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Sydney is the largest city in Australia. It is world-renowned for its landmarks such as the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, its beautiful harbor, and its vast range of entertainment and fine dining. 40 things to do in Sydney sounds like a lot, and it is, but there are many more places we could have added to this list.

In a single day you have the option to surf at one of the greatest beaches in the world, learn about Sydney’s vibrant culture both on land and at sea, and enjoy a show at the Opera House.

This guide was written after multiple visits to Sydney. We first visited Sydney on a trip around the world in 2014 and 2015. Sydney made such a lasting impression that I chose to study abroad in Sydney in 2023. During this time, I repeated all of the touristy experiences but spent most of my time exploring Sydney’s neighborhoods and beaches, skydiving, and surfing as much as possible. That same year, Tim and Julie spent a week here and they had a blast dining in some of Sydney’s top restaurants and day tripping out to the Blue Mountains.

In this guide, I hope to share with you everything I learned about Sydney, to help you plan the perfect trip to this amazing city.  

Below is a list of the best things to do in Sydney, in no particular order. Don’t expect to see all of these while on your first visit to Sydney, not unless you plan to spend at least a week here. At the end of this article, you’ll find a list of our top 10 experiences in Sydney, perfect for those who don’t have the time to see all 40.

We do our best to keep the hours of operation and pricing up to date for each attraction, however, these can change at any time. We recommend getting updated hours and pricing for your dates of travel. The link to the official website is provided for each site.

Interesting Facts about Sydney

Sydney is the largest and most populated city in Australia. Sydney Harbour and the Central Business District (the CBD) comprise the heart of the city, and this is where visitors spend most of their time. However, Sydney is a massive, sprawling city, with its suburbs extending out to the Blue Mountains and along the coastline.

With its iconic skyline, Opera House and Harbour Bridge, parks and beaches, and location right on the harbor, Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. In this one city, you can take surfing lessons, watch an opera, go whale watching, do a coastal walk, visit a zoo, climb a bridge, and have dinner and drinks at some of the best restaurants and bars in the world.

The first inhabitants of this area were the Aboriginal Australians, who lived here for roughly 30,000 years. The first Europeans arrived in 1770, when James Cook made landfall at Botany Bay. In 1788, the first penal colony in Australia was established here in Sydney, making this the first European settlement in Australia.

After World War II, Sydney experienced a massive influx of people, mainly from China, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, and India. It is now one of the most expensive cities in the world to call home, with real estate values rivaling that of New York and Paris.

There are six public universities in Sydney. I spent one semester studying at the University of New South Wales.

The 2000 Summer Olympics were hosted by Sydney. Mission: Impossible 2 and Inception were partially filmed in Sydney and Sydney makes an appearance in Finding Nemo.

Best Things to Do in Sydney

In no particular order, here is our list of the best things to do in Sydney. At the end of this list, you can see all of them on a map.

1. The Sydney Opera House

The most famous attraction in Sydney, the Opera House is a must-see. This performance center draws millions of visitors every year and is known for its distinct sail-like structure, which is an incredible feat of architecture and engineering. In 2007 it became an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

At the Opera House you can book a backstage tour, enjoy a meal and a drink at several high-end restaurants, and of course, enjoy a show. The Opera House offers 40 shows a week, so there’s always something to enjoy.

For information regarding tours or shows, look here.

Sydney Opera House | Best Things to Do in Sydney

Sydney Opera House

2. Sydney Harbour

The Sydney Harbour is what really makes this city special. It is one of the largest natural harbors in the world, about 19 km long. Along this harbor are the Sydney Opera House, Taronga Zoo, coves and inlets, stunning views of the city skyline, and suburbs. The Sydney Harbour Bridge spans the harbor and numerous small islands sit within Sydney Harbour.

The Sydney Harbour is also called Port Jackson. Captain Cook named it after Sir George Jackson, a commissioner in the British Admiralty.

Sydney Australia

Sydney Harbour


Sydney Ferry Ride | Best Things to Do in Sydney

The view of the Opera House from the ferry

One of the best things to do in Sydney is to take some sort of cruise or boat ride in the harbor. Cruising past the Opera House and getting unique vantage points of the city skyline is one of the best experiences to have on a visit to Sydney.

The cheapest option is to ride one of the public ferries, either to Taronga Zoo, Luna Park, or Manly. We’ll get to each of these later in this guide.

You can cruise the harbour on a yacht, enjoying a premium dining experience and sunset views of the harbor.

On this 90-minute cruise, sail on an authentic tall ship and enjoy views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

For those who want to be more active, how about a kayaking trip to Goat Island?

You can also go on a cruise that includes afternoon tea or take a jet boat ride of the harbor.

