As Australia’s largest city (and arguably its most beautiful), there really are an insane number of things to do in Sydney— so much so that it can be downright overwhelming to know where to explore first. I lived in Sydney for almost 7 years, during which time I was constantly ticking off local favourites and hidden gems, falling more in love with this city with every coastal walk, beautiful view, and OTT brunch.
It’s taken me a long time to amass this list since I wanted to personally visit and experience everything I recommended, but it’s finally complete and I can’t wait to share it! Whether you’re in town for a single day or an entire year, here are 80 of my very favourite things to do in and around Sydney.
Winding past Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly & Coogee Beaches, the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is the absolute best way to explore some of Sydney’s most popular beaches and a must-do during your time in the city. This stunning 6km walk is relatively flat and mostly on paved footpaths, but it’s still wonderful to get outside and enjoy that sun and salty air.
The Sydney Opera House is a true Aussie icon, its white sails instantly recognisable around the world, so it’s no wonder that visiting the Opera House is one of the best things to do in the city. You can get wonderful views of the building from The Rocks, Circular Quay, or the Pylon Lookout, and you then can walk right up its steps for a more personal perspective. You can even explore inside the Opera House on a guided tour or attend a concert or show.
My favourite thing about Sydney is its extremely close proximity to stunning national parks, the most impressive of which is the Royal National Park just 30min south of the city. Not only is this national park the second oldest in the world, but it also boasts an incredible variety of hiking trails, secluded beaches, and picnic spots. Even without a car, it’s possible to explore some of the RNP’s scenic coastline by taking the train to Bundeena or Otford and walking along the well-maintained tracks!
Popular with Sydneysiders and tourists alike, Bondi Icebergs Club might be home to the most beautiful saltwater pools you’ve ever seen. Even as a non-member, it’s possible to enjoy a dip ($12) or go for lunch/drinks at the club, looking out over bustling Bondi Beach. This is also the start of the lovely Bondi to Coogee Walk, which makes it an even more essential stop on your trip.
Nearby, the Bronte Rock Pools are the perfect blend of sheltered, relaxed swimming and salty Pacific perfection. The surf can absolutely pump in Sydney, so the pools are a great way to cool off without being whisked out to sea.
Once a hidden gem known only to locals and now one of the most insta-famous spots in Sydney, the Figure 8 Pools in the Royal National Park are almost too perfect to believe. It’s extremely important to check the tide times before walking out onto the rock shelf and ONLY attempt visit during low tide, as several visitors have actually been swept out to sea and died all for the sake of a photo. With adequate planning, though, this is an incredibly special place that will truly blow your mind! For completely empty pools like this photo, I’d recommend visiting mid-week during autumn or winter (expect to share the pools with 100+ people in summer).
For a peaceful, sheltered swim with a view of the Sydney skyline, head out to Camp Cove near Watsons Bay. There is a little kiosk here selling snacks and drinks, or Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel (with killer cocktails and great seafood) is only a short walk away.
This heritage-listed park in the centre of Sydney is a great way to escape the concrete jungle, enjoying a picnic lunch or reading a book in the shade before heading back out to explore more of this bustling city.
9 | Visit Palm Beach for amazing views
For one of the best views in all of Sydney, head north to Palm Beach (which you may recognise as Home & Away‘s Summer Bay) and tackle the quick 1km walk up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse. You can grab a quick bus from the CBD or hire a car if you want to explore more of the surrounding area.
Dramatically chiselled by the wind and sand, the sea cliffs in Royal National Park at Wattamolla are absolutely stunning and one of my favourite places to explore. Walk along the coast and discover the many waves and towers that have been carved into the sandstone, and then make your way down to nearby Wattamolla Beach for a dip.
If you fancy a more sophisticated outing, head up to Mosman in northern Sydney for extravagant high tea with a knock-out view at Gunners’ Barracks. It’s a bit of a splurge at $55, but the selection of savoury nibbles and tiny baked goods is absolutely divine.
12 | Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
BridgeClimb is definitely one of the most popular tourist attractions (with a $318 price tag to match), but you simply can’t beat this view of Sydney and its great coastal sprawl from the top of the Harbour Bridge itself. The experience takes either 2.5 or 3.5hrs depending on your package and features just as much interesting history about the construction of the Harbour Bridge as it does incredible views of the Opera House, North Sydney, and even the Blue Mountains in the distance.
