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Things to do in Sydney

Things to do in  Sydney

Welcome to Sydney

Sydney makes a brilliant first impression with its spectacular harbor and beaches. On second glance, you’ll find a wealth of outdoor activities, with diverse art, music, and food rivalling any global city.

When to visit

In Sydney, there’s rarely a bad day to spend outside. That said, peak travel season is roughly late December through January, during the heart of Australia’s summer.

Summer is ideal for visiting some of the southern hemisphere’s most famous beaches, or taking a sunset harbor kayak tour. Whatever you end up doing, wear sunscreen, as the Australian sun is unforgiving.

Fall’s mild weather is perfect for coastal walks between beaches from Bondi to Coogee, or the less crowded Manly to Spit Bridge route.

Rainfall peaks during winter, especially in June—never a better time to stay dry indoors at the Australian Museum or the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Dry, warm spring weather is best for exploring collections at the Royal Botanical Garden, or the trails and lookouts of Blue Mountains National Park.

Getting around

Sydney’s public transport network radiates from the city center to the suburbs, and even national parks. The Opal smartcard is valid on buses, trains, ferries, and light rail.

Bus: TSW buses operate from hubs near central train stations, and are useful for reaching beaches, even taking the scenic route to Bondi. If you’re using the Opal card, tap when you board and disembark, otherwise you’re charged the max fare.

Rail: Sydney’s train lines typically get in and out of the city center faster than rideshares, but they also charge more during peak hours. The Blue Mountains Line runs from central Sydney to the national park in just over two hours, convenient for daytrippers who want to make the journey themselves.

On the water: If you have the choice and can spend a little more, we recommend taking ferries over buses and trains. Ferries operate as late as midnight, zipping around the harbour from Parramatta out to Circular Quay and Manly Beach. Water taxis are faster, pricier, and can pickup from nearly any point in the harbor.

Metro: The first line of the new Sydney metro opened in 2019 in Chatswood on the Lower North Shore; a second phase connecting the city center to the south side is currently under construction.

Traveler tips

There’s no getting around Sydney’s glorious harbour: it’s a great place to start your trip. Boat tours explore it from every angle, even sailing past the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge on vintage tall ships. Portside, travelers mingle with locals at the old pubs, markets, and laneways of The Rocks historic neighborhood, also home to the Museum of Contemporary Art. After that, it’s a matter of finding a suitable outdoor scene, from the bronzed beach-strutting of Bondi to the national parks that ring the city, including the Blue Mountains.

An alternative to Sydney BridgeClimb for those wanting views but without the heights, try the lookout on the Sydney Harbour Bridge’s southeast pylon. From there, it’s a short walk across the bridge to Wendy’s Secret Garden, where you can look back at the city through an oasis of greenery.

Top 10 attractions in Sydney

#1

Sydney Harbour Bridge

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Located in the beautiful and iconic Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge overlooks the magnificent blue waters that help to make the Harbour a spectacular sight. Nicknamed "The Coathanger" because of it's steel arch-based design, the Harbour Bridge boasts 8 traffic lanes, 2 railways and a pedestrian and bicycle lane, transporting both locals and tourists from the Central Business District (CBD) to the North Shore. Visitors interested in getting the best view from the bridge can do so with the help of the BridgeClimb. Climbers can choose to climb either the outer arch or the inner arch of the bridge for spectacular views and an unforgettable experience. The bridge also plays a special part in the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks displays, where hundreds of spectators travel from near and far to gather on the shore and on the water to watch the festivities each year.More
#2

Sydney Harbour

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Its sparkling waters and iconic sights draw visitors from all over the world who wish to enjoy the beauty and excitement of the harbor. On any day, Sydney Harbour is dotted with sail boats and ferries which stand out on the vibrant blue waters. With nearly 150 miles (240 kilometers) of shoreline, the harbor is a breathtaking expanse awaiting the exploration of its visitors. A visit to Sydney Harbour will not disappoint, as the area is home to many of Sydney’s top attractions and offers some of the city’s best activities. A must-see (and impossible to miss) structure of Sydney Harbour is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which you can cross or climb for stunning views. Within walking distance are the Taronga Zoo, the historic Rocks area, Circular Quay, and the famous Sydney Opera House. To get the best views of the harbor it is recommended that you enjoy a cruise through its waterways, and perhaps stop off at one of the many islands that Sydney Harbour embraces.More
#3

Sydney Opera House

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The Sydney Opera House is Australia’s preeminent cultural center. Famous for its cutting-edge architecture, the building’s series of white-tiled sails jut into the harbor at Bennelong Point, perched on a platform of pink granite. The iconic structure was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, and Australians have been divided about its design ever since it opened way over-budget in 1973. Recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the opera house has a range of venues under its sails.More
#4