Sydney Ferry Sunset | Best Things to Do in Sydney

Sydney Harbour at sunset | Best Things to Do in Sydney

3. Circular Quay

This vibrant neighborhood encompasses the main port on Sydney Harbour and a collection of fine-dining establishments. If you plan to ride a ferry while in Sydney, this is the place to go. It’s a busy, bustling area with ferries arriving and departing at all hours of the day.

On one end of Circular Quay lies the Sydney Opera House, and on the other is The Rocks neighborhood. The harbor front here is a great place to enjoy an afternoon stroll and is easily accessible by land and by sea.

Sydney Opera Bar | Best Things to Do in Sydney

Sydney Opera Bar

4. Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb is one of the most popular attractions in the Sydney area.

Scaling the beautiful and historic Sydney Harbour Bridge is a once in a lifetime experience. From the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge, you get unbeatable views of the Sydney Opera House and the harbor.

Sydney Bridge Climb View | Best Things to Do in Sydney

View from the summit of Sydney Harbour Bridge

 Sydney Harbour Bridge View | Best Things to Do in Sydney

The view of Harbour Bridge from the South Pylon Lookout. If you look closely, you can see climbers on the bridge. 


Sydney Bridge Climb Photo

The BridgeClimb Sydney company offers a variety of climbing packages, so you can choose which adventure best suits you based on the time of day, climbing distance, and how much time you have. For those afraid of heights, DON’T WORRY! Each climber is equipped with more than enough safety gear, and the whole climb includes railings on both sides.

Hours: Mon-Thurs (8am-4pm) | Fri-Sun (8am-5pm)
Cost: Prices depend on the route you choose and time of day. Learn more here.

For more information about this experience, check out our guide to the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb.

5. Walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

One of the best free things to do in Sydney is to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The views are very similar to those you get on the Bridge Climb, although you don’t quite get that same lofty viewpoint. However, the views from the bridge are spectacular.

This bridge connects The Rocks with Luna Park. You can walk the entire bridge, from one side to the other (about 1.6 km, 30 minutes) or walk halfway across from The Rocks for views of the Opera House.

There is a pedestrian walkway that runs along the east side of the bridge. To get on the walkway in The Rocks, you can take the steps or the elevator. The elevator is located across the street from The Glenmore Hotel. The steps are called the Bridge Stairs on Google Maps and Harbour Bridge Stairs on signs in The Rocks and these are just a short walk from the elevator.

As you walk on the bridge, it takes about 10 minutes to get out over the water. You’ll pass the South Pylon Lookout (mentioned next) and then have awesome views of the harbor.

If you go all of the way to Luna Park, you can either return by walking across the bridge again or riding the ferry to Circular Quay.

Sydney Harbour Bridge View | Best Things to Do in Sydney

View from Sydney Harbour Bridge


Sydney Opera House View from Bridge | Best Things to Do in Sydney

The view of the Opera House from Harbour Bridge


Sydney Harbour Bridge Pedestrian Walkway

The pedestrian walkway on Harbour Bridge

6. South Pylon Lookout

If you want an elevated view from the Sydney Harbour Bridge but don’t want to invest the time and money into the Bridge Climb, this is your next best option.

From the South Pylon Lookout, you get a breathtaking view of the Opera House, Sydney Harbour, and Sydney Harbour Bridge. There’s a good chance you will also see climbers on the bridge.

South Pylon Lookout | Best Things to Do in Sydney

View from the South Pylon Lookout | Best Things to Do in Sydney


South Pylon Lookout View | Best Things to Do in Sydney

To get to the South Pylon Lookout, follow our instructions above on how to get onto Harbour Bridge from The Rocks (you cannot reach the South Pylon Lookout observation deck from the base of the South Pylon).

The entrance is on Harbour Bridge. You’ll climb 68 steps to get to the ticket office. From here, purchase your ticket and it’s 132 steps to the top, for a grand total of 200 steps. There is no elevator to the top.

You can purchase your ticket in advance or at the door. We purchased ours at the door and there was no line (midday in May). Get hours and pricing on the official website.

7. The Rocks

The Rocks is the perfect place in Sydney to spend an afternoon. This colonial neighborhood of pubs and shops is situated right between Circular Quay and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Rocks Sydney | Best Things to Do in Sydney

The Rocks


The Rocks Market

The Rocks market

On the weekends you’ll find a colorful open-air market where vendors sell homemade crafts and street food. Enjoy a drink at Glenmore, a historic rooftop bar and pub. If you’re looking for a taste of history, try the Fortune of War, Sydney’s oldest pub.

From The Rocks, it is a short walk to a small park, Dawes Point Reserve, where you can walk along the harbour and have more stunning views of the Opera House.