13 | Discover eclectic cuisines of the world at Radio Cairo
Serving up flavourful food from Southern Africa, India, South America, the Caribbean, Mexico, Northern Africa, and everywhere in between, the best way to enjoy this AMAZING restaurant in Mosman is to order a bunch of sharing plates and try a bit of everything. And even though this is definitely a place designed for the adventurous, there’s plenty on the menu to satisfy pickier palates (mum loved the chicken tajine). Don’t even get me started on the wine list or the cocktails, just go!
14 | Hang out at Manly Beach
This popular spot in Sydney’s Northern Beaches is known for its perfectly golden sand, cool cafes and bars, trendy shops, and a high concentration of fit people running along the coastline at all hours. Try Glasshouse, a trendy gin & tonic bar on the rooftop of the historic Hotel Steyne. Walking from Spit Bridge to Manly is a great way to explore this upscale suburb, or you can catch a ferry from Circular Quay, which is a must-do Sydney experience in its own right!
Located farther into the Blue Mountains than typical tourist hot-spots Katoomba and Leura, Jenolan Caves is an awesome place to spend a rainy day, doing something totally different like exploring an underground network of caves. There are nearly a dozen show caves open to the public, each with their own unique features and incredible formations, but Orient Cave ($47) is a definite favourite.
This beautiful lagoon near Jenolan Caves looks so blue you’ll swear it’s been photoshopped. In combination with the bright green palms lining each bank and the lush foliage on the far side, this spot is simply magical and one of my new favourite places in the Blue Mountains. If you are patient, you might even spot one of the shy platypus that live here!
South of the city, the serpentine Sea Cliff Bridge winds along the coastline and makes for one of the best drives in NSW. Even if you’re not driving, though, it’s possible to hike up a short (and very hidden) trail to get incredible panoramic views of the coastline. Be sure to pack appropriate shoes and give the edge a wide berth, as the trail is super sketchy and people have actually died here recently. Be cautious and hike at your own risk!
18 | Discover the world’s whitest sand at Hyams Beach
Jervis Bay is home to some of the best beaches in all of Australia, and Hyams Beach is its crown jewel. Hyams even holds the official title of World’s Whitest Sand, and although it’s a mystery how Guinness World Records compared “whiteness of sand” across all the world’s beaches, you’ll stop wondering as soon as you set eyes on this impossibly white stretch of fine, squeaky sand that at times looks more like baking flour. You’ll need to drive about 3hrs south of Sydney to get here, but it’s totally worth the trip!
Sydney’s historic harbour-front district springs to life on the weekends with a bustling food and craft market, but even on weekdays there is plenty to explore in The Rocks. For starters, it offers some of the best views of the Opera House across the water, as well as the opportunity to walk right underneath the Harbour Bridge. For dinner, be sure to check out El Camino Cantina or Zia Pina.
20 | Spit Bridge to Manly Walk
This 10km walk has none of the crowds of the Bondi to Coogee walk, but all of the unreal scenery (plus a heap of secluded beaches). The trail is undemanding and utterly captivating, with excellent opportunities to take a break and set up on the sand at Shell Cove or Clontarf Beach. You’ll quickly see what all the fuss is about when it comes to the Northern Beaches!
For a spectacular encounter with the many Humpback Whales who migrate between Antarctica and Queensland twice yearly, join a whale watching cruise from Darling Harbour or the Man O’ War Steps in Circular Quay. June-August is the absolute best time to spot humpbacks around Sydney, as the whales have their most frequent surface intervals during this leg of the journey and utilise a northerly current within a few kilometres of the coast to help in their long migration. Check out Groupon for deals from $35.
Originally built in 1935, this heritage-listed amusement park on the Lower North Shore has become a Sydney icon. The park has all the classic rides and even traditional fair food like fairy floss— the perfect place to relive your childhood!
23 | Go camping with wallabies in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
The Basin campground in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is a fantastic place to escape the city buzzfor those that don’t have a car. Plus, the campground is home to dozens of adorable wallabies! Take a bus to Palm Beach and then catch a ferry directly to the campground for $16.40 (return); tickets can be purchased from the Fantasea ticket office directly across from the wharf in Palm Beach.
