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Sydney is one of the most visited cities in Australia — and for good reason! This cosmopolitan city has tons to offer, whether you love history and culture or prefer to spend your time outdoors. From awesome museums to gorgeous beaches and beyond, here are the best things to do in Sydney, Australia. 

Best Things to Do in Sydney, Australia 

Take in the Views of Sydney Harbour

On a visit to this city, you won’t miss Sydney Harbour, one of the city’s defining features, thanks to the various points of attraction around it. 

Of course, here’s where you’ll find the Opera House as well as the Sydney Harbour Bridge which are major points of interest for anyone visiting Sydney. There’s also Circular Quay which is home to loads of restaurants and bars, the ideal point to spend your evenings. You’ll also find The Rocks in this area as well (more on it below!). 

This famous waterway offers some beautiful views and even though it’s often full of people, it’s still possible to find a quiet spot to just hang out and relax while you sit by the water. Take a walk along the walkways, hop on a ferry, walk across the bridge — whichever way you decide, it’s worth the time to enjoy the beauty of Sydney Harbour. 

Walk Around The Rocks 

Located just around the corner from Circular Quay lies The Rocks, the oldest part of the city. This area is where Europeans first settled in Australia; the buildings and streets here are rich in history. You’ll also find Cadman’s Cottage in this area — it’s the oldest residential house in the city. 

A great way to take in the history of this place is to take a walking tour where you can explore the cobblestoned lanes, discover nooks and crannies, and hear stories about its history. 

Even without a guide, this is a cool area to walk around and wander in. Here, you’ll cute little shops, restaurants, street entertainment, and an overall lively atmosphere. This is also where you’ll find some of the best views of the bridge!

Take the Ferry to Manly

One of the best ways to appreciate Sydney Harbour is from the water itself and a cheap (and fun) way to do that is to hop on one of the city’s public transportation ferries. One of the top ferry options is the ferry to Manly. 

I absolutely love ferry rides; they’re just something calming about them… and the Manly ferry is definitely in my top ferry rides in the world! The Manly ferry is a commuter route but it’s also one of the best ferry routes that’ll allow you to enjoy views of the harbour, the Opera House, and the Harbour Bridge. 

The ride takes 30 minutes and once you’ve arrived in Manly, there’s more to explore. Relax on Manly Beach, hang out in one of the cafes in the area, or take a walk on one of the coastal routes that’ll take you around the rugged coastline. 

The ferry to Manly departs from Circular Quay and you can check the timings on the Transport NSW site

things to do in sydney - bondi

Enjoy Some Sunshine at Bondi Beach 

You can’t miss the iconic Bondi Beach on your visit to Sydney! As one of Sydney’s largest beaches and one that’s easily accessible from the city center, this beach is loved by locals and tourists alike. 

The waves draw in surfers and swimmers while the wide expanse of sand attracts sun-lovers. If you’re in the city while the weather is warm, a day spent at Bondi won’t be amiss! 

Once you’ve taken in your fill of sun and sea, retreat to one of the many cafes and restaurants around the area for a bite to eat and recharge. You may also want to pop by Bondi Icebergs, one of the country’s oldest swimming clubs. Their pool is open to the public and they also have a bar and bistro on-site. It’s a great spot to take in the view of the beach!

Do One of Sydney’s Iconic Coastal Walks

With miles of rugged coastline, it’s no wonder that one of the best things to do in Sydney is to take a walk along the water. 

If you already have a visit to Bondi Beach on your itinerary, then a great option to tack on to your day is to do the Bondi-Coogee coastal walk. Running for 6km, this cliff-top coastal walk is one of my favourite things to do in the city. Even if you don’t have the time to do the whole walk, doing just a portion of it will give you a lovely dose of stunning views and fresh air. 

That said, you’re definitely in for a treat if you’ve got time to spare for the entire trail. Along the way, you can stop by beaches and parks, take in sculptures by the sea, enjoy a cup of coffee, or just sit by the cliffs and enjoy the sea and sky. 

The Bondi-Coogee walk is best accessed by public transportation due to limited carparks and parking. You can find more information here

Want to check out other great coastal walks in Sydney? Here are our top recommendations:

  • Manly to Spit Bridge Walk
  • Bradley’s Head to Chowder Bay Walk
  • South Head Heritage Trail

Go Cafe-Hopping 

Cafe-lovers rejoice! Sydney has a thriving cafe culture and amazing coffee so you’ll never run out of cool spots to hang out. 