8. The Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art is located in The Rocks, right next to Circular Quay. On display is modern art from Australia and around the world.

It is free to visit this museum. It is open from 10 am to 5 pm Wednesday through Monday (closed Tuesdays) but check hours before you go on the official website.

One of the best reasons to visit this museum is for its views of Circular Quay and the Opera House. Sitting on the top floor of the museum is an outdoor café with views of the harbor. This is called the MCA Café and on the menu are salads, sandwiches, coffee, and wine.

Contemporary Art Museum Sydney

Art Cafe View

View from the MCA Cafe

9. Luna Park

Luna Park is a colorful amusement park located on Sydney Harbour, next to the Harbour Bridge. Featured are thrilling attractions, roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, and arcade games.

The park is famous for the giant smiling face that acts as the entrance to the amusement park. The face is almost unsettling, especially at night when illuminated. It’s been rebuilt 7 times and the history behind the faces is interesting, where some of the past iterations are downright terrifying.

Fun fact! The park is inspired by the iconic Coney Island in Brooklyn. Within Luna Park, Sydney, there exists a section named Coney Island, paying homage to its Brooklyn counterpart. It’s a delightful nod to the park’s unique heritage, adding an extra layer of charm and excitement.

Luna Park | Best Things to Do in Sydney

Hours: Hours are subject to change due to events held in the park. Learn more here.
Cost (day pass): AUD $44 (adult) | $34 (child)
How to Get Here: Take a stroll across the Harbour Bridge (a 35-minute walk from The Rocks) or ride the ferry

10. The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

The Royal Botanic Garden is a beautiful area filled with plenty of lush greenery. The gardens are located right on the Sydney Harbour, which makes it a perfect spot for views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Also included in the gardens are several cafes with some solid brunch options.

The Calyx

The Calyx

Located in the park is the Calyx, which is a public exhibition space. There is a small restaurant here, the Leaf Department, a shop, and floral exhibitions. This is a popular place in Sydney to host weddings and other special events.

Hours: November-February, open everyday from 7am-8pm, with reduced hours later in the year. Learn more here.
Cost: Free

11. Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair

For one of the best views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, visit Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. This viewpoint is located in the Royal Botanic Garden, on a peninsula that juts out into the harbor. The views from this spot are spectacular all day but it is particularly nice at sunset.

Mrs Macquaries Chair Sydney | Best Things to Do in Sydney

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair | Best Things to Do in Sydney

12. The Art Gallery of New South Wales

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is one of Australia’s largest art museums. It features a wide range of exhibits that focus primarily on Aboriginal culture, depicted through paintings and sculptures. The vibrant artwork is a joy to admire and the diverse exhibits will continue to provide something new. Entrance to the art gallery is free, but a few special exhibits require an entrance fee.

Art Gallery of New South Wales

Hours: Thurs-Tues (10 am-5 pm), Wed (10 am-10 pm)
Cost: Free
Website: Get updated hours and learn more about the exhibits on the official website.

13. Sydney Tower Eye

The Sydney Tower is the tallest structure in Sydney and the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere. At a staggering 309m (1,014ft) tall, the Sydney Tower’s observation deck offers the ultimate 360° view of the city.

Feeling a bit more adventurous? You can actually walk outside on the skywalk above the observation deck. The Skywalk adventure is filled with amazing views, great photo opportunities, and a couple glass floors to remind you just how high up you truly are.

Sydney Tower Eye | Best Things to Do in Sydney

Sydney Tower Eye View

View from the Sydney Tower Eye

The Skywalk

Booking a Skywalk experience is the best way to enjoy the views of Sydney’s skyline from the Sydney Tower Eye. On this 30-minute guided tour, you’ll circle the outside of the tower on metal walkways and walk over a few glass floors to remind you just how high up you truly are. Before stepping outside, you’ll change into a stylish jumpsuit with a built-in clip system that attaches to the outside railings.

Although you’re only a few stories higher than the Tower Eye Observation deck, you’ll get a lot more out of this experience. Your guides will provide you with plenty of background information regarding what you see and are well equipped to answer any questions you may have.

There are several spots for photo opportunities that you can take with the skyline in the background.

Also, the views themselves just seem to be a lot better once you’re in the open air. We loved this experience and highly recommend it for someone who is willing to spend the extra money.

Sydney Skywalk

Hours: Open every day from 10am-8pm (Oct-March), with reduced hours in winter months.
Cost: General Admission: AUD $33 adult, $25 child, $26 senior. Book online for reduced rates.
SKYWALK + Observation Deck: AUD $95 adult, $70 child (this includes the general admission ticket)
Website: Get updated hours, pricing, and purchase your tickets in advance on the official website.

