Sydney is one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world. There’s always something going on, and you never know what you’ll find around every corner. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned Sydney-sider, here are some of the best things to do in this incredible city.
There’s so much to see and do in Sydney, and you could easily spend weeks exploring the city and its surrounds! If you only have a short time in town, make sure you at least check out these best things to do in Sydney.
Fun & Best Things to do in Sydney, Australia
1. Camp on Cockatoo Island
Camping on Cockatoo Island is one of the unique experiences you can have in Sydney – how often can you go camping in the middle of a capital city! Cockatoo Island is located in Sydney Harbour, between Balmain and Woolwich, only a short ferry ride from Circular Quay.
On Cockatoo Island, you can set up your own tent at one of several campsites or book one of the camping packages, which range from basic to deluxe waterfront glamping, where everything is provided for you.
The highlight of the experience is the views. You can watch the sunset and rise over Sydney Harbour Bridge while feeling far away from the bustle of the city.
Cockatoo Island offers a range of activities for campers. There is a campground cinema showing family movies in the early evening and a late-night thriller, or you can book in for a ghost tour of the old shipyards.
The camp firepit is a great spot to meet fellow campers and share stories over some marshmallows.
If you don’t feel like a BBQ at the campground kitchen, there are also two cafes on the island, serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner right on the water’s edge.
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2. Art New Gallery NSW
One of the best free things to do in Sydney for art lovers is visiting the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
It’s one of Australia’s best art museums and houses collections of Asian, European, and local Australian art. The enormous five-story building has something for everyone.
The gallery also offers various free guided tours. Some take you along the gallery’s highlights, and some are specific for their temporary exhibitions, which they update regularly.
They have about 40 different exhibitions annually, so even if you had already visited the museum years ago, it’s always worth a visit again.
Besides their fascinating art and free guided tours, they also organize cool performances such as movies, music, or lectures which are generally free to visit. You can check out their website for upcoming events. There is also a small restaurant and shop if you want to buy an Australian gift or souvenir.
The Art Gallery of NSW is conveniently located at Art Gallery Road, right next to the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Domain. Bus 441 stops close by, and from St James and Martin Place stations, it’s about a 10-minute walk.
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3. A Day out at Darling Harbour
When visiting Australia and Sydney, a day out in Darling Harbour is a must, steeped in maritime history and an integral part of Australia’s history from its first settlement. Home to Australia’s first steam engine, assembly of the first iron-hulled ship, and launch site of the first steamship.
Reborn in the 1980s with some greatest attractions, parks, restaurants, hotels, exhibitions, and conference centers. Uniquely placed, mixing the history of the site with some great places to visit, in addition to having something for everyone’s budget.
Built in the 1820s and once home to the ‘Wharf Street Market,’ the last remaining wharf from a bygone era is home to:
- Sea Life Aquarium (opened 1988) walk amongst the sea life in the underwater tunnels or visit one of the nine interactive sections the
- Wild Life Zoo (opened in 2006) visit Australia’s native animals in one place, including the Quokka native to Rottnest Island, WA, and the Tasmanian Devil native only in TAS.
- Madame Tussauds (opened in 2012) is a famous waxwork museum where you can see and be seen with a variety of famous faces. superheroes, history & world leaders
- Maritime muSEAum – factual and artistic exhibitions of indigenous and first settlers’ maritime history. Explore one of the vessels docked at the wharf or on display, or maritime displays of indigenous culture, history, art and culture, oceanology, archaeology, and migration.
There is something for all tastes, thrills, on the Harbour Jet speeding past some Sydney icons, or stay dry and get a 360° view of Sydney’s harbors from the 35-meter-high Ferris wheel (Star of the Show).
Spend a quiet, reflective moment in the Chinese Garden of Friendship, at the southern end of Darling Harbour, which opened in 1988, modeled on a 5th-century private garden.
Darling Harbour is a short walk from Sydney CBD (10mins), accessible from Central Station via the light rail or Town Hall station via bus. Parking is available at three car parks around the precinct for those driving. Additionally, it is 15-20mins from domestic and international airports by train.
