Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in New South Wales
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 Yearâs 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.
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.
Located in northern Sydney, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is the second-oldest national park in the country and a favorite among campers, hikers and nature lovers. Its lush rainforest landscape, quiet creeks and mountain passes lead visitors to forget Ku-ring-gai Chase is still within Sydney city limits, but its incredible views, thick mangroves and scenic drives make it the perfect escape from center city hustle.
The park is on the Australian National Heritage List, and travelers often wander its well-kept walking paths that wind through the Australian jungle. Driving may prove the easiest way to navigate the area, but many visitors prefer to call upon bicycles and horses to explore. An ideal day trip, Ku-ring-gai Chase offers public picnic spaces, paddle and sailboats and scenic overlooks like the Barrenjoey Lighthouse.
World Heritage sites are typically known for their quiet beauty and historical significance, but Scenic World, stationed in the heart of Katoomba, amps it up with a major adrenaline rush. It includes the Scenic Railway, Scenic Skyway, Scenic Walkway and Scenic Cableway and visitors can “walk on air’ in a glass-floored skyway suspended 270 meters above ground, or hitch a ride in the steepest incline railroad on earth.Those afraid of heights can wander through Jurassic Rainforest or stroll through the Waterfall Walk and informative Coal Mining exhibit. More adventurous friends can catch the incredible views of Jamison Valley and Three Sisters from inside the country’s steepest cable car.
Anyone who’s seen a picture of the Blue Mountains should recognize Echo Point. Famous for its view of the Three Sisters, this sweeping viewpoint on the outskirts of Katoomba defines the Blue Mountains’ beauty. From this cliff top ledge, the jagged escarpment vertically drops towards the distant valley floor—a void where clouds can linger in the treetops nearly a thousand feet below.
Take a deep breath and drink in the beauty of the Blue Mountains’ southern flank, and then consider walking the “Giant Stairway” that drops down into the valley. Over 800 stairs that are carved from the mountain descend 1,000 vertical feet, where numerous hiking trails weave their way along the forested valley floor. Climbing the walls of the “Ruined Castle” is a popular valley hike, and is a good way to escape the crowds that tend to gather at the viewpoint. Rather than hiking back up the stairs, take a ride on the “Scenic Railway” that leads back to the top of the cliff.
Originally inhabited by aboriginal people who fished the waters off the South Head peninsula, Watsons Bay was later named for Seaman Robert Watson, whose fleet once docked in the bay’s protected shores. The quiet, mostly residential area attracts history-loving travelers looking to explore the World War II relics here, like the Sydney Harbour anti-submarine boom net designed to prevent underwater attackers from entering the inlet. But perhaps the biggest draw to Watsons Bay is the legal nude beach at Lady Bay, where travelers can strip down to the buff and soak up the sun. The less bold can still enjoy the area’s other beautiful beaches, such as Camp Cove, and the scenic coastal walk along South Head.
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.
Australia mainland's easternmost point of Cape Byron possesses a number of reasons to pay it a visit: the Cape Byron Light, the Cape Byron Marine Park, and the Cape Byron walking track. Set about 1.9 miles (3 km) northeast of the quaint Byron Bay, Cape Byron lies in the Cape Byron State Conservation Area.
A day trip from Byron Bay can be spent first at the Cape Byron Light – a lighthouse that was opened in 1901 and is still in use today. A climb to the top, through the internal spiral staircase, brings visitors to a glorious viewing platform looking out across the Pacific Ocean, which is a prime place to catch whales, sea turtles, dolphins and other passing wildlife.
Wildlife lovers will enjoy the many sheltered beaches and protected reefs that encompass the 54,000 acre Cape Byron Marine Park. Swimming, fishing (in some areas), kayaking and diving are all possible around Cape Byron.
More Things to Do in New South Wales
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.
The Woolloomooloo Wharf (also known as ‘the Finger Wharf’) is the largest timbered-piled building in the world. It was built in 1915 and for the next 70-odd years handled the export of much of Australia’s wool, as well as served as a disembarking point for new migrants arriving to the country.
By the 1970s usage of Woolloomooloo wharf was on the decline and by the 1980s it had become derelict and empty. The state had planned to demolish it, but when demolition work was set to begin there was such a strong public outcry that it was decided that the wharf would instead be renovated into a boutique hotel. Today, the wharf has been converted into a fashionable complex, housing some of Sydney’s finest restaurants and most stylish residential flats.
Sydney’s late-night revelry hub is east of the city center in raffish Kings Cross. Restaurants, cafes, bars, and clubs throng the main thoroughfare, Darlinghurst Rd, which winds its way north to Macleay St and more-sedate Potts Point.
The focal point of Kings Cross is the gaudy neon Coca-Cola sign crowning William St, which leads east from Hyde Park. Take a walk along the area’s leafy streets, lined with double-story terrace houses fringed with lace ironwork balconies, and stop off for a coffee or refreshing drink at this vibrant area’s many cafes and pubs. If you follow Macleay St north, you’ll catch panoramic views of the harbor and Woolloomooloo; steps lead down to the water and the famous Harry’s Cafe de Wheels pie cart.