14. The QVB (Queen Victoria Building)

This historic building is one of the best places to go shopping in Sydney. It is located in the Central Business District, just a short walk from the Sydney Tower Eye.

The Queen Victoria Building dates back to 1898. It was named to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. This beautiful Victorian building contains three stories of retail shops and small restaurants. Two mechanical clocks form focal points from the arcades.

Shops range from popular chain stores, such as Coach, Pandora and Country Road, as well as art galleries and boutique shops. Our favorite shop in the QVB is the Aboriginal Art Galleries, where you can shop for Aboriginal artifacts and artworks, including didgeridoos, ceramics, and paintings.

Sydney QVB | Best Things to Do in Sydney

The QVB | Best Things to Do in Sydney

 QVB Sydney

Inside the Queen Victoria Building


Queen Victoria Building


15. The Strand Arcade

This is another notable place to go shopping in Sydney.

The Strand Arcade is a smaller version of the QVB. This Victorian building is filled with small boutique shops. It’s a delight to stroll through and go window shopping.

The Strand

The Strand


The Strand Sydney | Best Things to Do in Sydney

Inside The Strand

16. St. Mary’s Cathedral

This cathedral dates back to 1821, when the first stone was laid. The first church was small and simple but over the years, it was rebuilt and expanded several times, in an English Gothic architectural style. It is now one of the largest cathedrals in Australia and it is said to be the birthplace of Catholicism in Australia.

St Marys Cathedral

St. Mary’s Cathedral

17. The Hyde Park Barracks

In 1819, the Hyde Park Barracks were constructed to house the male convicts who had been brought to Sydney. Approximately 1,400 people could live here at any given time and roughly 30,000 people lived in the barracks between 1819 and 1848.

Hyde Park Barracks | Best Things to Do in Sydney

Hyde Park Barracks | Best Things to Do in Sydney

Over time, the barracks took on new roles, becoming a shelter for women who immigrated to Australia and needed to find work, a medical facility and asylum, and as a court and governmental offices.

In 1994, the barracks were renovated and turned into a museum. In 2010, the Hyde Park Barracks was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site as an Australian Convict Site.

Entry is free. Learn more about the Hyde Park Barracks, including hours of operation, on the official website.

18. Darling Harbour

Circular Quay is world-famous and is what most people imagine when they think of Sydney Harbour. What they don’t know is that there exists another harbour that’s just as beautiful and arguably more entertaining, and is just a 15 minute walk away.

Darling Harbour is full of waterfront fine-dining, culture, beauty, and entertainment. Here you’ll find the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Sydney Aquarium & Zoo, and several large venues dedicated for concerts.

Cross the harbour over the Pyrmont Bridge and enjoy a great waterfront meal.

You could spend a day in Darling Harbour hopping between museums, eating by the waterfront, and enjoying some spectacular nightlife at nearby event venues, bars, and nightclubs.

Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour


Darling Harbour Sydney | Best Things to Do in Sydney

Darling Harbour Photo

Darling Harbour

19. Australian National Maritime Museum

While walking through Darling Harbour, chances are you’ve noticed a few large battleships docked in the water. At the Australian National Maritime Museum, you can board several historical ships and take a step back into Australia’s history at sea.

You’ll find great variety in the ships you can visit, as well as the indoor exhibits inside the museum’s main building. The ships are full of history, and one of them, the Tall Ship James Craig, is still operated for special tours. We had fun touring each of the ships they had docked, but did unfortunately get burned-out by the time we finished our tour.

A self-guided tour of the Maritime Museum could take upwards of 3 hours. For those that are fascinated by this side of history, take your time to explore each one of the exhibits. For those that want to enjoy a shorter tour, we recommend the HMAS Vampire (a battleship) and the Tall Ship James Craig, a 19th century barque.

Sydney Maritime Museum | Best Things to Do in Sydney

National Maritime Museum and Darling Harbour


National Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum Exhibit

Hours: Every day from 10 am-4 pm. Select vessels open at later times. Find more here.
Cost: Special Exhibitions Ticket (Adult: AUD $20, Child under 15: $12, Family: $50)
See it All Ticket: Adult: AUD $25, Child under 15: $15, Family: $70

20. Chinatown & the Chinese Garden of Friendship

Located in the southern part of the Central Business District, Sydney’s Chinatown is the largest of its kind in Australia.

Chinatown is loaded with quality restaurants featuring authentic Asian cuisine. The area also features the inner-city oasis of the Chinese Garden of Friendship, along with Paddy’s Market. At night, various neon signs located in alleyways provide some good photo opportunities.

Chinatown is also very accessible with multiple light-rail stations close by.