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4. How and why you should visit Taronga Zoo
Contribution by: Weight the Suitcase
Visiting Taronga Zoo is such a fun activity to do if you are staying in Sydney. It is also a nice little adventure getting there!
Taronga Zoo is the largest Zoo in Australia and is home to over 2600 animals on its 69-acre site. Many of the animal species are indigenous to Australia and are hard to find in other Zoos around the world.
Parts of the Zoo have amazing views looking back to Sydney and its harbour, which are definitely Instagram-worthy! Seeing the diversity of animals in the Zoo is a real treat, and you simply can’t go without seeing the amazing Giraffe enclosure.
The Zoo is reached by a brief 12-minute ferry from Circular Quay in Sydney, and this itself is a fun journey. You can get great views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera house on this journey, and this is another reason why taking a trip to the Zoo is a must-do when in Sydney!
As soon as you get off the ferry, there is a brilliant cable car ride up to the top level of the Zoo, where you will find the main entrance.
For me, seeing the Zoo when in Sydney is a must!
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5. Take a ferry to Manly
Manly is one of Sydney’s most popular suburbs and is known for its great beaches, surfing, and laid-back atmosphere. If you want to get out of the city for a few hours, then a day trip to Manly is a perfect choice.
From Sydney’s Circular Quay, you can catch a ferry directly to Manly. It is only 30 minutes long, and boats frequently run throughout the day. From the ferry, you will get great views of both the Sydney Opera House and Harbour bridge.
There are many great surfing spots along Australia’s east coast, such as Newcastle and Bondi beach, but it was Manly that held the world’s first surfing competition back in 1964, putting it firmly on the surfing map.
In the center of town, you will find plenty of surf shops as well as many bars and restaurants. Even if you don’t surf, the golden sandy beach is great for sunbathing, swimming, or walking along the promenade.
Away from the center of Manly and the main beach, walkers will enjoy the scenic coastal path. Starting from Manly Wharf, the coastal path offers great views across the bay.
You will follow the rugged coastline past quiet inlets and secluded beaches before making your way back to Manly main beach.
The gorgeous beaches, relaxed vibe, and proximity to Sydney’s Circular Quay make Manly a great choice for a day out in Sydney.
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6. Visit the Sydney Opera House
Contribution by: Aquarius Traveller
When deciding on things to do in Sydney, you just can’t go past visiting the Sydney Opera House, and there are so many different ways to enjoy it.
It happens to be one of the most well-known Australian Landmarks and one of the most photographed buildings in the world. Not only that, But it was UNESCO World Heritage-listed in 2007.
The Sydney Opera House is located in Sydney Harbour, faces the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and centers on the harbour waterways.
The roof was designed with recognizable white sail-shaped shells and took 14 years to build. There were over 10 thousand men who used construct it, and it cost around 102 million dollars.
Throughout the year, events, stage shows, and of course, the Opera shows are held inside the Amphitheatre. These can be booked and paid for online and are known for an elegant night out in Sydney.
Apart from that, thousands of tourists will line the steps and surrounding area every day to catch a glimpse and take photos.
Know that visiting the Opera House up close might not be the best vantage point. However, places like The Rocks, Luna Park, and just taking a ferry ride might be better to see it in its entirety.
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7. Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge
Contribution by: Make More Adventures
There are only a handful of bridges that you can officially climb in the world, and the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of them.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House are the two most recognizable Sydney landmarks. Climbers can see an incredible view of the Sydney Opera House from atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Built in 1932, after eight years of construction, The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s largest steel arch bridge. The Bridge Climb began in 1998, and anyone 8+ (and a certain height) is able to climb to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Currently, there are four types of bridge climbs spanning 2.5-3.5 hours long and taking place from dawn through the nighttime.
Climbers start their tour at Climb Base at the Rocks, which can easily be reached by taking a ferry, bus, or train to Circular Quay. Each climber receives an outer layer from wearing so that they blend in with the bridge. Personal items are stored, and cameras are not allowed on the climb.