Bondi Beach

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Australia’s most famous beach is a curving golden stretch of pale gold sand and turquoise waves. Attracting beach bunnies, surfer dudes and beach lovers alike, it’s one of Sydney’s favorite hot spots for catching the sun and people watching. Lifeguards patrol the often pounding waves, so it’s important to swim between the patrolled red and yellow flags. The sands of Bondi Beach are a popular spot for surfing lessons, beachside volleyball, yoga and community festivities, and the beach is overlooked by a stream of shops, restaurants and cafes for post-beach dining and relaxation. Picturesque coastal walks lead from Bondi over the seaside cliffs to the neighboring beaches of Clovelly and Bronte, and to the romantic Victorian cemetery overlooking the coast at Waverley.More
#5

Circular Quay

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Sydney’s transport and scenic heart, Circular Quay is also the city’s birthplace, flanking the waters of Sydney Cove where the First Fleet settlers landed on Australian soil in 1788. The rectangular stretch of water is lined with attractive pedestrian walkways running from the Sydney Opera House, past the Circular Quay ferry terminals, around to the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The historic laneways, interesting shops, old pubs and stylish restaurants of The Rocks precinct, one of Sydney’s most popular tourist areas, run behind the Museum of Contemporary Art. Circular Quay is one of the major vantage points for Sydney’s famous New Year’s Eve fireworks.More
#6

Mrs Macquarie's Chair

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This unique landmark—a massive rock fashioned into a cozy bench—was carved from sandstone in the early 1800s by Gov. Lachlan Macquarie for his wife Elizabeth. As the story goes, when the weather was warm and the sun high, Mrs. Macquarie loved to relax at the point of this scenic peninsula and stare out over the ocean. Today, travelers enjoy a leisurely walk to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair from the iconic Opera House or wander over to this historic attraction after a visit to the nearby Royal Botanic Garden. In a bustling city that’s alive with energy, the stone bench offers visitors a perfect place to unwind, relax and take in the some of the best views of Sydney Harbour.More
#7

The Rocks

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With its Georgian sandstone buildings, narrow alleyways, historic pubs, and regenerated warehouses, The Rocks is one of Sydney’s oldest and most popular precincts. Set back from Circular Quay, it was one of the earliest parts of Sydney to be settled. Formerly a raffish area, today this city-center quarter has been gentrified and given a good polish. You’ll find Sydney’s oldest pubs here, a vibrant weekend street market specializing in handicrafts, historic Cadmans Cottage, the Sydney Observatory, Museum of Contemporary Art, and a swag of shops and boutiques. Some of Sydney’s best restaurants are also here, including Sailors Thai, Altitude, Neil Perry’s Rockpool, and Doyles at the Quay. The best way to get a feel for The Rocks is to just follow your nose down 200-year-old cobbled laneways like Playfair St, Mill Lane, and Nurses Walk.More
#8

Featherdale Wildlife Park

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Cuddle a koala, handfeed a kangaroo, and watch penguins waddle at Featherdale Wildlife Park, just 40 minutes from central Sydney. Celebrating Australia’s unique animals and birds, Featherdale presents all kind of native fauna in a natural bush setting to delight local and international visitors alike. Home to the world’s largest collection of Australian native animals, more than 2000 critters live at Featherdale, including saltwater crocodiles, bats, bilbies, wallabies, wombats, emus, and reptiles. The various feeding times at the park are a highlight. The wildlife park’s facilities include a cafe, souvenir shop, and picnic areas with barbecues for cooking up a typical Australian lunch to complete the all-round Aussie experience.More
#9

Royal Botanic Garden and The Domain

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Historic, picturesque, and relaxing, the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens cover 74 acres (30 hectares) running along the harbor from the Sydney Opera House to Woolloomooloo. A true inner-city oasis, the gardens combine exotic plantings from Europe, tropical rainforest, woodland, flowers, grasses, the Indigenous First Encounters garden, and rare horticultural exhibits. A program of events includes activities, workshops, courses and lectures, plus there are entertaining guided walks throughout the year. The gardens are laced with leafy walkways and harbor lookouts, and they also boast a fernery, camellia garden, palm grove, and herb garden. For a walk through history, the Mrs Macquaries Bushland Walk traces a path along the coast, re-creating the landscape as it appeared when the early settlers arrived in Sydney in the early 19th century. Don't forget to stop off at Mrs Macquarie's Chair, a bench carved out of sandstone, to get amazing views of the Sydney Harbour.More
#10

Manly Beach

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Straddling the peninsula of North Head on Sydney Harbour, the town of Manly is Sydney’s most popular seaside resort. It offers the best of both worlds, with calm harbor beaches on one side and wild ocean waves on the other. Linking the two is The Corso, lined with cafes and restaurants. Along with swimming, surfing, wining and dining, Manly’s most popular attraction is of course Oceanworld, on Manly Cove Beach on the harbor side of the town. Sharks and rays swim overhead curving walkways, or you can don a wetsuit and go diving with these monsters of the deep (if you dare!). Manly is surrounded by gorgeous beaches linked by scenic seaside walkways. Boating, kayaking, surfing and cycling are popular pastimes in summer, while winter is a good time to visit the historic former quarantine facility Q Station or take a North Harbour walk to Shelly Beach or The Spit.More