Chinese Friendship Garden

Chinese Garden of Friendship

21. Paddy’s Markets

Paddy’s Markets is one of the most unique shopping experiences in Sydney. Nestled under the Market City shopping mall in Chinatown, Paddy’s Markets can simply be described as a haven for savvy shoppers.

A variety of booths ranging from classic Australian souvenirs to fake designer clothes line the bustling market. Haggling prices with the many passionate shop owners was one of our favorite things to do in Sydney, and we ended up with a great haul to bring back to the States!

Paddys Markets Sydney

Paddys Markets

Paddy’s Markets

22. White Rabbit Gallery

The White Rabbit Gallery is one of the best art museums to visit in Sydney.

Judith Neilson, the founder of the museum, met Wang Zhiyuan in the 1990’s. He introduced her to the awakening art scene in China. She began collecting Chinese contemporary art from China but soon ran out of room.

Judith opened this art gallery in an old Rolls-Royce showroom. Two exhibitions are held each year, each one different from the last. The current exhibition will be completely dismantled and then a new exhibit will be added in its place. So, exhibits are constantly changing from year to year.

You can learn about the current exhibit and upcoming exhibits on the official website. There is a short period of time twice a year where the museum is closed, as the new exhibit is being added. Learn more on the official website.

White Rabbit Gallery | Best Things to Do in Sydney

White Rabbit Gallery | Best Things to Do in Sydney

23. Sydney Fish Market

The Sydney Fish Market is the largest seafood market in the Southern Hemisphere. With suppliers from over 300 communities in Australia, the Sydney Fish Market has just about every kind of seafood you could ever imagine.

In addition to its many seafood shops, the market also houses several cafes, smaller restaurants, and fruit stands. Just beware of Sydney’s many aquatic birds while enjoying your food outside!

Sydney Fish Market

Sydney Fish Market

24. The Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo is one of the largest zoos in Australia, home to over 5,000 animals from over 350 species. From a great range of local Australian wildlife as well as giraffes, elephants, and Komodo dragons, there is an exhibit for everyone to enjoy.

One of the best parts about visiting the zoo is the journey to get here. From Circular Quay, board a ferry to cross Sydney Harbour. Along the way, you get an up-close view of the Sydney Opera House.

Once at the zoo, again you are treated to more wonderful views of the Sydney skyline.

I visited the Taronga Zoo twice: once in the morning back in 2015, and once in the afternoon on my most recent visit. I noticed that, in the morning, a lot more of the animals are active in their exhibits. I recommend arriving when the zoo opens to see the animals when they are most active and to avoid the crowds.

Taronga Zoo View of Sydney

The view of Sydney from Taronga Zoo


Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo


Koala at Taronga Zoo

Hours: Open every day from 9:30 am-4:30 pm
Cost (gate price): AUD $51 (adult) | $30 (4-15 years) | free for children under 4. When booking online, you can save AUD $5.
Website: Get updated hours and pricing on the official website.

25. Go Whale Watching

From May to November, humpback whales pass Sydney on their annual migration route. One of the best things to do in Sydney, if you are here at that time, is to go whale watching.

It’s possible to see a humpback whale right in Sydney Harbour, but you have a better chance of seeing then on the Coogee to Bondi walk, near Botany Bay, and on a whale watching tour.



26. Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach is world famous. This beach is consistently rated as one of the most popular beaches in the world due to both its natural beauty and collection of restaurants.

Bondi Beach Sydney

Bondi Beach | Best Things to Do in Sydney

The wide crescent-shaped stretch of white sand and fantastic surf make Bondi a beach-lovers paradise. The show Bondi Rescue has been filmed here for the past 17 years, where viewers are offered an inside-look into the lives of Bondi’s lifeguards. Due to the popularity of the beach, you may also find a celebrity enjoying Bondi’s beauty, if you’re lucky.

Bondi Beach also hosts the Icebergs Club, a restaurant/bar as well as an iconic swimming pool. This is also the endpoint of the Coogee to Bondi coastal walk. From Sydney Harbour, it takes 40 minutes to reach Bondi Beach via public transit.

27. Icebergs

Icebergs pool is a world-famous swimming pool built on the southern edge of Bondi Beach. Icebergs is one of the most photographed pools in the world and it is worth a quick swim while visiting Sydney.

As the waves crash against the pool’s edge, some of ocean water will crest the lap lanes. As a triathlete, this was the coolest swimming pool I’ve ever trained in. Be prepared for a cold swim as the pool is filled with ocean water.

Not only is Icebergs an iconic swimming pool, but it’s also a high-end restaurant and bar that overlooks Bondi Beach. Come here for a delicious meal, enjoy a cocktail in the sun, and watch the surfers.

