20 things to do in and around Sydney
Sydney is full of things to do and places to see. Known for its miles of stunning beaches, ample outdoor recreation, vibrant cultural attractions and fine dining, Sydney truly has something to offer everyone. Those who want to travel to the land Down Under can look forward to beautiful hotels in Sydney, beautiful beaches, unique food and one-of-a-kind cultural attractions.
1. Bondi Beach
Located about 30 minutes from downtown Sydney, Bondi Beach is an ideal option for visitors who want something a bit more remote. Due to its beachfront promenade, Bondi Beach is a favorite destination of backpackers, hikers and bikers. Despite its rugged appearance, however, Bondi Beach also boasts many of the comforts and luxuries its less remote counterparts. The beach features marked swimming areas directly off-shore and a boardwalk full of fantastic fish ‘n chips restaurants, boutiques, art galleries and surf shops. Visitors to Bondi Beach can rent bikes to further explore the area or take a private surf lesson with one of the area’s highly qualified instructors.
2. Shopping at the QVB
The Queen Victoria Building, known locally as the QVB, is great shopping destination. You’ll find everything from art galleries to fine chocolates, and all manner of goodies in between. There are more than two dozen places to grab food and drinks as well, whether you’re looking for a fast cup of coffee or a leisurely lunch. Visitors can enjoy guided tours that will display the building’s prominent architectural details, beautiful stained glass windows, murals and a famous, landmark copper dome.
3. Powerhouse Museum
This museum is a favorite of families and kids. Built from a decommissioned power station along Sydney’s railroad line, the Powerhouse Museum features exhibits that demonstrate how lightning strikes, engines run and magnets attract metals. The museum boasts the world’s oldest steam engine, built in 1785, as well as exhibits on nuclear energy, space travel and steam locomotion. Finally, the museum features several arts and crafts classes for kids, as well as performances by The Wiggles, Australia’s much-loved children’s band.
4. Sydney Tower Eye
Sydney’s tallest building since 1981, Sydney Tower Eye is an iconic piece of the city’s skyline. At 309 meters (1,014 feet) above the city streets, the tower’s observation deck is one of the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere, second only to Auckland Tower. Visitors can enjoy the enclosed observation deck or take a walk on the wild side with the Skywalk, an open-air, glass-floored boardwalk that circles the walls of the tower and provides staggering views of the city below. Passes purchased for the Skywalk also get visitors into several other Sydney attractions, such as the aquarium and the local zoo.
5. Hyde Park
Hyde Park is Sydney’s oldest park and features extensive walking trails, sculpture gardens, monuments, a visitor center and a reflection pool. The biggest draw of the park, however, is its 580 species of exotic flowers, vines and trees. Visitors can enjoy walking tours through the beautiful gardens, as well as the park’s beautiful views of Sydney Tower and the city skyline. To further add to its charm, Hyde Park hosts festivals such as the Food and Wine Fair, ANZAC Day and the Sydney Festival each year.
6. Sydney Opera House
This may be called an opera house, but it’s not just a place for opera performances. You can also watch musicals, theater and dance performances at the Sydney Opera House. More than 40 shows happen here weekly, and with eight venues it’s easy for that many shows to happen. The Concert Hall is the most prestigious space and the one with the best acoustics because of its high vaulted ceilings. Be sure to check their schedule so you can see an amazing show at an amazing venue by the harbour while you’re in town.
7. Momofuku Seiobo
Located just off of Darling Harbour, this sleek, modern restaurant serves fresh seafood and Japanese-fusion fare, featuring such items as seared abalone with Jerusalem artichokes and sunflower seeds. Momofuku Seiobo boasts an extensive wine list and is located in the city’s trendy industrial district. Reservations are recommended.
8. The Blue Mountains
About 46 miles from Sydney is the mountainous region called the Blue Mountains. This area requires a visit longer than a couple of hours. You have to spend at least one full day here, if not two or three to really experience all the Blue Mountains has to see and do. It’s the perfect area for bushwalking, which is just the word Australians like to use for hiking through natural areas. You can also adventure through the Jenolan Caves, where you can do cave tours in one of their show caves complete with limestone formations and flowing underground rivers. In the Blue Mountains you’ll also find the iconic landmark of New South Wales called the Three Sisters. These sandstone peaks stand at more than 900 meters high amongst the cliffs in the Jamison Valley and are quite the sight to see in person.
9. Australian National Maritime Museum
Sydney is bound to the water. Its historical and current culture, economy and beauty have all, in some way, been dependent upon the water, and the Australian National Maritime Museum helps visitors dive deeper into this relationship. The museum features exhibits that outline the indigenous and naval utilization of the area’s harbors and bays and boasts a collection of recreated submarine interiors, seafaring artifacts and vintage and modern boats to explore.
