Great things to do in Sydney

People on a sailing boat going past the Sydney Opera House and heading towards the Harbour Bridge
Go sailing around Sydney harbour. Photo: Tourism Australia
 

Sydney Harbour is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Australia. The harbour is a magical playground for children of all ages, whether you are 5, 45 or 85 years old. You can play by the water, on the water or in the water...and what a beautiful view!

  • Be sure to add a Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb to your bucket list. You climb to the very top of the bridge for the best views ever. Scaling the world-famous 'Coat-hanger' is one of the coolest things to do in Sydney, and it's completely safe. You wear a grey jumpsuit so that you blend in with the bridge (and don't cause any car accidents). You're attached to a safety harness before setting off on your adventure. Join the exclusive club where people of all ages climb Sydney harbour bridge and don't go to jail.
     

Group of people at the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge after doing a BridgeClimb
Make sure a Sydney BridgeClimb is on your bucket list. Photo: Tourism Australia
 
  • Do the free walk across Sydney harbour bridge to Milsons Point. There's a pedestrian walkway that takes you across the Sydney harbour bridge and it takes about 20 minutes to walk.  When you get to the other side, you'll find cool pubs, cafes, Luna Park and lots of parks and green space by the harbour.

  • Get on a boat and cruise around Sydney Harbour. (NOTE: If you're in Sydney between April and November, you just might get to do some whale watching as these gorgeous creatures head north to warmer waters.) Ways to enjoy Sydney harbour include:

    • Book a cruise. There's so many great cruise options to choose from, so book a tour that suits your time and budget. You'll enjoy great commentary, see iconic landmarks and the homes of the rich and famous. Any time of the day is perfect for a Sydney harbour cruise but sunset and dinner cruises are show Sydney in a whole new light - literally. 

    • Take a sailing adventure on Sydney Harbour. You can book a sailing tour, charter your own catamaran or sailing boat, or even learn to sail. Considering this is one of the most beautiful harbour's in the world, it would be a crime not to experience the wind on your face and the rush of the boat gliding through the water.  

    • Do a Hop-On-Hop-Off cruise and go island hopping in Sydney Harbour. You'll visit Fort Denison, Shark, Clark, Goat and Cockatoo Islands, which are a unique part of Sydney's history.
       

A tallship sailing on Sydney Harbour.
Go sailing on a tallship on Sydney Harbour. Photo: Tourism Australia
 

  • Catch a Sydney ferry. Sydneysiders love their ferries for commuting to and from work. Let's face it, what a great way to get to work! Catch a Sydney ferry to Manly, Taronga Zoo, or up Parramatta River. Ferries depart from Circular Quay.

  • Take an adrenaline-filled jet boat ride across Sydney Harbour. Your boat will do crazy twists, turns and fishtails as you zoom past the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Strap yourself in for this crazy but fun adventure.

  • Go kayaking under the Sydney harbour bridge. (OK - I know kayaks aren't strictly a boat, but they do float and you can go paddling on Sydney Harbour.) Kayak tours are a great way to glide around the harbour.
     

A group of people doing a kayaking tour on Sydney harbour

Go kayaking on Sydney harbour. Photo: Tourism Australia
 

  • Head to Taronga Zoo, which is loved by holidaymakers and locals. There's more than 2,600 animals including wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, lions, tigers, zebras, giraffes, elephants, birds, penguins, seals and sea lions. Go inside some of the animal enclosures and meet our native animals. Take a ride in the free sky safari cable car for amazing views of Sydney and the zoo. For something different, book a zoo-snooze and camp overnight in safari tents not far from the lions, snow leopards and meerkats. Enjoy feeding the giraffes, pat the seals and do a night walk where you’ll uncover the secrets of Taronga Zoo.

  • Visit Luna Park, which is an old-style theme park. It’s free entry and you pay for your rides. It may not have as many rides as modern theme parks but it's worth visiting the big smiling face.

  • Sydney Tower Eye Sydney 4D cinema will take you across Sydney Harbour and its famous coastline, iconic landmarks, and events that make Sydney what it is.

  • Head to Cockatoo Island which is Sydney's largest harbour island. It was originally a convict jail, guardhouse and convict workshop. It later housed young offenders before becoming one of Australia's biggest shipyards. These days, you can catch a ferry or boat to Cockatoo Island and enjoy a picnic while overlooking million dollar homes; go swimming or kayaking; stay overnight in one of the waterfront campsites; book a convict tour or ghost tour; or simply explore the island at your own pace and in your own time.
     