Icebergs Pool Bondi Beach

Icebergs pool and Bondi Beach


Icebergs Restaurant

Drinks at Icebergs Restaurant

Hours: Mon-Fri (6:00 am – 6:30 pm) | Sat-Sun (6:30 am-6:30 pm)
Cost (single pass): AUD $9 (adult), $6 (child), $25 (family)
Website: For more information on pricing and hours, and to make a reservation at the restaurant, visit the official website.

28. Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk

The Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk is a 4 mile (6.4 km) walk along Sydney’s eastern shores. You’ll pass some of the best beaches in Sydney as well as a collection of more local bays, beaches, and parks.

This is one of the best coastal walks in Sydney. It takes roughly 2 to 3 hours and along the way, you get stunning views of the coastline and have the option to relax on one of the beaches or go for a swim along the way.

From May through November, it’s possible to spot humpback whales in the Tasman Sea from this walk.

Coogee Beach

Coogee Beach


Coogee to Bondi Walk

Coogee Beach to Bondi Bondi Walk

I did this walk three times while living in Sydney plus we did it as a family in 2015. This is a great walk to do if you will be visiting Sydney with kids.

For more information on how to do this walk, take a look at our Guide to the Coogee to Bondi Walk.

Australia Travel Guide

29. Go Surfing

You can’t visit Sydney without trying your hand at surfing. Lucky for you, Sydney hosts one of the best surf schools in Australia. Let’s Go Surfing has locations at both Bondi and Maroubra beach, where people can rent surfboards or book surf lessons.

While living in Sydney, I rented boards from Let’s Go Surfing numerous times. The staff are amazing, they’re super friendly and offer great advice for both first time surfers and those who are more experienced. Let’s Go Surfing has great rates for both surfboard rentals and lessons, and I highly recommend checking them out while in Sydney.

The best beaches to go surfing are Maroubra (this is my favorite beach and it has more of a local feel to it), Bondi, and Manly Beach.

If you are a beginner, you can also take surf lessons with Let’s Go Surfing at Maroubra Beach or at Bondi Beach.

Maroubra Beach

Maroubra Beach

30. Watsons Bay

Located on the South Head peninsula in East Sydney is a seaside enclave that makes a great day trip from the city center.

Walk the South Head Heritage Trail, a short walk along the end of the peninsula that takes you past Lady Bay Beach to the Hornby Lighthouse. Along this walk, you can see the Sydney skyline in the distance. It’s flat, about 1 km long and takes 30 minutes. During the winter into early spring, it’s possible to see humpback whales from Hornby Lighthouse.

The South Head Heritage Trail starts at Camp Cove, a small, sheltered beach that has a small café and great views of Sydney.

Camp Cove Sydney

Camp Cove, Sydney

 Lady Bay Beach

Lady Bay Beach | Best Things to Do in Sydney


Hornby Lighthouse

Hornby Lighthouse


Hornby Lighthouse View

The view from Hornby Lighthouse

At Watsons Bay Beach, you can relax on the beach or go stand up paddle boarding. There are also shops and restaurants in the area.

Getting to Watsons Bay: The easiest and most scenic way to get here is on the ferry from Circular Quay. Once at Watsons Bay, walk to Camp Cove and continue to the Hornby Lighthouse for the best views.

31. Ferry to Manly

The ferry from Circular Quay to Manly offers some of the best views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, and the Sydney skyline. This 20-minute ride will travel past the various bays and beaches that compose the outer reaches of Sydney Harbour. The views are so great that I ended up riding the ferry out and back from Manly multiple times, once during the day and once at sunset.

For the most scenic ride, I recommend taking the ferry from Manly to Circular Quay shortly before sunset, at the golden hour.

The ferry runs 7 days a week, departing from Circular Quay and Manly every 30 minutes. The ferry ride lasts just over 20 minutes.

Sydney Harbour View from Ferry

Hours: Refer to the timetable here
Cost: AUD $10.20 one way

32. Manly Beach

Manly Beach is a mile-long strip of golden sand lined with shops, restaurants, and Norfolk pines.

Manly offers some of the best and most consistent surf in the Sydney area, so you’ll see plenty of surfers in the water. The waves are perfect for beginner to intermediate surfers. The beach is not only larger than Bondi, but also generally less crowded. You’ll find a more laid-back vibe here compared to other beaches like Bondi or Coogee.

Manly is located northeast of Sydney Harbour and is one of the two endpoints of the Manly Ferry. The best way to get to Manly Beach from Sydney Harbour is via the Manly Ferry, which is a scenic 20-minute ride one way.