This popular beach in the eastern suburbs marks the end of the Bondi to Coogee walk and is a great place to hang out for the afternoon. I don’t love how crowded the beach itself is, but the nearby Coogee Pavilion and Coogee Bay Hotel both have incredible views and awesome lunch/cocktail menus.
One of the best views you’ll find in the entire city is from the back of a Sydney Ferry! Boats run from Circular Quay to Rose Bay and Manly Beach (among other destinations) and are part of the public transportation network, meaning you can use your Opal card and even score $2.70 rides on Sundays.
26 | Hike the 30km Royal Coast Track
The absolute best way to explore the wild and beautiful coastline of Royal National Park is on the 30km Royal Coast Track from Otford to Bundeena. This walk can be tackled in a single day or split into two by camping at North Era Beach, and it incorporates all of the main highlights of the RNP, including Eagle Rock, Figure 8 Pools, Wedding Cake Rock, and Little Marley Beach.
The undisputed best spot for drinks with a view in Sydney is located right on the Harbour, directly below the Opera House. The drinks at Opera Bar are shockingly expensive, but you’re paying for the location and it’s 100% worth it. The best time to visit is in the middle of the afternoon, as the bar will be less crowded and you’ll have a better chance of scoring a prime spot and getting some great photos!
Nestled between a lush escarpment and golden beaches, Wollongong is a seriously underrated (but fantastic) destination about 90min south of Sydney, easily reached by train. Recent years have seen this former coal region blossom into a vibrant student town that attracts a variety of young creatives and surfers to its pristine shores, now overflowing with great restaurants, trendy bars, boutique festivals, and plenty of natural beauty.
Read more: COMING SOON
29 | Visit the Art Gallery of NSW
This art gallery located at the back end of the Royal Botanic Gardens is one of the largest in Australia, showcasing an enormous collection of art from both local and international artists. Entry to the Art Gallery of NSW and most of its exhibitions is free, but some high profile exhibits might require tickets, so check out the website to see what’s on.
30 | Explore the wonderful Blue Mountains National Park
This brunch spot has truly become a Sydney icon in recent years and is actually so much more than just good food. Situated in a drab, industrial part of town, The Grounds has become a place where people can escape the concrete jungle and find natural beauty right in the middle of the city. Sit down and enjoy brunch with friends, grab a donut and lemonade from the stalls throughout, or just wander through the urban oasis that is The Grounds of Alexandria; either way, it is truly unlike anything else and one of the best ways to start your day in Sydney.
32 | Admire Sculptures by the Sea
For 3 weeks every Spring, the first 2km of the Bondi to Bronte walk are transformed into the world’s largest free sculpture park! More than 100 sculptures are installed along the coast, designed by Australian and international artists, and it’s an awesome way to experience east Sydney’s iconic beaches and cliffs in a new way.
If you’ve already visited a dozen beaches around Sydney and are looking for something a bit different, head inland to adorable Kangaroo Valley and spend a day bushwalking or mingling with local wildlife. Three Views Walking Track is a personal favourite, with amazing views over the trees and lakes. Afterwards, be sure to stop by Bendeela Camping Reserve (even if you aren’t camping) to meet the dozens of friendly wombats who live in the paddock.
34 | Visit Cronulla Beach
South Sydney’s most upscale beach suburb, Cronulla, is off the main tourist track, but an absolutely awesome way to enjoy the ocean without the crowds of Bondi. Not only are the beaches spectacular, there are dozens of awesome cafes and restaurants, so spend some time relaxing on the sand, swimming in the rock pools, or surfing.
35 | Wodi Wodi Track
One of the best day hikes around Sydney is Wodi Wodi Track in Coalcliff, also easily accessible by public transport. The main viewpoint of the walk is reached after only a few kilometres, but the full trek extends for 14km along the escarpment on the Forest Track.
36 | Go for a dip in Towradgi Pools
One of the best places to go swimming in the Illawarra is Towradgi Pools, located about 90min south of Sydney near Wollongong. There’s also an awesome cycle path that extends to North Beach and beyond, so you can enjoy this secluded stretch of coastline on two wheels after your swim.
