Your Ultimate Guide to Sydney
23rd March 2023
Sydney in a nutshell
Australia’s most iconic city is a playground of beaches, shops, natural attractions, restaurants, cultural sites and much more. There’s certainly no shortage of things to do in Sydney. Fringed by luscious national parks and engulfed by the ocean, one of the best things about this city is its immediate access to the outdoors. Within the city’s bounds, incredible neighbourhoods which sit next to the water, boast ocean pools and hidden beaches. Plus, only a short drive from the city and you will arrive at the likes of the Royal National Park of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase where thick foliage ad native wildlife make for incredible hiking experiences.
Inside the city itself, Sydney is known for much more than the Opera House. Brimming with potential for memorable experiences, the city is packed with restaurants, bars, cafes and shops which sit within, and close to, incredible harbours. The Harbour Bridge and the Royal Botanic Garden, right in the heart of the CBD, could entertain you all day.
Those seeking cultural experiences will fall for Sydney’s rich history, including a long Aboriginal past and more recent European stories. Fantastic museums across the city are poised ready to teach visitors about Sydney’s history, art and culture, whilst a range of walking tours help you learn as you explore.
When it comes to things to do in Sydney, there’s so much to do. You’ll need a little help when it comes to planning your trip. In this Ultimate Guide to Sydney, we outline some of the very best activities to enjoy, places to visit and restaurants to eat at, to help you craft the very best trip!
Things to do in Sydney
Take a dip in one of many ocean pools
When in Sydney, do as the locals do and swim in an ocean pool. When you can’t choose between the beach and a swimming pool, an ocean pool is a great option for the best of both worlds, giving you that salty refresh whilst protecting you from the waves. Here area few of our favourites:
Palm Beach Rockpool
Located on the South East end of Palm Beach (Northern Beaches), this lovely ocean pool is 50 metres long and perfect for a refreshing dip. Head here for scenic views and a calming experience.
Mona Vale Rockpool
Mona Vale Rockpool is located on the sandspit that separates Basin Beach from Mona Vale Beach. There are two swimming pools here; one for kids and one larger 30-metre pool for adults. Enjoy some lap swimming here.
North Narrabeen Rockpool
At the northern end of Narrabeen Beach is the historic North Narrabeen Rockpool. 50-metres in length, this large ocean pool also has a kid-friendly section separated by a wooden boardwalk.
Family-friendly Dee Why is located at the popular Dee Why Beach. The actual pool is also 50-metres in length, and there’s a shallow section for toddlers too.
Situated at the southern end of Bronte Beach, Bronte Baths is free (unlikely its neighbour at Bondi Icebergs) and it is the oldest ocean pool on the NSW coastline.
Mahon Pool is located a few hundred metres north of Maroubra Beach. Built in the 1930s, it is somewhat ‘secret’ today, due to its location. Plus, there are incredible views to enjoy here as you enjoy your quiet swim.
Sydney’s most famous ocean pool is Bondi Icebergs (arguably). The pool offers spectacular views over the bustling Bondi Beach and there’s a restaurant on-site in case you’re hungry after your dip.
Visit a museum
Just like many of the world’s global cities, Sydney has a whole host of museums to enjoy. In fact, to say there are plenty would be an understatement. Whether it’s history, culture or something more niche you’re interested in, there’s a museum here for you.
Home to a little bit of everything, the Australian Museum is a natural history museum boasting over 21 million scientific specimens and cultural objects. Visitors will earn about Australian wildlife, geology and its First Nations people amongst much more. Dive into topics here such as climate change, dinosaurs and the science of life. This is Australia’s first museum, so it’s definitely worth a visit.
Australian National Museum
Sydney as a city is all about the sea, and so there’s no better place to discover some of Sydney’s most interesting history, than at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Here, you’ll learn about the city and country’s discovery by Europeans, as well as Sydney’s part in the story. You can also climb on board a submarine and explore a replica of a tall ship. Located in Darling Harbour, this museum is a must for those visiting Sydney for the first time.