Safety gear is fitted onto each climber, and each person is attached to the bridge during the climb.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb is a must-do for adventure seekers and those wishing to view Sydney from another angle.
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8. Kurnell – Birthplace of Modern Australia
Contribution by: Live Work Play Australia
Kurnell is 22km south of Sydney’s CBD. Located on the shores of Botany Bay in the Kamay Botany Bay National Park, it is known for being the birthplace of modern Australia.
This is because it is the landing spot of Captain James Cook, the man who ‘discovered’ Australia in 1770 when he stepped ashore from his boat ‘Endeavour’ and claimed the land for Britain. But Kurnell is also known as the place where the land was dispossessed from the local Aboriginals.
Within the park is a Visitors Centre where you can discover Australia’s history from both points of view.
You can reach Kurnell by car or train, and bus ride and the journey will be worth it. As well as learning Kurnell’s part in Australian history, there are other things you can do.
As well as monuments erected in memory of Captain James Cook and local Aboriginals, there are some great walking tracks that take in spectacular views over the Pacific Ocean where you might see a whale or two!
Or you could spend your time enjoying the lovely bay beach either swimming or watching planes take off and land at Sydney’s airport. Perhaps grab a meal in one of the vibrant cafes. Kurnell is a mix of old and new and is one of my favorite places to visit in Sydney.
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9. Whale Watching in Sydney
Contribution by: Whale Watching Iceland
When Finding Nemo hit the cinemas in 2003, the movie was a goldmine for memorable and funny movie quotes. Almost all moviegoers remember one very particular address.
Can you guess which one?
If not, you might suffer from the same short-term memory loss as the famous character who said it.
If yes, you know that speaking whale is something that helped Dory find her way to P. Sherman 42, Wallaby Way, in Sydney. Therefore, going on a whale watching tour in Sydney is something that 100% should be on your bucket list.
Whale watching in Sydney is one of the most popular activities the city has to offer. Mid-May humpback whales are slowly passing by the Sydney region as they start their migration towards the north.
The migration peaks from mid-June to late July and during this period there is almost a 100% guarantee you will see humpback whales during your tour. It is also possible to see humpback whales in the low season, but the chances are slimmer.
Besides whales, you can also encounter several species of dolphins, sea birds, sharks, and fur seals. Most tours are between 2-4 hours long and will depart from Circular Quay Wharf. Here you will find several whale tour operators within walking distance from each other.
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10. Bask in the Sun at Bondi Beach
The Bondi Beach area is a top attraction for visitors to Sydney. It’s home to one of the most famous beaches in the world, like the Manly beach, and several great restaurants and bars. There’s also plenty of shopping to be had, and the beach itself is a great place to relax and take in Sydney’s natural beauty.
The beach is among the beautiful Sydney beaches, and it’s a great place to relax, swim, and soak up the sun. There are also several restaurants and bars in the area, so you can enjoy a meal or a drink while enjoying the views of the beach.
There are plenty of hotels near the beach to choose from. Some of the best include the BONDI BREEZE-hosted by:L’Abode Accommodation, the Royal Pacific Hotel, and the Bondi Beach House. All of these hotels offer excellent locations and comfortable and spacious rooms.
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11. Marvel at the Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney is a must-visit for anyone touring the city.
With over 30,000 plants from all over the world on display, it’s no wonder that the gardens are one of Sydney’s most popular tourist destinations. There’s always something new to see in the gardens, so you can visit again and again and never get bored.
Some of the highlights include the rose gardens, the fernery, and the palm collection. There are also plenty of walking trails to explore and a cafe for grabbing a bite to eat.
The Australian Rainforest Garden is a beautiful oasis inside Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden that showcases rainforest plants.
The nearby hotels in Royal Botanic Garden are the Sydney Harbour Marriott, a luxurious hotel located in the heart of the city, and the Park Hyatt Sydney, one of the most luxurious hotels in Sydney and offers guests some of the best views of the city.
