Things to Do in Sydney
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 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.
What is now a popular destination for history buffs once served as a defense facility that kept watch over the bay. Fort Denison Island, located northeast of the Royal Botanic Gardens, was where some of the most gruesome acts against convicted felons took place.
Today, travelers can wander the grounds of this recently restored island and see the gibbet where criminals were hanged. Explore the fort built to protect the island from invaders and climb the historic Martello Tower, the only one of its kind in the country. The island is home to an informative museum, as well as a number of landmarks that illustrate its dark and violent past.
If you’re looking for adventure, phone accessories, strange herbs, delicious Chinese cuisine, or just want to visit a foreign country without leaving Sydney, then Chinatown is the place for you.
Located in Haymarket between Central Station and Darling Harbor, Chinatown is centered around Dixon Street, a pedestrian thoroughfare full of Chinese restaurants and shops. If you brave the unfamiliar signs, the labyrinths of stores and the enthusiastic street hawkers, you’re in for a rewarding experience.
The Sydney Chinatown is the country’s largest Chinatown, and the place to go for authentic Chinese food, especially if you’re looking for fried octopus balls, Dragon’s Beard Candy, freshly squeezed Sugar Cane Juice, Peking Duck or Tsing Tao.
Take your pick of buffet or a la carte dining atop the Sydney Tower Restaurant (formerly Sydney Centrepoint Tower). Australia’s tallest revolving restaurant is set more than 80 stories above central Sydney, with 360-degree panoramic views to accompany your dining experience.
The Sydney Tower Restaurant serves a buffet menu, with the choice including an array of salads, soup, appetizers, and international dishes from across the globe, from American BBQ chicken to Thai mussels, and roast kangaroo. Dessert might be mud cake and pavlova meringue. For an a la carte meal, the stylish 360 Bar and Dining specializes in Modern Australian fare like local seafood, free-range chicken, and truffle pasta. Sunset cocktails are a specialty at 360’s illuminated shell bar.
Sydney Fish Market is the largest working fish market in the Southern Hemisphere, even rivaling some of Japan’s biggest fish markets in the variety of seafood that’s traded every day. Not only does the market shift an incredible 52 tons of seafood per day, it also hosts a wide variety of restaurants, cafes and food retailers to ensure that visitors get to sample Australia’s freshest fish straight off the boat.
Open for breakfast, lunch or an early dinner, the fish market is the best spot to see and enjoy Australian seafood at affordable prices. You can either eat in or head to the wharf outside to enjoy a meal overlooking Blackwattle Bay.
The market is also home to one of Australia’s leading cooking schools: the Sydney Seafood School. It offers a wide range of classes for all levels and abilities and is suitable for those who simply want to brush up on their skills or become a bit more creative with adventurous seafood such as mollusks and crustaceans.
More Things to Do in Sydney
The famous wax museum, Madame Tussauds, with its incredibly life-like wax figures of famous people, can be found all over the world. Sydney was added to the list when this location opened its gates in 2012.
Australians and visitors from all over the world can take the opportunity to stand next to their favorite glitz and glamour star. From TV personalities, famous sport players, musicians, actors and A-List celebrities to world leaders, scientists and the key players in world history –the wax museum lets visitors meet a wide range of personalities from different fields and time periods.
In addition to international celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Barack Obama and Michael Jackson, Madame Tussauds in Sydney also makes an effort to include local personalities. The history zone is filled with founders and well-known names from the times of colonial Australia. In addition, next to Kylie Minogue, you can also find the stars of the Australian sports and media scene.
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.
This rocky 13-hectare island in the heart of Port Jackson is as rich in history as it is in sandstone. Once home to an explosives store and later a convict stockade, Goat Island has housed the Sydney Water Police and even served as a film set. What originally served as a destination for some of the nation’s biggest criminals (who were forced to labor in the massive quarries), is now part of Sydney Harbour National Park.