Manly Beach

Manly Beach | Best Things to Do in Sydney

33. The Spit to Manly Walk

The Spit to Manly walk is one of the most famous treks in the Sydney area. This 10km (6.2 mile) adventure is filled with a variety of breathtaking lookouts and beaches. The trail begins at the Spit Bridge, which is located about 10 km north of Sydney’s CBD (Central Business District) and ends directly east, at the quaint beach suburb of Manly.

This walk is longer than the Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk, but the I think the views are better on the Spit to Manly Walk and the ferry ride to get here is filled with spectacular views of Sydney.

Spit to Manly

Spit to Manly walk


Spit to Manly Walk

Spit to Manly Walk

34. Hyper Karts

Looking for a fun thrill ride in Sydney? Look no further than Hyper Karting, an electric go-kart experience in Moore Park. The track is located in a remodeled parking garage, where riders race electric go-karts along a 400m track. Full of twists and turns, a race here amongst family or friends is a fun experience for those of all ages.

Getting here from downtown Sydney is effortless. You can take the light-rail or the bus, and both are a 20-minute ride south. It’s recommended to book in advance as time slots can fill up fast.


Hours: Open daily from 7:00 am-12:00 am
Cost: Prices range from ADU $19-59, depending on the time of day. Learn more here.

35. Go Skydiving

Jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet isn’t a normal way to have “fun”. Falling through the sky with nothing but a backpack with some rolled-up fabric may seem mind-numbingly dangerous to most people. However, for the few that are unwilling to live without experiencing such thrills, you may find yourself booking a skydiving trip while in Sydney.

Australia features some of the best skydiving in the world, due in part to its natural coastal beauty, high safety ratings, and an expert staff.

There are world-class locations to skydive here, from Sydney to Byron Bay and even up to Cairns. I had the pleasure of losing my skydiving virginity with Sydney Skydivers, and the entire experience was legendary.

Words cannot describe the rush of adrenaline as you take the leap from the plane and begin to fall back towards Earth. I found it to be surprisingly peaceful up in the air, with extraordinary views that stretched on for miles in every direction.

If looking to skydive while in Sydney, I recommend Sydney Skydivers. Their staff was extremely friendly and highly qualified, and they were quick and efficient with the check-in process. I never once was worried about my safety. The only thing I could think about was wanting to do it again!

Tyler Before Skydiving

Tyler Skydiving Australia

Learn more about what to expect, get recommendations on companies, and watch my experience from start to finish in our Guide to Skydiving in Sydney.

36. Sydney Cricket Ground

The Sydney Cricket Ground is used for cricket, Australian rules football, and occasionally for rugby. One of the best things to do in Sydney is to attend a cricket match or footy game here. You can also take a tour of this historic stadium.

Get more information about upcoming events here.

37. Vivid Sydney

If you are lucky enough to be in Sydney from the end of May through mid-June, you can witness the annual light festival in Sydney. For 23 days and nights, live music performances and 3D light projections transform the city center.

Most of the exhibits are free to visit and seeing the colorful light show projected onto the Sydney Opera House is one of the highlights. Our photo is from Vivid Sydney in 2015.

Learn more about Vivid Sydney on the official website.

Vivid Sydney

38. Eat & Drink at Sydney’s Best Bars and Restaurants

One of the best things to do in Sydney is to visit its long list of world class bars and restaurants.

Maybe Sammy is our favorite bar in Sydney. In 2022 and 2023, this bar made the World’s 50 Best Bars list. The bartenders are entertaining and the cocktails are creative and unique. For the best experience, get a seat at the bar.

Other bars that we love are Apollonia, the Baxter Inn, the Glenmore Hotel, Grain at the Four Seasons, the Opera Bar, and the Bar at Oncore by Clare Smyth.

Some of our favorite restaurants include Nomad, Lumi, Sokyo, Café Sydney, and Icebergs.

For more information on where to eat and drink in Sydney, take a look at our article 20 Restaurants and Bars to Try in Sydney.

Maybe Sammy

Maybe Sammy


Cafe Sydney

Cafe Sydney

39. Take a Day Trip to the Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are located in New South Wales to the west of Sydney.

With sandstone cliffs, hiking trails that lead to towering waterfalls and viewpoints, cable car and gondola rides, and views of unique rock formations, the Blue Mountains are a joy to explore.

This is one of the best day trips from Sydney. Learn more in our Guide to the Blue Mountains and How to Spend One Day in the Blue Mountains.

Blue Mountains Three Sisters

The Blue Mountains

40. Take a Day Trip to Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s major wine regions. Located north of Sydney, this is a popular day trip destination. To get here from Sydney, it takes about two and a half hours by car. You can rent a car and do the day trip on your own or take a tour from Sydney that handles your transportation.