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12. Take a Day Trip to The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in New South Wales, Australia. The area is well-known for its dramatic landscape of sandstone cliffs and eucalyptus forests.
There are plenty of things to do in the mountain, including hiking, biking, and sightseeing. Some of the most popular attractions include Went, the Three Sisters, and Echo Point.
Katoomba is the largest town in the Blue Mountains, and it’s a great place to start your exploration of the area. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants, and cafes to choose from and a variety of shops and boutiques.
The Range Heritage Walk is one of the most popular hiking trails in Katoomba, and it offers stunning views of the town and surrounding countryside. Another popular activity in Katoomba is the Scenic Railway, the world’s steepest passenger railway
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13. Circular Quay
Circular Quay is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sydney. It’s home to the iconic Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay Ferry Terminal, the main hub for ferries in Sydney.
There’s also a large number of restaurants and bars in the area and plenty of shopping options. It’s a great place to explore and visiting the Circular Quay is one of the best things to do in Sydney.
There are many great hotels in Circular Quay, such as the Quay Wes, the Hyatt Regency Sydney, and the Sheraton on the park. These hotels offer stunning waterfront views of the Harbour and the Opera House and excellent amenities and service.
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14. Australian National Maritime Museum
If you’re looking to learn more about Australia’s vibrant maritime culture, then the museum is the place for you.
Featuring exhibits on everything from Australian shipbuilding to local maritime traditions, this museum is an excellent resource for travelers interested in learning more about Australia’s long and storied history on the waves.
Whether you want to delve into stories of exploration and discovery or learn more about Australian naval warfare and trade, there is something for everyone at this world-class institution.
So why not head over to the Australian National Maritime Museum and explore all that Australia offers?
It’s sure to be an enriching experience that you won’t soon forget.
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15. Stroll on the fine sands of Palm Beach
It is a beautiful area located in Sydney, Australia. It’s known for its white-sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and lush greenery. There are plenty of things to see and do in Palm Beach, making it a great destination for travelers.
Visitors can go swimming, sunbathing, hiking, fishing, and more. The beach is also home to many restaurants, cafes, and shops. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing vacation or an adventurous getaway, Palm Beach is sure to have something for you.
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16. Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) is one of Sydney’s most popular tourist destinations.
To visit the museum is among the best things to do in Sydney.
The museum is home to a constantly changing roster of exhibitions showcasing the best in modern art from around the world. It’s also one of the few places in Sydney where you can see local artists’ work displayed alongside pieces by international icons.
If you’re looking for something exciting and thought-provoking to do in Sydney, a visit to the MCA is recommended. This Australian museum is open every day except for Christmas Day, and it’s located in The Rocks district close to the harbour.
If you’re looking for a luxurious option, the Park Hyatt Sydney is a great choice – it’s located right next to the museum and offers some of the best views in the city.
Alternatively, if you’re on a tighter budget, the Ibis Sydney World Square is a great option – it’s just a few minutes walks from the museum and offers comfortable rooms at a very reasonable price.
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17. SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium is one of Sydney’s best things to do. It’s home to thousands of marine animals from all over the world.
There are many things to see and do here, from watching the sharks circle in the tank to petting the starfish in the touch pool. You can also learn about sea creatures at the aquarium’s interactive exhibits.
You can see animals from all over the world here, including sharks, rays, and penguins.
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18. Marvel at the beauty of nature in Royal National Park
It is located in Sydney and is the second oldest national park in the world. There are plenty of things to do in the park, including hiking, camping, enjoying a free walking tour, birdwatching, and day trips from Sydney.
The park is also home to a variety of different animals, including kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas.
Several walking trails wind through the park, giving visitors a chance to see the diverse landscapes and wildlife. There are also several beaches located within the park and camping and picnic areas.
There are a number of great hotels near the national park, such as the Altitude Sydney Hotel, located just a few minutes from the park and offers great views of the area; and The Rocks Sydney, located in the heart of Sydney and is perfect for those looking to explore all that Sydney has to offer.
