10 best things to do in Sydney

10 best things to do in Sydney

best things to do in sydney
Vivid Sydney 2013 lights up the Sydney Opera House sails. Photos: Destination NSW

A stunning harbour, a world-renown Opera House and over 70 beaches are all good reasons to visit Sydney. Bondi Beach is world famous and (according to the Guinness Book of Records) Hyams Beach has the whitest sand in the world. Sydney is the capital of New South Wales and the gateway to the state’s national parks, coastal regions and wine areas. Australia’s oldest wine region, the Hunter Valley, is within driving distance of Sydney. Here are my top places to visit and best things to do in Sydney.

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1-Cruise Sydney Harbour and climb the bridge 

Aerial view of Sydney harbour
Aerial view of Sydney harbour

Cruise Sydney harbour on a ferry or see the city from the sky.

The Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb, walking across the top of the bridge, is an adrenalin rush you’re unlikely to forget.

Don’t worry, it’s safe.

You’ll be strapped into a harness. It’s a particularly great way to see the city if you have a fear of heights. After all, what’s better than conquering a fear while visiting one of the most beautiful cities in the world?

2-Hang out at Bondi Beach

best things to do in Sydney
Bondi coastal walk

Surf, swim or sun bake at Bondi Beach. If you prefer to stay dry, there are gorgeous cliff-top views along the Bondi to Coogee Beach Coastal Walk.

Bondi Beach is one of those beaches you simply must visit, even if to say you’ve put your toes in the sand. After all, it’s one of those iconic things to do in Sydney you need to experience to brag about to your friends!

It’s one of Sydney’s busier beaches (there are plenty of other beaches around of course) and has lots of atmosphere.

3-Explore Sydney Harbour’s Hidden Coves

best things to do in Sydney
Aerial view of Sydney harbour

Explore Sydney’s beautiful harbour and discover hidden coves on a kayak or yachting adventure. Or you can just catch a local ferry or book a dinner cruise.

Do you think Sydney Harbour is the most beautiful harbour in the world? Well, I’ve seen a few and I’ll have to say it’s right up there at the top of my list.

A great way to see Sydney Harbour is to book a room with a harbour view. There are loads of luxury hotels that have fantastic views, including Intercontinental Sydney, Park Hyatt and Four Seasons.

4-Wander Around The Rocks 

best things to do in Sydney
Aerial view of Sydney CBD

Learn about Sydney’s history on a tour of the Rocks area. This is where colonial Australia was born.

The Rocks has a historic ambience with old sandstone buildings that house craft shops, cafes and boutiques. And you could easily spend a few hours or even a few days exploring The Rocks area.

At night, the bars and pubs come alive. This is the place to get into the Aussie spirit and one of the best things to do in Sydney to get into the swing of the city’s nightlife is to go on a pub crawl.

5-Take a Helicopter tour of Sydney

Sydney Harbour and CBD aerial at dawn
Sydney Harbour and CBD aerial at dawn

Fly above Sydney and the Northern Beaches in a seaplane or a helicopter for a memorable birds’-eye view of the city.

Wow! The view will always be etched in your mind.

You’ll be surprised at the plunging cliffs and the waterways, which look absolutely stunning from the sky.

6-Chill Out in the Royal Botanic Gardens

best things to do in Sydney
Jacarandas in Spring bloom, Sydney

Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens, which is a tranquil escape in the heart of Sydney.

It’s amazing how serene the gardens are, just a short walk away from Sydney’s vibrant city centre.

It’s one of the things to do in Sydney that is often overlooked.

7-See the fireworks in Sydney

State of Origin Fireworks 2014
State of Origin Fireworks 2014

Celebrate Sydney New Year’s Eve at one of the world’s biggest parties. Sydney is famous for its spectacular fireworks display on Sydney Harbour and catching the fireworks from the world’s famous harbour is one of the iconic things to do in Sydney.

If you haven’t picked your travel dates yet then why not plan to be in Sydney on New Year’s Eve?

Sydney puts on one of the best fireworks displays in the world and there are parties all around town. Of course, book early as accommodation can shoot through the roof at this time of the year.

8-Go on a bar crawl 

Sydney Festival 2014
Sydney Festival 2014

Glam up and go on a bar crawl of cool bars around the CBD, Surry Hills and Darlinghurst. It’s one of the things to do in Sydney that is a lot of fun. Sydney is a top spot and has some of Australia’s best watering holes and restaurants.

Some of the coolest bars in Sydney are located in the city’s dim alleyways. A bar crawl is a great way to get to know the soul of the city while having fun.