10. Enjoying a Drink at the Absinthesalon
The Absinthesalon is an intimate little establishment that’s ideal for taking a trip back to la belle époque. This bar features 30 varieties of French and Swiss absinthe. The intoxicating green liquid is prepared in the traditional fashion, with ice cold water dripping gently over a sugar cube in your glass. The ritual of preparing the drink is nearly as heady as the concoction itself.
11. Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Sydney Harbour is a gorgeous natural harbor that’s part of the Port Jackson waterway. The best way you can see the harbor is on a ferry ride or climbing over the Sydney Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb. This large bridge, which many Sydneysiders call the “coat hanger”, connects Sydney’s central business district to its North Shore. Tourists enjoy seeing the harbor, being on one of its beaches or riding across the bridge on its bike path.
12. Royal Botanic Gardens
Opened in 1816, the Royal Botanic Gardens is one of the oldest and most beautiful botanic gardens in the city. The gardens are open every day of the year and feature 30 hectares of exotic plants from Australia and places around the globe. The garden is also the oldest remaining scientific establishment in the country and provides a space for important botanical research and breeding. The Royal Botanic Gardens offers free guided walks at 10:30 every morning, starting from the Garden Shop in the center of the park.
13. Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
Combining beaches, cliffs, parks and rock pools, the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk is a 6 km (3.7 mi) path that takes travelers along the coast of Sydney with stunning coastal views. The beaches and parks offer a place to rest and eat at a cafe or restaurants (you could even do a picnic). It takes about two hours to complete this section of the walk, which continues along the coast to Maroubra Beach. FYI: There are steep paths and several staircases along the path.
This beautiful restaurant is located in a modern, octagonal building on the Sydney Harbour and, thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows, features some of the city’s most stunning views of the water. The high-class menu features lunch and dinner items like slow-cooked pork belly with cultured butter, koji, sesame and pork broth. Quay restaurant is known for its divine dessert menu, and visitors will love delicacies like chocolate caramel with almond nougat and muscatels.
15. Museum of Contemporary Art
Housing art from Australia and Asia-Pacific, the Museum of Contemporary Art is a great pit stop while sightseeing in Sydney. Two floors of the museum showcase traveling and permanent exhibitions from the region, while the third floor is great to take kids for workshops and activities. The museum’s store is fun shopping experience to buy original Australian art and unique regional gifts. Free tours run daily.
16. Raise a smile at Luna Park
You can’t miss Luna Park. The entrance of the nostalgic amusement park is a gigantic smiling face of the moon (and a little scary). But no worries, all ages will enjoy this fun destination from its steam driven carousel to the ferris wheel with spectacular views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Sound too tame? There’s also fun roller coasters and rides that swing you back and forth. Opened in 1935, entrance to Luna Park is free, so you just pay for rides and games.
17. Manly Beach
Known locally as a great spot for novice surfers to learn the ropes, Manly Beach is a beautiful, palm-lined sanctuary that is great for recreation, family activities and relaxation. One of the features that makes Manly Beach unique is its netted ocean pool, which offers safe sheltered swimming for visitors. Additionally, Manly Beach features beautiful hotels, a boardwalk, a variety of delicious restaurants that serve fresh seafood, a selection of wonderful ethnic restaurants and several unique shopping boutiques.
18. Sydney Fish Market
The Sydney Fish Market is one of the largest working fishing ports outside Japan. There’s a retail section and also an eatery where you can have fresh seafood cooked at the market — fried, grilled or sashimi style. Established in 1966, the market is also home to the Sydney Seafood School, which offers cooking classes. Don’t want to cook? There’s also a behind-the-scenes tour held four days a week. Book in advance. The tours are popular!
19. Paddington Reservoir Gardens
Located below bustling Oxford Street is one of the best hidden gems in Sydney: the Paddington Reservoir Gardens. From the street, it looks like a hodge-podge of columns, plants and graffiti art. Upon closer look, travelers see the beauty of its $10 million restoration. This public park feels like a sunken ruin, similar to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and is a great respite from the hustle and bustle of the city above. The Gardens also host markets, art and film festivals.
20. Bondi Icebergs Pool
The Bondi Icebergs is an experience like no other: A saltwater pool that’s regularly doused with ocean water that splashes in from the breakers. For a small fee, visitors can relax or swim in the main concrete pool or the more sheltered pool for kids. In cooler months (June-August), there’s even a relaxing sauna. Take a break from the pool and enjoy the gourmet bistro, two bars, fitness facilities and a 1,600-square-foot sundeck from the club above. FYI: The pools are closed on Thursdays, so it can be cleared of seaweed.