Museum of Sydney
Situated on top of the foundations of Australia’s first Government House, the Museum of Sydney is a celebration of the city’s past, present and future. This modern museum looks at the events which have shaped the city, and presents them with video walls, poetry, storylines and much more.
Explore Sydney’s Chinatown
Thanks to the Chinese immigrants that started arriving in the 1800s, Sydney’s Chinatown is big and impressive! Everything here from specialist stores to Asian grocers, noodle bars, hidden food halls and stunning fine-dining restaurants cater to the perfect half-day experience in Sydney. You’ll even find late-night karaoke!
If you’re looking to do a spot of shopping, you’ll find opportunity to do so here too, with heaps of boutiques right at your fingertips. Don’t forget, that only a short walk from Chinatown is the famous Chinese Garden of Friendship – a green oasis in the city where pretty pavilions and lakes come together with winding paths to create a hideaway in Darling Harbour.
Take a peek inside Sydney Observatory
Perched atop a hill in Millers Point, Sydney Observatory offers a celestial experience like no other. With commanding views of the iconic Sydney Harbour, this historic landmark has been a beacon of astronomical exploration since 1858. Step into the past as you explore its grand sandstone building and gaze through vintage telescopes. From stargazing sessions to captivating exhibitions, Sydney Observatory invites visitors to unlock the mysteries of the universe while enjoying breathtaking panoramas of the city. Embark on a cosmic journey and let the stars guide your imagination.
Visit the iconic Paddy’s Markets
For over 150 years, Paddy’s Markets have been an important part of Sydney. As the largest markets in the city, they are home to a variety of sellers including food, fashion, gifts, gadgets and more. There are a whopping 1000 stalls at Paddy’s Market’s, so make sure you plan enough time and to see everything.
Admire Sydney’s iconic Opera House
No trip is complete without a visit to the Sydney Opera House – one of the world’s most iconic buildings. Admired by many for its architectural mastery and unique shapes, the Opera House is located at Bennelong Point; a place which has been used for feasting and celebrating for millennia. Performances throughout the year, pre-theatre dining, drinks with mates and arguably the best views in town are all available at this incredible spot.
Those wanting to explore the Opera House in further detail can also book onto one of its three House tours. This way, you can uncover the building’s halls and foyer spaces and learn what makes this building a World Heritage-listed masterpiece.
Explore Sydney Harbour National Park
Spread out along the glistening coastline of Sydney, the Sydney Harbour National Park is a natural wonder waiting to be explored. Spanning over 1,450 hectares, this diverse parkland encompasses pristine beaches, rugged cliffs, and lush bushland. Discover hidden coves, meander along scenic coastal trails, or take a dip in the crystal-clear waters.
Immerse yourself in the rich Aboriginal heritage of the area and learn about its fascinating history. Visit iconic landmarks like the South Head, where you can admire panoramic views of the city and watch majestic whales migrating. With abundant wildlife and breathtaking vistas, Sydney Harbour National Park is a true haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers.
Discover The Rocks
The Rocks is a neighbourhood of historic laneways which represents the beginning of European history in Sydney. In the shadow of Sydney Harbour Bridge, this is a place where locals and tourists alike, come together to eat, drink and shop. Open-air Rocks Markets, street food vendors, and shops selling handmade products and clothing are right at your fingertips here. The Rocks also boasts some of Sydney’s oldest pubs, plus there are some upscale restaurants which place guests right in front of the best harbour views in town.
One of the bet ways to learn more about The Rocks is to join a tour. Leading visitors along cobbled streets and little laneways, The Rocks Walking Tours or the I’m Free Tours help you see it all and make sure you don’t miss a detail!
Check out Luna Park
Step into a world of whimsy and wonder at Luna Park Sydney. Located on the iconic shores of Sydney Harbour, this historic amusement park has been delighting visitors since 1935. From the moment you step through the iconic smiling face entrance, you’re transported to a realm of thrilling rides, carnival games, and nostalgic charm. Scream with delight on the hair-raising roller coasters, challenge your skills at the classic sideshow games, and indulge in delicious treats. With its vibrant atmosphere and timeless appeal, Luna Park Sydney promises a day of endless fun and unforgettable memories for the whole family.