When the sun goes down, Kings Cross transforms, with adult entertainment at the fore. The area is busy and well policed, but leave your inhibitions at the door.
Suitably named, Byron Bay's Main Beach stretches along the front of the town and is the go-to destination for beach lounging, swimming or catching a wave. On a sunny day in Byron Bay, expect locals and visitors alike to be making the most at Main Beach – the town's closest beach outlet.
Main Beach is known for its beautiful surroundings, with views of the Julian Rocks, Cape Byron Light and grassy hills meeting the horizon line of white sandy beach and enticing water. Besides swimming and beach lounging, a popular activity is to snorkel out to the old shipwreck of the Tassie II just off-shore.
The reliable right and left-hand breaks at Main Beach make it a popular place for beginners to learn to surf. Several surf schools operate directly at Main Beach, but make sure to research this fact before making a booking. Surf schools must be authorized to operate at the beaches of Byron Bay or else they travel several minutes outside of the region for their lessons.
As Australia's easternmost and strongest lighthouse, Cape Byron Light is a main attraction for both the historical aspect of the building itself as well as the spectacular views it provides from the edge of Cape Byron. Opened for operation in 1901, the lighthouse provides Byron Bay visitors with a glimpse into the marine industry from years past when lighthouses had to be manned by live-in keepers so passing ships remained safe along the coast. Still active today, Cape Byron Light changed to a fully automated system in 1989, making a live-in keeper obsolete.
The eastern coast of Australia sees humpback whale migrations each year, and the lighthouse platform acts as the perfect vantage point for its 500,000 annual visitors, as well as the Southern Cross University's Whale Research Centre, which is located on the premises. The lighthouse itself stands 74 feet tall (22.5 meters); an internal spiral staircase reaches from the lobby to its viewing platform.
In a country known for walkabouts and wandering it’s no surprise one of the biggest attractions is also one of the most mythical. According to local folklore, three sisters once fell in love with three men from a different tribe—a love that was forbidden. When the men tried to capture and marry the women war broke out and the ladies were turned to stone to protect them.
Today, travelers who flock to Blue Mountain Park ascend the 800-plus stairs to the valley floor in order to catch a glimpse of the stones that tower hundreds of meters into the sky.
The tallest freestanding structure in Sydney - measuring just over 1,000 feet (305 meters) tall - the Sydney Tower boasts Australia’s loftiest observation tower for terrific views. You can see all across Sydney from atop the Sydney Tower, all the way to the Heads washed by the ocean, to the Blue Mountains on the far horizon.
You can also see the tower from far away, as it’s one of the most visible of Sydney’s landmarks viewed from afar. Sometimes known by its former names of Centrepoint or AMP tower, the Sydney Tower was built in the 1970s.
Areas open to the public include the observation deck, providing 360 degree views from its panoramic windows 820 ft (250 m) above the ground. Dinner or lunch at the buffet or a la carte restaurant is a stunning experience, and the Skywalk open-air tour will literally take your breath away.
The eastern Sydney suburb of Watson’s Bay is more than just a charming fishing town—it’s also home to one of the most stunning views found anywhere in all of Sydney. At the cliff top viewpoint known as the “The Gap,” walkers are treated to a 360° panorama of Sydney’s Harbor and coastline. For all of its natural beauty, however, The Gap has a somewhat morbid history that is occasionally more famous than its view. In 1857, the Dunbar sailing ship was aiming for the Sydney Harbor entrance, but misjudged the entry point and was shipwrecked on the rocks.
All of the 122 passengers aboard perished in the grisly wreck, except for one sailor who would end up tending a lighthouse along Australia’s coast. The Gap is also infamously known for its high number of suicides, with hundreds of Australians having leapt from the cliff to the icy waters below.
St Mary's Cathedral is one of Sydney’s oldest and grandest buildings. Built on land given to the Catholic Church during the earliest days of colonization (1820), the original church was almost completely destroyed by fire and later rebuilt in its current form. The building that stands on Sydney’s central College Street today was constructed from Sydney sandstone and is regarded as one of the finest examples of an English-style Gothic Cathedral in the world.
There are many notable architectural features in the Cathedral’s design, which was only fully realized 100 years after the architect William Wardell’s death. Most notable is the Cathedral’s local sandstone interior and façade, its beautiful stained glass windows (especially the three rose windows at the entrance and the huge chancel window), and the high central nave.
The oldest building in Sydney, Parliament House is home to the political reigning body of New South Wales. Both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council gather inside what once served as Sydney Hospital to make important decisions about the state’s operations. While ghosts are rumored to roam the building’s halls, visitors most often come to learn about its rich history and gain a better understanding of Sydney’s modern political operations.
Things to do near New South Wales
- Things to do in Sydney
- Things to do in Byron Bay
- Things to do in Port Stephens
- Things to do in Newcastle
- Things to do in Hunter Valley
- Things to do in Brunswick Heads
- Things to do in Victoria
- Things to do in Queensland
- Things to do in Tasmania
- Things to do in Surfers Paradise
- Things to do in Gold Coast
- Things to do in Choc
- Things to do in South Australia
- Things to do in North Island
- Things to do in South Island