Read more: COMING SOON
37 | Discover Eagle Rock
One of the most intriguing rock formations in the Royal National Park is this distinctly avian overhang in the cliffs near Curracurrang Cove. The 3.5km walk from Wattamolla is well-graded and quick, so this is the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch in nature!
Located right on the beach with sweeping views of the Sydney skyline, this bar is the absolute perfect place to watch the sunset and one of my favourite ways to spend a Sunday in the city. There are great nibbles to be had (try the crab sliders), but it’s the cocktail menu ($29 carafes to share!) that have made this place a fast-favourite among locals.
Any local will tell you that there are far better beaches than Bondi around Sydney and down the South Coast, but it’s still a popular spot for a reason. My favourite way to enjoy Bondi is to go for brunch in one of the awesome cafes along the water (try Preach cafe), walk along the art-covered walls at the back of the beach, and then take in the view from Bondi Icebergs. If you want to see the beach like it is in this photo, you’ll need to visit mid-week in the winter; otherwise, expect to share the sand with several thousand other people.
Just 2hrs south of Sydney, escape to the lush Minnamurra Rainforest for a bushwalk or to discover the beautiful Minnamurra Falls. The scenery is lovely and the shade truly makes this the best way to spend a scorching summer afternoon away from the city.
41 | Swim at Little Marley Beach
It’s not uncommon to enjoy this golden beach in the National park entirely to yourself, but the scenery on the approach may be just as beautiful as Little Marley itself, so take your time getting here. Fierce winds have carved wave-like patterns into the colourful rocks to create a truly unique coastal landscape, making this a great afternoon outing for those hoping to escape the bustle of the city without travelling too far.
This tiny but always popular cafe in Potts Point churns out some absolutely fantastic brunch in the city. You can’t go wrong with the Mediterranean breakfast, perfectly prepared in their comically small kitchen right in front of you.
43 | Climb up to Sublime Point
If you still haven’t gotten enough of the insanely beautiful coast, head south of Sydney to Austinmer for a short but somewhat demanding hike up to Sublime Point. It’s also possible to drive straight to the viewpoint if you’re short on time or worried about the climb, but it’s absolutely more rewarding if you’ve sweat the entire way to the top!
Not only is this 19th century heritage-listed building in the Sydney CBD absolutely beautiful, but it is chock-full of shops and cafes to explore!
45 | Meet Sumatran Tigers & other furry friends at Taronga Zoo
I’m not normally one to recommend zoos, but Sydney’s world-renowned Taronga Zoo is genuinely something special. Your $42 ticket contributes to significant conservation efforts, the most recent of which is the critically-endanger Sumatran Tiger; experts believe that there are only 400 of these beautiful cats left in the world. There are truly no words to describe the feeling of locking eyes with an animal this powerful and majestic, so you’ll just have to experience it for yourself.
The Kirribilli Markets are one of Sydney’s oldest and very best markets, featuring more than 200 stalls brimming with crafts, vintage clothes, books, jewellery, food, and even the occasional wine tasting stall (say no more!). The main market is held monthly on the 4th Saturday and the arts & fashion market is held on the 2nd Sunday, so it will require a bit of planning to fit this one into your itinerary, but you will not be disappointed if you do.
47 | Splash around at Clontarf Beach
This incredibly flat and sheltered beach in Sydney’s Northern Beaches has some of the most incredible water you’ve ever seen and is the perfect place to enjoy an afternoon swim without the crowds or the surf. If you’re walking from Spit Bridge to Manly, it’s also a great stop-off!
A hub of activity right on Sydney Harbour, Circular Quay is home to the Opera House, the historic Rocks, and heaps of great restaurants and shops. It’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself walking through at some point during your visit, amidst the sounds of buskers and didgeridoo players, as this main city train station and ferry wharf is the gateway to further adventures! Food can be pricey in this area, but the views are spectacular and so worth it.
Bald Hill in Stanwell Tops is one of the best coastal lookouts in the Illawarra, but also probably one of the most spectacular views you’re likely to find in all of Sydney. After a quick train ride, you can sit and enjoy the scenery on the grass or crank things up a notch by paying for a tandem paraglide over the scalloped coast with one of the many on-site operators.