Cockatoo Island which is on Sydney Harbour
Explore the historical Cockatoo Island. Photo: Tourism Australia

  • Darling Harbour and Cockle Bay are among Sydney's top playgrounds with heaps of attractions, cafes, restaurants, and shops including:

    • Sydney Aquarium which has three oceanariums with more than 12,000 aquatic animals. This is one of the world's largest collections of Australian aquatic life.

    • Beside the Sydney Aquarium is Wild Life Sydney which has one of Australia's largest collection of native animals.

    • Madame Tussauds Sydney with more than 70 famous wax models including Aussie stars such as Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and even Harold Bishop from the soap opera Neighbours.

    • Imax theatre, tenpin bowling, and the delicious Lindt café where you’ll enjoy hot chocolate and other mouth-watering chocolate treats.
       

a ferry going past Fort Dennison which is an island in the middle of Sydney Harbour
Take a ferry around Sydney harbour and head past Fort Denison. Photo: Tourism Australia

 

  • Catch a ferry and go past Fort Denison, which is an island in the middle of Sydney harbour. Fort Denison was originally built as a jail for second-time convict offenders. This prison was not worth escaping from because of the many sharks circling around Sydney Harbour back in the day. This place was no Hilton Hotel. Fort Denison was famously known as pinchgut because the hungry convicts were forced to survive on small rations of bread and water (and constantly felt their gut being pinched.) History lovers will get to see Fort Denison's Martello Tower which is the most complete tower in the world NOTE: Fort Denison is closed for maintenance and conservation works and will reopen in late 2022.  


Sydney sightseeing tours

A couple bike riding around the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens
Go bike riding around the city and the Botanic Gardens. Photo: Tourism Australia

 

I always recommend doing a sightseeing tour so you can really get to know the city you're in. There's all kinds of ways to explore Sydney, from buses, limousines, bikes and motorcycles, to walking tours. Let's face it, walking around a city is the ideal way to really get to see what's going on, and Sydney is no exception. (Just make sure you're wearing comfortable shoes.) Popular walking tours include:

  • the historic Rocks and getting to know Sydney's convict past 

  • exploring Sydney Harbour and the Royal Botanic Gardens before ending up at the Sydney Opera House and going inside for a 'behind-the-scenes' look at this iconic building

  • uncovering Sydney's hidden gems, local heroes, villains in between stopping off for a beer, wine or coffee.

  • there's also boutique and unique way to explore Sydney by foot including pub crawls, foodie tours, photography tours and shopping tours. 

  • If you want to explore Sydney at your own pace and on a budget, take a free self-guided walking tour around Sydney, and learn about Aboriginal history and culture, the infamous Kings Cross, the historic Rocks, celebrity stories, and so much more. Maps show points of interest, detours and museum stops along the way. Each tour takes 1 to 2 hours.
     

A woman sitting on a rock ledge at Barangaroo in Sydney 
Enjoy pottering around Barangaroo. Photo: Tourism Australia

 

While you're walking about town, be sure to check out the local buskers at work along Circular Quay, or grab a cappuccino at one of the funky cafes or pubs along the harbour. Explore the city's streets and laneways, and visit the many markets dotted throughout Sydney.

Bike tours are another great way to get around and see what makes Sydney so great. I'm not going to lie - you don't want to go cycling in the heart of the city and have to navigate heavy traffic. Lucky for you, there are plenty of stress-free bike tours on offer where you get to cycle over the harbour bridge, along the harbour foreshore, past the Opera House. You can use your own pedal power or opt for an e-bike. If you want to cycle around Sydney but on your own terms, hire a bike and start pedalling.  
 

A group of people enjoying an Aboriginal Dreamtime guided walking tour of Sydney 
Find out about Sydney's Aboriginal Dreamtime on a guided walking tour. Photo: Destination NSW

There's also a wide selection of bus, trike and limousine tours to show you the sights of Sydney. You still get the chance to hop on and off to see different places along the way but this kind of touring is all about comfort. Another tour option is the hop-on-hop-off bus where you explore each location as and when you want. 



 

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