Top Things to See and Do in Sydney, Australia

Sydney sits pretty on Australia’s southeastern coast in the state of New South Wales (NSW). As the country’s most populated city, Sydney offers all the comforts and excitement of a bustling metropolis, as well as the history and charm of colonial Australia. To make a comparison, it’s like the “Boston down under.” In this article, we will explore the top things to see and do in Sydney, Australia – a gorgeous urban sprawl on the South Pacific Ocean.

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With all the culture, dining, adventure, and leisure activities, it is no wonder why Sydney attracts over 3 million international travelers each year!

 

Getting There

There are several direct flights to Sydney from all over world. We like using House of Travel to see the latest flight deals. They also have a great blog with tons of information and tips about traveling to Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and more. Below are some airlines that fly nonstop to Sydney.

  • Nonstop flights from North America: Dallas to Sydney on Qantas; Honolulu to Sydney on Hawaiian; Los Angeles to Sydney on Delta; San Francisco to Sydney on United; Vancouver to Sydney on Air Canada.
  • Nonstop flights from Middle East/ Asia: Doha to Sydney on Qatar Airways (beginning March 2016); Singapore to Sydney on Singapore Airlines; Dubai to Sydney on Emirates or Qantas.
  • Nonstop flights from New Zealand: Aukland to Sydney on Jetstar; Wellington to Sydney on Air New Zealand.

Best Time to Go

Australia’s peak tourist season is during its warmer months (December to February). Low season is May through August. Therefore, the best time to visit Sydney is during the shoulder season when the weather is pleasant – late September to early December.

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Top Things to See and Do in Sydney, Australia

The Rocks

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The Rocks is Sydney’s colonial neighborhood. It has an eclectic mix of art galleries, museums, historical buildings, boutiques, and open-air markets located along Sydney Harbour. The Rocks Markets take place every Saturday and Sunday 10 AM – 5PM. Here you’ll find handmade jewelry, clothing, art, beauty products, and more along Playfair Street, George Street, and Jack Mundey Place. The Rocks Friday Food Market takes place every Friday from 9AM – 3PM along Jack Mundey Place. It’s a fantastic place to come sample international dishes like Indian roti, Turkish gozleme (flatbread), gourmet chocolate, and more…

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The Rocks is Sydney’s colonial neighborhood. It has an eclectic mix of art galleries, museums, historical buildings, boutiques, and open-air markets located along Sydney Harbour. The Rocks Markets take place every Saturday and Sunday 10 AM – 5PM. Here you’ll find handmade jewelry, clothing, art, beauty products, and more along Playfair Street, George Street, and Jack Mundey Place. The Rocks Friday Food Market takes place every Friday from 9AM – 3PM along Jack Mundey Place. It’s a fantastic place to come sample international dishes like Indian roti, Turkish gozleme (flatbread), gourmet chocolate, and more…

See also
South Indian Cuisine at Malabar Restaurant in Sydney

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To best appreciate Sydney’s historic district, I highly recommend the free Rocks Walking Tour offered every day at 6PM. Tours start in front of Cadman’s Cottage in Circular Quay. It’s one of my favorite things to do in Sydney, Australia!

If you plan to sightsee on your own, download the free Walking the Rocks App from iTunes.

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Named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being one of the architectural wonders of the 20th century, the Sydney Opera House remains one of the world’s most iconic landmarks and unmistakable symbol of Australian culture. Situated at the tip of the Bennelong Point peninsula in Sydney Harbour, it can be seen for miles by land and sea.sydney-australia-opera-house-architecture-davidsbeenhere

The Sydney Opera House was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and took 16 years to build (1957 – 1973). The building is meant to resemble the sails of a ship – an ode to the nautical history of the Sydney Harbour. There are several tours given daily in a variety of languages. Even if you decide not to take a tour or watch a performance, seeing the Sydney Opera House from the outside is still a remarkable sight.

