonderful furnishings and local artwork, gracious service and fantastic waterfront location.
Ovolo Woolloomooloo – Tastefully refurbished and colorful hotel located right on the waterfront and botanical gardens. Beautiful architecture with clean and spacious rooms and friendly service.
Spicers Potts Point – An elegant hotel and well-appointed with modern and comfortable amenities, quality service, breakfast and even an evening fruit and canape service.
Check out these other top rated hotels reviewed through TripAdvisor here for more details, images and current prices.
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Guest post Bio
Eloise lives in Brisbane (Australia), but you won’t find her often in the city. When she is not disconnected underwater or in a national park, she loves sharing her travel tips on her blog MyFavouriteEscapes.com and inspiring her readers to take care of our beautiful planet. She considers every weekend as a two-day holiday break. Her approach: you don’t always need to go far to travel. Still, she also enjoys exploring the world and discovering new cultures.
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