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19. Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Hyde Park Barracks Museum is a great place to learn about Sydney’s history. It was once used as a barracks for the British military, and today it houses exhibits that tell the story of Sydney from its early days as a convict colony to its current status as a world-class city.
Hyde Park Barracks is a must-see for anyone interested in Sydney’s history or Australian history. The museum offers a unique perspective on the city’s development, and its exhibits are both informative and visually appealing.
Hyde Park Barracks is conveniently located in the heart of the city, and admission is very affordable. Whether you’re visiting Sydney for the first time or a lifelong resident, Hyde Park Barracks Museum is sure to offer something new and interesting.
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20. White Rabbit Gallery
The White Rabbit Gallery is a contemporary art gallery located in the Sydney CBD. The gallery showcases the work of Australian and international artists, with a focus on emerging and mid-career artists.
It is a museum that has the most contemporary Chinese art collections.
The gallery has a diverse program that includes exhibitions, artist talks, workshops, and educational programs for adults and children. Plus, it is free of charge! It is open to the public and free.
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21. Visit Rocks Discovery Museum
The museum is a small museum located in The Rocks area of Sydney, Australia. The museum features antiques and interactive exhibits that showcase the history of The Rocks area.
The Rocks Discovery Museum is a great place to learn about the history of the area and see some of the amazing antiques found in the area. It is also a great place to take photos and interact with the exhibits.
It is a great place to visit in Sydney, Australia.
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22. Queen Victoria Building
The Queen Victoria Building is a shopping center and historical building located in the Sydney Central Business District. The QVB was built in the late 1800s and is now home to a variety of different stores, including fashion boutiques, gift shops, and art galleries.
It is also home to a number of restaurants and cafes, making it the perfect place to spend a day or afternoon in Sydney. The building is beautiful and well-maintained, and the shopping options are endless.
If you’re looking for a unique shopping experience or want to admire some stunning architecture, the Queen Victoria Building is definitely worth a visit.
The best hotels near the Queen Victoria Building are the Hilton Sydney and the Novotel Sydney Central. Both hotels are within walking distance of the building and offer excellent amenities and customer service.
23. Sydney Tower Eye and Sydney Tower Eye Skywalk
The Sydney Tower Eye is an observation tower in Sydney, Australia.
It is the tallest structure in the city and the second tallest in Australia after Melbourne’s Eureka Tower. The tower stands 305 meters (1,001 ft) above the central business district of Sydney and offers panoramic views of the city and city skyline from its observation deck.
It provides 360-degree views of Sydney and its surroundings, including the Blue Mountains and Botany Bay to the east.
The Sydney Tower Eye Skywalk is a walkway around the outside of the tower’s main pod, at the height of 268 meters. It offers views of Sydney and its surroundings.
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24. Coogee Coastal Walk
The Coogee Coastal Walk is a must-do activity for visitors to Sydney. It’s a six-kilometer walk that takes you along the stunning coastline with perfect views of the Pacific Ocean.
The walk is easy to follow, and there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view. Make sure to bring your camera, as there are plenty of photo opportunities along the way.
Some coastal walks to consider are the Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay, Watson’s Bay walk to the stunning Dover Heights, and a walk from Chowder Bay and Balmoral Beach hikes, to name a few.
There are many great hotels near the coast that offer amazing views and incredible amenities. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious resort or something more affordable, there’s something for everyone in Sydney.
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There are several things to do in Sydney, Australia, and the list seems to grow every day. Sydney has something for everyone, from museums, shopping centers, and family-friendly attractions to coastal walks observation towers, and more Sydney attractions.
What are the top tourist attractions in Sydney?
Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach, and Manly Beach.
What’s the best way to get around Sydney?
There are a few different ways to get around Sydney, depending on what you’re looking for.
Walking or biking is a great option if you want to see the city and its attractions. There’s also a great public transportation system, including buses, trains, and ferries.
What’s the weather like in Sydney?
The weather in Sydney is generally mild, with average temperatures ranging from 18 to 25 degrees Celsius. The city experiences a fair amount of rainfall throughout the year, so pack your raincoat if you visit during the wet season!