Best Things to Do in Sydney: On a Map

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Best Things to Do in Sydney: Our Recommendations

Top 10 Experiences in Sydney

Here are the top 10 things to do in Sydney if it is your first time in the city:

  • See the Sydney Opera House
  • Stroll across Harbour Bridge
  • Visit Bondi Beach
  • Do a coastal walk
  • Have dinner with a view of the Opera House and harbor
  • The Sydney Tower Eye
  • Ride the ferry and visit Taronga Zoo
  • Explore The Rocks and Circular Quay
  • Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair
  • Luna Park

10 Best Free Things to Do in Sydney

  • Walk across the Harbour Bridge
  • Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens
  • Enjoy the view from Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair
  • Stroll along Circular Quay to the Opera House
  • Go window shopping in the QVB and the Strand
  • Visit Bondi Beach*
  • Walk from Coogee to Bondi*
  • Walk from Spit to Manly*
  • Watsons Bay*
  • St. Mary’s Cathedral

The items with the asterisk are free to do but you will pay a small fee for transportation to get to them.

As a bonus, one of the best cheap things to do in Sydney is to ride the ferry for views of Sydney Harbour.

10 Best Things to Do in Sydney with Kids

  • Visit the Taronga Zoo
  • Walk from Coogee to Bondi or Spit to Manly
  • Spend some time on one of Sydney’s beaches
  • Take surfing lessons
  • Visit Luna Park
  • Visit the Australian National Maritime Museum
  • The Sydney Tower Eye
  • The Sydney Bridge Climb (for kids 8 and older)
  • Day trip to the Blue Mountains
  • Go hyperkarting (older kids)

If you have any questions about the best things to do in Sydney, or if you want to share your favorite experiences, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Australia

SYDNEY: Don’t miss our guides to 20 great restaurants and bars in Sydney, the best beaches in Sydney, the Sydney Bridge Climb, the Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk, and where to stay in Sydney.

SYDNEY ITINERARIES: Learn how to plan your time with our One Day in Sydney itinerary, 2 Days in Sydney Itinerary, our 3 Days in Sydney Itinerary, and our 4 Days in Sydney Itinerary.

BLUE MOUNTAINS: Get started with our article Best Things to Do in the Blue Mountains and learn how to spend one day in the Blue Mountains. We also have a guide on how to visit Scenic World, how to hike the Wentworth Falls Track Loop, and a detailed trail guide for the Grand Canyon Track.

MELBOURNE: Melbourne is one of our favorite cities in Australia. Learn about the Best Things to Do in Melbourne and get a recap of our experiences here.

ULURU: In our Guide to Uluru and Kata-Tjuta, learn how to get here, what to do, and how to plan your time. We also have information on a great hike in Kings Canyon and a recap of our experience in the Red Centre of Australia.

MORE CITIES AROUND THE WORLD: Visit more cities around the world with our guides to Rome, Paris, New York City, London, Barcelona, and Athens.


Read all of our articles about Australia in our Australia Travel Guide.


Best Things to Do in Sydney Australia


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Comments 6

  1. Avatar for Justin

    Great guide of things to do in Sydney. This is Justin from Local Sauce Tours, we run a bunch of food, bar and walking tours around Sydney – shame we didn’t get to host you while you were here in 2023! If you ever feel like updating the guide, our award-winning Chinatown food and stories tour would also be a good inclusion for #28, or our secret bar crawl is another fun way to visit some of the latest and best new bars around town (#38). We’re on GetYourGuide as well in case you wanted to link directly to there 🙂

    1. Avatar for Julie
      1. Avatar for Justin
        1. Avatar for Julie

          That sounds wonderful! Tyler just qualified for the Ironman 70.3 Championships in Taupo, NZ this December. If things work out with his finals, he may be revisiting NZ and Sydney later this year! Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Madison Shepherd
    Madison Shepherd

    Hi! Do you have the Blue Mountains guide yet? Heading there next week and am undecided on how to get there from Bondi. (Nervous to rent a car and drive on the left, but weary about the long public transport time). I follow your guides religiously! LOVED your hiking guide in Jaun, Switzerland most.

    1. Avatar for Julie

      Hello Madison. Unfortunately, no, we don’t have that published yet. We rented a car to get out to the Blue Mountains, which was also useful to get to some viewpoints and hiking trails that the bus doesn’t get to. To get out there, you will drive on a highway for most of the time, but you will have to do some driving in Sydney (depending on where you pick up the car) and around the Blue Mountains. The other way to get to the Blue Mountains is by train and then use the public bus to get around. I’m sorry we don’t have our guides published yet. Currently we are in Portugal with about a week to go. Once home, I’ll resume publishing our Australia and New Zealand content plus Portugal. Cheers, Julie

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