For the adrenaline junkies out there, you can also sign up for a tandem skydive over the beach in Wollongong. Depending on your package, it includes return transport from Sydney ($299) and is an amazing way to see the coast from above (full disclosure, this photo is from skydiving in Namibia, but the thrill is the same!).
51 | Dine on the cliffs at Scarborough Hotel
Just a few hundred metres from Scarborough Station and about a 15min walk from Sea Cliff Bridge (south of Sydney), this pub overlooking the ocean is one of the best places to grab lunch and enjoy the scenery. It can be tricky to get a table on the weekends, so try eating outside of popular lunch hours or putting your name down before you visit Sea Cliff Bridge.
52 | Explore Sydney Harbour by kayak
Spend 2hrs paddling through scenic North Sydney, under the Harbour Bridge, and towards the Opera House for some truly spectacular and unique views of the city on a sunrise tour with Sydney by Kayak. Tickets are a bit spendy at $125/person, but the guides really go above and beyond to make your experience unforgettable, so you’ll find it well worth every dollar!
53 | Climb up the Pylon Lookout for great views of the Harbour
If you don’t have the funds to do the Bridge Climb that I recommended previously, the Pylon Lookout is an excellent alternative (or addition, since you’ll get free tickets when you do the Climb). It’s only $15 to get a bird’s-eye-view of the entire Quay from one of the south pylons on the Harbour Bridge, and there’s a pretty interesting exhibition displayed on the way up about the design and building process of the world’s largest steel arch bridge, an engineering feat that is truly no less impressive today than it was 90 years ago.
54 | See the city light up for Vivid Sydney
Every autumn, Sydney explodes in a festival of bright lights and enchanting colours, with the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the Rocks, and the Botanic Gardens all prime spots to enjoy the Vivid festivities. Artists design elaborate light shows that are projected up onto the buildings surrounding Circular Quay, often synchronised to music, and dozens of other art installations are spread throughout the city, as well. It’s pure magic.
This amazing Brazilian BBQ restaurant right on Darling Harbour cooks up the most incredible variety of meats and sides, all-you-can-eat for just $58. This is my very favourite place to go when I’m craving a big feed and a strong caipirinha, just make sure you come hungry!
56 | Take a day trip to Newcastle
As NSW’s second largest city, there is absolutely no shortage of things to do in sunny Newcastle (although it does often feel more like a little coastal town than a big city). Sydney and Newcastle are amazingly well-connected, so you can make the 2-2.5hr drive north yourself, catch cheap public transport, or take a Greyhound bus.
With the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and Sydney skyline serving as a picture-perfect backdrop, stroll from quaint and scenic Rose Bay to lively Watsons Bay on this 7km wharf-to-wharf walk. Taking a ferry across from Circular Quay (which is half of the fun anyway), a series of boardwalks and footpaths cut a path along the coast, dropping through tiny beaches like Queens Beach, which affords unbelievable city views, and Parsley Bay, a calm inlet absolutely calling out to be swam in.
Spend an afternoon or an evening wandering through Sydney’s sparkly Darling Harbour. This area has some great shopping, but it’s definitely known for its fantastic harbour-front restaurants. This is also an awesome place to enjoy the lights of Vivid or the NYE fireworks!
59 | Hike up to Mt. Keira Lookout for views of the Illawarra
This short hike up Wollongong’s Mt Keira, which starts just up the hill from the Uni, has gorgeous views of the coastline and all of the Illawarra. It’s a steep hike with a lot of stairs, but less than 1hr to the top where you can explore various viewpoints and walking trails on the summit.
For another great coastal walk within 45min of the city, catch a train to Cronulla and stroll 12km around the cape to Kurnell. You’re unlikely to see more than a couple other people on the trail and there are plenty of places for a cheeky dip along the way.
61 | Embrace your inner hipster in Newtown
Sydney’s trendiest inner-west suburb is full of thrift shops, tattoo parlours, funky bars, and hipsters— and it’s amazing! The best way to immerse yourself in Newtown’s grungy, bohemian vibes is to simply wander down King Street for several hours, popping into all the unique shops and admiring all the street art along the way. After hours, there’s also some awesome nightlife; try The Midnight Special.
62 | See a footy game at the SCG
If there’s one thing Australians love even more than beautiful beaches, it’s sport. Sydney Cricket Ground is one of the largest sports stadiums in the city and is regularly packed out during AFL, cricket, and rugby matches. Check out what’s on and book your tickets here.