Learn about Sydney with an Aboriginal Dreaming Tour
For the first time visitor, it’s important but also exciting to learn about Sydney’s Aboriginal history and heritage. With Dreamtime Southern X, join an Aboriginal guide and learn about the…
“…authentic history of the Aboriginal people’s saltwater heritage within Sydney Harbour, their land and water use and their spiritual connection to the adjoining waterways and foreshores.”
As you wander through the city’s built up environment, you’ll learn about a hidden side of Sydney which you never knew. Plus, discover how to experience contemporary Aboriginal society – not just its historic elements – right in the heart of cosmopolitan Sydney today. The Dreamtime Southern X tour will relay information from the oldest ecologists, conservationists, wildlife carers, botanists, astronomers, climatologists and marine biologists on the Earth today and will help guests understand how ancient wisdom pervades today.
Buzzing Barangaroo is a waterside precinct located in the centre of Sydney, which was created through an ambitious and sustainable urban renewal project. Transforming a former container terminal into a bright new hub, the development is now home to beautiful parklands, fantastic shops, lots of restaurants and some innovative architecture.
Drop by Barangaroo for lunch and enjoy a drink or a meal with views of the water. Turkish, Japanese, Spanish and many other types of cuisine await you here. Then, once you’re ready, head to the adjacent Barangaroo Reserve where the landscaped park boasts more than 75,000 native trees and shrubs. Wander through the greenery and enjoy the positive, futuristic atmosphere of the area.
Barangaroo is named after a powerful 18th-century Cammeraygal woman who was an interlocutor with Governor Arthur Phillip, the captain of the First Fleet in 1788.
Discover the hidden gems of Bondi
The great thing about Sydney is that it is comprised of lots of great suburbs, each with their own personalities. Bondi is one of the city’s most famous suburbs and an area which attracts tourists year round. The sweeping white-sand crescent of Bondi Beach draws surfers in particular, whilst the active and the health-conscious love this area for its laidback healthy cafes, jogging potential and swimming club. Bondi is also very popular with backpackers, who head to this part of Sydney for its seaside views and nightlife.
Spend a day at Bondi for the fun Sydney experience! Start with a brunch at one of Bondi’s best cafes, overlooking the beach. Then enjoy a coastal walk before taking a swim at the beach. Don’t miss out on a glass of wine overlooking the sea at Bondi Icebergs.
Take the kids to Taronga Zoo
Sydney has a lot to offer for families travelling with kids. Taronga Zoo, located in the suburb of Mosman, on the shores of Sydney Harbour, is a fantastic option for a family day trip. Divided into multiple different zones, the 28-hectare Taronga Zoo is home to approximately 2,600 animals and 250 species. Animal encounters including those with Giraffes, Pengiuns and Koalas are also available for those who want a little more from their visit.
Taronga Zoo is also unique as a zoo, for its amazing Sydney views. Overlooking some of Sydney’s best sites, as you admire the animals you’ll also be blessed with some great panoramas. Before you leave, head to the zoo shop or take a break at the cafe for your well-deserved coffee.
Set aside a day to explore the Blue Mountains
Nestled just a short drive away from Sydney, the Blue Mountains is a breathtaking natural wonder that captivates visitors with its rugged beauty and mystical allure. Vast expanses of eucalyptus trees blanket the towering cliffs, creating a stunning blue haze that gives these mountains their name.
Explore the myriad of walking trails that wind through ancient rainforests, revealing hidden waterfalls, tranquil valleys, and mesmerising vistas. Stand in awe at the iconic Three Sisters rock formation, and ride the thrilling Scenic Railway, the steepest passenger railway in the world. Immerse yourself in the rich Aboriginal heritage of the region and learn about the Dreamtime stories that have shaped this sacred land. Whether you’re seeking adventure, tranquility, or simply a chance to reconnect with nature, the Blue Mountains offers an extraordinary escape into a world of natural wonders and timeless beauty.