Whether you’re up for some brunch, just an afternoon pick-me-up, or a place to meet up with friends, here are some cool cafes in Sydney to check out:

  • Head to Went to See the Gypsy in Alexandria which has an impressive (and delicious) selection for breakfast and lunch. With a sleek interior in a warehouse setting, this is a cool spot for a weekend morning. 
  • Industry Beans on York Street is all about fast speciality coffee. Try their signature cold-brew bubble cup which is (as you might guess from the name) cold-brew coffee with tapioca pearls! If you’re up for some food, they also have a seasonal menu that incorporates coffee. 
  • Check out Brickfields in Chippendale if you love bread and pastries. This cozy spot has a small menu, and there’s no bad option on it! Don’t miss out on their sourdough bread which is a house speciality. 
things to do in sydney - harbour bridge

Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge 

Yes, it’s pricey; yes, it’s touristy. But climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of those experiences that you won’t ever forget! Opt for the all-in experience that has you climbing the bridge from one end of the arch to the other. For something extra special, you can go for either the dawn or sunset experience which adds another layer of beauty to the views around you. 

But if the climb is out of your budget (or if heights are not your thing), you can take the free option of walking across the bridge. Maybe it’s a bit less spectacular but you still get an awesome sense of the architecture of the bridge as well as the wonderful views of the harbour. 

Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens 

Even if you’re not a particular fan of plants and flowers, the Royal Botanic Gardens is Sydney is worth a visit. Established in 1816, this 30-hectare garden lies at the edge of the harbour. It’s a great spot to relax amidst nature. 

You can simply explore the different areas of the garden on your own but they also offer organized walks and tours. And when you need a break, head to one of the cafes on-site for a cuppa and a snack. 

The best part: entry to the botanic gardens is free! Check out their website for more information on what’s currently going on. 

PS: While you’re there, hop over to Mrs Macquarie’s Point that’s nearby. From Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, a carved rock formation that resembles a bench, offers some of the best views of the harbour, bridge, and the Opera House!

Go Whale-Watching 

Visiting Sydney during the period of May to November? You’re in luck as it’s whale-watching season! 

During this time, migrating whales can be spotted in the Pacific Ocean, not too far off from Sydney’s coast. With as many as 15,000 whales swimming past Sydney every year, you stand a pretty good chance to spotting these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. 

Whale-watching cruises in Sydney typically depart from Darling Harbour and run for about 3 hours. Most cruises offer a 95% guarantee of whale-spotting and offer the chance of rebooking your cruise in the same season should no whales be spotted. 

Be warned that the ride can be a bit choppy (you will be out in the ocean, after all!) so this isn’t the best activity for those with a queasy stomach. But if you have your sea legs and you’re up for some adventure, this is an awesome thing to do in Sydney!

I did this activity on my last visit to Sydney and was lucky enough to see some whales (spoiler alert: I might’ve squealed like a child when it happened.) Check out this whale-watching cruise for more details. 

Have a Kayaking Adventure

For a more active day out on the water, hop into a kayaking adventure. With so much water surrounding the city, kayaking is a fun way to get a new vantage point of Sydney. 

If kayaking-with-a-view is your thing, then this activity at Sydney Harbour is definitely the one for you. Your guide will take you through the harbour, and you’ll stop at Goat Island (thanks to a special access permit!) where you’ll be able to explore a bit. Plus, you’ll also get to kayak under the Harbour Bridge! How’s that for a new profile pic?

Another great place to kayak is Manly, and this activity in clear kayaks is guaranteed fun. You’ll discover the beauty of Manly Cove and get a good look at the underwater life. Glide along some of the best scenic routes and visit up to 4 gorgeous beaches in the area. 

Check Out the Various Neighborhoods in Sydney 

Beyond the usual touristy areas, Sydney’s neighbourhoods each have their own vibe and atmosphere. 

Here are a few of our favourite Sydney neighbourhoods:

  • Newtown is quirky and vibrant, and there are tons of awesome food options here. This is also party central!
  • Just a 30-minute ferry ride away, Manly exudes beach vibes. Take in some sun at Shelly Beach, walk along the boardwalk, window shop, or grab a bite to eat at one of the cafes or restaurants. Perfect way to spend the day.
  • Surry Hills is the place to go to experience the city’s cafe culture. Here you’ll find independent cafes and local bakeries, ideal for a leisurely afternoon.
  • Full of bohemian vibes, Balmain boasts of old architecture and the creative vibes of writers, musicians, and artists. With unique boutique stores, trendy restaurants, and a lovely waterfront, this is an underrated neighbourhood in Sydney. 
Sydney Opera House

Visit the Sydney Opera House 

You can’t leave Sydney without a visit to the iconic Sydney Opera House! Situated at the edge of Sydney Harbour, this beautiful structure is synonymous with the city. This UNESCO World Heritage Site will wow you with its unique exterior. 

Take a stroll around the building to appreciate it from different vantage points and don’t forget to take in the views of the harbor as well. If you need a little break, head to one of the restaurants and bars in the area where you can bask in the views with a glass of wine or a cuppa. 