63 | Indulge in bottomless sangria at Firefly
Every Friday, Saturday & Sunday afternoon, this Neutral Bay restaurant offers a 5-course banquet with unlimited watermelon Sangria for $60, and it’s every bit as exciting as it sounds. The food is pretty inventive, so bring your sense of adventure (but don’t worry, nothing too weird). And definitely book in advance, as it can get busy!
64 | Mingle with Australian animals at Symbio Wildlife Park
If you have your heart set on seeing koalas and kangaroos during your time in Sydney, one of the best places to interact with native wildlife is at Symbio just south of the city in Helensburgh. You’ll be able to meet koalas, feed kangaroos and wallabies, and discover other unique Australian animals in a less zoo-like environment.
65 | Go wine tasting in the Hunter Valley
Sydney’s premier wine region is only 2hrs north of the city, and the best way to experience the area is on a wine-tasting tour. Most tour operators will pick you up from a central Sydney location in the morning, drive you to the Hunter, and then visit 3-4 wineries before returning to the city in the evening. Shop around for a good tour deal— the best ones will include all of your tasting fees and lunch for around $150. Check Groupon for special deals, though, as tours are often discounted up to 50%!
66 | Uloola Falls Track
This great walk in the Royal National Park winds for 11km from Waterfall to Heathcote, both ends easily accessible by train. It’s a great morning bushwalk that could easily include a summer swim in the inviting Karloo Pools!
67 | Explore Wendy’s Secret Garden
To deal with the death of her artist husband, Wendy Whiteley made it her personal mission to clean up the land in front of her Lavender Bay home, transforming a rather ramshackle plot into an incredible garden that continues to attract visitors today. Wendy never got council approval for her project, but it is undoubtedly a highlight of the Lower North Shore and a wonderful place to explore while you’re in Sydney!
68 | Snorkel at Clovelly Beach
Clovelly Beach is one of my very favourite swimming spots in the city, conveniently located in the eastern suburbs just past Coogee. Either side of this inlet has been walled by concrete, and while concrete isn’t my favourite place to lay out on a towel, it’s amazing to jump right into the surprisingly refreshing water without having to wade in through pumping waves. Clovelly is actually known for its aquatic life, enormous Blue Gropers in particular, and the highly varied depth (from knee height to 5+ metre) makes it a great place to spend the afternoon snorkelling!
A little over 300m from the start of the Hermitage Foreshore Walk in Rose Bay is the tiny but nonetheless impressive Queens Beach. Despite having amazing views back onto the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney skyline, this beach is surprisingly empty and definitely one of the best in the city.
This delicious brunch place south of Sydney comes with an equally spectacular view of Cronulla Beach. My current breakfast obsession is jalapeño corn fritters with goat cheese, and they are quite nearly good enough to make you explode.
71 | Go crazy at the Sydney Royal Easter Show
The largest incarnation of a long-standing Australian Easter tradition, the Royal Sydney Easter Show is a spectacle like nothing I’ve ever seen before. For two full weeks over the Easter period, the Sydney Showground at Sydney Olympic Parkis transformed into a carnival of nausea-inducing rides, farm animals, food (mostly served deep-fried or on a stick), hundreds of market stalls, and even nightly fireworks.
Situated just southwest of Wollongong near Unanderra (and the famous Nan Tien Buddhist Temple), Mt Kembla rises even higher out of the escarpment than nearby Mt Keira. It also offers a slightly different view, looking out over the densely forested Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area and acting as the starting point for several of the short day-hikes around Mt Kembla, including the 6km Summit Track.
73 | Take a weekend trip up the coast to Forster, Port Stephens, or Port Macquarie
There are heaps of wonderful coastal towns with secluded beaches and unique experiences within a short bus ride or drive from Sydney, so head out of the city to discover even more reasons to love this beautiful part of the world. Some of my favourites spots are Forster, Port Stephens, and Port Macquarie, but check out this post for more suggestions and lots of information to help plan your getaway.