9-Check out Sydney’s cultural scene

Sydney Festival 2014
Sydney Festival 2014

Explore Sydney’s cultural side through a musical or a show or take a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the Opera House. There’s so much on in Sydney, you could spend weeks just going to all the shows.

10-Visit Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo, Sydney
Taronga Zoo, Sydney

Visit Taronga Zoo, a not-for-profit organisation that supports wildlife conversation with an impressive collection of wildlife from around the world.

The zoo is in a picturesque location and covers a large area. Plan to spend the whole day.

More reasons to visit New South Wales

Looking for more things to do in New South Wales?

1-The Hunter Valley is a wine region of vineyards and cellar doors a two-hour drive from Sydney. It’s Australia’s oldest wine region and has over 120 wineries.

A trip around the Hunter Valley is a great way to discover a favourite wine or two or three.

things to do in sydney
Ballooning, Hunter Valley.

2-The Blue Mountains is a 1 ½-hour drive from Sydney. The World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains is a bushwalking paradise and picturesque vistas of sandstone plateaus and valley views.

It’s a pristine region that can be explored as a day trip but staying for a night or two is a lovely way to soak up the atmosphere.

3-The Grand Pacific Drive is an exploration of the south coast past beautiful beaches and bays. The route passes over 30 national parks, marine parks and reserves.

Jervis Bay is the destination for dolphins, surfing and kayaking. It’s possibly one of the most beautiful driving trips in Australia. Turn up the music, wind down the windows and let the wind ruffle your hair.

things to do in sydney
Sea Cliff bridge

4-Byron Bay is a popular destination for Sydneysiders looking for a relaxing weekend away. It has some of the country’s best beaches and five national parks.

Cape Byron Lighthouse is the place to watch the sunrise. Your first sight of Byron Bay will take your breath away.

The region is a blend of hip and hippy, with plenty of spa and healing practitioners as well as cool boutiques.

things to do in sydney
Palm Beach, Northern Beaches

5-Lord Howe Island is a two-hour flight from Sydney and a pristine island where time has stood still.

It’s one of four island groups in the world to be granted World Heritage status.

It’s an exclusive destination where only 400 visitors are allowed at a time. The scenery is absolutely stunning.

Where to eat and drink in Sydney

1. The Star

The Star has several dining options including Black by Ezard’s, Balla’s Italian cuisine and Gelato Messina. There are a couple of hotels and Sydney’s casino is also part of the complex.

2. The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room

Love oysters? The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room is a classical oyster and ale house with a menu of Australian oyster varieties and an impressive list of craft beers and cocktails.

3. Quay

Quay is ranked in the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant list and has great food and spectacular views. It’s definitely a good choice if you’re looking to impress or be impressed.

4. The Glenmore Hotel

The Glenmore Hotel’s rooftop beer garden will impress with views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

5. Opera Bar

Opera Bar has a large open-air terrace, live music, harbour views and a great vibe. And it’s right there at the base of the Sydney Opera House.

6. York 75

York 75 is the spot to huddle up in a private booth to watch a game.

Love a party?

Here’s a calendar of events to plan your trip to Sydney.

New Year’s Eve draws around 1.6 million people to the Sydney Harbour foreshore to watch the spectacular fireworks display (it’s a larger crowd than Paris, London or New York).

things to do in sydney
Sydney fireworks, New Year’s Eve, 2013

Australia Day (January) is the best day of the year to soak up the atmosphere around the city and harbour.

There are performances around the city, in Hyde Park, Darling Harbour and at the Opera House. Of course, don’t miss the fireworks at Darling Harbour.

Sydney Festival (January) is a three-week mega event with 20 venues and over 1,000 artists. There are dancing groups, circus performances and a programme of music by the Sydney Symphony.

best things to do in Sydney
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade 2014

Surfest (February) is the second leg on the ASP Australasian international men’s and women’s professional surfing tour calendar. Held in Newcastle, it’s a festival that attracts hundreds of surfers.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (March) is a spectacular celebration that draws a crowd of over 20,000 people each year. If you haven’t seen the parade, check it out as it’s likely to be one of the more memorable things to do in Sydney during your stay.

When to go?

When the sales are on, of course!

Discover New South Wales

Sydney is a city with such diversity it will take you months to run out of best things to do in Sydney.

Sydney accommodation:

Cockatoo Island

Swissotel Sydney hotel review

If you’re looking for more ideas on where else to go, head north and discover Byron Bay and the beautiful Tweed Valley.

Planning a trip around New South Wales? Here are some top things to do Wollongong.

Looking for more? Check out this post for things to do in Kiama.

If you’re seeking stunning views in a lovely seaside town, here are some Port Stephens attractions.
best things to do in Sydney

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