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If you’re planning a trip to Sydney, or you’re lucky enough to be moving here, one thing you certainly won’t suffer from is boredom. With over 100 beaches to choose from, a multitude of coastal walks, nearby national parks and a huge choice of places to eat and drink, your main problem will be squeezing in all the things you want to do before you leave.
I’ve been living in Sydney for over a year now, and I’m still finding new places to explore every week. When you’re new to the city, the range of activities on offer can be a little overwhelming , so to help you plan your trip or get to know your new home, here are my top 15 things to do in Sydney. Enjoy!
1. Visit Sydney Opera House
Visiting one of the most iconic landmarks of modern Australia, the Sydney Opera House, will probably be number one on your list of things to do in Sydney. Seeing this Danish-designed structure up close is really quite breathtaking; pictures don’t do justice to its grand size and scale.
You can take a tour, stroll around the perimeter, or enjoy a meal or drink whilst watching ferries pass you by in the outdoor area of Opera Bar, which has spectacular views across Circular Quay. If you time it right you’ll even get to watch the sun go down behind the Harbour Bridge.
2. Stroll Around the Royal Botanic Garden
Adjacent to Sydney Opera House is the Royal Botanic Garden, which is well worth strolling around. With Sydney skyscrapers as its backdrop and awesome views from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, I’d thoroughly recommend a visit.
3. Cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Along with Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge is another recognisable landmark that you’ll probably want to visit while you’re here. Lots of people choose to do the bridge climb, but for a cheaper alternative you can simply walk across it for free or climb the pylon lookout for $15. Once on the other side you can visit Luna Park or walk down to the water to see the city from afar.
4. Go Back in Time at The Rocks
With buildings over 100 years old tucked down narrow laneways, The Rocks is where you can get a feel for how Sydney used to be before tourists and city workers took the place of sailors and convicts. Learn more at free-to-enter The Rocks Discovery Museum, enjoy brunch at one of the many eateries such as the Fine Food Store, drink at rooftop bar The Glenmore or wander over to Observatory Hill for fantastic views of the city.
5. Explore the Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains National Park is less than two hours west of the city, and one of the best day trips you can do from Sydney. You can either join a guided tour or follow my one-day itinerary to visit the Blue Mountains for under $10 using public transport. Check out the views from these nine beautiful lookouts in the Blue Mountains for inspiration!
6. Do the Bondi to Coogee Walk
Sydney has a multitude of fabulous walks to choose from, but the most famous of all has to be the 6km coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee. The scenery is absolutely stunning, and it’s hard to believe it’s so close to the centre of a major city. For a shorter walk, start from Bronte, but once you reach Bondi you can reward yourself with dinner or drinks on the balcony at Bondi Icebergs to savour the view.
7. Catch the Ferry to Manly Beach
For a slightly more chilled-out vibe than Bondi, pay a visit to the large and well-known Manly beach which lies on the north side of Sydney Harbour. If you’re travelling from the city you can kill two birds with one stone and enjoy a cheap ride along the river by catching the Manly ferry from Circular Quay. If you travel on a Sunday you get unlimited travel on public transport for $2.60.
8. Visit an Art Gallery
If you’re looking for more cultural things to do in Sydney, check out some of its art galleries. Try the large Art Gallery of New South Wales near the Royal Botanic Garden, the Museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay, or White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary Chinese art.
9. Dine at Darling Harbour or Barangaroo
Darling Harbour and Barangaroo are neighbouring areas lined with waterfront restaurants and bars that make a fun night out if you’re looking for things to do in Sydney in the evening. You can get the ferry there from Circular Quay, which is lovely at night time when you can see the city lights sparkle. During the daytime you can also visit Madame Tussauds, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, IMAX Theatre and the Chinese Garden of Friendship.
10. Picnic & Swim at Cremorne Point
While walking around Circular Quay is a must, the best way to appreciate the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and city skyline, and capture the view all in one photograph, is by crossing the bridge and gazing out across the water. For a beautiful short walk that includes a picnic spot and free swimming pool with perfect views of the city, check out my post on the Mosman Bay to Cremorne Point walk, just a short ferry ride from the city.
11. Peruse Sydney’s Weekend Markets
Sydney has plenty of interesting weekend markets to visit, but my personal favourite is Glebe, which not only has great pre-loved clothing but hot food, live music and a bongo band! If you head down after 2pm a lot of stallholders drop their clothing prices to $5 or less to try and empty their stock. Some other great Sydney weekend markets are Paddington, Balmain, Bondi, The Rocks and Kirribilli.
12. Spend the Day at Palm Beach
If you’ve ever watched Aussie soap opera Home and Away, you’ll recognise the sweeping golden sand leading up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse. Situated just over an hour north of Sydney CBD, Palm Beach is not only a filming location, but a stunning beachside suburb set at the tip of a narrow peninsula with crashing ocean waves to the east, amazing views of Ku-Ring-Gai National Park across calm Pittwater to the west and an array of million-dollar mansions set into the surrounding green hills.
You can visit the Summer Bay Surf Club, climb the hill to the lighthouse, eat at waterside restaurant The Boathouse or catch a ferry across to Mackerel in Ku-Ring-Gai to escape the tourists and enjoy more isolated beaches. Hop on the L90 bus from Wynyard Station to get there.
13. Shop, Eat & Drink in Quirky Newtown
To see Sydney’s artistic side and get out of the tourist traps, catch the train to Newtown where you can easily lose a few hours shopping in the quirky boutiques and vintage stores, sipping lattes and people watching in the numerous cafes, and eating and drinking in the long strip of pubs and restaurants. It’s one of my favourite things to do in Sydney on a Saturday.
14. Spend a Day in Watsons Bay
At the mouth of Sydney Harbour lies the pretty seaside suburb of Watsons Bay. With killer views of the city, waterside eateries, a short walk through national park to the recognisable Hornby Lighthouse and a choice of lovely beaches, Watsons Bay makes a great day out in Sydney for visitors of all ages. Read my post on how to spend a day in Watsons Bay for more details.
15. Visit the Royal National Park
If the hustle and bustle of the city gets too much, do as Sydneysiders do and escape to “The Royal” for the day. With beautiful beaches, coastal hikes and picturesque waterside villages, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.
If you have access to a car, read my post on the lovely Wattamolla Beach, which has a swimming lagoon, viewpoints and access to the Royal Coast Track. If you’re travelling by public transport, you can get to Bundeena and Maianbar, two beautiful villages at the northern tip of the park, by a short vintage ferry ride from Cronulla. They have a monthly art trail and markets, stunning beaches, a beachside campsite and easy access to walking tracks down to Wedding Cake Rock and beyond.
If you’re thinking of moving to Sydney, take a look at my post on living in Sydney, covering everything from lifestyle and beaches to property and public transport. Whether you’re moving or visiting, be sure to read my Sydney weather guide so you know what to pack, and my comprehensive guide on where to live in Sydney based on my year of house sitting across the city.
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