But it’s not just the outside that’s worth seeing. The Opera House regularly holds events, performances, and concerts so it’s worth checking if there’s something going on that you might be interested in seeing. 

The venue also runs a behind-the-scenes tour that will take you through areas that are typically off-limits to the public. Plus you’ll hear some cool stories and anecdotes about the history of the building and how things work backstage. 

Walk Around Darling Harbour

Located within walking distance from the city centre, Darling Harbour is filled with lots of options for a fun day. Restaurants, attractions, activities, and shopping abound! 

This pedestrian area is a great spot to simply walk around and explore, without an agenda. But if you’re looking for something specific to do, you can take your pick. 

Top attractions in the area include the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, Madame Tussauds, and the Australian National Maritime Museum. If food and drinks is more up your alley, stroll Cockle Bay Wharf and pick a spot that takes your fancy. 

For a full list of things to do and see in Darling Harbour, visit this website

Discover Sydney’s Secrets on a Walking Tour 

One of my favourite things to do in any city is to take a walking tour. It’s a great way to orientate yourself, see the highlights, and get some insider stories from your local guide. 

For free walking tours in Sydney, check out I’m Free Walking Tours. I’ve done both their Sydney Insights and The Rocks walking tours and they were both excellent. If you’re pressed for time, I’d recommend doing the Sydney Insights walk as it takes you around the city center and gives you a good idea of the city’s history. 

(Don’t forget to leave your guide a tip at the end for all their hard work!) 

Visit Sydney’s Museums 

While museums may not be one of the first things that come to mind when you think of Sydney, the city actually had some pretty good ones. From history to culture and beyond, Sydney’s museums are a gateway to getting to know it better. 

For art lovers, don’t miss the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Established in 1871, this museum is home to stunning art, both Australian and international, that ranges from the 1800s to contemporary times. Plus, it’s free so there’s no excuse not to visit! 

Want something Sydney-specific? Plan a visit to the Hyde Park Barracks. This convict site is significant in Australia’s history and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’ll give you an inside look into convict life in the 1800s. 

Another cool museum is the Sydney Observatory. Here you’ll learn about astronomy, the constellations, and Aboriginal tales of the cosmos, among other interesting topics. The night tour is a unique way to spend an evening in Sydney!

things to do in sydney - learn to surf

Learn How to Surf

If you’ve always wanted to learn how to ride the waves, Sydney’s a great spot to learn. 

This fun 2-hour surf lesson on the gorgeous Maroubra Beach will get you started with the basics. In a small group of 6 persons or less, you’ll be coached on how to catch your first wave. All equipment will be provided; just turn up with your swimwear, your towel and get ready for some fun!

Eat Fresh Seafood at Sydney Fish Market

Given its location, it’s no surprise that the seafood in Sydney is some of the freshest you can find. For a great deal on tasty seafood, head to the Sydney Fish Market. Here you can experience an authentic working fish market. 

While the market has become a bit of a tourist destination, you’ll be glad to know that the prices here aren’t inflated. Outside of Japan, this is the second-largest seafood market in terms of variety so get your tummy ready to sample some goodies for lunch or buy some supplies to cook in your own place. There’s a large outdoor seating area where you can enjoy your seafood meal in the sun. 

Sydney Fish Market also offers a behind-the-scenes tour that will give you an intriguing look into the inner workings of the market. There’s also a Seafood School which offers cooking experiences. 

For more information, visit their website

See Some Australian Wildlife 

For a wholesome day out, there’s no better option than to see some Australian wildlife. It’s time to let the kid in you come out and play!

There are a few different options in Sydney that you can check out:

  • WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo in the Darling Harbour area
  • Taronga Zoo in Bradley’s Head in Mosman
  • Sydney Zoo Bungarribee in the Blacktown region
  • Featherdal Wildlife Park in Doonside

WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo has the lowest admission fee but they only feature Australian animals. For a wider variety of animals, check out Taronga Zoo. 

Go Skydiving in Sydney

Calling all thrillseekers! Book a skydiving adventure in Sydney for an unforgettable holiday memory. 

Soar up in the skies over Wollongong in Sydney, where you’ll bask in a 60-second freefall with a professional instructor. At 15,000ft, this is Australia’s highest jump… and what’s more, you’ll get to enjoy some of the beautiful coastal views as you slowly drift down after your freefall. 

Whether it’s your first time skydiving or not, this is definitely one of the top things to do in Sydney!

day trip from sydney to hunter valley

Take a Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tour

Some of Australia’s best wines are produced in Hunter Valley so head on over to this gorgeous area to get to the source. If you have your own car and you’re feeling adventurous, you can simply drive over and pick a winery or two to visit. 

However, driving on your own will limit the amount of wine you can consume so for peace of mind, we suggest going on a guided day trip to Hunter Valley. Transportation will be taken care of, food and drinks are included, and they’ll take you to some of the best spots in the region.