Climb the Harbour Bridge
BridgeClimb Sydney is a tourist attraction like no other, and if you’re doing to pick one ‘touristy’ experience, make it this one! Guiding guests on a climb of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, BridgeClimb has welcomed over 4 million people onto the arches since 1998. Join expert climb leaders as they help you across the bridge. As you walk, take in breathtaking views. This activity is bound to get the adrenaline pumping, but it’s totally worth it!
Enjoy one of Sydney’s famous walks
One of the best things to do in Sydney, is simply to walk. Laced with walking trails, this coastal city is a place where sandstone cliffs, secret beaches and CBD views come together to create picture-perfect hiking moments. Some walks are longer than others, and some are a little more hilly than others, but whatever you’re after, you’ll find something to suit. Here are three of our favourite walks in Sydney:
Manly to Spit Walk
The 10km Manly to Spit walk, takes its walkers on a journey past sandy coves, beautiful viewpoints and up rocky staircases. A selection of secret beaches can be reached on the way. Look out for Aboriginal rock engravings a the highest point of the walk, and make sure you bring swimmers because you won’t be able to resist a dip at Castle Rock beach.
Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay
The Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk is a 4km wander through dense bush. It feels like a real adventure! Either on a boardwalk or a leafy path, the walk leads you from Taronga Zoo where you’ll see sweeping Opera House views, to Clifton Gardens Reserve where you can relax and watch boats from the beach. Look out for Shark Beach views too.
Bondi to Coogee Walk
Undeniably the most famous walk in New South Wales, the Bondi to Coogee Walk is one which many people enjoy every single day. Connecting iconic Bondi with the buzzing suburb of Coogee via a coastal trail, the Bondi to Coogee walk sees you walking across clifftops and dipping down low to beach coves. The 6.5km walk will take you about two hours to complete.
Wander through the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Found smack bang in the middle of Sydney, the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is in a prime location for exploration following visits to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Heritage-listed and set across 30-hectares, the gardens here host events, whilst they’re also here simply for recreation.
Not only comprised of trees and plenty of grassy space, the Royal Botanic Garden is home to a number of themed areas including a romantic rose garden as well as ‘Cadi Jam Ora: First Encounters’, a garden display that acknowledges the Cadigal – the original inhabitants of Sydney’s city centre. If you’d rather turn your visit to the gardens into more of a learning experience, there is a daily tour you can join, too. Otherwise, simply arrive here and take a nice walk.
Discover some of Sydney’s hidden beaches
Bondi Beach is always there when you need it, but when you’re looking for something a little quieter, where do you go? Check out the following beaches and choose to spend a day on a quiet patch of sand with a good book and no distractions.
Milk Beach, Vaucluse
Overlooking Hermit Bay and Sydney Harbour, Milk Beach is a quiet stretch of sand about 50 metres long, tucked away in Vaucluse. Reach here along the Rose Bay to Watsons Bay walking track. Sit back, relax on the sand and enjoy Sydney Harbour views with a a little more peace than in other more famous locations.
Chinamans Beach, Mosman
After a short walk through Rosherville Reserve in Mosman, you’ll stumble upon Chinamans Beach. Often forgotten due to its beautiful neighbour which sits in proximity (Balmoral Beach), Chinamans Beach has azure waters and and stunning Middle Harbour Views.
Collins Beach, Manly
Blessed with scenic harbour views, Collins Flat Beach is a sweet little spot perfect for a romantic picnic or a quiet day out with the family. The water here is very calm and the area feels miles away from the busy nature of the city. Paddling in the calm waters and surrounded by rocky escarpments, you’ll feel like you’ve travelled to the Caribbean here.
Wander through Darling Harbour
The glistening glass towers and dazzling boats of Darling Harbour will impress even the most seasoned of traveller. Take a walk along the buzzing waterside district here, only moments from the centre of Sydney, and discover the museums, restaurants and quintessential Sydney views. Whilst it’s enough just to enjoy a drink here or take a walk, you could also stop for longer and visit Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussauds, the National Maritime Museum or the Chinese Garden of Friendship.