Royal Botanic Gardens sydney-australia-royal-botanic-gardens-davidsbeenhere

Like Central Park in New York City, Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens provide a lush and tranquil escape for the citizens of Sydney. There are currently 17 gardens within the park – each with plants from different climates and regions around the world. Two of my personal favorites are the Oriental Garden and the Palace Rose Garden. There are free guided walks available, as well as the Scenic Train tour by Choo Choo Express. I recommend passing through the gardens on your way to/ from Potts Point and the Harbour, sort of like a scenic shortcut. Walk along the water for magnificent views of the east side of the Sydney Opera House. Entry to the gardens is free.

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Be warned: when the sun sets, the resident fruit bats leave the tree canopies in droves in search of nectar and fruits. At first, you may think they’re birds but they are indeed bats – and are completely harmless. If you are after some flowers of your own while you’re in Sydney, check out Flowers Across Sydney.

See also
A Historic Stay in Sydney, Australia: The Russell Hotel

Sydney Fish Market

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The Sydney Fish Market is an exciting experience for people of all ages and visiting is one of the top things to do in Sydney, Australia. Even if you don’t plan to purchase the inventory, it’s a great way to see the bounty of Australia’s Pacific Coast up close. Vendors sell fresh-caught tuna, oyster, octopus, crab, prawns, sea snails, scallops, and more. Over 14,500 tons of seafood comes through the market annually of which over half is harvested in NSW. The Sydney Fish Market is also the perfect opportunity for visitors to sample the seafood at one of the waterside restaurants. The market offers cooking classes at its famous Seafood School, which is a great alternative to dining out (approximately $450 AUD for a group of 6).

The Sydney Fish Market is open Monday – Thursday 7AM to 4PM and Friday – Sunday 7AM to 5 PM.

Taronga Zoo

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Australia is home to a unique variety of flora and fauna, but it’s perhaps best known for its unique marsupial species. If you’re like me, you can’t possibly leave Sydney without seeing the amazing native creatures from down under like wallabies, kangaroos, Tazmanian devils, wombats, and the endangered bilby. Taronga Zoo boasts over 4,000 animals in more than 50 exhibits.

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Taronga Zoo is just 12 minutes from Sydney by ferry from Circular Quay (along the way you’ll get fantastic views of the Sydney Opera House). Ferries leave every half hour. The zoo is open 7 days a week and price is $46 AUS for adults and $26 AUS for children 4-15 years old. When I visited, I took the Wild Australia Experience Tour, which was guided by a zookeeper. I was able to pose with the koalas, go behind-the-scenes to feed the animals, and touch some of the animals (cost: $129 AUS per person). I highly recommend this tour!

Watsons Bay 

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As one of Australia’s oldest fishing villages, Watsons Bay is a harbor-side suburb popular with beachgoers, families, and those looking to get a break from city life and appreciate the sea breeze and charming small-town feel. Visitors will enjoy sweeping views of the Sydney Harbour, beautiful beaches, rows of quaint wooden houses, and plenty of marked walking paths with picture-perfect viewpoints.

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I recommend spending an afternoon here, and bringing comfortable walking shoes and a hat if you plan to walk to the lighthouse. Do try to eat at Doyles Restaurant, which is right next to the ferry wharf. Aside from the delicious seafood, Doyles has a stellar wine selection and is great for kids too.

See also
French Dining at Tastevin Bistro and Wine Bar in Sydney

Potts Point

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Tree-lined streets lined with 1920s Art Deco mansions makes Potts Point one of Sydney’s most charming suburbs. This trendy district is home to some of the city’s most sought-after real estate, as well as stylish boutiques, gourmet dining, and popular coffee shops. Often called the “Manhattan of Sydney,” Potts Point is sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and features a thriving café culture. Stop into one of the many bakeries or coffee shops, or stick around after dark for delectable array of restaurants with cuisines from around the world. Just stroll the sidewalk and stop into whichever restaurant or pub catches your eye. Trust me, there are plenty. If you’re staying in Potts Point and don’t want to pay taxi fares every time you want to get to the harbor/ Central Business District, take the McElhone Stairs down into the center of the city. From the top are great views of the CBD skyline.