This full-day guided tour includes visits to 3 wineries where you’ll sample both white and red wines. You’ll also get tastings of other liquor such as schnapps, gin, and vodka. If that’s not enough, you’ll also savour some cheese and chocolate. Sounds like an awesome day out!

Check out Sydney’s Markets 

Local markets are a great way to take in the atmosphere and vibe so be sure to pop by one (or more) of Sydney’s markets. Whether it’s fashion buys, vintage finds, arts and crafts, you’ll be able to find a market that suits your interest. Browsing in local markets in a fun way to spend some time. 

Here are some markets in Sydney that you should check out:

  • Glebe Markets has a mix of everything from food, fashion, art, and more. It has a charming, vintage atmosphere, with a lovely lawn space where you can relax and enjoy some snacks and music. 
  • Head to Bondi Farmers Markets for some great eats from popular stalls like Bar Pho, Raclette Shack, and Fritter House.
  • Manly Marketplace is the place to go for organic produce, snacks for hanging out at the beach, and boho-chic gifts and crafts.  
  • With 150 different stalls, Paddington Market is an awesome place to browse for everything from clothes to accessories to home decor and more. 
  • Kirribilli Markets offers an eclectic mix of stalls where you can find unique fashion items, crafts, and more!

Enjoy a Cruise on Sydney Harbour

Nothing beats the view of the city from the harbour itself. So for a relaxing good time, hop on a leisurely cruise that includes a delicious meal. 

Opt for an afternoon cruise with 2-course lunch or a sunset cruise on a historic tall ship (with a 3-course dinner included). No matter the time of day, you’ll enjoy the wonderful views of the harbour and the city with a tasty meal to boot!

See Sydney from the Sky 

Looking for a truly unique experience in Sydney? How about seeing it from the sky on a private helicopter ride? 

Hop onto this 20-minute helicopter flight that will let you see Sydney from a completely new vantage point. You’ll see the city’s eastern coast, the famous harbour, and other key areas in Sydney like Manly Cove and Botany Bay. With such panoramic views, you better not forget to bring your camera!

A helicopter flight over Sydney is an awesome way to spend a few hours and it’s a great gift idea if you’re celebrating a special occasion.

Have a Drink at Sydney’s Highest Bar, Bar 83

For drinks with an unparalleled view, head to Bar 83. Located in the CBD, on the 83rd floor of Sydney Tower, this stylish bar is decked out in white, red, and gold, giving it a retro-futuristic vibe. Between the decor and the views, this place is definitely IG-worthy! 

Choose your poison from their 8 signature cocktails. We like the sound of the Ignore All Rules which has tequila, sherry, tomato and basil. And if you’re feeling peckish, they do have snacks on the menu (thumbs up for the lamb & chilli sausage roll!).

Pro tip: Time your visit for sunset for a spectacular sight!

Eat at Some of Australia’s Best Restaurants 

Australia has an amazing food culture and you can find some of the country’s best chefs and restaurants in Sydney. 

If you (and wallet) are ready for a bit of a splurge, make a reservation at one of these top Sydney restaurants (you won’t regret it!):

  • Quay is the place to go for an absolutely stellar fine dining experience. Helmed by acclaimed chef Peter Gilmore, the food here is inspired by the best of Australia’s native produce, presented in a theatrical style. Along with the amazing food, you’ll enjoy the equally amazing views of Sydney Harbour. 
  • Another iconic restaurant by Peter Gilmore is Bennelong. The food here is less avant-garde than Quay but equally delicious and Australia-focused. Don’t miss their pavlova which is a dessert re-creation of the Opera House architecture!
  • For a more casual vibe, head to Cafe Paci in Newtown. Its menu is an intriguing mix of Finnish, Italian, and Australian — but all delicious. 
  • With chill vibes and a relaxed atmosphere, 10 William St is the place to go for one of the tastiest Italian meals in the city.
  • Firedoor offers premium produce cooked solely in firewood and flames. It sounds simple but Lennox Hastie and his team have it down to a tasty, tasty science. (You’ll want to sit at the bar, take our word for it!)
things to do in blue mountains | three sisters

Visit the Blue Mountains 

The Blue Mountains is one of my absolute favourite places in all of Australia, and it’s a must-visit for any visitor to Sydney. Accessible from train (2 hours) or car (90 minutes), the Blue Mountains is a wodnerful day trip… although I would heartily suggest staying longer if you have the time. 

Small towns, beautiful walks, stunning vistas, the Blue Mountains is an area of great beauty. If you have limited time, an all-inclusive guided day trip is an easy way to see the highlights and make the most out of your day. 

Check out our guide on the best things to do in the Blue Mountains to learn more about why I love it so much!

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Top Things to Do in Sydney | Planning to visit Sydney? Here are our personal recommendations for the best things to do in Sydney, Australia!