Popular walking tours guide travelers around this much-storied island, with stops at the Queens powder magazine (where ammunition was once stored) and at the old convict quarry and sleeping quarters. Learn about life on Goat Island, the punishments endured by prisoners and their attempts to escape.
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.
Australia is home to some of the world’s cutest and most dangerous animals – and you can find them all under one roof at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo. Housing hundreds of unique Aussie critters, the zoo takes you on an adventure trail through the many different habitats of Australia introducing you to the animals that live in each. You can expect to see kangaroos, koalas, wallabies and a family of adorable wombats, as well as the decidedly less cuddly snakes, spiders and crocodiles; including Rex, a huge saltwater croc.
You’ll gain a greater understanding of the sheer size and diversity of Australia’s animals and landscapes as you follow a trail through the Butterfly Tropics, Gumtree Valley, Daintree Rainforest, Wallaby Cliffs, Kangaroo Walk-About, Kakadu Gorge, Nightfall and Koala Encounters.
The continental city of Sydney offers travelers options that go beyond the strictly Aussie. The Chinese Garden of Friendship, modeled after the private gardens of the Ming Dynasty, is just one of the multicultural experiences this jewel by the sea has to offer.
Opened in 1988 and designed by Sydney’s sister city of Guangzhou, the garden is a nod to the Chinese culture and heritage that already exists in and around Darling Harbour. The lush gardens, tranquil ponds and scenic waterfalls pay homage to the friendship between Sydney and Guangzhou. Travelers can wander between ornamental pavilions and babbling brooks before settling lakeside to enjoy peaceful reflection. Hot tea and traditional dim sum are also served at the garden’s teahouse.
Located in bustling Circular Quay, historic Customs House stands on the spot where modern Australia was founded. This is the site where the famous First Fleet came ashore in 1788, to establish a British penal colony in a land very far away. When the building was constructed in 1845, it was built in a classically Georgian style that’s exceptionally well preserved today, and simply the exterior is a sight in itself in the middle of Circular Quay. All the way up until 1990, Customs House served as the Customs Service headquarters for anyone entering the country, but today is a popular public space for just lounging and killing some time. On the top story, a café looks out over Circular Quay and is a nice place for grabbing a coffee, while the Sydney Library and it’s 400,000 books are open for viewing below. There’s free wi fi throughout the building—which is somewhat of a rarity in Sydney—and there’s even a miniature replica of the city in a glass atrium in the floor.
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.
In 2000, Sydney Olympic Park hosted athletes from around the world, all of whom arrived hungry for gold. And while these games are now more than a decade behind us, this world-class facility still draws travelers and locals looking to experience the Olympic spirit. The park is made up of several venues like ANZ Stadium, Sydney Showground, Athletic Centre, Aquatic Centre and Sports Centre.
At the park, visitors can wander through the scenic stretches of well-kept boardwalk that winds through protected wetlands or settle the score in a match at the world-class tennis center. Bikes and Segways are available for hire, which makes exploring the grounds just a little more manageable. The Urban Jungle Adventure Park, with its high ropes course, is a popular stop for families and thrill-seekers, and weekend archery clinics help travelers hit the bull’s-eye. Travelers can explore the park solo or hire a guide for an in-depth Olympic experience.
Hyde Park is Australia’s oldest park and a welcoming green space in the heart of Sydney’s city center. Divided into northern and southern sections by Park Street, Hyde Park contains several important monuments and statues, themed gardens, water features, the Archibald fountain and the ANZAC Memorial Building and visitor center.
Although gazetted as a public park (common) in 1810 by Governor Macquarie and named after Hyde Park in London, today’s park was not recognizable in its current form until 1927, when architect and landscape artist Norman Weekes won a competition to beautify the area. Prior to this, the park was used as a sports field, a racecourse and a venue for bareknuckle fights! The tiled central avenue that cuts through the park from Macquarie Street to the ANZAC Memorial is lined with Hill’s Figs and is a lovely place to seek shade on a hot day.
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