Sydney Tower Eye SKYWALK

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Doing the SKYWALK at the Sydney Tower Eye is an unforgettable experience for everyone! The Sydney Tower Eye, also known simply as the “Sydney Tower,” has a height of 309 meters (1,013 feet). When it opened in 1981 it was the fourth-tallest building in the world, and although its since been surpassed, it still holds the title for being the tallest building in Sydney.

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Visiting the observation deck is a must for unparalleled 360-degree views of the city and its surroundings. But if standing behind glass isn’t enough excitement for you, I recommend going on the SKYWALK tour – where you can walk outdoors on a glass platform at 268 meters (879 feet) above sea level. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and is perfectly safe thanks to safety gear and tethering straps. Your guide will give you detailed commentary on what you can see in every direction – from the Blue Mountains to the west and Botany Bay to the south.

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The cost to do the SKYWALK is $70 AUS or $50 AUS when you purchase your ticket online. The Sydney Tower Eye is in the Westfield Shopping Centre, at the corner of Pitt Street and Market Street in the heart of Sydney’s retail precinct. Head up to Level 5 and follow the signs from the food court.

Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge sydney-australia-sydney-harbour-bridge-davidsbeenhere

For something more extreme than SKYWALK, there’s the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. Guided tours take visitors up the Harbour Bridge to 134 meters (440 feet) above sea level for epic views of the city and the harbor. Tours are offered at different times of the day: dawn, dusk, day, or night. Prices vary depending on the time you choose but the range is $228 to $363 AUS per person. It’s a true urban adventure and is one of my personal favorite things to do in Sydney, Australia.

See also
Sydney’s Most Exciting New Restaurant & Bar: The Rabbit Hole Bar & Dining

Bondi Beach

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Visiting Bondi Beach is another of the things you must do when in Sydney, Australia – the laid-back beach culture and gorgeous scenery just a part of its appeal. Whether you plan to swim in the turquoise waters, do the coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach, or go shopping at the local boutiques, Bondi is a wonderful place to spend the day – somewhere you can shop, drink, eat, and swim to your heart’s content all while taking in the warm sea breeze.

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A fantastic restaurant that has great tapas-style dishes and great cocktails is Bondi Hardware. When I visited Bondi Beach there was a seaside gallery set up along the costal walk called Sculpture by the Sea – a free annual public event that exhibits sculptures along the way from Bondi to Tamarama Beach. The sculptures are by artists from Australia and across the world. Sculpture by the Sea takes place every year at the end of October.

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The suggestions above are in no way the only things to see and do in Sydney! The city has several districts and amazing things to experience. Other “musts” include dining out in the Darlinghurst area, checking out family-friendly activities in Darling Harbour, and taking a wine tasting day tour of the nearby Hunter Valley. The list is virtually endless!

Where to Stay

It’s not a secret – Sydney is not a cheap destination to visit. There are a wide range of hotels to choose from, so I’ll only suggest the ones I am familiar with. I am a sucker for boutique hotels, so I seek them out when traveling. The Harbour Rocks Hotel is a charming luxury hotel in The Rocks. It has just 59 rooms and is located walking distance from the Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay ($250 – $330 per night).

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Another great boutique property that I enjoyed very much is the Simpsons Hotel in Potts Point. Although a bit removed from the major attractions, this Victorian mansion from the 1800s features large guestrooms and over 40 restaurants within a five-minute walk. Prices start at $180 USD per night.

 

Have you ever been to Australia? Leave us a comment below with your recommendations for top things to see and do in Sydney?

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  1. Nice post…thanks for sharing such a valuable and informative blog….

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