Spend a day at Manly
Manly is one of those places that offers the best of both worlds. It’s likely that the beachy vibes and cosmopolitan buzz will steal your heart. Only a short ferry ride from the CBD, Manly has pretty much everything you need for a good time; gorgeous healthy cafes, cool beach bars, and plenty of sandy beach. Less crowded than some of the Eastern Suburbs, this is also a great place to learn to surf, to snorkel or simply eat some fish and chips (or a healthy salad) by the sea. Don’t forget to drop into a couple of surf shops and boutiques.
Enjoy a panoramic view from the top of Sydney Tower
The tallest building in Sydney – the Sydney Tower – is the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere. Boasting breathtaking 360-views from its Observation Deck, you’d be crazy to miss out on a visit here during your trip to Sydney. Make the trip 250 metres above street level to uncover some of the best city views in the Southern Hemisphere, or visit Bar 83, 83 levels about street level, where you can savour cocktails, wine, beer, champagne and more with beautiful views.
Cafes in Sydney
Sydney’s cafes are recognised around the world. Their tasty barista coffees, boutiquey atmospheres and fine-dining quality brunches make them tourists attractions in themselves. Here are some great cafes in Sydney to look out for.
Industry Beans was originally a Melbourne based cafe, but now it has come to Sydney. Serving takeaway and dine-in options in the CBD, this spot is perfect for something great, on the go.
The Grounds of the City
Even though you’re in the heart of the city, The Grounds of the City whisks you away to some place calm. Old-school charm is the theme here, and the coffee is definitely worth a try. The food is even better though, so make sure you stay for a bite.
Restaurants in Sydney
Seafood and Sydney go hand in hand, but there’s something a little different about Saint Peter. Using a ‘fin-to-scale’ approach, the chefs here use all of the fish to create dishes with a twist. Try sea-urchin crumpets or grouper-head terrine at this Paddington restaurant.
If you’re going to have dinner in Sydney, why not have it at the Sydney Opera House? Boasting a beautiful dining room overlooking the harbour, Bennelong serves high-quality fine-dining dishes that stop the show. The seafood, house charcuterie and fantastic pavlovas are all worth a taste.
Japanese restaurant Tetsuya’s opened in 1989 and has continued to serve elegant dishes in a fine dining setting. If you’re looking to treat yourself, this might just be the place.
Yellow is an inspiring plant-based restaurant that serves incredible dishes, alongside amazing wines. Heroing unique heirloom vegetables, grown by local suppliers, the restaurant has been awarded two chefs hats in the coveted Good Food Guide.
Featuring an unrivalled harbourside location, Aria is one of Australia’s finest restaurants. Receiving many awards over the years, the stunning space is the host to Australian fine-dining dishes which use local produce from some of Australia’s finest suppliers.
Bars in Sydney
Sydney’s vibrant bar scene caters to all tastes and preferences, boasting diverse options ranging from chic and sophisticated cocktail bars to laid-back pubs and trendy rooftop hangouts. Known for their creative and innovative spirit, the city’s bars are committed to delivering quality drinks and experiences, making them go-to destinations for those seeking an unforgettable night out.
As martinis experience a renaissance post-lockdown, Bar Planet has arisen. The team at Bar Planet is now shifting its focus from margaritas to martinis, delivering an intergalactic drinking experience that is out of this world.
Looking for another unique drinking experience in Sydney? Look no further than Bar 83, the highest bar in the city, located in the iconic Sydney Tower. Step inside, and you’ll feel like you’ve boarded a luxurious spaceship with a futuristic ambience that’s tasteful and stylish. While you’re there, consider trying Second Wind, a Hemsworth’s concoction that features bourbon, cassis, coffee amaro and bitter orange.
Expect to be transported back to the glamour and sophistication of the roaring 20s once you set foot in Little Felix – a French-style cocktail bar located on Ash Street. With a moody interior and expert bartenders, this intimate venue offers a selection of classic cocktails, each just a step or two away from the original recipe. Enjoy cocktail recipes inspired by the Parisian hotels in the 1920s and champagne and wine poured from magnum bottles.