Trip ideas

Where to Find the Best Views in Sydney

Where to Find the Best Views in Sydney

Things to Do During Sydney Mardi Gras

Things to Do During Sydney Mardi Gras

Must-See Museums in Sydney

Must-See Museums in Sydney

Recent reviews from experiences in Sydney

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Local sees the tourist perspective
Danielle_N, Oct 2020
Sydney Harbour Tall Ship Twilight Dinner Cruise
We are locals but it was nice to see the magic of Sydney Harbour as if we were tourists.
star-4
Travelling around the harbour
Maurizio_R, Sep 2020
Sydney Harbour Progressive Long Lunch Cruise
A fantastic way to see Sydney from the water.
star-4
Blue Mountain plus Bush Fire adventure
Ciceroczech, Dec 2020
All-Inclusive Blue Mountains Day Trip with River Cruise
If you only have a short time in Australia and Sydney in particular, this is a good option to see a unique part of Australia.
star-5
Charming place
Mina, Oct 2020
Chinese Garden General Admission Ticket
Its best to visit as soon as it opens (and especially weekdays) because the garden is much better enjoyed when there's fewer people inside.
star-5
Blue mountains
Kristine_R, Mar 2020
All-Day Blue Mountains Private Tour with Professional Guide for Up to 4 People
A lovely way to see the countryside and Australian mountains rather than the high rise towers of downtown Sydney.
star-5
Great way to see “The Rocks” historic area and enjoy craft beer
Thomas, Feb 2020
The Rocks Pub Walking Tour
This walking tour is a great way to visit historic “The Rocks” Sydney neighborhood and enjoy craft beer at 4 pubs.
star-5
Excellent experience
Michelle_O, Feb 2020
Big Bus Sydney and Bondi Hop-on Hop-off Tour
Great value, great service and an excellent way to see the Sydney sights.
star-5
Great way to see Sydney
randy_e, Feb 2020
Sydney Harbour Hop-on Hop-off Cruise
This was a great way to see the Sydney Harbor and get to see many areas we might not have seen.
star-5
Sydney highlights
Paul, Feb 2020
Small Group Essential Sydney Tour Including Lunch
Great way to see the highlights of Sydney in a small group.
star-4
Sydney sights
John, Feb 2020
Big Bus Sydney and Bondi Hop-on Hop-off Tour
Wonderful way to see Sydney, and all it has to offer.
star-5
Northern Beaches Tour
Gerald_K, Feb 2020
Sydney Harbour, Northern beaches and National Park
I would recommend this tour for all that visit Sydney and want to see the northern beaches and city.
star-4
Great boat ride experience
Edgar_F, Feb 2020
Sydney Harbour Top Deck Lunch Cruise
Be sure to visit the top deck for an incredible viewing experience.
star-4
Harbour sites
johndramdeen, Feb 2020
Sydney Harbour Hop-on Hop-off Cruise
Great way to see Sydney from the ocean.
star-5
So fun!
Heatherfromvegas, Jan 2020
All-inclusive Wildlife and Scenic Tour with Wombats, Kangaroos and Waterfalls
This was truly the highlight of our trip to Sydney, it was great going in a small group and getting to go to places that were off the beaten path to see the animals in their environment.
star-5
Sydney tour with Harbour cruise
ahanas2016, Jan 2020
Full Day Sydney Tour with Opera House and The Rocks Tour
I had very short time in Sydney and this was a great way to see a LOT of it.
star-5
Excellent service & tour
FoxyWahine, Jan 2020
Sydney Half Day Highlights - Luxury Private Tour - Morning or Afternoon Avail
She was very responsive to our requests & covered all the key tourist attractions.
star-5
Enjoyable visit to the Blue Mountains
SaraM96, Dec 2019
All Inclusive Blue Mountains Small-Group Day Trip from Sydney
The ferry ride was a nice way to see the city.
star-5
Vacation time
David R, Dec 2019
Sydney Combo: Hop-On Hop-Off Harbor Cruise and Hop-On Hop-Off City Bus Tour
Wonderful way to see the city of Sydney Australia and all the sights.
star-5
LindaM
lindabilliem, Nov 2019
All Inclusive Blue Mountains Small-Group Day Trip from Sydney
So many things to see and our tour guide, Kunal, was super knowledgeable about the history and a great guide.
star-5
Sydney Opera House was GREAT!
Passport611976, Nov 2019
Sydney Opera House Official Guided Walking Tour
Our tour guide was knowledgeable, allowed questions throughout and we were able to see the inside and outside from many angles and view points.

Frequently Asked Questions