74 | Expand your mind at the Museum of Contemporary Art
Located in The Rocks on Circular Quay, the Museum of Contemporary Art is free gallery with a constantly-rotating display of thought-provoking artwork, in addition to some spectacular, if expensive, restaurants. Even if you’re not usually a “museum person”, it’s still fun to discover the weird and wonderful art on display at the MCA on a rainy afternoon!
Australia’s favourite gelato place has a number of locations around the city that all churn out inventive flavours like Robert Brownie Jr, Fairy Bread, Mango Pancake, and Code Red, plus all of the classics.
76 | Stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens
Sydney’s enormous, heritage-listed Royal Botanic Gardens are located just behind the Opera House and extend well into the city, providing a wonderful green space right in the CBD. There is always something on in the Gardens, but it’s even nice just to stroll around and admire some of the exotic plants.
77 | Go for drinks and golf at Holey Moley
If you are looking for something fun and different to do in Sydney, especially on a rainy afternoon or a chilly evening, go hit a few rounds of mini-golf at Holey Moley in Newtown or Potts Point. It also doesn’t hurt that the cocktails are amazing!
78 | Explore NSW’s stunning South Coast
Get even farther off the beaten path by hiring a car and exploring the South Coast, home to the best beaches in the state, some incredible national parks, and lots of native wildlife. My favourite spots are Kiama, Jervis Bay, Ulladulla, and Eden.
The Australian Museum is one of Sydney’s best, hosting a variety of internationally renowned historical, cultural, and scientific exhibitions. A few years ago, it was announced that the Australian Museum would even be getting the “largest and most impressive Tutankhamen exhibition ever to leave Egypt” for 6 months in 2021— it may be insanely far in advance at the time I’m writing this, but it is bound to be INCREDIBLE and is worth bookmarking for future reference!
Most travellers will arrive into Sydney via the Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport, which is about 10km out of the CBD. From here, you can either catch a train out to Central for $20 (because the airport line is privately owned) OR you can take the sneaky back-way: walk from the airport to Mascot Station (15min away) and catch the train into Central for the normal rate ($4).
Getting around Sydney
Public transport is a great way to explore Sydney, with frequent trains, buses, ferries, and a new lightrail line available to get you most anywhere you need to go. A typical ride on public transport is around $4-8, but if you’re in Sydney on a Sunday, you can take advantage of the $2.70 travel cap— travel as far as you want, all for less than three bucks (not including the airport).
The absolute best areas to stay in Sydney are The Rocks, Bondi Junction, Darling Harbour, North Sydney, and the CBD. These areas all have great access to public transport and are right in the middle of the action when it comes to sightseeing and great restaurants! I can highly recommend:
FOR BUDGET TRAVELLERS
Sydney Central YHA: Located about 100m from Central Station in the heart of Sydney, this is a lively hostel with great access to public transport and the best sights around Sydney. They even organise a number of events, like Aussie BBQs on the roof (which is how I tried Kangaroo for the first time) or pub crawls around the city. Dorm beds for $29; they also have private rooms, but they aren’t great value at $120+.
Wake Up: Also right next to Central Station, this hostel offers just about everything the YHA does, minus the rooftop pool. It’s also attached to Side Bar, which is a great backpacker/uni student bar that my housemates and I frequented while we were studying. Dorm beds for $34.
George Street Hotel: Basic centrally located hotel within walking distance of Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, and a heap of public transport. Private rooms for $50.
FORGET THE BUDGET
Meriton Suites Bondi Junction: A great option in the busy transit hub of Bondi Junction (about a 15min walk from Bondi Beach, but much better connected to the city). The apartments have great views and well-equipped kitchens, which means you can eat some of your meals in to save money for day trips! Rooms $150-200/night.
North Sydney Harbourview Hotel: Located just across the Harbour Bridge with an amazing view of the city, this is an excellent hotel within easy walking distance of the North Sydney train station. The perfect base for adventures up north! Rooms from $200-300/night.
Sofitel Darling Harbour: Located right on Sydney’s lively Darling Harbour, this is a great hotel with stunning views. Some of the city’s best restaurants are in this area and it’s lovely just to wander around in the evenings as Darling Harbour lights up. Rooms from $300-400/night.
Shangri-La Hotel: Fabulous upscale hotel in the historic Rocks area of Circular Quay. The best thing about this hotel is its rooftop bar and restaurant, affording insane views of the Harbour. Rooms $300-400/night.